What is a J-1 Visa?
The J visa is a nonimmigrant visa. The purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program is “to provide foreign nationals with opportunities to participate in educational and cultural programs in the United States and return home to share their experiences, and to encourage Americans to participate in educational and cultural programs in other countries” (8 CFR 514.1(b)). Exchange Visitors (EVs) enter the U.S. on a J visa. The DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status) is required to obtain a J-1 nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad, to extend the stay of the J-1 in the U.S., or to transfer from another institution to UCLA.
What are the eligibility requirements?
UCLA School of Medicine sponsors visiting scholars only. There are 4 categories under which a visiting scholar can be classified in J-1 status. Please refer to the table below for eligibility and conditions. If your prospective Exchange Visitor (EV) has been in the U.S. as a J-1 Exchange Visitor in either the Professor or Research Scholar category or as J-2 dependent status within the last 12 months for a period exceeding 6 months, he/she is not eligible to enter the U.S. as a J-1 research scholar or professor to start a new program. The minimum educational level required for all categories below is masters degree or bachelors degree with substantial experience in their respective specialty field.
- Professor– Maximum 5 years
To teach courses and conduct advanced research. This category includes Lectureres and Professors on non-tenured track appointments.
- Research Scholar-Maximum 5 years. Includes time spent at another institution on a J-1 visa
To participate in research activities under the supervision of a UCLA faculty member. May hold PGR or Visiting Scholar Appointments. May not hold a Clinical title. This category also includes speakers at Conferences receiving an honorarium from UCLA.
- Specialist– Maximum of 1 year. No extension of stay allowed
An individual who is an expert in a field of specialized knowledge or skill coming to the U.S.A. for observing, consulting, or demonstrating special skills. May hold SRA or equivalent appointment.
- Short-term Scholar– Maximum of 6 months. No extension of stay allowed
A professor, researcher, or person with similar education or accomplishments coming to the U.S.A. on a short-term visit for the purpose of lecturing, observing, consulting, training, or demonstrating special skills. This category includes speakers at Conferences receiving an honorarium from UCLA.
- Non-Degree Student– Maximum of 2 years. Maximum of 20 hours of employment per week.
Home Residence Requirement
The Immigration and Nationality Act has placed certain limitations on J-1 visa holders. one of these is the “two-year home residence requirement”.
EVs may be subject to this requirement if their financial support comes totally, or in part, from the U.S. government, the home country government, or certain international organizations (i.e. WHO, UNICEF, PAHO, etc.). This means that EVs are ineligible to change from J-1 to H-1 or permanent resident status unless they reside for two years in their country of last legal permanent residence or nationality, or unless they obtain a waiver of this requirement.
EVs who have private funding for their programs at UCLA are subject to the two-year residence requirement if their field of specialization and home country are included on the Exchange Visitor Skills List. This list includes countries which have shortages of trained professionals in specific fields of specialization.
The U.S. Embassy or Consulate makes a determination at the time of visa issuance, and the USCIS acting on behalf of the U.S. State Department determines the applicability of this requirement to an EV’s program upon entry into the United States. An EV subject to this requirement may apply for a waiver of the home residence requirement.
EVs may decide to change their status to another visa category while in the United States. When changing status, if there is a discrepancy on either the visa stamp or the DS-2019 (one states subject to 212(e), and the other states not subject), then it will be necessary for the individual to apply for an Advisory Opinion with the State Department.
Exchange Visitors Funding and Sources of Funds
Before an DS-2019 is issued, UCLA must be satisfied that prospective EVs have sufficient funds to carry out their primary activities at UCLA. The table below shows the current minimum amounts required to qualify for J-1 status at UCLA. Additionally, EVs must carry adequate health insurance throughout their stay at UCLA (see below). Those who fail to comply with such requirement become ineligible for UCLA’s J-1 sponsorship and will be terminated from the program.
New rates effective October 1, 2012:
- Professors/Scholars/Specialist – $2247.33/month, $26,968.00/year
- Spouse – $500.00/month, $6,000.00/year
- Each Child – $222.25/month, $2,667.00/year
If the Exchange Visitor:
- Will receive a check generated by UCLA’s Payroll Office- source is UCLA. (Supporting document is not needed as long as the Chair signs the application form.)
