For Department Use
Sponsoring an International Visitor
Departments may sponsor international students and scholars to come to the University of Virginia in J-1 status to engage in a program of teaching, research, observation or consultation. The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the U.S. Department of State for the purpose of fostering educational and cultural exchange. At the time of appointment, the expectation is that the Exchange Visitor will return home upon completion of the activity. In sponsoring exchange visitors the University agrees to abide by all regulations governing the administration of the program.
Most activity at the University will require sponsorship by the University. Please check with the ISO before inviting an international visitor to engage in any activities at UVa.
Because J-1 status is a sponsored status, exchange visitors can not apply for this status without sponsorship from the department in which he or she plans to engage in his or her program activities.
Please note that participants in the J visa program may be subject to a ban on repeat participation in the program. Some participants may also be subject to the 2-year home residency requirement upon completion of their program. This requirement only affects those participants interested in obtaining an H1-B employment based visa status or permanent residency (green card) in the US.
Visiting Research Scholar or Professor
Academic departments may invite visiting scholars to perform research and/or teach. The department must identify a departmental faculty host to serve as the supervisor for the Exchange Visitor. Visiting scholars can only assume non-tenure track positions. The J-1 status is an exchange visitor status which assumes non-immigrant intent and is not appropriate for any scholar who the department may wish to employ in the long term. For long term appointments the H1-B status may be more appropriate and departments should contact Compliance and Immigration Services in Human Resources.
Visiting appointments require a minimum degree equivalent to a Bachelors in the appropriate field of study and can be paid or unpaid. Foreign medical graduates sponsored by UVa may only participate in non-clinical programs where patient contact is incidental to their primary activity of teaching, research, consultation or observation.
Visiting scholars should have a level of English language ability that will enable them to fully participate in their program. We strongly encourage departments to independently verify English language ability through a personal interview or some other form of independent corroboration. A letter or e-mail from the scholar, or articles published in English, are often not accurate indications of actual English ability).
The maximum duration of participation in this category is 5 years. Exchange visitors with a program duration of 6 months or less may be categorized as “short term” with no possibility of extension beyond 6 months.
Visiting Graduate Students
Visiting graduate students sponsored under the J-1 program as Research Scholars must meet the minimum requirements for a faculty appointment under University and individual school/college faculty appointment policy. In most cases policy states faculty appointments require a minimum equivalent of a Masters degree.
Academic departments may enroll visiting graduate students as non-degree students to come to UVA to conduct research or work in a capacity related to their degree program. These students should be enrolled as visiting graduate students through the academic department and pay all required fees.
Begin the process as early as possible, allowing sufficient time for the Exchange Visitor to apply for and receive the J visa and otherwise prepare to travel to the U.S. The Exchange Visitor must have the original bar-coded form to take to the US Embassy when applying for the visa. A scanned or faxed copy will not work and the US Department of State recommends that copies should not be sent via e-mail or fax for security reasons. The length of time required for completion of the application and approval process can vary considerably so sufficient time should be allowed in advance of the Exchange Visitor’s expected arrival.
When the completed application is submitted to the ISO, the Form DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status will be prepared and sent to the sponsoring academic department to be forwarded on to the Exchange Visitor. We recommend sending the DS-2019 to the Exchange Visitor one to three months in advance of the start date of the program via DHL, Federal Express or other express mail service with the ability to track the mailing. The Exchange Visitor cannot begin the visa application process at the US Embassy in his or her home country until he or she has received the DS-2019 form.
Extension requests should be submitted to the ISO prior to the end date on the DS-2019 form.
- Work with your Dean's Office and Human Resources to determine the appropriate academic affiliation.
- The faculty host should draft a well-defined research and/or teaching agenda, determine the start date and duration of the scholar’s visit, and funding, if any, associated with the scholar’s stay. Please note that the start date listed on the request form should conform to the date that you expect the scholar to start his or her program at UVa NOT the expected date of entry to the U.S. Visa regulations allow scholars to enter the country up to 30 days in advance of the start date listed on the DS-2019 which should allow sufficient time to enter the country and get settled before beginning their program at UVa.
- Obtain evidence of sufficient funding from all sources for the duration of the appointment. J-1 Scholars may be self-funded or may receive funds from the department. Total funds must equal a minimum of $1,550 per month from all combined sources for the exchange visitor and an additional $500 per month for each dependent (J-2). Self-funding scholars must demonstrate funds to cover the entire period requested. Appropriate proof of funding includes bank statements, scholarship letter of award, or letter of support from home institution.
