Regulations for J-1 Researchers and Professors - University of Houston
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Regulations for J-1 Researchers and Professors

Key Regulations and Procedures Affecting J-1 Visiting Researchers and Professors and Their J-2 Dependents

The items below are a summary of important J-1 regulations and procedures. They are not intended to be a source of complete information. They are intended to give general information about key J-1 regulations and procedures to J-1 visiting professors and scholars whose sponsor is the University of Houston. Whenever you need further information about any of the items or other J-1 regulation questions, you should make an appointment to see an international student counselor at the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). Please learn about any updates in ISSS-sponsored J-1 workshops, or by making an appointment to see an international student counselor at the ISSS.

1. The Exchange Visitor Program

The Exchange Visitor Program is used to bring people to the United States for a variety of educational and cultural exchange purposes under the sponsorship of a school, an agency, or an organization that has been designated as an exchange visitor sponsor by the United States Department of State.

The University of Houston is a designated sponsor of an exchange visitor program. To determine if the University of Houston is your program sponsor, look at item #2 on your Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (DS-2019) form.

An $100.00 annual fee is charged for J-1 research scholars and professors. For programs, less than one semester, a $50.00 fee is charged.

2. Employment

Employment is any type of work performed or services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, or any other benefit. If you receive no pay or other compensation for work performed, the activity is not defined as "employment, but is considered to be volunteer work."

The exchange visitor may receive compensation from the sponsor when the activities are part of the visitor's program.

To work for any employer other than the school named on the DS-2019, you should make an appointment to see an international student counselor. The employment must be directly related to your program objectives, incidental to your program activities, and should not delay completion of your program. In addition, it must be approved by your department head or supervisor.

With the sponsor's permission, professors and research scholars may participate in occasional lectures and short-term consultations. These activities must be directly related to the objectives of the exchange visitor program, incidental to the exchange visitor's primary program activities, and not delay the completion date of the exchange visitors program.

The exchange visitor is prohibited from engaging in unauthorized employment. Engaging in unauthorized employment is in violation of the regulations and subjects the exchange visitor to termination from the program. One form of unauthorized employment is working or continuing to work without a valid DS-2019. In other words, any work performed after a DS-2019 has expired is unauthorized, the exchange visitor would be required to leave the United States.

J-1 researchers with Staff jobs must comply with UH Staff requirements. All staff positions (including research staff) must be posted through the Human Resources job posting system (OJS).

3. Program Length

The program length is 5 years. Please note that you are required to leave the United States within 30 days of the date your department indicates you have completed your program, even if the period on your DS-2019 is longer.

4. Program Extensions

Program extensions are the most common type of request for DS-2019.

  • Extensions within a 5-year maximum
  • Requests for extensions within 5 years are initiated by having your department complete and submit a new DS-2019 request form with the $100.00 fee. You should begin this process at least two months prior to the end date on your current DS-2019. Your extension will be processed in the ISSS. Once your DS-2019 is completed, you may pick it up at the ISSS.

5. Travel Outside the United States During Your Stay

If you plan to travel outside the United States please come to our office at least three weeks before you plan to leave so we can recommend what type of documentation you may need. When you travel outside the United States and you plan to return to the United States during the time of your J-1 program, you must take a properly endorsed DS-2019 with you. For example, under some circumstances, it will be necessary for you to obtain a new DS-2019. If your visa and your DS-2019 are valid, it is likely that you will only need a signature of an International Student Counselor on your current DS-2019. Please bring your current DS-2019, passport, and I-94 with you when you come to our office.

6. Transfer to Another Program

An exchange visitor in any category may transfer from one program sponsor to another if the purpose of the transfer is to complete the objective for which he or she was admitted to exchange visitor status and if the exchange visitor remains in the same category. The transfer is accomplished through correspondence between the two responsible officers and notification to the US Department of State. It is recommended that the exchange visitor begin the transfer process at least 30 days prior to DS-2019 program ending date and to the proposed starting date with the new sponsor to allow for processing of paperwork. Any employment under the new sponsor may not commence until the exchange visitor receives a DS-2019 form from the new sponsor.