- Will be paid directly by one or more agencies – source is U.S. Government Agency*. Be sure to identify each one.
- Will receive direct funds from organizations such as the UN, UNICEF, etc. – source is International Organization*.
- Will be funded by an agency of the EV’s government – source is Home Government*.
- Will receive monies from the Fulbright Commission, will be paid by a private organization, university or foundation in the U.S. or abroad – source is Binational Commission Other Organizations
- Will use personal/family funds, sabbatical salaries, etc. ATTACH ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS. If the documents are in a foreign language, an English translation must be attached, and a conversion into U.S. dollars must be made – source is Personal Funds.
* will be subject to the 2 year home residence requirement 212(e) based on government funding
For an EV funded by UCLA, please indicate:
- source; e.g., department budget, DOE grant, etc.,
- if appropriate, Payroll title; e.g., Visiting Assistant Research Physiologist,
- whether the position is tenure/non-tenure track, and
- whether or not Medical Insurance will be paid by the funding source. If so, name the insurance carrier.
For more information please visit The DGSOM Visa and Licensing Office.
Employment of Exchange Visitors and Their Dependents
EVs are authorized to receive funds from the organization(s) listed on the DS-2019. EVs wishing to receive funds from other than those sources require special authorization(s) from their visa sponsor. Employment may be authorized by the Dean’s Office if:
- it is directly related to the program’s objective,
- it is incidental to primary program activities, and
- will not delay completion of program
J-1 visa holders whose DS-2019 were not issued by UCLA must be authorized in writing by the issuer of the DS-2019 before being compensated for services rendered at UCLA unless authorized in writing by their respective J-1 sponsor.
J-2 visa holders (dependents of J-1s), may work in the U.S. if they show economic necessity and are specifically authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). For more information, please contact Visa and Licensing Office at the School of Medicine.
EV who will continue a program (study, research, or teaching) started at another institution may transfer to if:.
- the J-1 visa category (research scholar) will not change.
- the time spent at UCLA will not exceed the length of time allowed for the respective J-1 visa category.
- the Responsible Officer at the other institution approves the transfer.
- waiver approval by the State Department has not been issued.
Copies of ALL prior DS-2019s issued are required before we will issue an DS-2019. Changes of J-1 visa category, i.e. from student to research scholar/professor, require State Department approval and may be difficult to obtain. For EV’s whose I-94 forms show “D/S” as ending date, the transfer may be approved by UCLA. Otherwise, USCIS approval is required and while the application is in process, the EV cannot receive any monies from UCLA.
Mandatory Health Insurance Requirement.
The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations governing Exchange Visitor Programs (22CFR514.14) require that the EV and his/her dependent(s) obtain health, accident, medical evacuation and repatriation of remains insurance. A qualifying insurance policy MUST provide:
- medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
- repatriation of remains in the amount of $7,500
- expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $10,000
- a deductible not to exceed $250 per accident or illness
The insurance policy must be underwritten by an insurance corporation having an A.M. Best rating of “A-“ or above, an Insurance Solvency International, Ltd. (ISI) rating of “A-“ or above, a Standard & Poor’s Claims paying Ability of “A-“ or above, a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of “B+” or above, or such other rating services as the State Department may specify from time to time. Insurance coverage backed by the full faith and credit of the government of the exchange visitor’s home country shall be deemed to meet this requirement.
Any exchange visitor who willfully refuses to comply with this requirement shall be considered to be in violation of his/her exchange visitor status. The program sponsor is obligated to inform the State Department of the exchange visitor’s noncompliance.
In addition to meeting federal regulations, all exchange visitors are also required to meet the appropriate campus or institutions’ medical insurance requirements. All J-1 exchange visitors appointed through UCLA Graduate are required to enroll in the Visiting Scholar Injury and Sickness Insurance Plan (VSISP) through Garnett-Powers & Associates. Information regarding eligibility, requirements, enrollment and the waiver approval process can be found on the UCLA Graduate Division website at http://www.gdnet.ucla.edu/gss/postdoc/vshlthbnft.htm as well as on the Garnett-Powers site at http://www.garnett-powers.com.
For more information please visit The DGSOM Visa and Licensing Office.