For many international scholars coming to UT for a short period, the most appropriate visa is a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa. This visa or immigration status is appropriate for someone who will be teaching or conducting research at UT (or under the supervision of UT), coming directly from his/her home country, and planning to return to his/her home country upon completion of the teaching or research project. Read more details about the J-1 categories below.
Click here for information about the host-department’s responsibilities and procedures to request a J-1 scholar or intern.
Categories of J-1 Scholar
J-1 Research Scholar or Professor
In most cases, a Research Scholar is a scholar who will be conducting research full-time in a particular field. However, a Research Scholar is also permitted to teach classes in his/her area of research. A Professor is any scholar whose primary responsibility is teaching classes for credit at UT (the actual title used by UT can be Instructor, Lecturer, or other non-student teaching title). A Professor is, likewise, permitted to conduct research in his/her field, in addition to the teaching.
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 (permission to stay in the U.S. ) can then be extended up to five years. When the funding will come from a non-UT source, the DS-2019 will usually be issued for one year or less. After one year, the scholar may apply for an extension showing updated financial documentation.
Although a Research Scholar/Professor may transfer directly to another academic institution (or government laboratory), once the J-1 program has ended, the Scholar may not begin another J-1 program as a Research Scholar/Professor for two years. However, it may be possible to return for a short visit, as a J-1 “Short-term Scholar”.
A Specialist is a person who is an expert in his/her field and will be coming to UT to observe, improve, discuss or demonstrate this expertise, but who will not be doing research or teaching classes for credit. A Specialist’s program is limited to one year. After completion of the program, a Specialist may not return to the U.S. as a Research Scholar/Professor for 12 months. However, there is no prohibition on a return as a Specialist or in any other J category.
J-1 Short-term Scholar
A Short-term Scholar is a person coming to the U.S. for research or teaching (or similar activity in an area of expertise) for a short visit. The visit may be extended up to six months, but not longer. After completion of the program, there is no prohibition on a return to the U.S. in any J-1 category. However, it is not appropriate to begin another program immediately after a Short-term program.
An Intern is normally a student enrolled as an undergraduate or lower level graduate student in a foreign university or, in some cases, who has graduated in the last 12 months. The J-1 Intern is invited to the U.S. for a structured educational internship program up to one year, under the supervision of a UT professor. Internships normally take place on the UT campus.
A prospective intern must be screened for English proficiency and personally interviewed to ensure that she/he has the appropriate background and skills for the program. Before the intern applies for the J-1 visa, he/she must be given a clear written statement of the learning goals and activities of the internship program. Additionally, U.S. law requires a written evaluation of every internship program, to be signed by the intern and the primary supervisor before the intern returns home.
Note that some of the regulations and procedures for the “Intern” category are different than those for other categories of J-1 Visitor. However, like all other J-1 Exchange Visitors, J-1 Interns are normally expected to return to their home countries upon completion of their programs.
Exchange visitors with immediate family members (husband or wife and/or children under the age of 21) may be eligible to have those family members accompany them during their programs. Dependents of J-1 visa holders are granted J-2 status and are required to have a separate Form DS-2019 issued in order to apply for a J-2 visa stamp. Dependents are required to carry health insurance meeting specific requirements as outlined in the Health Insurance section.
J-1 Exchange Visitors are not permitted to leave dependent family members in the U.S. during extended visits to their home countries. Generally, absences for periods of 30 days or longer results in a break in the continuity of status for the J-1 Exchange Visitor and therefore, may invalidate the J-2 status for family members.
J-2 Dependents may:
- Remain in the U.S. during the entire period that the J-1 Exchange Visitor remains in U.S.
- Enroll in academic courses on a full-time or part-time basis as a non-degree or degree seeking student
- Apply for employment authorization and obtain employment as specified by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services after entering the U.S. or changing to J-2 status in the U.S. Information about applying for Employment Authorization is available on the USCIS web site.
J-2 Dependents may not:
- Remain in the U.S. during the period that the J-1 exchange visitor resides abroad if the period exceeds 30 days. Generally, absences for periods of 30 days or longer results in a break in the continuity of status for the J-1 Exchange Visitor and therefore, may invalidate the J-2 status for family members.