- The host professor and/or department administrator should communicate with the scholar before arrival; arrange for office space in the department, telephone, library privileges and computer use as appropriate; and ensure that the scholar is integrated into the activities of the department. Even if the scholar will not be employed by UVa, the host faculty member is expected to assist or collaborate with the scholar, and to be aware of the scholar’s activities while at UVa.
- Complete J-1 Sponsor Request form. Required documentation includes 1) evidence of funding, 2) scholar’s CV, 3) copy of passport ID page, 4)Departmental offer letter detailing appointment type, length, remuneration (if any), and any other terms of sponsorship. Obtain the appropriate signatures from the Department Chair and the Dean’s office and then forward the completed and signed J-1 Sponsor Request with accompanying documentation to ISO. If the Exchange Visitor is a foreign medical graduate, attach "incidental patient contact” form
- When it has been processed, the DS-2019 form will be returned to the department. The department is responsible for forwarding the form to the visiting scholar. We recommend that you use Express Mail, DHL, or Federal Express so that you can track the shipment. A copy of the DS-2019 will be included for departmental records. Notify ISO if the Exchange Visitor will not arrive in the U.S. prior to the start date on the DS-2019.
Notify ISO of any change in the scholar’s activities including a change in duties, worksite location, or dates of participation. If the scholar is planning to continue his or her J-1 program at a different institution in the U.S. we can transfer J-1 sponsorship to the new institution. The scholar will need to complete the Transfer Out form and contact the ISO to discuss the procedures for coordinating the transfer.
Upon receipt of the J-1 Sponsor Request Form, ISO reviews the application materials for completeness and to ensure that they meet program requirements and eligibility criteria, prepares the DS-2019 and sends it via messenger mail to the administrator listed on the J-1 Sponsor Request Form. If the department prefers to pick up the DS-2019 form please indicate that in the space provided on the request form. Separate DS-2019s are issued for accompanying dependents.
In addition to the DS-2019 forms we include information for the visiting scholar designed to assist in preparing to come to the U.S. and to UVa. We include information on:
- the visa process and on U.S. government regulations affecting their legal status in the U.S.
- transportation to Charlottesville,
- locating housing
- obtaining a social security number and drivers license
We also give them opportunities to connect with members of the Charlottesville community in advance of their arrival at UVa if interested. A copy of the Pre-Arrival Handbook sent to visiting scholars is linked on our webpage.
In addition to providing pre-arrival and orientation information to visiting scholars, the ISO provides on-going support. Scholars can avail themselves of walk-in hours at the ISO Mon-Thurs 9-12 and 1-4 if there are questions or issues they wish to discuss. No appointment is necessary during these hours.
The ISO also sponsors a variety of programs and activities through the Lorna Sundberg International Center. A calendar of events is available on the website. Activities are open to anyone and we actively encourage visiting scholars to participate.
The Exchange Visitor must pay the SEVIS fee (the department may pay the SEVIS fee on behalf of the Exchange Visitor or reimburse the EV, but this is at the discretion of the department). The ISO does not pay these fees on behalf of international students or scholars. The EV completes the on-line visa application (form DS-160), pays the visa application fee, and makes an appointment with the consular office at the nearest US Embassy for a visa interview. Accompanying dependents apply for J-2 visas. (Canadian citizens are visa exempt, and simply present the DS-2019 to the U.S. immigration officer at the port of entry.)
In some cases, delays in visa approval should be anticipated due to security reviews that take into account the applicant's country of origin, the likelihood that the visa applicant will return to the home country following completion of their program, and field of research.
The Exchange Visitor must enter the U.S. on or before the program start date listed on their DS-2019 form and must check in with the ISO no later than 30 days beyond the program start date. If entry is not possible within that time frame, a new DS-2019 should be requested. Check in with ISO within 30 days of the program start date is mandatory. Failure to do so results in immediate termination of the J-1 program.
Every Exchange Visitor to the University is required to check in with the ISO within 30 days of the start date listed on their DS-2019. US government regulations require that we report the arrival of the J-1Exchange Visitor in SEVIS within the first 30 days after the document begins.
Check-in and orientation is held every Monday and Wednesday at 10 am in the ISO. Exchange visitors are asked to bring their documents (DS-2019, passport with visa and I-94 card, and proof of health insurance) with them so that we can make copies for our records.
