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J-1 status

NOTE: The information included on this page pertains to J-1 scholars, professors, and student-interns and trainees who have been invited to participate in a J-1 program by a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign department. If you will be attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as a J-1 student, please review the student section of this website.

General Requirements

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program was created by the Department of State for the purpose of “building mutual understanding between Americans and people of other countries” through cultural exchange between the United States and other nations. Please review the following Department of State publications which provide additional information about the J program, as well as the rights of individuals participating in J programs.

EV Welcome Letter
Wilberforce Pamphlet

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is one of many U.S. institutions that have been authorized as J-1 program sponsors. Individuals may visit the U.S. under J-1 status to conduct research or teach.  

Duration of Stay:

  • Short-term scholar: up to 6 months
  • Research Scholar/Professor: up to 5 years
  • Student-Intern: 12 months
  • Trainee: 18 months

Employment is not required for J-1 scholars, but program activities are restricted to his/her program objective as listed on the DS-2019 document.  J-1 status cannot be used for tenure-track positions. Any changes to a J-1 must be approved in advance by ISSS. Some examples of those changes include:

  • Change in sponsoring departments
  • Change in site of activity
  • Transfers to another institution
  • Outside employment authorization (please see the Employment section below)

Before entering the U.S. from abroad, a J-1 scholar must first be issued a DS-2019 document.  The scholar’s host department will initiate the request for a DS-2019.  Once issued, a DS-2019 will be sent abroad to the scholar, who can then use it to apply for a J-1 entry visa.  A DS-2019 is also required for any dependents who will be traveling with the J-1 scholar. Click here for more information about J-2 dependent status. For more information about J-1 processing, please view our flowchart .

The Two Year Home Residence Requirement or 212(e)

Some J-1 exchange visitors and their dependents are required to return to their home country for a period of two years after their J program ends. There are several factors that determine if a J-1 exchange visitor is subject to the Two Year Home Residence Requirement, including direct or indirect government financing or fields listed within the Exchange Visitor Skills List. The decision about whether this applies to the J-1 will be made at the J-1 visa interview. 

12/24 Month Bar on Repeat Participation

There may also be restrictions on repeat participation in J-1 exchange programs. 

  • 12-month bar after previous J participation
    Time spent in any J status (including J-2 status) during the 12-month period preceding the prospective Professor or Research Scholar’s program start date may affect their eligibility for participation as a Professor or Research Scholar.
  • 24-month bar on repeat participation
    An individual who participates in the Exchange Visitor Program as a Professor or Research Scholar are not eligible for participation as a Professor or Research Scholar for a period of two years following the end date of such program participation as identified in SEVIS.

J-1 scholars who are considering returning to the U.S. on a subsequent J-1 exchange program should contact their program sponsor for more information about these restrictions.

Maintaining Insurance Coverage

Health insurance coverage is required for all J-1 exchange visitors and their dependents. For general information about health insurance, please click here. The U.S. Department of State has established minimum requirements for insurance coverage in order to protect J-1 participants and their family members in case of illness or accident.  These requirements include:

  • Maximum coverage for medical benefits cannot be less than $ 100,000 per accident or illness.
  • If you should die in the United States, your insurance must provide at least $25,000 to send your remains to your home country. This is called “repatriation of remains."
  • If,  because  of  serious  illness  or  injury,  you  must  be  sent  home  on  the  advice  of  a doctor,  the  insurance  must  pay  up  to  $50,000  for  the  expenses  of  your  travel. This is called “medical evacuation.”
  • The deductible cannot be more than $500 per accident or illness.  This is the amount you  would  have  to  pay  before  the  insurance  company  pays  anything.    Many policies have a much lower deductible, which is good for you.
  • The insurance must pay at least 75% of covered medical expenses.  After you have paid the deductible, an insurance policy usually only pays a percentage of your medical expenses and you pay the rest.  The percentage you pay is called co-insurance or a co-payment.
  • The  policy  may  establish  a  waiting  period  before  it  covers  pre-existing  conditions (health  problems  you  had  before  you  bought  the  insurance),  as  long  as  the  waiting period is reasonable by current standards in the insurance industry.
  • The  policy  must  be  backed  by  the  full  faith  and  credit  of  your  home  country government  or  the  company  providing  the  insurance  must  meet  minimum  rating requirements established by the State Department (an A.M. best rating of A- or above, and  Insurance  Solvency  International  Ltd.  (ISI) rating of A- or above, a Standard and Poor’s Claims-paying ability rating of A- or above, or a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of B+ or above).
  • Most insurance policies exclude coverage for certain conditions.  The J-1 regulations require  that  if  a  particular  activity  is  a  part  of  your  exchange  visitor  program,  your insurance must cover injuries resulting from your participation in that activity.

All J-1 visitors will need to show that they have obtained insurance coverage before starting their program, and again before making certain changes to their program (adding dependents, travel, or program extension).  For a list of insurance companies, click here.


Employment opportunities for J-1 exchange visitors are very restricted.  Unless special arrangements have been made, J-1 exchange visitors may only be employed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign by their sponsoring department in the specialized field described on their DS-2019.

On-Campus Restrictions

Working for other campus employers (university cafeteria, bookstore) is not permitted.  Student assistantships are not appropriate for J-1 scholars, professors, student interns, or trainees.  J-1 scholars may not change departments or accept additional employment from a second department without first receiving permission from ISSS.

