Global Education & Outreach

J-1 Scholars/Students

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 What is a definition of a J-1 Scholar?

  • An individual primarily conducting research, observing or consulting research in connection with a research project.
  • The research scholar can also teach or lecture unless disallowed by the sponsor. (NAFSA Handbook, and Authority Code 22 C.F.R. § 62.4 (f)

What is the difference between a Short Term Scholar and a Research Scholar?

  • The short term scholar comes on a J-1 visa for 6 months or less and a research scholar can come for a minimum of 3 weeks and as long as 5 years. 

What academic credentials does a J-1 Scholar need?

  • Research scholars are expected to have appropriate academic or similar credentials.
  • The Department of State (DOS) has not specified minimum academic levels.
  • However, generally a prospective exchange visitor or researcher should have at least a bachelor's degree with appropriate experience in the field of endeavor.
  • Sponsors who use these categories for exchange visitors with less than a bachelor's degree may be required by DOS to establish that such a program furthers the objectives of exchange and collaborative teaching and research efforts and that the participant will engage in appropriate program activities.

What does this mean for WIU's exchange visitor program?

  • WIU will require at least a bachelor's degree for the J-1 research scholar.
  • Exceptions to this rule can be made if a person's skill is extraordinary and the person will engage in appropriate program activities.
  • Examples of this might be an artist or musician or a skilled craftsperson coming to WIU to work in a particular field that makes use of that skill or specialty.

Can a J-1 Scholar enroll in class? 

  • There is no regulatory prohibition on a J-1 research scholar enrolling in class as long as the classes are incidental to his or her primary activity.
  • The research scholar continues to pursue the objectives for which he or she came; and the program continues to fulfill the objectives of the research scholar category. If enrollment in classes or a degree program becomes the primary objective, J-1 scholar status is no longer appropriate. (NAFSA Handbook 4.11.5)

What can J-2 dependents do? 

  • J-2 dependents are the spouse and children (under the age of 21) of the J-1 scholar. J-2 dependents can work or take classes while in their J-2 status.
  • Applications for J-2 work permission are made to the Department of Homeland Security through the Center for International Studies.

What J-2 dependents cannot do 

  • J-2 dependents cannot change status to another J category within the United States.
  • A J-2 dependent must depart the United States and obtain a J-1 visa to come back in a scholar category. (They are not eligible to return as a J research scholar if they have been here in any J status for more than 6 months in the preceding 12 months).
  • If they are not subject to the 2-year home residency requirement, it might be possible to change to F-1 student status without having to return home. Please note: If the J-1 scholar leaves the US and finishes a research program, leaving J-2 dependents behind, the J-2 dependents will be out of status. They will not be eligible to change to a J -1 or to an F-1.

What is the 2-year home residency requirement and can it be waived? 

  • The Department of State determines who will have to return home for 2 years after the J-1 program is completed.
  • This determination is made based on government funding and the skills list which varies by country.
  • This determination is noted on the visa and is sometimes incorrectly marked; therefore anyone who would be seeking a wavier of the 2-year home residency requirement should contact the Center for International Studies for more information.

J-1 Exchange Visitors and health, evacuation and repatriation insurance 

  • J-1 scholars and their dependents must have health insurance coverage.
  • They must also have insurance that will cover medical evacuation and repatriation of remains in the unfortunate event that the scholar passes away in the United States.
  • Scholars who are officially employed by WIU may already have this coverage. Scholars who are not official WIU employees will need to secure these types of coverage.

Appropriate and inappropriate uses of the J-1 scholar program 

  • It is appropriate to come for a limited period of time and carryout a program of research and return home.
  • The J-1 program is run by the Department of State and is officially called the Exchange Visitor program.
  • The program's goal is that Exchange Visitors return home with the experiences and knowledge they have gained in the United States.
  • It is not appropriate to use the J-1 scholar visa when the goal is to become a full time student in a degree program. People who wish to pursue a degree should come in either F-1 or J-1 student status.
  • While it is perfectly fine to enroll J-2 dependent children in K-12 US public education while the J-1 is pursuing a research program, it is not appropriate to prolong a research program for the sole purpose of J-2 children remaining in US schools.
  • It is not appropriate to invite J-1 scholars to participate in a program in which they will not have health, evacuation and repatriation insurance coverage.
  • This is especially true for programs in which the scholar is engaging in higher risk research possibly with regular use of machinery.