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Implementation of New Regulations Affecting Scholars in J-1 Professor and Research Scholar Classifications


 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released an upgrade to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) which puts into effect certain changes to the regulations governing J-1 exchange visitors in the Professor and Research Scholar categories. These changes apply to all scholars in J-1 Professor and Research Scholar categories with active SEVIS immigration records on November 18, 2006, and any J-1 scholars in these categories who began research or teaching appointments after this date.

 

This upgraded SEVIS functionality was required in order to implement new J-1 regulations published as a final rule by the U.S. Department of State on May 19, 2005.

 

Key regulatory changes include:

•  The maximum period of eligibility for scholars in J-1 Professor and Research Scholar categories was raised from three to five years. This five-year period is not an aggregate of time spend in the U.S., but a continuous period of five calendar years beginning with the start date of the scholar's initial entry as a J-1 Professor or Research Scholar.

•  A new 24-month bar on repeat participation was instituted for scholars in J-1 Professor or Research Scholar categories who complete a period of exchange. This regulatory prohibition will apply to J-1 Professors and Research Scholars were participating in exchange programs on November 18, 2006, and to J-1 scholars in these categories who begin exchange programs after this date.

 

This new rule does not affect exchange visitors admitted under the regulations governing other J-1 classifications, such as J-1 Short-Term Scholar, J-1 Specialist, or the J-1 Student categories.

 

Five Year Period of Eligibility

 

The upgraded functionality of SEVIS 5.4 now allows Boston University ISSO to issue or extend immigration documents for J-1 Professors and Research Scholars for a total of up to five years. The previous maximum had been three years for these J-1 categories.

 

In order to be eligible for the full five-year maximum period of eligibility, exchange visitors in J-1 Professor or Research Scholar categories must have a continuous academic appointment with Boston University (or another J-1 program sponsor in the U.S.), must maintain lawful J-1 immigration status, and must maintain a continuous active J-1 immigration record in SEVIS. Extensions of status and transfer to a new J-1 program sponsor are permitted only if the scholar remains in valid immigration status and maintains a continuously active SEVIS record.

 

When a scholar ends a period of exchange and the SEVIS record is inactivated, the scholar forfeits any time remaining in the five-year total and becomes subject the new 24-month bar on repeat participation.

 

New 24-Month Bar on Repeat Participation

 

J-1 Professors or Research Scholars who complete their exchange program are not eligible to return to the U.S. in J-1 Professor or Research Scholar classification for a 24-month (two-year) period. This prohibition applies both to scholars who complete the full five-year maximum period of eligibility as well as to scholars who end their period of exchange prior to reaching the five-year maximum period of eligibility. The 24-month bar will be triggered for scholars in J-1 Professor or Research Scholar classification who do not maintain a continuous academic appointment with Boston University and an active SEVIS immigration record in good standing. The 24-month bar will be triggered if a scholar or department informs the ISSO of the early end of their affiliation, or if a scholar enters the U.S. in any other immigration status.

 

The new 24-month bar on repeat participation which was introduced in the new J rule is in addition to previous restrictions inherent to J status, including the existing 12-month bar affecting initial eligibility for J-1 Research Scholar or Professor categories and the Two-Year Home Residence Requirement – 212(e), which can affect participants in any J exchange visitor category. See our comparison chart for further clarification.

 

New 24-Month Bar versus Existing 12-Month Bar

 

The new 24-month bar is also different from the existing 12-month bar affecting first time applicants for J-1 Research Scholar or Professor categories. The 12-month bar relates to a prospective scholar's eligibility to become a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor. By regulation, a prospective scholar can only be admitted to the U.S. in J-1 Research Scholar or Professor category if they have not held another J classification of any kind (including J-2 dependent) for a period of twelve months prior to the date on which they will begin their period of exchange. An exception to the 12-month bar exists for scholars in the J-1 “Short-Term Scholar” category and scholars whose last period of exchange lasted less than six months in total.

 

New 24-Month Bar versus Two-Year Home Residence                    Requirement – 212(e)

 

The new 24-month bar affecting J-1 Research Scholars and Professor is not the same as the “Two Year Home Residence Requirement,” – 212(e). In contrast to the new 24-month bar, the two-year home residence requirement can affect exchange visitors in any J-1 classification (including J-1 Short-Term Scholars, J-1 Specialists and J-1 Students, as well as other J-1 exchange categories).The two-year home residence requirement is tied to the philosophy of the Exchange Visitor program, requiring visitors to return to the country of their last residence and making them ineligible to return to the U.S. in H or L immigration status or as a lawful permanent resident (LPR) or K fiancée of a U.S. citizen until the home country physical presence requirement has been either met or waived.

  

Interpreting and Implementing the New J Rule

 

Boston University ISSO continues to seek clarification from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on how to interpret this rule. The current advisory has been prepared based on DOS and DHS guidance available at this time.

 

It is more important than ever that the ISSO be notified of a scholar's departure dates so that we can accurately update the scholar's SEVIS record. To this end, the ISSO has developed a new J-1 Scholar Departure Notification Form.

 

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.

 

On occasions where sponsorship under a J-1 scholar category is not possible, host departments should work closely with ISSO staff to determine appropriate alternatives for scholars who intend to return to the U.S. to continue academic or research pursuits.

 

In addition, international scholars at Boston University are advised to work closely with the ISSO scholar advising staff to determine appropriate immigration options for continued exchange program participation and continued academic affiliation with Boston University. Detailed information related to a scholar's visa history and long-term scholarly goals will be crucial in order for the ISSO scholar advising staff to best assist and advise visiting scholars.

 

While the staff of the ISSO is pleased that the new five-year maximum has finally been implemented, we are concerned that the new 24-month bar creates a new barrier to international academic exchange. We will continue to advocate with USCIS and DOS for alternatives in order to diminish the negative impacts of this new stipulation for international scholars and host departments at Boston University .

 


 

New Tools for BU Department Administrators:

 

•  J-1 Scholar Notification of Departure Form

•  Comparison Chart: “J-1 Two-Year Home Residence Requirement – 212(e) Versus 12-Month and 24-Month Bars”

ISSO
Boston University
February 28, 2005

Boston University International Students & Scholars Office