During this meeting we review their legal documents with them and go over the regulations and requirements that must follow in order to maintain legal status in the US. We also answer any questions they have regarding settling in to Charlottesville and the UVa community and introduce them to other programs and services offered by our office.
J-1 Scholars may be self-funded or may receive funds from the host department. U.S. Government regulations governing the J-1 program require Exchange Visitors to possess adequate financial resources to complete their program and to support any accompanying dependents.
UVa has determined that the minimum funding necessary to meet this standard is $1,550 per month for the exchange visitor and an additional $500 per month for each dependent. The calculation is based on a minimal cost of living for the Charlottesville area including cost of the minimum level of required health insurance coverage. These estimates do not include travel to or from the visitor’s home country or within the US, nor entertainment or other discretionary expenses.
Visitors should take into consideration that these estimates are very conservative and should factor in individual financial requirements when making plans to come to Charlottesville.
The initial DS-2019 for the Research Scholar will usually be issued for the period of the invitation, as long as there is documentation of funding for the entire period. The J-1 program can then be extended up to a maximum of five years. After completion of the program there is a bar to repeat participation in a J-1 Research Scholar program. The Exchange Visitor must wait 2 years before he or she can be eligible to participate in the J-1 Research Scholar category again.
A short-term scholar is a person coming to the US for research or teaching (or similar activity in an area of expertise) for a short visit. The visit may be extended up to a maximum of six months. After completion of the program, there is no prohibition on a return to the U.S. in any J-1 category.
2-year home residency requirement
Under specific circumstances, a J-1 exchange visitor may incur a Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement. This requirement states that those Exchange Visitors with this requirement applied to their status cannot obtain the H1-B employment visa or Permanent Residency in the U.S without first returning to his/her country for two years or obtaining a waiver of this requirement. It does not affect returning to the U.S. in any other type of visa. If the individual is subject to this requirement, the J-1 visa stamp or DS-2019 form will indicate that the bearer is subject to “212(e)”.
The J-1 visa is a not an employment based visa, however, Exchange Visitors sponsored as Research Scholars, Professors and Short Term Scholars are allowed to work in the US only insofar as the employment is directly related to the program for which they have been sponsored by UVa. No employment or payment from a US source other than UVa can occur without prior discussion and written permission from the ISO.
When reviewing visa applications from prospective scholars the consular post conducts an initial review of the application and interviews the applicant about his/her planned activity in the U.S. It is at this initial stage that clear and concise information about the scholar's teaching, research, or other activity should be presented. It is also at this point that the consular officer will make an assessment of the applicants “intent” to immigrate to the United States. In most cases, the visa is issued within a matter of days or weeks. However, in some cases it is decided that further checks are needed or the visa is denied. Most often, the reason for a denial is based on a determination made by the consular officer that the scholar's presumed intent is to immigrate to the United States. The visa denial letter will cite section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. It is often difficult to disprove this assumption as it is by nature very subjective. Please review the visa denial information provided by the U.S. Department of State (DOS).
Issues that may cause problems or delays in the visa application process include:
- Spelling inconsistencies on the applicant’s legal documents (passport, visa application, supporting documentation). This can cause delays and confusion. The name given on the visa application and supporting documentation should be exactly the same as the name listed in the passport.
- The applicant has not read and followed the tips and guidance on the website of the U.S. consular post having jurisdiction over the visa application; this can cause delays or denial.
- The consular post cannot understand the kind of work the person is doing and officers cannot assess the risk/benefit of granting the person a visa. A security clearance will likely be requested if the field is unclear.
- The applicant is from a country considered to pose a risk or is working in a field that is considered "sensitive" in some way.
- There are other individuals with the same or similar names. The consulate must rule out any incidents and clear up any "hits" the Consular Lookout (CLASS) system reveals on the name(s) in question.
The consular officer may tell the individual that a security advisory opinion (SAO) is needed and that he/she will be notified when it has been completed. In most cases, security clearances are completed within 30 days; however, there is no set time frame. The U.S. Department of State will neither discuss nor reveal the reason for a security advisory opinion on a particular case. In these cases there is nothing that can be done to speed up the process.
Under certain circumstances foreign nationals wishing to visit UVA may be eligible to do so under the visa waiver program, on a B visa, or as Canadian or other types of visa-exempt visitors. Most visitors, particularly those with a formal relationship to UVA will be required to enter the US with a sponsored visa status more. It is critical both from an immigration as well as a UVA liability perspective to consult with the ISO first when inviting any international student or scholar to the University.