J-1 Scholars and Student Interns
The broad purpose of the Exchange Visitor J-1 program is to promote international educational and cultural exchange in order to develop mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Exchange programs exist in a variety of formats and permit visitors to come to this country for a wide range of activities. Carnegie Mellon's Exchange Visitor program provides opportunities for study, research, and teaching. Annually, we welcome over 600 visiting researchers and professors in over 40 departments in our campus community. There are both paid and unpaid J-1 research and teaching positions.
At Carnegie Mellon, J-1 researchers and professors may be in one of three J-1 categories, described below:
The short-term researcher 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 1 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 6 months, and extensions are not allowed under any circumstance. A person in short-term scholar status would have to leave the US and re-enter in order to prolong the stay; travel to Canada or Mexico would not likely benefit an individual in this situation.
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.” A research scholar’s stay must be for a minimum of three weeks and may be extended for up to 5 years; however, when the J program ends, the research scholar is subject to a 24-month bar on repeat participation in the J research scholar or professor categories.
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.” As with research scholars, a professor’s stay must be for a minimum of three weeks and may be extended for up to 5 years; however, when the J program ends, the professor is subject to a 24-month bar on repeat participation in the J research scholar or professor categories.
Research Scholar and Professor categories are ideal for visitors who are going to be in the US more than 6 months or for visitors who may be invited to extend their stay beyond 6 months and who are not concerned about the 24-month bar on repeat participation.
The US Department of State allows students who are enrolled in degree programs at home universities (in other countries) to be sponsored for an intern position, for up to 12 months’ duration, in the US. The internship may be with or without wages, however, the student must provide evidence of personal or outside funding sufficient to cover all travel, health insurance, and living expenses, for the duration of the internship.
Additional information about the 24-month bar can be found under Conditions and Limitations.
J-1 scholars will have their initial contact with a teaching or research faculty in a CMU department. First, the visitor will clarify details of the visit including the length of stay, funding arrangements, etc., with the department. The department will then gather certain required information from the scholar and give relevant information to the Office of International Education (OIE). In turn, OIE will forward the DS-2019 document to the scholar so that the scholar may obtain J-1 status.
The DS-2019 form 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. The DS-2019 is not a visa, and a scholar cannot enter the US with the DS-2019 alone; to enter the US, the DS-2019 works in partnership with the J-1 visa stamp in the passport.
If you are not currently in J-1 status, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee in order to obtain a J-1 visa and enter the US or to change to J-1 status. OIE will send detailed instructions on paying the fee with your visa document.
Obtaining J-1 status from outside the US
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 along with other required information. For specific information on applying for the US visa at the Consulate nearest to you, visit the US Department of State website.
Dependents (spouse and/or children only) who will accompany the scholar to the US will 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 the J-2 visa(s), take the family's passports with to the US Consulate along with proof of marriage (for the spouse) and birth certificates for each child. J-2 dependents must keep OIE updated regarding their email address and OIE must be notified if the J-2 dependent(s) will depart the US prior to the completion of the J-1 program.
The visa application process can take several days or several weeks, so plan accordingly. If visa processing takes longer than you anticipated, contact OIE for advice. We strongly recommend that you do not enter the US in another status, such as B-1/B-2 tourist. You may have difficulty changing your status in the US, and more importantly, the immigration official at the port of entry may not permit you to enter the US without your J-1 visa.
Individuals who are outside of the US and plan to apply for a visa in a country other than their country of citizenship are considered "third country applicants." Only some US Embassies and Consulates will accept applications from third country applicants. Check the website for the Embassy/Consulate that you plan to visit to learn about their policies. Also, please read through the OIE Handout.
Entering the US
To enter the US, you must carry your immigration documents along with your passport and the visa stamp inside of the passport. (Remember to carry the documents on the airplane with you. Do not pack them in your luggage.)
Note: Scholars must enter the US with the DS-2019 from Carnegie Mellon University in order to work at the University. J-1 scholars must enter the US within 30 days before or after the start date on the DS-2019. Even when the timing is tight, scholars may not enter the US on a B visitor visa, unless it has been arranged with CMU in advance for a visit of fewer than 9 days. Entry by any other means may result in loss of employment eligibility as well as other difficulties with immigration authorities. Scholars who change plans before the arrival date or decide not to come to Carnegie Mellon University should immediately notify the Office of International Education and return the DS-2019.
Obtaining J-1 status from within the US
Researchers and professors who are in the US in J-1 status under the sponsorship of another Exchange Visitor program may have their sponsorship transferred to Carnegie Mellon. There are limitations to transfer; scholars may only transfer (1) 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 6 months for short-term scholar category) and (4) if the SEVIS record is transferred before the end of the current J program. Current J-1 scholars request the transfer from their current J program sponsor.