- Apply for work authorization to earn income that will support the J-1 exchange visitor.
- Remain in the U.S. as a J-2 child dependent after reaching the age of 21.
Filing an application for J-2 Employment Authorization
J-2 dependents may apply for permission to accept employment, provided the income from such employment is not needed for the support of J-1 exchange visitors or J-2 dependents. The University of Tennessee requires all J-1 visitors to provide evidence of adequate financial support before DS-2019’s are issued for the J-1 and all J-2 dependents. Therefore, J-2 work permission cannot be sought as an economic necessity.
The Application for Employment Authorization is filed with the USCIS by the J-2 dependent, carefully following the directions below:
- To file the Application for Employment Authorization you will need the following:
- Form I-765: On the Form I-765, number 16, the letter and number should be C5 and your signature should be signed in blue ink.
- Check or money for the amount of the filing fee listed on the USCIS site, made payable to “DHS” (to be attached to Form I-765)
- Copy of your I-94 card (both sides, front and back)
- Copies of any previously issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD) cards
- Two passport-sized photos that meet the USCIS color photograph specifications, lightly print your name on the back of each photo with a pencil.
- Copy of J-1’s DS-2019
- Copy of J-2’s DS-2019
- Letter to USCIS explaining why you wish to work in the U.S.
- Send by US certified mail, Federal Express, DHL, or any other courier service which would provide you with a receipt that will prove that your documents were received by the USCIS. Be sure to save the receipt. You should also make and keep copies of all the items you send to the USCIS, in case any items become lost. NOTE: Do NOT send original documents (DS-2019’s, etc) to the USCIS, they only require COPIES.The USCIS will send you a receipt notice (Notice of Action, Form I-797) when your application for work permission is received. This form will tell you when you should expect to receive your work permission. Your work permission will come later in the form of a laminated card called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
- The USCIS will send your EAD card to the address you provided on your application. This is your J-2 work permission. You must have a valid, current EAD card and a valid, current DS-2019 to work legally in the U.S. Working without these documents means you are working illegally.
Additional Assistance Provided by ISSS
CGE is happy to answer any questions you may have regarding the application process for J-2 work permission.
Professors or Research Scholars are permitted to work as described on the form DS-2019 and may accept additional employment as authorized by the sponsor in accordance with the regulations. Additional employment may be permitted if the activity is determined by the program’s Responsible Office (RO) to be included in the exchange visitor’s program objective. The (RO) must grant work authorization before supplemental employment is started. Documents needed to obtain authorization include:
- Offer of employment letter from the secondary employer that provides detailed information about the new employment assignment; and
- Letter/Memo from current UT sponsor that grants permission to the J exchange visitor to participate in additional activities
J-1 interns must be working for an internship program designed as an educational program directly related to the intern’s current or recent field of study. The intern may receive a stipend or salary from The University of Tennessee (or third party organization), but he/she may not fill a normal position of employment which could or would be filled by a regular employee, and he/she may not displace a U.S. worker. The internship should normally involve entry-level work or activities but should not duplicate any previous internship or employment that the intern has had.
The internship must consist of at least 32 hours of structured activities per week. The intern may not engage in “casual or unskilled labor”, and no more than 20% of the program may include clerical work. Interns in medical and social service fields (such as nursing and social work) may not engage in patient care or contact. Additional restrictions apply to persons in the field of hospitality and tourism.
Acquiring Social Security Numbers
J-1 Exchange visitors are eligible to apply for a Social Security Number. Exchange Visitors should check-in at the CGE and wait at least 10 days after entering the U.S. before visiting the local SSA office.
Extensions and Amendments to DS-2019
Extension of Program
Extensions are obtained for exchange visitors through the sponsoring department/center. Proper paperwork must be submitted to ISSS 30 days before the end date of the J program.
- A professor or research scholar can be sponsored by UT for a maximum period of five years. For example, if the initial program is scheduled for a one year period, extensions of the program may be requested from UT that total a period of five years.
- A short-term scholar program is limited to 6 months in duration. Extensions are not granted beyond the 6 months maximum stay period.
- An intern program may last for three weeks to twelve months. The length of the program must be established before the intern arrives; in most cases, the internship program may not be extended after the intern arrives.