7. Change of Category

In general, a change of category is not permitted. At the discretion of the US Department of State, an exchange visitor may be permitted to change categories (i.e. change from a J-1 Research Scholar to J-1 Student). A change of category must be consistent with and related to the participant's original objective. Sometimes, a change in category is considered a change of objective and is not permitted. If the exchange visitor applies for a change in a category and it is rejected by the US Department of State, the exchange visitor is expected to leave the country within 30 days of receiving the notice or within 30 days of the expiration date of the exchange visitor's current DS-2019, whichever is later. An approved application for change of category should be received by the J-1 exchange visitor before the exchange visitor begins activities in the new category. The exchange visitor is considered to be in legal status while the application is under consideration by the US Department of State.

8. Limitation of Consecutive Program Participation


According to DOS, an individual who has participated in the Exchange Visitor Program as a professor or researcher becomes subject to a two-year bar on “repeat participation” in those categories under two circumstances:

  • If the exchange visitor completes a full five years of program participation with one or more sponsors; or
  • If the exchange visitor completes a particular exchange visitor program, and the SEVIS record becomes Inactive before the full five-year period is over. In this case, the five-year window is “closed,” the individual is not eligible to access the remaining unused time, and the individual must wait for two years before beginning a new program as a J professor or research scholar.

The second circumstance would subject the participant to the two-year bar regardless of how much time he or she spent on the program.

Can the Short-Term Scholar category be used to avoid the two-year Bar?

No. Participation in the short-term scholar category does not trigger the 12-month bar or 24-month bar restrictions. However, the US Department of State prohibits the short-term scholar category to be used as a "way around" those bars.

Does this two-year bar replace the one-year bar?

No. In addition to the two-year bar rule, the general proposition of the 12-month bar is that an alien is not eligible to begin an exchange program as a professor or research scholar based on a DS-2019 issued to begin a new program if he or she was physically present in any J status (including J-2 status) for all or part of the twelve-month period immediately preceding the date of program commencement set for on his or her Form DS-2019. This general rule is then modified by three exceptions:

  • J-1 transfers
  • Presence in J status for less than 6 months. (If he/she was in research scholar or professor category, he/she will be subject to a two-year bar)

Presence in J status as a short-term scholar

9. The Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement

Some J-1 exchange visitors and their J-2 dependents are subject to this requirement. Upon the completion of the J-1's program objectives, the J-1 and J-2(s) are expected to return to their country within 30 days, or within 30 days of the expiration date on your DS-2019, whichever is sooner. If you are subject to this requirement, you are restricted from changing to some other types of nonimmigrant status and restricted from changing to permanent residency. Under certain circumstances, you may apply for a waiver of this requirement. Processing the application may take up to one year.

Note, if you receive a waiver, you are not permitted to apply for an extension of your DS-2019. Consequently, once the waiver is received, you should take steps to change to some other non-immigrant status.

It may take up to one year to receive a reply to a waiver application. Therefore, you should make sure that you have sufficient time indicated on your DS-2019 to apply for the waiver.

10. Health Insurance Requirement

Federal law requires that you have health insurance for yourself and your J-2 dependents for the full duration of your J-1 program. The type of health insurance needed must meet specific coverage requirements. If you fail to obtain health insurance or if your health insurance does not meet the necessary requirements for you or your dependents, your J-1 sponsor must terminate your program and report the termination to the US Department of State.

11. J-2 Dependents

In order to invite family members (i.e. husband, wife, or children) to join you on the J-2 visa you should submit a DS-2019 request form to ISSS. After you pick up the DS-2019, you should send it to your dependents so that they may apply for a J-2 visa at a United States Embassy or Consulate.

J-2 dependents may apply for employment authorization with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as long as the income from the employment is not needed to support the J-1 exchange visitor and his/her dependents. Ask for a handout about J-2 employment and an I-765 form at the front desk of the ISSS.

J-2 dependents with the 12-month bar or the 24-month bar are not eligible to be J-1 research scholar/ professor, nor a short-term scholar.

12. Reinstatement Procedures

If a J-1 exchange visitor violates his or her J-1 immigration status, it is possible to apply to be reinstated to lawful J-1 status in some cases. The most common way J-1 exchange visitors violate their status is to fail to apply for an extension of the DS-2019 prior to the expiration date.

Reinstatement applications are approved or denied at the discretion of the US Department of State. If a reinstatement application is not approved, the exchange visitor's program will be terminated and the exchange visitor will be required to leave the United States.