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Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status

Most foreign nationals coming to Rockefeller and the United States for the first time will be issued paperwork (specifically the DS-2019 form) to enter the country in J-1 status. This allows them to conduct research and receive payment for up to five years.

J-1 Exchange Visitor status is available to foreign professors, research professors, research scholars and specialists (among others) who will come to the United States for educational purposes. They must be aliens who have a residence abroad that they have no intention of abandoning. The J-1 Exchange Visitor category was developed to implement the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act (Fulbright-Hayes Act) of 1961. The overall purpose of the Act, and the objective of the Exchange Visitor category, is “to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges.”

The Department of State Welcome brochure provides an explanation of the purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program.

The Exchange Visitor program is managed by the Department of State which has the authority to grant sponsorship to various institutions, such as The Rockefeller University. When the Department of Stat approves an institution as a J-1 sponsor, a program number and a program description are assigned. The University’s program number is P-1-02194 and our description can be found in section 2 of your DS-2019 form, the document issued to all J-1 Exchange Visitors. Every Exchange Visitor who comes to The Rockefeller University must perform a service that falls within the program description and pursue the objective listed in section 4 of their DS-2019 form.

The “Responsible Officer” (RO) and the “Alternate Responsible Officer” (ARO) are the individuals appointed by an Exchange Visitor program sponsor (i.e. the University) to perform the duties set forth in the regulations and to represent the program sponsor. The Responsible Officer and Alternate Responsible Officer will keep apprised of the regulations and ensure that you are informed of your responsibilities and obligations as they pertain to your J-1 status.

FORM DS-2019   

The document for obtaining and maintaining J-1 nonimmigrant status is Form DS-2019, also known as the “Certificate of Eligibility.” The SEVIS form DS-2019 is bar-coded with a unique SEVIS ID number printed above the bar-code.


The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an Internet-based system designed to collect, maintain and track information relative to international students and scholars. It provides users with access to accurate and current information on foreign students, exchange visitors and their dependents. SEVIS allows schools and exchange programs to transmit electronic information and event notifications to United States Citizenship & Immigration Services and the Department of State. For more information about SEVIS, please visit

The J-1 exchange visitor category is a SEVIS category therefore must operate within the context of the SEVIS environment. The SEVIS Form DS-2019 described above is generated when the Responsible or Alternate Responsible Officer create an electronic record for an Exchange Visitor and/or their dependent. SEVIS requires the electronic submission of certain information about all J-1 nonimmigrants. These include the following: change of name or dependent’s name, change of funding source or amount, change of research area, change of address, loss of Form DS-2019, transfer of program or early completion. All of these must be recorded in SEVIS. Therefore, please notify the Office of Immigration and Academic Appointments as soon as possible if and when these changes occur.


All applicants for J-1 nonimmigrant status must pay the mandatory SEVIS fee of $180.00. Please visit for instructions on how to pay the fee and complete Form I-901. This fee must be paid prior to the visa application and payment confirmation should be included as part of the J-1 visa application. This is a one-time fee and will not be required for J-1 visa renewals.


The most important documents to have valid and in your possession are:

  1. Form DS-2019; and,
  2. Passport (containing a J-1 visa stamp). Please note, Canadian nationals are currently visa exempt.

When re-entering the U.S. after a temporary absence, these documents must be presented to the immigration official at the port-of-entry.


 A J-1 visa stamp grants you permission to apply for entry to the United States. A valid visa is required solely for this purpose and does not need to remain valid while you are in the United States. Having entered, you will be granted J-1 nonimmigrant status which will allow you to remain in the country for (generally) the time period indicated on Form DS-2019. This status will be granted to you by the port-of-entry official who will electronically record your date of arrival, the classification in which you arrived and the period of validity. This information should be retrieved at the following link:

It is very important that you retrieve this information to ensure that you were admitted in the correct nonimmigrant status with the correct validity dates. If you see that there is an error in either the classification or the validity period, please contact the Office of Immigration and Academic Appointments as soon as possible for further instruction.

Please be aware that effective April 26, 2013, the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency discontinued the issuance and stamping of Forms I-94 upon entry to the United States.