Professors or researchers currently in another non-immigrant or visa status should contact an OIE advisor about options for changing status and correct procedures.
Transferring programs without leaving the country
Most scholars transfer to a new program without leaving the US. The current institution and CMU will be involved in the transfer process. After finalizing arrangements with the OIE advisor, the scholar will need to notify the current institution including the Foreign Scholar Advisor in the international office. CMU will generate a new DS-2019 form and help with the transfer process. Only after completing the formal transfer of DS-2019 sponsorship may a visiting researcher or professor begin work at CMU. Keep the old DS-2019 forms and current DS-2019 together, especially when traveling outside of the US. Contact OIE with any questions or concerns.
Leaving and reentering
Scholars who plan to travel outside of the US around the time of transfer may contact an OIE advisor. There are limitations, including 12-month and 24-month bars, on re-entering the US after recent J-1 status in the US.
Maintaining Legal Status
For a J-1 scholar to maintain legal status, the scholar must continually engage in the program noted on the DS-2019, maintain a valid passport and always have health insurance coverage while in the US, report address and dependent information (see below). Further, a J-1 scholar or professor may not accept any US employment which is not specifically listed on the DS-2019 or authorized in advance by the Office of International Education (OIE). Should any details change - the department sponsor or funding source, for example - then the J-1 scholar should consult with an OIE advisor. J immigration information can be found here.
Health insurance requirement
This topic is covered in more detail below. It is unique among non-immigrant categories that J-1 scholars and their dependents must be covered by health insurance that meets the minimum requirements stipulated by US federal law. Failure to maintain adequate health insurance results in the loss of legal J-1 status.
All J-1 scholars are required to complete and sign the J-1 Scholar Insurance Agreement (.pdf) verifying compliance with the insurance regulatory requirement.
J-1 exchange visitors must report the email address for each accompanying spouse and dependent to OIE. In addition, the J principal must report if their J-2 dependents depart the United States prior to the exchange visitor’s final departure date by emailing OIE.
J-1 scholars (and their dependents in J-2 status) are granted a 30-day grace period at the end of the program. This period is meant for personal business or pleasure not for continued employment. During this period, the J-1 scholar may remain in the US. By the end of the 30 day grace period, the scholar is expected to depart the US. Any change of status application or extension of J status must be made prior to the end date on the DS-2019.
Conditions & Limitations
The total stay in the United States for Exchange Visitors in the "Professor or Research Scholar" category is limited to five years. Extensions beyond the five-year period are not possible. The total stay in the United States for Exchange Visitors in the "Short-Term Scholar" category is limited to six months. Extensions beyond that time are not possible.
A person who is outside the US may not return in the J professor or research scholar category if s/he was in J status (research scholar, professor, student, trainee, etc.) for 6 of the previous 12 months. To calculate, you (1) count backwards 12 months from the (future) date of requested J status, (2) ask yourself, in that 12 month period, was the scholar in J researcher or professor status for 6 or more months of that 12 month period? If yes, the scholar may not return until more time has passed. If no, the DS-2019 document can be issued unless the 24-month bar applies. (See 24 month bar information below.)
J-1 research scholars and professors who have completed their J program (as evidenced by the end date on their DS-2019) or who have reached the five year limit may not extend their stay in J-1 status. They must leave the US or change to another non-immigrant status. They are not eligible to return to J-1 research scholar or professor status for 24 months.
Once the J program has ended, this 24-month bar is applicable to J-1 research scholars or professors who have used less than a five year period of J-1 scholar status as well as to those scholars who have been here the full five year period. For scholars who use fewer than five years, the remainder of the five year eligibility period is considered to be lost and the scholar would face the 24-month bar. Therefore, it is particularly important that scholars who will be in the US for 6 months or fewer consider using the short-term scholar category. The short-term scholar category is exempt from the 24-month bar.
Note: For any J visitor who was previously and most recently in the US in the research scholar or professor category, it is most likely that both the 12-month AND the 24-month bars will apply, effectively resulting in a 24-month bar. The bars are not cumulative.
Two-year Home Residency Requirement
The J Exchange Visitor Program was created to foster learning across cultures. In some cases, rules ensure that J-1 visitors will return to their home countries after completion of the US program so that the home country will also benefit. Participants in a J program (students, scholars, professors, and researchers) and their dependent family members may be subject to the two-year home residency requirement for any of three reasons:
- Direct funding from the home government or US government
- Graduate medical education or training
- The country-specific Skills List
There are two ways to fulfill the two-year home residency rule:
- Return to the home country for a period of two years or more, or
- Request and receive a waiver
To determine if a scholar is subject to the rule, check the US visa and notation on the DS-2019 from the US consular officer. If there is any concern about the correctness of the determination as marked, a scholar may consult with an Office of International Education (OIE) advisor. In very complicated situations, a scholar may request confirmation from the US Department of State.
