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Immigration Rights and Responsibilities of Scholars in J-1 “Exchange Visitor” Status

Purpose

This webpage has been prepared by Boston University’s International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) to summarize some of the important rights and responsibilities you have as a J-1 exchange visitor in relation to regulations of the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It also identifies some of the situations for which you should seek assistance from the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO). The ISSO staff will be pleased to offer more detailed information, by means of handouts, seminars, as well as personal counseling and assistance, regarding all federal regulations and procedures related to your lawful status. This handout reflects SEVIS upgrades and changes to immigration regulations through November 18, 2006. Please note that regulations and procedures continue to change. The ISSO will inform you of substantive changes via electronic communication or on the ISSO website at www.bu.edu/isso. We strongly advise you to contact the ISSO any time you have a question or if you intend to travel and reenter the United States.

Table of Contents

  1. Definitions
  2. Immigration Documents
  3. SEVIS – Electronic Reporting System
  4. U.S. Government Agencies Involved in SEVIS
  5. Maintaining Lawful J-1 Status
    1. When to Contact the ISSO
    2. Change of Address
    3. Medical Insurance
    4. Travel
    5. Employment at Boston University
    6. Employment for U.S. Institutions other than Boston University
    7. Occasional Lectures and Short-Term Consultations
    8. Taking Classes at Boston University
    9. Length of Time You May Remain in the United States
    10. Absences from the U.S. of 30 Days or Longer
    11. Dependents and Other Family Members
    12. Failure to Comply with Responsibilities
  6. Completing Boston University Exchange Program
    1. Departing the U.S. within 30-Day Grace Period
    2. Transfer to another J-1 Program in Same J-1 Category
    3. Apply for Change to another Nonimmigrant Status in the U.S.
  7. Eligibility to Return to U.S. as Exchange Visitor
    1. Two-Year Home Residence Requirement
    2. 12-Month Bar for Initial J-1 Research Scholar and Professor Categories
    3. 24-Month Bar on Repeat Participation in J-1 Research Scholar and Professor Categories
  8. Further Information

1. Definitions
Exchange Visitor Program. The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program in the United States is administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs under the U.S. Department of State. DOS grants authority to certain approved institutions in the to serve as designated J-1 Program Sposors, with permission to host exchange visitors participating in activites that foster mutual understand and enhance international cooperation. The direct contact information for the EV Program Administration is:

Exchange Visitor Program
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
U.S. Department of State, SA-44, Room 734, Washington, DC 20547
Tel: 202/401-9810 • Fax: 202/401-9809 • jvisas@state.gov

Program Sponsor . Your program sponsor is the institution listed in Item #2 of your Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (Form DS-2019). The program sponsor has legal authorization to grant you certain benefits, assist you in applying to the DOS or DHS for other benefits, and assist you in fulfilling your responsibilities. Note: This webpage is written with the assumption that Boston University is your program sponsor. If Boston University is not your program sponsor and another agency or organization has issued your Form DS-2019, you should substitute the name of your program sponsor each time you read “ISSO” throughout this handout and should consult with your program sponsor to report your arrival, communication any changes and in order to take full advantage of your immigration status benefits.

Category: Your category appears in Item #4 of your Form DS-2019. It will indicate one of the following: Research Scholar, Professor, Short-Term Scholar or Specialist.

Subject/Field Code (also known as your Program Objective): The subject/field code, found in item #4 of the Form DS-2019, specifies the field of research, teaching or consulting in which you will be engaged while in the U.S. It is also known as your program objective because it indicates the primary purpose for which you came to the U.S. The activities you engage in while in this country must be directly related to your program objective. You are not ordinarily allowed to change your category or program objective once you have entered the country in J-1 status. Such changes require significant time and effort, are considered only under extraordinary circumstances, and are rarely approved by DOS.