As a J-1 Exchange Visitor, you conduct your research in the field described in item 4 of your DS-2019 form.

A limitation of time on the J-1 visa is determined by your category classification, which is determined by your reason for coming to the United States. The Rockefeller University sponsors “research scholars” almost exclusively. (We are authorized to sponsor J-1 students in our Ph.D. program as well as short-term scholars.) A research scholar is eligible for a maximum period of stay in the United States of up to five years while short-term scholars are only permitted a period of stay of up to but not exceeding six months. A change in program category within the United States is not permitted. For additional information, please refer to page two of Form DS-2019.


Before you depart the United States, please check your documents to ensure that your Form DS-2019 has been endorsed for travel validation (located in lower right hand side of the form). If the form has been endorsed and the signature is expired i.e. it was signed over one year ago, please contact our office for a new travel validation signature.

Additionally, prior to departure please determine whether you will need to apply for a renewal of your current J-1 visa. If the visa stamp in your passport has expired and you are traveling outside the United States you must renew your visa. It is strongly recommended that you speak with your supervisor prior to your departure to inform them of your upcoming travel plans.

*Please note, if your J-1 visa has expired and you are traveling to Canada, Mexico and/or the Caribbean (excluding Cuba) for up to but not exceeding 30 days, you will not need to renew your visa. You may reenter the United States with an expired visa under the provisions of automatic revalidation. For further information, please contact the Office of Immigration and Academic Appointments.

Individuals who are subject to Section 212 (d) (3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act will be required to obtain a waiver of inadmissibility before being readmitted to the United States. If you are subject, this will be noted in your passport.

Please be aware that it is your responsibility to determine whether or not you will require a visa to travel to countries other than the United States


After admission to the United States, Section 3 of Form DS-2019 indicates the date until which you are legally authorized to stay. You must either depart the United States on, before or up to 30 days after this date.

Your status may be extended provided that you have been reappointed and have not used up the time allowed in your program category. The extension will be completed electronically in SEVIS and it is not necessary to depart the United States. In most cases, Forms DS-2019 are initially issued of maximum period of stay allowed by regulation i.e. five years.  Please contact the Office of Immigration and Academic Appointments if you have any questions.

A change of status may also be authorized if you have been reappointed and have reached the statutory time limitation of your J-1 program. The Office of Immigration and Academic Appointments will track your J-1 program and will contact you and your supervisor directly six months prior to the expiration date of your DS-2019 to begin preparing a change of status petition.


Dependents of J-1 visa holders (spouses and unmarried minor children) may accompany the principal J-1 nonimmigrant or may enter the United States separately as J-2 nonimmigrants. Their primary purpose in visiting the United States is to accompany the J-1 exchange visitor.

J-2 dependents will be issued their own Forms DS-2019 and must apply for a J-2 visa stamp. At the time of application, they will need to present their Form DS-2019 and will need to establish their relationship to the principal nonimmigrant either through marriage or birth certificates. Unlike J-1 nonimmigrants, they are not required to pay the SEVIS fee. Upon their entry to the United States, they should determine if they have been admitted in the correct nonimmigrant status with the correct validity dates and will be required to maintain their status throughout their entire stay in the United States.

J-2 dependents may apply for employment authorization. This is done after the J-2 dependent has arrived in the United States and completes Form I-765 (available online at Please contact the Office of Immigration and Academic Appointments for further instructions.


 The Department of State requires that all J-1 exchange visitors have and continue to maintain medical insurance coverage for themselves and their dependents throughout their entire stay in the United States. These requirements are described below.

The policy must provide: (1) medical benefits of at least $100,000 per person for each accident or illness; (2) repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000; and (3) expenses associated with medical evacuation in the amount of $50,000.

  • The policy may not have a deductible that exceeds $500 per accident or illness; and,
  • The policy must be backed by the full faith and credit of your government or it must meet the minimum rating requirements established by the Department of State: an A.M. Best rating of “A-“ or above, an Insurance Solvency International, Ltd. (ISI) rating of “A-I” or above, a Standard & Poor’s Claims-paying Ability rating of “A-“ or above or a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of B+ or above.