Amendments to Program
Amendments to J Programs require submission of appropriate forms to ISSS by the sponsoring department/center. Acceptable reasons for requesting an amendment include changes in the following J program characteristics:
- Worksite Location
- Department (change in activity is NOT permitted) – Department changes require prior ISSS approval
- Addition of J-2 dependent(s) does not require the signature of a department administrator; only requested information and appropriate funding verification is required
Note: The required insurance coverage for J-1 exchange visitors (and all J-2 dependents, if applicable) must be valid for a minimum period of 30 days beyond the date that the request to amend the J program is submitted to ISSS.
J-1 Scholars Leaving UT Knoxville
J-1 Intern Program Evaluation
U.S. law requires a written evaluation of every internship program, to be signed by the intern and the primary supervisor at the end of the internship period and before the intern returns home. If an internship will last more than six months, an additional, midpoint, evaluation is also required. Copies of these evaluations must be given to the intern, to the supervisor, and to ISSS.
J-1 scholars who have completed their research or teaching at UT are given an additional 30-day grace period for departing the United States, applying to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change from J-1 status to another status (if they are not subject to the two-year home country residence requirement), or transferring to another J program sponsor if their J-1 category allows them more time to stay in the United States.
Updating Contact Information
Scholars who are leaving UT need to make sure that their host-departments have been informed of their departure. They should also update their contact information with the appropriate payroll office so their Forms W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) will be mailed to their new addresses.
Exchange visitors who end their program more than 30 days prior to the end date on the DS-2019 and will not return to the U.S. must notify the sponsoring department. It is then the department’s responsibility to submit the appropriate paperwork to ISSS.
Exchange visitors maintain their J-1 status by:
- Checking in immediately after arriving in Knoxville.
- Retaining required documentation at all times:
- Valid DS-2019
- Valid Passport
- Engaging only in appropriate activities permitted under their program and category – specifically, the activity described in Section 4 on the DS2019. If the exchange visitor completes or ceases this activity, he/she should leave the U.S. within 30 days.
- Refraining from unauthorized employment (any employment activity that is not included in Part 4 on the DS-2019 must be approved in writing by EVS before the activity begins).
- Maintaining required health insurance coverage for the entire program period specified on the Form DS-2019.
- Reporting a change of address to the CGE by submitting an online Address Form found on our forms page.
- Filing timely and appropriate transfers and extension requests with ISSS.
Program Regulation Compliance and Termination
Exchange visitors who fail to comply with the J-1 regulations are subject to termination from their J-1 program. Termination removes the exchange visitor from a valid nonimmigrant status and subjects the visitor to deportation regulations. Termination events can include:
- Failure to conduct the activities posted on the DS-2019;
- Violation of the regulations of the exchange visitor program and/or rules of the University of Tennessee;
- Willful failure to maintain the mandatory exchange visitor and dependent (if applicable) insurance coverage requirements, and;
- Engagement in unauthorized employment.
*Exchange visitors who are terminated are ineligible for an extension of stay or to file an in-country change of status.*
In order to become a J-1 Scholar or Intern at the University of Tennessee, a scholar must be hosted by a UT department. The host-department will be responsible for submitting a J-1 scholar request form and/or J-1 intern request form to CGE. Both of these forms may be found on our forms page under the heading “J1 Scholar/Intern.” After reviewing and approving the forms and required documents, CGE will issue a DS-2019 for the scholar to apply for a J-1 visa.
J-1 interns are normally expected to complete the planned internship with the original program sponsor, so a transfer would probably not be appropriate. After the intern returns home, he/she may be invited to the U.S. for another internship, provided he/she still meets the eligibility criteria and that the internship does not duplicate the activities of the first.
Other J-1 exchange visitors may continue their program objective under the sponsorship of another authorized sponsor in the U.S. by transferring their SEVIS records to a new program sponsor. A J-1 scholar who intends to move from one employer to another should discuss his or her plans with the Responsible Officer (RO)/Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) of both employers, provide official evidence of academic appointment at the new program, and decide on a specific date of transfer.
J-1 scholars who plan to go to another employer should contact ISSS advisors immediately after being offered an academic appointment at another educational institution in the United States.