The two-year home residency rule does not prevent the scholar from returning to the US as a visitor, researcher, student, or in another non-immigrant status during the two-year period directly following the period of J-1 status in the US. However, until the two-year home residency requirement is fulfilled, a person may not move into a more permanent work status such as H-1B or permanent residency (i.e., Green card). Also, individuals subject to the two-year home residency requirement may not file an I-539 to apply for a change of status from within the US. Travel is required to accomplish a change of status.
J-1 visitors who are interested in obtaining a Waiver of the two-year rule must follow a formal process. There are several bases on which to apply for the waiver including: a statement of no objection, an interested US government agency, fear of persecution, and others. Visit the US Department of State website for more information on waivers.
J-1 exchange visitors must report the email address for each accompanying spouse and dependent to OIE. In addition, the J principal must report if their J-2 dependent(s) depart the United States prior to the exchange visitor's final departure date by emailing OIE.
Under J regulations, CMU is not permitted to make copies of or email DS-2019s, even to the J-1 exchange visitor.
Loss or theft of DS-2019s
If a DS-2019 is lost or stolen, you must request a new document by submitting an OIE Request for Services (pdf) form to OIE within 10 calendar days.
J-1 Exchange Visitors Health Insurance
All J exchange visitors (J-1) and their dependent(s) (J-2) are required by federal regulations to have health insurance meeting minimum requirements (listed below).
U.S. Government regulations require J-1 scholars and J-2 dependents to have health insurance which meets the following requirements:
- Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
- Payment for repatriation (preparation and transportation of remains to home country) in case of death in the amount of $25,000
- Payment for medical evacuation (transportation to home country on advice of attending physician) in the amount of $50,000
- A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness
- Coverage of pre-existing conditions after a reasonable waiting period
- Payment by the insurance company of at least 75% of the costs of medical care (the patient must not be required to pay more than 25% of medical care costs)
Additionally, to comply with these regulations, health insurance policies must be underwritten by corporations having good financial ratings, specifically one of the following:
- M. Best rating of A- or above
- McGraw Hill Financial/Standard & Poor’s Claims- paying Ability rating of ‘A- or above
- Weiss Research, Inc. rating of ‘‘B+’’ or above
- Fitch Ratings, Inc. rating of ‘‘A-’’ or above
- Moody’s Investor Services rating of ‘‘A3’’ or above.
Failure of the J-1 exchange visitor and their J-2 dependent(s) to maintain adequate health insurance may result in the loss of their legal J immigration status.
J Exchange Visitors Who Qualifiy for Carnegie Mellon Employee Benefits
J exchange visitors who qualify for Carnegie Mellon employee benefits are eligible to enroll in qualifying health insurance plans and must do so, for themselves and their dependents. Consult your hiring department to determine if you are unsure if you qualify for employment benefits.
Please note: Health insurance coverage available as an employment benefit through CMU do not cover repatriation or medical evacuation that meets the State Department's requirements as the coverage does not apply to people in the US who would need transport to their home country. J-1 scholars receiving health insurance coverage through CMU will need to purchas supplemental repatriation and medical evacuation coverage separately. Coverage may be purchased from any vendor as long as it meets the minimum coverage requirements listed above. Some insurance providers who offer this supplement coverage include:
J Exchange Visitors Who Do Not Qualifiy for Carnegie Mellon Employee Benefits
J exchange visitors who are not paid by Carnegie Mellon or who do not qualify for Carnegie Mellon employee benefits, and who do not have the required health insurance coverage from another source, will need to purchase their own health insurance (for themselves and their dependents). Any health insurance purchased must meet the minimum requirements listed above.
A number of companies offer health insurance. The following list is a sample of companies which provide health insurance plans which meet the regulations for J-1 students and exchange visitors:
- Betins International Health and Travel Insurance
- Compass Student Insurance
- Cultural Insurance Services international
- International Student Protection
- ISO International Student Insurance
- Visit International Health Insurance
NOTE: OIE is not affiliated with any of the companies listed above and does not endorse any specify providor. Additionally, we cannot recommend specifica plans or guarantee that they will be accepted by Pittsburgh-area providers. While the companies listed above currently offer insurance plans that satisfy the minimum U.S Department of State (DoS) requirements, the J exchange visitor must check with the company directly to make sure that the health coverage meets the minimum DoS requirements, as services are subject to change.