Off-Campus Opportunities

It may possible to receive payment or reimbursement of expenses for short-term activities such as lecturing, consulting, or conducting a seminar at another institution.  Approval from ISSS must be given prior to the activity. Please contact ISSS for more information.


When entering the U.S. from abroad, you will need the following:

  • Valid passport (must be valid for at least six months into the future for reentry);
  • Valid J-1 visa in your passport* (Canadians do not require a visa);
  • Valid Form DS-2019;
  • A valid travel signature from the ISSS office on the Form DS-2019 for you AND any dependents who are traveling with you (the travel signature is located on the lower right corner of the DS-2019)
    • As a J-1 scholar, you are required to obtain a travel endorsement signature on your DS-2019 before international travel.
    • Each travel endorsement is valid for up to 12 months or for the duration of your program, whichever is sooner.
    • You may use your current DS-2019 if the endorsement is less than 12 months old when you re-enter and the information on page one remains the same.
    • If you need an updated travel endorsement, please drop off your DS-2019 at the Scholar Office and it will be ready for you the next business day after 1:00pm.

*If your entry visa in our passport has expired and/or you have used all your entries, you MUST obtain a new visa in order to re-enter the United States.

Please visit print out an electronic version of your I-94 upon arrival into the United States.

Extended Absence Request

If you are going to leave the U.S. for more than 30 days in the middle of your J-1 program, you will need to complete a J-1 Scholar Extended Absence Request. Your dependents must travel with you if you will be gone for a significant period of time. This request can be submitted through iSTART. Please allow two weeks for approval of these requests.


A J-1 research scholar, professor or short-term scholar cannot be a full time student. You are free to take one or two classes – even for credit, but research or teaching must be your primary activity. If you should decide to become a full-time student, it would be necessary to change to a student immigration status. Also, you may not accept a graduate assistantship unless you are on a student visa.

Program Extensions

Your permission to stay in the United States in J-1 status ends 30 days after the expiration date on your DS-2019 or 30 days after the end of your affiliation with UIUC, whichever comes first. Work permission ends the day the DS-2019 expires, but you can stay in the U.S. 30 days longer. If you are employed by the university and wish to extend your status, this request should be made by your host department well before your grace period begins, or you will go off payroll.

To extend your J-1 status, you must first obtain permission from your host department. That office will send a request for continuation of your program to the ISSS office. You are eligible to apply for an extension if:

  • You are still working toward the objective shown on your DS-2019
  • You have adequate funding for the period of the proposed extension
  • You have maintained the required insurance
  • Your extension will not carry you beyond your time limit

You are responsible for keeping track of your DS-2019 expiration date. Extensions should be requested one to two months in advance. Our office must have proof of continued funding if the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is not funding you. We must also have evidence of your valid insurance coverage. When we have received the request for continuation and the required financial and insurance information, we will prepare your new form DS-2019. When the DS-2019 is ready we will notify our contact person in your host department.

NOTE: If your spouse has J-2 work permission, it can only be extended after your J-1 extension is processed. Since the work permission extension can take as long as three months, your extension should be requested as early as possible

Other Immigration Procedures

Change of Status

As described previously, being subject to the two-year home residence requirement limits your possibilities for changing to another status. If you are not subject to this requirement, or if you were subject but obtained a waiver of this requirement, you may apply for a change to any other status for which you are qualified. Procedures for a change of status vary depending on the type of status you wish to obtain. A change of status must be applied for before your J-1 status expires.

If you leave the U.S. and return in another status, this is not considered a change of status.


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 the U.S., and if the exchange visitor remains within the same category and within the time limit of that category. The transfer is accomplished through correspondence between the two responsible officers and notification to SEVIS.

The responsible officer of the current J program will submit the transfer information to the SEVIS system. After the transfer effective date, the new sponsor will be able to print a DS-2019 showing the transfer. We will only authorize a transfer to another J program for you if the transfer clearly is for the purpose of completing the original objective, if it is consistent with the goals of the exchange visitor program, and if your sponsoring University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign department agrees. Transferring does not extend the time limit for your category.

Changes of Category

It is virtually impossible to obtain approval to change your J-1 category in the U.S., because it usually represents a change of objective. In most cases it would be most expedient to apply for a change to another relevant visa status if circumstances allow.

Cross-Cultural Experiences

In addition to being professionally rewarding, it is hoped that participating in the J-1 exchange visitor program will provide scholars with an enriching cross-cultural experience.  J-1 scholars are encouraged to get to know the campus and local community. ISSS frequently hosts cultural programming and sends a newsletter to scholars which includes information about upcoming events.

  • For more information about opportunities to get involved in the community, please visit the “Training & Programs” section of our website
  • Click here to read the ISSS blog

Departure Information

General Information

  • Inform your department when your program ends and complete all necessary departure documents and procedures with them. Your department contact will submit a “Departure Data Form” through iSTART to ISSS.
  • ISSS will then complete your program in SEVIS. The ISSS office is required to notify the State Department of early departures from a J-1 program, but there is no penalty for leaving early.
  • If you have questions about your departure, feel free to contact the ISSS office.

Grace Period

  • After completion of the J-1 program, J-1 scholars have a 30 day grace period to depart the United States. This is to allow you to prepare to return home and travel within the US.
  • During these 30 days, you may not re-enter the United States after leaving, be employed, or conduct research.

Overstay Penalties

  • Staying in the U.S. for even one day longer than you are authorized can create serious problems for you. Be sure to leave before your status expires, unless you have another application pending with the USCIS that allows you to stay.