Subject/Field Code (also known as your Program Objective): The subject/field code, found in item #4 of the Form DS-2019, specifies the field of research, teaching or consulting in which you will be engaged while in the U.S. It is also known as your program objective because it indicates the primary purpose for which you came to the U.S. The activities you engage in while in this country must be directly related to your program objective. You are not ordinarily allowed to change your category or program objective once you have entered the country in J-1 status. Such changes require significant time and effort, are considered only under extraordinary circumstances, and are rarely approved by DOS.

2. Immigration Documents
The following documents are very important and you must maintain their validity at all times in order to maintain lawful J-1 status:

  • Passport (should be valid for a minimum of 6 months into the future)
  • Form DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status)

You should keep these documents in a safe place. We recommend that you make photocopies of these documents and store them in a location separate from the actual documents. If any of these documents is damaged, lost, or stolen, you must have it replaced as quickly as possible. Please keep in mind that the J-1 visa stamp in your passport does not need to be valid at all times; but it must be valid when you travel outside the United States and wish to reenter. You should contact the ISSO if you have any questions about the documents or if you need to have them replaced.

Please bring the above-mentioned documents with you each time you visit the ISSO, as ISSO staff may need to refer to them in order to authorize benefits of status or to give you appropriate legal advice.

3. SEVIS - Electronic Reporting System
DHS utilizes an electronic reporting system called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to track international students and exchange visitors in the U.S. Using SEVIS, all U.S. schools are required to report information on J-1 exchange visitors and J-2 dependents, as well as F-1 students and F-2 dependents, to SEVIS through secure, encrypted Internet transmissions.

Boston University reports to the government only the information required by federal law. This includes all the information on your Form DS-2019 and information on “reportable events” that affect your immigrant status. These events include but are not limited to: (1) J-2 dependent information; (2) U.S. residential address changes; (3) completion or early termination of your research, teaching or consulting activities, (4) change in funding or employer, including change from unpaid to paid status at Boston University, (5) program extension, (6) program sponsor transfer, and (7) violation of J-1 immigration status.

Since SEVIS is an electronic reporting system, it will be very important that your information on record at the ISSO and with other university offices (Payroll, Human Resources, Registrar, etc.) be completely up-to-date.

4. U.S. Government Agencies Involved in SEVIS

ISSO = International Students and Scholars Office at Boston University
DOS = U.S. Department of State – The branch of the U.S. government that oversees U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad and administers the J-1 Exchange Vistor Program.
DHS = U. S. Department of Homeland Security –- The branch of the U.S. government that oversees immigration benefits, customs and immigration enforcement. DHS is comprised of three immigration-related bureaus, as follows:
  • USCIS = United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (approves immigration benefits, including employment)
  • ICE = Immigration and Customs Enforcement (charged with enforcement of immigration-related infractions, oversees SEVIS)
  • CBP = Customs and Border Protection (operates ports of entry to the U.S.)

5. Maintaining Lawful J-1 Immigration Status

When to Contact the ISSO
To ensure that you maintain lawful immigration status, you must contact the ISSO if any of the following events occurs:

  • If there is a change to your legal name, U.S. address, country of citizenship, immigration status, expected date of completion of your J-1 activities, information on J-2 dependents, or source of funding.
  • If you intend to travel outside the U.S. and need a travel signature from an ISSO staff member on your Form DS-2019 or if you will apply for a new visa before reentering the U.S.
  • Whenever any of your immigration documents is lost or stolen
  • If you intend to change your immigration status
  • If you intend to transfer to another program sponsor
  • If you want to have your dependent spouse and/or children join you in J-2 status
  • Prior to accepting an invitation to engage in a lecture or research activity at a location outside Boston University

Change of Address
If you move within the United States, J-1 regulations require that you inform the ISSO of your change of address within 10 days of moving. To inform the ISSO of your updated address, please send an email to issosch@bu.edu or fill out a request form at the front desk of the ISSO. The address update request should include your full name, Boston University ID number as well as your new address. The ISSO will report your address change to the Department of Homeland Security via SEVIS. We must have record of your physical address, not a Post Office Box. Please note that you will need to inform your host department and the Boston University Payroll Office separately as the ISSO does not have direct access to your address on record with these offices.

