Carnegie Mellon University

J-1 Scholars

Now that you've been offered employment, it's time to begin completing some important steps to receive the proper immigration documents required to work in the U.S. as a J-1 Scholar.

The Exchange Visitor J-1 program promotes international educational and cultural exchange to develop mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Exchange programs exist in various formats and permit visitors to come to the U.S.  for a wide range of activities. Carnegie Mellon's Exchange Visitor Program provides study, research, and teaching opportunities. We are proud to welcome over 600 visiting researchers and professors to over 40 departments in our campus community annually. Below, you'll learn more about the various positions available to J-1 Scholars and the different application processes.

The short-term scholar is defined as "a professor, research scholar, specialist…coming to the United States on a short-term visit for the purpose of lecturing, observing, consulting, training…at research institutions, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited educational institutions…." This category is ideal for programs and visitors of short-term duration lasting anywhere from one day to six months. Short-term scholars are not subject to the 24-month bar on repeat participation. However, the maximum stay for a short-term scholar is six months, and extensions are not allowed under any circumstance. If you are in a short-term scholar status, you would have to leave the U.S. and return to your home country before re-entering to prolong your stay.

Research scholars are individuals who are "primarily conducting research, observing, or consulting in connection with a research project at research institutions, corporate research facilities, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited educational institutions, or similar types of institutions. The research scholar may also teach or lecture." If you are in research scholar status, your stay must be for a minimum of three weeks and may be extended for up to five years. However, you are subject to a 24-month bar on repeat participation in the J research scholar or professor categories when the J program ends.

Research Scholar and Professor categories are ideal for visitors in the U.S. for more than six months or for visitors who may be invited to extend their stay beyond six months and are not concerned about the 24-month bar on repeat participation.

Professors are defined as individuals who are "primarily teaching, lecturing, observing, or consulting at post-secondary accredited educational institutions, museums, libraries, or similar types of institutions. A professor may also conduct research." If you are in professor status, your stay must be for a minimum of three weeks and may be extended for up to five years. However, you are subject to a 24-month bar on repeat participation in the J research scholar or professor categories when the J program ends.

Research Scholar and Professor categories are ideal for visitors in the U.S. for more than six months or for visitors who may be invited to extend their stay beyond six months and are not concerned about the 24-month bar on repeat participation.

Application Process

As a J-1 scholar, you will have your initial contact with a teaching or research faculty in a CMU department. You will need to know the details of your visit before beginning the application process, including your length of stay, funding arrangements, etc. You will then work with your department to provide the required information, which OIE will use to begin the application. We will send the DS-2019 certificate of eligibility to you by mail so you can apply for J-1 status.

The DS-2019 acknowledges that the University has invited you, the scholar, to visit the institution, has authorized your visit, and supports your application for J-1 status. It is important to remember that the DS-2019 is not a visa, and you cannot enter the U.S. with the DS-2019 alone.


If you are not currently in J-1 status, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee to obtain a J-1 visa and enter the U.S. or to change to J-1 status. OIE will send detailed instructions on paying the fee with your visa document.

After receiving the required DS-2019 document from the university and paying the SEVIS fee, make an appointment for a visa interview at a United States Embassy or Consulate. At the visa interview, present the DS-2019 and SEVIS fee payment receipt and other required information. For specific information on applying for a U.S. visa at the Consulate nearest to you, visit the U.S. Department of State website.

If you have dependents, such as a spouse or children, who will travel with you to the U.S., they need to apply for J-2 visas. Children who are J-2 dependents must be legal dependents, under the age of 21, and unmarried. When applying for J-2 visas, you will need to take your family's passports to the U.S. Consulate, proof of marriage (for a spouse), and birth certificates for each child.

You will also need to provide OIE with email addresses for your J-2 dependents and notify our office if your dependents plan to leave the U.S. before completing your J-1 program.

The visa application process can take several days or several weeks, so please plan accordingly. If visa processing takes longer than you anticipated, don't hesitate to contact our office for advice. We strongly recommend not entering the U.S. in another status, such as in B-1/B-2 tourist status. You may have difficulty changing your status in the U.S. and, more importantly, the immigration official at the port of entry may not permit you to enter the U.S. without your J-1 visa.

Third-Country Applicants

Third-country applicants are individuals who are currently outside of the U.S. and plan to apply for a visa in a country other than their country of citizenship. Only some U.S. Embassies and Consulates will accept applications from third-country applicants. Check the Embassy/Consulate website that you plan to visit to learn about their policies.

Entering the U.S.

To enter the U.S., you must carry your immigration documents, passport and visa stamp inside the passport. We recommend bringing the documents on the airplane with you. If you pack them in your checked luggage, you may not be able to retrieve them before you are required to provide them by border and immigration officials.

If you are working at the university, you must enter the U.S. with a DS-2019 from CMU. J-1 scholars must enter the U.S. within 30 days before or after the start date listed on your DS-2019. Even when the timing is tight, you may not enter the U.S. on a B visitor visa unless it has been arranged with CMU in advance for a visit of fewer than nine days. Entry by any other means may result in loss of employment eligibility and other difficulties with immigration authorities.

Scholars who change plans before the arrival date or decide not to come to CMU should immediately notify the Office of International Education and return the DS-2019.

Researchers and professors in the U.S. in J-1 status under the sponsorship of another Exchange Visitor program may have their sponsorship transferred to CMU. There are limitations to transfer:

  1. Scholars may only transfer within the same category.
  2. If the objective remains the same.
  3. If the total time in J-1 status is less than or equal to five years (or less than or equal to six months for the short-term scholar category).
  4. If the SEVIS record is transferred before the end of the current J program.

If you are currently a J-1 scholar already located in the U.S., you can request a transfer from your current J program sponsor. If you are a professor or researcher currently in another non-immigrant or visa status, you can contact an OIE advisor about your options for changing your status.

Transferring programs without leaving the country

Most scholars transfer to a new program without leaving the U.S. Your current institution and CMU will work together with you to complete the transfer process. After finalizing arrangements with an OIE advisor, you will need to notify your current institution, including your current Foreign Scholar Advisor in your institution's international office. After completing the formal transfer of DS-2019 sponsorship, you may begin work as a visiting researcher or professor at CMU. You will need to keep your old DS-2019 forms and current DS-2019 together and bring them both with you when traveling outside of the U.S.

Leaving and re-entering

Scholars who plan to travel outside of the U.S. during the transfer should contact an OIE advisor. There are limitations, including 12-month and 24-month bars, on re-entering the U.S. after recent J-1 status changes.

If you are considering any employment (i.e., a paid speaker position, consulting, or on-campus employment not already listed on the DS-2019), please make an appointment to speak with your OIE advisor. There are limitations to what types of work you are and are not eligible for as a J-1 scholar. We also recommend checking out our page regarding supplemental employment.

Learn More

Required Check-In with OIE

As a new J-1 scholar, you must check in with OIE by attending a new scholar orientation session. You should plan to attend the orientation within the first week of your arrival in Pittsburgh. You will need to send copies of your passport, DS-2019, the completed Scholar Data Form (pdf), your signed Health Insurance Agreement (pdf), and your I-94 record to prior to the meeting. Attending orientation is required for all J-1 scholars within 30 days of entry to the U.S. If you do not check-in at orientation, your immigration status can be negatively affected. We encourage visitors in other immigration statuses to attend the orientation, though it is not required.

Sessions are held each week on Thursdays from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Email for more information and to reserve a spot.