Volume 4, Number 2

April 4, 2007

The Communiqué is an on-going series of messages to departments who sponsor international scholars at Boston University. With the Communiqué, we offer information that helps in the processing of scholar immigration-related documents and petitions. We hope you find the Communiqué a useful tool in working with the ISSO and in successfully hiring and sponsoring scholars from around the world. Past Communiqués are archived on our web site. Click here to go to the archive page.

SEVIS Upgrade Affects Scholars in J-1 Research Scholar and Professor Categories

A technical upgrade to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) now permits the ISSO to extend the immigration documents for scholars in J-1 Professor and Research Scholar category for up to five years. This update to SEVIS was required in order to implement recent changes to J-1 regulations, including stricter restrictions on the consecutive use of J-1 Professor and Research Scholar categories. These restrictions make it more important than ever that the ISSO be notified of scholar departure dates so that we can accurately update SEVIS records. For more detailed information on interpretation and implementation of this regulatory update, we strongly encourage you to read our advisory on this topic.

New Form for J-1 Scholar Departure Notification

In order to ensure that the immigration record for a J-1 scholar accurately reflects the amount of time he or she is engaged in academic activities at Boston University, the ISSO has created a J-1 Scholar Departure Notification Form to be used to inform the ISSO when a J-1 scholar permanently completes his or her academic activities at BU.

Understanding the new regulations affecting J-1 Research Scholars and Professors: Tips for BU Department Administrators

Tip # 1: BU host department must inform the ISSO when J-1 scholar ends his or her academic activity

In order to ensure that the SEVIS immigration record for a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor accurately reflects the dates of the scholar’s academic activity at Boston University, the ISSO has developed a new notification procedure. Effective immediately, the scholar and BU host department are responsible to submit a completed J-1 Scholar Notification of Departure Form to the ISSO no later than 10 days prior to the expected end of the scholar’s academic activity at Boston University.

If the end date coincides with the end date reflected on the scholar’s SEVIS record, the ISSO will inactivate the record after the last day of program participation to reflect an end to the scholar’s academic activities. If the end date reported is earlier than the date on the scholar’s SEVIS record, the ISSO staff will reissue a new Form DS-2019 to reflect the amended end date of program participation.

Tip # 2: Some prospective researchers and professors will not qualify for J-1 classification

In evaluating a prospective scholar’s eligibility for J-1 Research Scholar or J-1 Professor classification, the scholar staff of the ISSO will review the prospective scholar’s past immigration history. Prospective scholars who previously held any J exchange visitor status may be temporarily prohibited from commencing a new exchange program.

Two separate prohibitions apply:

Existing 12-Month Bar: If the prospective scholar ended participation in a previous exchange program under any J category (including as a J-2 dependent), a 12 Month Bar applies. This prohibition existed prior to the new rule and is unchanged. See comparison chart for further discussion.

New 24-Month Bar on Repeat Participation: If a returning scholar previously participated in a J-1 program as a Research Scholar or Professor (at BU or elsewhere) and if that exchange program ended on or after November 18, 2006, then he or she will be ineligible to begin a new exchange period in Research Scholar or Professor category for a period of 24 months following the end of the last program as identified in SEVIS.

Tip # 3: Consider pros and cons of short-term academic appointments

The ISSO carefully weighs the pros and cons of different immigration categories when issuing an immigration document for a prospective scholar. In light of the new restrictions associated with the long-term J categories, the ISSO may encourage BU host departments to consider inviting scholars for shorter academic appointments (six months or shorter) if appropriate to meet the academic needs of the department.

While J-1 Research Scholar and Professor categories permit up to five years of eligibility, these categories are impeded by the 12- and 24-month bars.

SSO considerations when determining most appropriate J-1 category
J-1 Research Scholar J-1 Professor J-1 Specialist J-1 Short-Term Scholar
Pros Up to five-year maximum. Up to one-year maximum. Not subject to 24-month bar. Not subject to 12-month or 24-month bar.
Cons Subject to 12-month and 24-month bars. Subject to 12-month bar. Not appropriate for many academic activities. Six-month maximum only.

The J-1 Short-Term Scholar and Specialist categories are not affected by the 24-month bar, and the J-1 Short-Term Scholar category is exempt from the 12-month bar, but both have a shorter maximum period of eligibility – six months only for Short-Term Scholars and one year for Specialists.

Tip # 4: Physical absence from U.S. may affect scholar’s eligibility to return

J-1 scholars who depart the U.S. for significant period of time, may have difficulty demonstrating that they remain active participants in an exchange program in the U.S. If a scholar in a J-1 category plans to depart the U.S. for 30 days or more during the period covered by their Form DS-2019 but expects to return to resume the same academic activities at Boston University, the scholar and BU host department must submit a completed J-1 Scholar Notification of Departure Form to the ISSO no later than 10 days prior to the expected date of departure in order to request permission to retain an active SEVIS record during the absence. The form should note the circumstances of the physical absence and must clarify the date on which the scholar is expected to return. The ISSO will evaluate whether the scholar can be considered to be maintaining an active affiliation with BU and whether the SEVIS record can remain active for the period of absence.

If the scholar’s BU or Boston Medical Center (BMC) funding will change during the absence period, including suspension of funding during the absence, a new appointment letter will be required and an amended Form DS-2019 may be issued to reflect the modified funding

The staff of the ISSO is pleased that the new five-year maximum has finally been implemented and we will continue to advocate with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State for alternatives that diminish the negative impacts of the newly imposed prohibitions on returning scholars.

Please contact us should you have any questions about this regulatory update or about other matters related to the immigration sponsorship of international employees and visiting scholars.

Your Scholar Services team,

Jeanne E. Kelley

M. Andrea Popa
Assistant Director for Scholar Services

Peter F. O’Meara
International Scholar Advisor

International Students & Scholars Office
Boston University
19 Deerfield Street, 2nd Floor
Boston, MA 02215

Tel: (617) 353-3565
Fax: (617) 358-1170