J-1 Exchange Visitors

J-1 Exchange Visitor & J-2 Dependent Status

The Exchange Visitor Program promotes mutual understanding between the people of the United States (U.S.) and the people of other countries by educational and cultural exchanges, under the provisions of U.S. law.  The exchange of professors and research scholars promotes the exchange of ideas, research, mutual enrichment and linkages between research and academic institutions in the United States and foreign countries.

The first step for a prospective nonimmigrant exchange visitor,  is to be invited to a college, university or educational organization with an established exchange visitor program that is Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified.   In most cases, the individual must be issued immigration documentation from the inviting institution.  At the conclusion of the individuals program, participants are expected to return to their home countries to utilize the experience and skills they have acquired while in the U.S.

An individual is eligible for J-1 status if he/she is not a candidate for a tenure track position; has not participated in and completed a professor or research scholar program within the last 24 months preceding the beginning date of their new program’s commencement; has not participated in a J Visa program for all or part of the 12-month period immediately preceding the start date of a professor or research scholar program unless he/she meets one of the following exceptions:

  • The participant is currently in a professor or research scholar program and is transferring to another institution in the United States to continue their current J-1 program;
  • The participant's prior physical presence in the U.S. on a J-visa program was less than six months in duration; and
  • The prior participation was as a short-term scholar.


Two-Year Home Residency Requirement

Some exchange visitors from certain countries are subject to a requirement to spend two years in their home country before returning to the United States for a long-term stay.  Exchange Visitors subject to this requirement include those who (1) have received government funding, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of exchange, (2) worked in a field that appears on the Exchange Visitor Skills list, or (3) participated in a graduate medical training program in the United States sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. If you are subject to the requirement (as indicated on your visa), you must "reside and be physically present" for a total of two years in your country of citizenship or your country of legal permanent residence or apply for a waiver to the requirement. More information is available from the ISSA upon your arrival.

Time Limits in each category

Please note that if a foreign national is already in the U.S. in J-1 status in Professor or Research Scholar categories, the time spent at another institution must be deducted from the five-year maximum available and the work to be done at Wellesley must be in keeping with the original activities they entered the U.S. to perform at the other institution.

Health Insurance Requirement

A J-1 Exchange Visitor, under the sponsorship of Wellesley College, must understand that according to federal regulations governing the J-1 Exchange Program all Exchange Visitors and their J-2 dependents  must have sickness and accident insurance for the duration of their stay.  J-1 Exchange Visitors must complete and submit the following form to the Slater International Center.*insert link to J-1 Insurance Verification Form for Visiting Scholars*.

Incidental Employment

Professors and Research scholars may participate in occasional lectures and short-term consultations, if authorized to do so by his or her sponsor. Such lectures and consultations must be incidental to the exchange visitor's primary program activities. If wages or other remuneration are received by the exchange visitor for such activities, the exchange visitor must act as an independent contractor.

The term occasional embodies the concept of single events rather than an ongoing activity. To ensure that "occasional lectures or short-term consultations" do not interfere with and are in keeping with the activities of the exchange visitor's program, they must:

  • Be directly related to the objectives of the exchange visitor's program;
  • Be incidental to the exchange visitor's primary program activities;
  • Not delay the completion date of the visitor's program; and
  • Be documented in SEVIS.


Additional information on the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is available on the U.S. Department of State web site.

Costs for applying for J-1 status are covered by the individual and include a visa fee, reciprocity fee (if applicable), and a SEVIS fee. 

J-2 Dependent Status

The accompanying spouse and minor children of a J-1 exchange visitor may accept employment only with authorization by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. A request for employment authorization must be made on Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with fee, as required by the Service, to the district director having jurisdiction over the J-1 exchange visitor's temporary residence in the United States. Income from the spouse's or dependent's employment may be used to support the family's customary recreational and cultural activities and related travel, among other things. Employment will not be authorized if this income is needed to support the J-1 principal alien.

The employment authorization is valid only if the J-1 Exchange Visitor is maintaining status. Where a  J-2 spouse or dependent child has filed a timely application for extension of stay, only upon approval of the request for extension of stay may he or she apply for a renewal of the employment authorization on a Form I-765 with the required fee.