Medical Insurance
You are required by regulation to maintain medical insurance that covers you (and your spouse and/or children if they are in the U.S. in J-2 status) for illnesses and accidents during the entire period of time you are in the U.S. in J-1 or J-2 immigration status. Minimum coverage must meet DOS requirements. Failure to maintain insurance throughout your stay in the U.S. in J status could jeopardize your lawful immigration status. Information about the minimum requirement for insurance coverage can be found at http://exchanges.state.gov/education/jexchanges/administration.htm#insurance.

Please note that minimum DOS insurance requirements only cover emergency medical care. The ISSO would encourage scholars to consider purchasing more comprehensive insurance coverage in order to facilitate access to routine healthcare during your time in the U.S. Scholars in J-1 immigration status who purchase insurance through the policies available at Boston University Office of Human Resources should be advised that they will also be required to purchase supplemental insurance to meet the medical evacuation and repatriation requirements stipulated by DOS.

Travel
We encourage you to contact the ISSO anytime you plan to travel outside of the U.S. This is particularly important as regulations and practices concerning reentry into the United States continue to change and as many scholars face difficulty and delay in applying for visas at U.S. Embassies or Consulates. In addition, when you return to the U.S. after travel abroad, you should bring your passport and Form DS-2019 to the ISSO so that we may update your file. DHS requires that we maintain current copies of your passport and visa documents.

Travel Within the U.S.
You may travel within the U.S. provided you maintain your lawful J-1 status and have a valid passport, and SEVIS Form DS-2019 in your possession.

 

Travel Outside the U.S.

You may leave the U.S. at any time. If you leave, are permitted to return to the U.S. in J-1 status only if you have a valid passport, a valid J-1 visa stamp (required for all scholars except Canadian citizens) and a current Form DS-2019 that has been signed for travel by an authorized staff member at the ISSO. Only the Responsible Officer (RO) or an Alternate Responsible Officer ( ARO) at the ISSO is authorized to sign or reissue a Form DS-2019. A travel signature is valid for six months for travel to Canada, Mexico and adjacent islands, and for one year to all other countries.

 

If you travel to Canada, Mexico or certain islands near the U.S., you may be eligible to reenter the country even if the J-1 visa stamp in your passport has expired, provided your visit does not exceed 30 days. You should consult with the ISSO before making any trips outside the country.

 

Application for a New J-1 Visa During Travel – A valid J-1 visa is required for reentry to the U.S. (for all scholars except for Canadian citizens). J-1 scholars are allowed to remain in the U.S. with an expired J-1 visa stamp, provided that they maintain their lawful status and that their passport and Form DS-2019 are valid. Although you may remain in the U.S. with an expired J-1 visa, it will be necessary to apply for a new visa during the next trip abroad.

 

Scholars needing to apply for a new visa during a trip abroad should inform the ISSO before travel. Security checks and supplemental visa application forms developed since September 11, 2001, have significantly delayed the visa application process in many countries. Scholars planning to apply for a visa in Canada or in a country other than their home country should first consult an ISSO advisor.

 

Please refer to the most current Travel Advisory found on the ISSO website for information on recent travel and visa application changes.

 

Employment at Boston University
Scholars in J-1 status may be sponsored by Boston University for paid or unpaid academic activities. Employment at Boston University and acceptance of non-salary payment from Boston University or departments (such as stipends, honoraria, per diem, or other types of remuneration) is only permitted if the scholar’s DS-2019 indicates that the scholar will receive funding from the “Current Program Sponsor.”

If your DS-2019 does not list BU as a source of funding, you may qualify to receive compensation from BU only if the ISSO amends your DS-2019 to reflect a financial update. Your hiring department at BU must inform the ISSO in writing of the proposed change in employment status and the ISSO must reissue the DS-2019 prior to the proposed start date of the paid employment.