Most exchange visitors will be eligible to enroll in one of the University’s medical insurance plans which satisfy these requirements. Details of the medical insurance plans and the contribution rates will be explained to you during orientation.

Please be aware that it will be your responsibility to ensure that you are in compliance with these requirements. Willfully failing to meet the insurance requirement (i.e. making little to no effort to comply) for yourself and your J-2 dependent(s) while in the United states may result in the termination of your J-1 program and notification of such termination to the Department of State.


INA 212(e) or two-year foreign residence requirement obligates subject J-1 exchange visitors to reside in their country of citizenship for at least two years before being eligible to reenter the United States as or change status within the United States to the following nonimmigrant classifications: H-1B, L-1A/L-1B and K-1. A subject J-1 nonimmigrant is also not permitted to apply for adjustment of status to permanent resident. An exchange visitor would become subject to the requirement if one of the following applied:

  • The J-1 exchange visitor received funding from either their home government, United States government or an international organization;
  • The J-1 exchange visitor is a citizen or permanent resident of a country where it has been determined your skills are needed. Please refer to the following link: or,
  • You are a foreign medical graduate who received medical education or training in a residency or fellowship program and your program sponsor is the Educational Commission on Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

Please note J-2 dependents are subject if the J-1 nonimmigrant is subject to the requirement.


Time spent in the United States in any J category (including J-2) during the 12-month period preceding a prospective research scholar’s program start date may affect the nonimmigrant’s eligibility for participation as a J-1 research scholar.

12-Month Bar

The 12-month bar stipulates that an alien is not eligible to begin an exchange program as a J-1 Professor or Research Scholar if he or she was physically present in any J status (including J-2) for all or part of the twelve-month period immediately preceding the date of program commencement set forth on their Form DS-2019. This rule is modified by three (3) exceptions:

  1. J-1 Transfers. The 12-month bar is not applicable to those will begin a program by transferring to a new program sponsor;
  2. Presence in J status of less than six months. A nonimmigrant whose prior physical presence in J status was of less than six months duration is exempt from the 12-month bar; and,
  3. Presence in J status as a Short-Term Scholar. No time spent as a Short-Term scholar is counted as physical presence that trigger the bar.

 Two-year Bar

 Additionally, J-1 Research Scholars may be subject to a two-year bar on repeat participation after completion of their program. This will occur in two (2)  circumstances:

  1. If the Professor or Research Scholar completes a full five-years of program participation with one or more sponsors; or,
  2. If, before the full five-year period is over, the Professor or Research Scholar completes his or her program. In this case, the continuity of the five-year period is broken, 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-1 Professor or Research Scholar.

In the event that you complete your exchange program and leave the University prior to the expiration date on your Form DS-2019 and you are not transferring to another program or changing your status, our office must update your SEVIS record to show that you completed your program and you may become subject to the above-referenced bar(s). Please consult with the Office of Immigration and Academic Appointments for further clarification.


 As Research Scholar or Short-Term Scholar, you are able to have your program sponsorship transferred from The Rockefeller University to another SEVIS authorized institution provided the transfer is to complete the objective for which you were admitted to exchange visitor status and you have not reached the maximum time limit allowed for your program category (five years for Research Scholars and six months for Short-Term Scholars). The transfer process will require that the institution to whom you are transferring formally request transfer. They will need to provide their program number and the date by which you wish to be transferred.

Please be aware that some institutions have formal transfer processes that require written approval as well. You will need to speak with your prospective institution to determine what, if any, further documentation they require to complete the transfer process.


 J-1 nonimmigrants are required to notify United States Citizenship & Immigration Services when there is a change in their current local address. If your address changes at any point during your period of exchange, you must first notify the Office of Immigration and Academic Appointments who will update your SEVIS record. You must then complete Form AR-11 available at and return it to the address listed on the bottom of the form. Please be advised that it is your responsibility to do so within ten days of moving.


Maria F. Lazzaro
Director of Immigration and Academic Appointments
Responsible Officer
(212) 327-8059


Benjamin A. LaSalata
Immigration and Academic Appointments Specialist
Alternate Responsible Officer
(212) 327-8057


Michael Wiener
Immigration and Academic Appointments Assistant
Alternate Responsible Officer
(212) 327-8380