Work eligibility other than employment listed on the DS-2019 (if any) is extremely limited. Visiting faculty or researchers in J-1 status who are considering any employment (for example, a speech for which an honorarium will be paid, consulting, or on-campus employment not already listed on the DS-2019), should speak to OIE advisor in advance of the planned engagement or employment to determine if the employment is allowable.
On-campus employment is allowed only in the department or field listed on the DS-2019 document and only if the DS-2019 notes that the program sponsor (CMU) is providing financial support. Scholars who had not initially planned to be employed at CMU and find some opportunity to be employed on campus have very limited options. In many cases, employment cannot be added later to the J program activities. Scholars may discuss special situations with an OIE advisor.
Short-term employment is referred to as "incidental employment" and may be allowed in a limited way in very specific circumstances at the discretion of an OIE advisor. According to federal regulations, the employment must meet the following four criteria:
- Be short-term or occasional (a lecture, for example)
- Be directly related to the objectives of the exchange program
- Be incidental to the primary program activities
- Not delay the completion date of the scholar's program
To request OIE permission to accept incidental employment, the CMU department supervisor must approve the employment and write a letter to OIE outlining:
- Dates of intended employment
- Type of activity
- Location of employment (city and state)
If OIE agrees to authorize the incidental employment, a letter will be provided to the scholar that will authorize the specific employment opportunity.
Obtaining a Social Security Number (SSN)
As with all employees in the US, employees in J-1 status must have a valid US Social Security Number (SSN) in order for the Payroll office to process payment. Even those who will not receive pay in the US will find it convenient to have an SSN. You must apply in person at a nearby Social Security Administration (SSA) office to obtain a Social Security Number. You must apply at least 10 days after you have entered the US and after you have attended scholar orientation at the Office of International Education (OIE). It takes approximately 10 days for your entry into the US to be recorded in the immigration database. The SSA must check this database before they can assign a number to you. You must take your passport, DS-2019, I-94 record (downloadable from www.cbp.gov/i94) and the SSN application (SS-5) when you go to the SSA office.
Extension or Transfer of J-1 Status
Extension of J-1 status is common and relatively easy to accomplish. The Carnegie Mellon department must agree to the extension and will send a memo or email to OIE requesting that the scholar's DS-2019 be extended. This typically occurs about one month in advance of the expiration of the current J-1 period. The department's memo or email should include the following information:
- The specific period of time being requested: The total period of a J-1 research scholar/professor's status can be no more than 5 years. The total period of a J-1 short term scholar's status can be no more than 6 months.
- The extension end date: The new extension period must begin on the day after the current DS-2019 form ends.
- The amount and source of support: If the financial support is not from CMU, then original financial documentation must be sent to OIE before the extension can be granted.
OIE notifies the US Department of State regarding the extension via the SEVIS immigration database. This extension process in OIE legally extends the scholar's J-1 status in the US. However, if the scholar will travel out of the US during the extension period, he or she will need to apply for a new J-1 visa at a US consulate in order to return to the US to resume J-1 activities. On the other hand, if the scholar will not travel outside the US during the extension period, then no J-1 entry visa is required, and the scholar has no need to apply for a new J-1 visa in the passport.
J-1 scholars may transfer in or out of CMU's J-1 program.
There are restrictions on J-1 transfer as follows:
- The J-1 researcher or professor must pursue the same primary purpose as s/he pursued at the previous institution.
- The J-1 visitor may not change categories (i.e., from "student" to "research scholar").
- Before the DS-2019 can be issued to the scholar, the previous program must release permission to transfer. Therefore, it benefits the scholar to communicate openly about the expected change. It is important to note that this adds extra time to the process.
- The transfer process must be complete before the previous DS-2019 expires.
For current procedures, contact an OIE advisor.
Required Check-In with OIE
New J-1 Scholars are required to check-in with OIE by attending a New Scholar Orientation session. Sessions are held each week on Thursdays from 1 to 2:30 PM. Call OIE at 412-268-5231 for more information and to reserve a spot. Scholars should attend the orientation within the first week or two of their arrival in Pittsburgh. The scholar must bring their passport, DS-2019, completed Scholar Data Form (pdf), signed Health Insurance Agreement (pdf), and their I-94 record to the meeting. Visitors in other immigration statuses are encouraged but not required to attend the Scholar Orientation.
J-1 scholars who fail to check in with OIE will be considered to be in invalid (illegal) non-immigrant status 30 days after entry to the US.
Other OIE Services
OIE advisors are available to assist J-1 scholars and J-2 dependents with issues related to non-immigrant documents and status, cultural adjustment, and practical matters. Call the OIE receptionist at 412-268-5231 to schedule an appointment with an advisor.