Employment for U.S. Institutions other than Boston University
Scholars in J-1 nonimmigrant status are not permitted to engage in employment for any employer other than Boston University unless authorization is granted in writing by the ISSO. Such permission is employer, location and date specific, and is limited to short-term lectures and consultations related to the objective and area of specialization indicated on the scholar’s DS-2019.

Occasional Lectures and Short-Term Consultations
Boston University scholars who hold J-1 exchange visitor status in the Professor, Research Scholar or Short-Term Scholar categories may engage in occasional lectures and short-term consultations for institutions other than Boston University, provided they receive prior approval from the ISSO. When approved by the ISSO, federal immigration regulations also permit scholars to receive payment for such activities. The activity must support, and not interfere with, the exchange visitor’s original program activity, and may not delay completion of the original objective. Please note that authorization must be received for each activity. Also, this provision of the laws pertains only to J-1 Exchange Visitors. Scholars who hold other immigration statuses are severely limited in their ability to be compensated outside their Boston University position and should consult with an advisor at the ISSO before accepting any such assignments or invitations. More information on requesting permission to accept a lecture or short-term consultation can be found on the ISSO web site, in the Scholars section (www.bu.edu/isso/scholars)

 

Taking Classes at Boston University
Scholars are permitted to enroll in individual classes while in J-1 Exchange Visitor status in the Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar or Specialist category as long as these classes do not interfere with your J-1 activities. Being admitted to a degree program may be contradictory to the J-1 status you now hold. Please consult with a scholar advisor at the ISSO if considering this option. Tuition remission may be available to J-1 scholars who are also full-time employees of Boston University. Consult with the Benefits section of the Office of Personnel (http://www.bu.edu/hr/benefits/).

Scholars or dependents wishing to enroll in classes at Boston University will be required to meet immunization requirements as stipulated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Information about current immunization requirements can be found here . Questions about immunization should be addressed to the Office of Student Health Services ( www.bu.edu/shs/ ).

Length of Time You May Remain in the United States
You may conduct your research, teaching or consulting at Boston University until you complete your activities or until the end date in Item #3 of your Form DS-2019, whichever occurs first. If you need more time than allowed by your Form DS-2019, you must contact the ISSO at least 30 days before the expiration date in Item #3 to request additional time. However, it is important to know that each category of the J-1 has a specific time limitation, as follows: Research Scholar is limited to five (5) years; Professor is limited to five (5) years; Specialist is limited to one (1) year; and Short-term Scholar is limited to six (6) months. Extensions cannot be granted beyond these limits.

Absences from the U.S. of 30 Days or Longer
ISSO is responsible for informing DHS when scholars end or interrupt their exchange programs. When this occurs, the SEVIS record is made inactive and the scholar becomes ineligible to return to the U.S. to resume the same academic program. Scholars who plan to depart the U.S. for a period of 30 days or longer and who intend to return to resume their academic activities at BU must complete and submit a J-1 Scholar Departure Notification to the ISSO prior to departing. Scholars and their hosts must clarify the reason for the extended absence so that ISSO scholar staff can evaluate whether the scholar’s SEVIS record can be maintained as active during the period of absence.

Dependents and Other Family Members
If you are married and/or have children, you may be eligible to have your spouse (husband or wife) and/or children, under the age of 21, visit you temporarily or join you for the duration of your time at Boston University. Dependent spouses and children who accompany or follow-to-join a J-1 scholar must each be issued an independent SEVIS Form DS-2019 in order to apply for a J-2 dependent visa. J-2 dependents are allowed to remain in the U.S. only as long as the J-1 scholar maintains legal J-1 status in the U.S. J-2 dependents are permitted to study part-time or full-time, either as nondegree or as degree-seeking students, and are also permitted to apply for employment authorization with certain restrictions. An ISSO advisor will be pleased to advise you on the application process.

