Overview of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program
The Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the U.S. Department of State's (DOS) Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs under the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, as amended. The purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program is "to promote international educational and cultural exchange in order to develop mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries."
Program Regulations in Brief
Applying for a J-1 Visa: Prospective exchange visitors are issued Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility, by the Program Sponsor. The exchange visitor must present Form DS-2019 to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas in order to apply for a J-1 visa with which to enter the U.S. The international visitor will be required to submit financial and other supporting documentation to the Consulate at the time of the visa application. The Consular Officer has sole authority on the decision to issue a visa based on the information provided by the prospective exchange visitor.
Program Objectives and Activities: Exchange Visitors enter the U.S. in J-1 visa classification to participate in an educational or cultural program in a specific program category such as a student, professor, researcher, specialist, or short-term scholar. The program category and activity are clearly delineated on Form DS-2019. Exchange visitors are only permitted to engage in the fields of activity listed on their Form DS-2019 and must comply with all federal program regulations.
Compensation: Exchange visitors may only be compensated as permitted by the regulations and are required to have a valid, unexpired Form DS-2019 and passport for the duration of the program.
Extension of Stay: A program extension may be granted by a Program Sponsor as permitted under federal regulations.
Transfers: Exchange visitors are permitted to transfer from one program sponsor to another only if the current program sponsor agrees to the transfer and releases its sponsorship via SEVIS.
Communication: Exchange visitors are required to maintain contact with the program sponsor's Responsible Officer and to notify the Responsible Officer if they withdraw from, or complete the program prior to the date listed on Form DS-2019.
Termination from the Program: Exchange visitors may have their program terminated for violating federal regulations which govern the program. Reasons for termination include;
- willful failure to maintain required medical insurance coverage;
- engaging in unauthorized employment;
- failing to pursue the activities listed on Form DS-2019; or,
- engaging in activities not authorized by the program category.
Special Regulations for Exchange Visitors in Professor or Research Scholar Categories
Federal regulations prohibit a Program Sponsor from issuing a DS-2019 in the professor or research scholar category to an individual who has been physically present in the U.S. in J-1 visa status for six months or more of the twelve month period immediately preceding the start date of the new program. The only exception to this rule is if the exchange visitor is being transferred from one program sponsor to another.
Federal regulations require that the Program Sponsor provide an orientation to Exchange Visitors. The OISS provides this service an all Exchange Visitors are required to check in with the OISS within one week of arrival and to attend an orientation session.
NOTE to UNH Departments: Cultural Adjustment
When an individual is invited to participate in the Exchange Visitor Program at UNH, the department assumes certain responsibilities for the international visitor. These responsibilities begin when the visitor is offered the opportunity to become part of our community and ends with his/her departure.
Although the OISS provides guidance, immigration assistance, advice and counseling, orientation materials and information, the department plays a critical role in helping the international visitor through the cultural adjustment process. In many cases, the exchange visitor is visiting the U.S. for the first time and is from a country whose culture is totally unlike our own. English language skills may be limited at first and it is likely that the visitor will experience "culture shock" along with communication difficulties. The department's ability to create a friendly, safe and secure environment during the visitor’s first few months is crucial to a successful cultural adjustment.