Requirements for transfer of program include:
- Program sponsor is approved by Department of State (DOS) to sponsor the same J Exchange Visitor category;
- Program objective/activity remains unchanged;
- Period of program will not exceed maximum DOS established period; and,
- J Exchange Visitor checks in with new sponsor immediately following transfer date.
Traveling Inside and Outside the U.S.
A DS-2019 travel signature issued by a Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) is required of exchange visitors who wish to travel outside of the U.S.. Travel signatures can be obtained from CGE, during normal business hours. Proof of current health insurance is required before travel signatures are issued.
Guidelines for traveling abroad during J program:
- Travel to home country, with intent to return to the U.S. requires valid passport and travel signature on the DS-2019 form. If the J visa stamp is expired, the exchange visitor must obtain a new visa stamp before entry to the U.S. is granted.
- Travel to a country abroad, other than the visitor’s home country, requires a valid passport and a travel signature on DS-2019 form. Exchange visitors should also contact the Consulate General’s office or Embassy of the country that will be visited for entry requirements and procedures.
“Automatic Revalidation” – travel to Canada, the Caribbean (except Cuba and Bermuda), or Mexico ONLY
Visits to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean (except Cuba and Bermuda) for fewer than thirty days by non-immigrants may not require an exchange visitor to obtain a new visa stamp to return to the U.S. Citizens of certain countries are prohibited from utilizing this provision.
Qualifications for this provision include:
- Valid J-1 status
- Possession of an unexpired I-94 card (Must not be surrendered when departing from the U.S.)
- Possession of a current DS-2019 with valid travel signature
- Possession of a J-1 visa (expired or valid) in your passport that matches the immigration status posted on the current I-94 card
- Individuals who change from one non-immigrant status to another in the U.S. will possess a passport visa stamp which reflects the previous non-immigrant status. This visa stamp may be used to re-enter the U.S. if the visit is 30 days or less
- Possession of a passport valid for at least 6 months from the re-entry date to the U.S.
- If an application for a visa is submitted during the stay, the applicant must have the visa issued before re-entry to the U.S. will be permitted. If your visa application is denied, “automatic revalidation” will not be permitted and the individual will be required to return to his or her country of citizenship to apply for a new visa.
- Exchange visitors should contact the Consulate General’s office or Embassy for entry requirements and procedures.
Two-Year Home Country 212(e) Regulation and Waiver
Two-Year Home Country 212(e) Regulation
Exchange visitors subject to the 212(e) rule requirement must return to their home country and reside in that country for two years before they become eligible for H, L, or permanent resident status. If subject to the 212(e) rule, exchange visitors are not permitted to change their nonimmigrant status within the United States from J to any other nonimmigrant category except A (diplomatic) and G (international organization) statuses.
Exchange visitors may be subject to this requirement if:
- The exchange visitor’s skill category appears on the applicable country’s “list of skills” that are in critical demand; and/or
- The exchange visitor’s program is supported financially by a government or international agency.
Listings of skill categories for applicable countries are located in the Federal Register: Exchange-Visitor Skills List.
U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate General visa officers determine if an exchange visitor is subject to the 212(e) rule. Inquiries about applicability of the 212(e) rule should be addressed to a visa section representative at the appropriate U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate General’s office.
Waiver of the Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement
Exchange visitors may apply for a waiver of the 212(e) requirement. Waivers are permitted by the Department of State and granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Exchange Visitor Services considers compliance with the Home Country Presence Requirement the responsibility of the exchange
12-Month and 24-Month Bar
12-Month Bar on repeat participation as a Professor or Research Scholar
An exchange visitor who participates in a J program as a Professor or Research Scholar is barred from returning to the United States in the Professor or Research Scholar category for 1 year (12 months) immediately following the completion of their initial program (including J-2 dependents).
An exchange visitor whose prior physical presence in J status was of less than six months duration is exempt from the 12-month bar.
24-Month Bar on repeat participation as a Professor or Research Scholar
An exchange visitor who participates in a J program as a Professor or Research Scholar is barred from returning to the United States in the Professor or Research Scholar category for 2 years (24 months) immediately following the completion of their initial program (including J-2 dependents).