Failure to Comply with Responsibilities
Immigration laws in the United States provide for severe penalties if you fail to comply with your immigration responsibilities. Maintenance of accurate records at the ISSO and in the University Information System ( UIS) is especially important since SEVIS automatically reports details of your status to the DHS. You should work closely with the ISSO staff to make certain that you comply with all J-1 regulations.

6. Completing Boston University Exchange Program

Departing U.S. within 30-Day Grace Period
Scholars who complete their exchange program at Boston University, must inform the ISSO of their departure by completing and submitting a J-1 Scholar Departure Notification, which can be found on the ISSO website. For scholars who depart the U.S. earlier than the end date indicated on their DS-2019, the ISSO may issue a new DS-2019 document to reflect the earlier completion date.

Scholars are eligible to continue research, teaching or other academic activities until the program end date indicated on their DS-2019 document. Scholars who require more time to complete their program, must request an extension from the ISSO no less than 30 days prior to the expiration of the DS-2019 document.

Scholars who conclude their academic activities on the date stipulated may remain in the U.S. for up to 30 days after completion to prepare for departure from the country. Please note, however, that the 30-day grace period permitted to J-1 exchange visitors and J-2 dependents is not intended for travel out of the U.S. with the intend to return. Once a scholar and his/her dependents depart the U.S., the grace period ends. Return to the U.S. would require another immigration classification.

Transfer to another J-1 Program in Same J-1 Category
Scholars who wish to continue their academic objective under the J-1 sponsorship of another program sponsor in the U.S. may be eligible to transfer their SEVIS record to the new program sponsor, provided the new program sponsor is approved by DOS to sponsor scholars in the same J-1 category (Research Scholar, Professor, Short-Term Scholar, and Specialist). Scholars considering transfer to another program should make an appointment to speak to an International Scholar Advisor at the ISSO.

Apply for Change to another Nonimmigrant Status in the U.S.
In certain circumstances, scholars who are completing their J-1 exchange program may require additional time in the U.S. to pursue other personal or professional goals, and may be eligible to apply for change of nonimmigrant status in the U.S. Please note that scholars who are subject to the Two-Year Home Residence Requirement – 212(e), discussed below, are ineligible for change of status in the U.S. Scholars wishing to change status are advised to consult with the ISSO about this option well in advance to review eligibility for this benefit and to ask about current DHS processing times for change of status applications.

7. Eligibility to Return to U.S.

Two-year Home Residence Requirement – 212(e)  
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program was established to promote mutual understanding and cultural and educational exchange, with the assumption that participants would return to their home countries and share knowledge gained during the program. In certain instances, visitors in J status are required to return and reside in their home country or country of legal permanent residence for two years before they may return to the U.S. in H, L, or K classification, or as a lawful permanent resident (“green card” holder). In addition, scholars who are subject to this requirement are not eligible to apply for change to any non-immigrant classification from within the U.S.

Individuals are subject to the two-year home residence requirement – also known as 212(e) – if:

  • They come to the United States to participate in medical residency under J-1 Alien Physical category OR
  • If they have received direct government funds for the purposes of international exchange OR
  • If, as a J-1 Exchange Visitor, they are acquiring a skill that is in critical demand in their home country, according to the U.S. government’s “Exchange Visitor Skills List.”

Please note that receiving a salary that is funded out of a government grant that is given for the purposes of conducting research does not make the recipient subject to this provision. Most Boston University research salaries are funded by grants from the U.S. government. This money is given to Boston University to do research and does not make a person subject to 212(e). 

In limited circumstances, exchange visitors who are subject to the requirement may apply for a waiver directly from the Department of State if they meet certain conditions. The staff of the ISSO can provide you with more information.

Please note that the Two-Year Home Residence Requirement can affect scholars in any J classification, including J-2 dependents. It is not the same as the 24-month bar on repeat participation which affects only scholars in J-1 Research Scholar or Professor categories.

12-Month Bar for Initial J-1 Research Scholar and Professor Categories
Prospective scholars who previously participated in any J exchange program (including as a J-2 dependent) are ineligible for sponsorship under J-1 Research Scholar or Professor categories for a period of 12 months after ending the previous J program. An exception to the 12-month bar exists for scholars whose prior exchange program was less than six months in duration and for scholars whose prior exchange was under the J-1 Short-Term Scholar category.

24-Month Bar on Repeat Participation in J-1 Research Scholar and Professor Categories
Effective November 18, 2006, scholars in J-1 Research Scholar or Professor categories who complete their exchange program become subject to a 24-month (two-year) prohibition from returning to the U.S. to commence a new J-1 exchange visitor program in Research Scholar or Professor category. If you anticipate that you will continue your research affiliation with Boston University or another exchange program sponsor after completing your current appointment period as a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor, we would advise that you discuss your long-term plans with the ISSO prior to ending your J-1 SEVIS immigration record.

This prohibition does not apply to scholars in other J-1 classifications, such as J-1 Short-Term Scholar, J-1 Specialist or the J-1 student categories. This bar on repeat participation is not the same as the Two-Year Home Residence Requirement –212(e). For further clarification on factors affecting J-1 program participation, please refer to the comparison chart on the following page.

8. Further Information
As your J-1 program sponsor, the staff of the ISSO is always pleased to provide you with additional information, counseling and assistance regarding your immigration status so that you may achieve your scholarly goals while at Boston University.

International Students & Scholars Office
888 Commonwealth Ave, Second Floor, Boston, MA 02215
Tel: 617/353-3565 • Fax: 617/358-1170 • issosch@bu.edu
www.bu.edu/isso

  Two-Year Home Residence
Requirement – 212(e)
12-Month Bar 24-Month Bar
Who it affects May affect participants in any category of J-1 exchange visitor including J-1 Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, Student, as well as J-2 dependents.

Exchange Visitor may be subject to the two-year home residence requirement if:
  • Exchange visitor receives financial support from U.S. or foreign government
  • Exchange visitor’s home country’s government has a Skills List that includes their profession or field of research/study
  • Exchange visitor has come to the U.S. to seek graduate medical training in J-1 Alien Physican category under sponsorship of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

Affects prospective scholars seeking J-1 Research Scholar or Professor classification who have previously held another J classification (including J-2 dependent).

An exception exists for any time spent in the U.S. in the past 12 months in J-1 Short-Term Scholar classification or for cases where the previous J exchange program lasted less than six months.

Applies only to J-1 Research Scholars or Professors who have completed their period of exchange.

This includes:

  • Research Scholars or Professors who have used the full five years of maximum eligibility in this classification or
  • Research Scholars or Professors who have ended their period of exchange prior to the end of their five years of maximum eligibility.
What is prohibited Exchange Visitor is not eligible for H, L, K or immigrant (permanent resident) visa and cannot apply for change of nonimmigrant status within the U.S. (except to A or G status) until the two-year home residence requirement has either been satisfied in the country of the exchange visitor’s last residence, or unless the requirement has been waived by favorable recommendation of the U.S. Department of State and by approval of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Prospective J-1 Research Scholar or Professor is not eligible to begin new period of exchange for a period of 12 months (one year) after completion of any previous J exchange program (with the exception of exchange visitors whose last exchange program falls under the Short-Term Scholars category as discussed above). Scholar who has completed a period of exchange as a
J-1 Research Scholar or Professor may not return to U.S. in J-1 Research Scholar or Professor category for 24 months (two years).
What is not prohibited The Exchange Visitor may be permitted to depart and return to the U.S. in other nonimmigrant classification, such as F-1 student, B-1/B-2 visitor, O-1 or TN prior to satisfying or waiving 212(e). May also return in another J-1 classification, if no bar applies. Time spent in the U.S. in other classifications, however, does not count toward fulfillment of two-year home residence requirement. This bar does not prohibit entry to the U.S. in other immigration categories. This bar does not prohibit entry to the U.S. in other immigration categories.

 

 

 

 

ISSO
Boston University
May 21, 2013

Boston University International Students & Scholars Office May 21, 2013