J-1 Exchange Visitors: Scholars

The exchange visitor program enables temporary educational and cultural exchanges and collaboration, rather than long-term employment. Participants in the J-1 program include visitors coming to teach, to do research, to observe, to consult, or to demonstrate specialized knowledge or skills. Exchange visitors are expected to return to their home countries at the end of their program to share their experience. 

The Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the US Department of State (DOS), which creates and administers federal regulations and policies governing the program. The DOS designates Exchange Visitor Program Sponsors, which conduct exchange visitor programs. Program sponsors designate Responsible Officers and Alternate Responsible Officers who help in the administration of the program and perform duties specified in the federal regulations. 

The Exchange Visitor Program Sponsor selects exchange visitors who are eligible to participate in their program, by issuing a certificate of eligibility called Form DS-2019. The exchange visitor uses the DS-2019 to apply for a J visa (a stamp in a passport), which is issued by the Department of State through an embassy or consulate abroad.  

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is a part of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), makes the final determination at the Port of Entry whether to admit an exchange visitor to the US in J exchange visitor status to participate in the exchange visitor program.

statue of globe on campus


A prospective exchange visitor (EV) must have:

  • Intent to pursue an appropriate activity, such as teaching, research, lecture, observation or consultation
  • Intent to return to home country at the end of the program
  • Sufficient funding for the period of program participation
  • Appropriate credentials and experience for the activity that they will be engaged in
  • Adequate English proficiency to enable meaningful exchange

The J-1 visa is not appropriate for a visitor coming to fill a tenure track position. 

Depending on the case, some exchange visitors who have participated in a J-1 program before may not be eligible to return to the United States to pursue a new J-1 program immediately after completion of their previous J program. Please contact iso@lsu.edu with any questions. 

1. If the exchange visitor (EV) is self-funded (not paid by LSU), the LSU host professor or researcher formally invites EV by issuing an invitation letter

2. Host department completes J-1 Request Form, compiles and attaches supporting documents (see J-1 Checklist), and submits all documents to ISO.

3. ISO reviews documents: if exchange visitor is eligible, ISO prepares Form DS-2019 and attachments (takes about five business days) and contacts department to pick up when ready.

4. Host Department mails or emails DS-2019 and attachments to the exchange visitor.

5. Exchange visitor applies for a J visa at a US embassy or consulate abroad. If approved, consular officer issues a J visa; EV then travels to the US. Note: Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S. and can travel to the U.S. upon receipt of the DS-2019.

6. Upon arrival at LSU, EV or the host department schedules an appointment for EV to check in and to go through immigration orientation.

LSU is approved for several exchange visitor categories, including Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, and Student Intern. (The Student Intern category is discussed on a separate page.) The Department of State typically does not permit change from one J category to another. However, change from the research scholar to the professor category, and vice versa, is permitted without the need for an application to be filed with the Department of State Exchange Visitor Program. 

Professor and Research Scholar

Scholars in this category may be invited to collaborate in research projects, to teach courses in non-tenured or non-tenure track positions, or to give lectures or seminars. They may come for visits of up to five years.

Short-Term Scholar
The short-term scholar category is suitable for scholars coming to lecture, observe, consult, and participate in seminars, workshops, or conferences, who will definitely leave the United States within six months. Extensions of program beyond six months is not allowed.

This category is appropriate for visitors coming for visits of up to one year to consult, observe, or demonstrate specialized knowledge or skills in which they are experts.

Employment or program participation is limited to the areas specified on your DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility. Occasional lectures and consultations at other institutions are allowed, but prior approval to engage in such incidental employment must be obtained from the International Services Office (ISO). Occasional lectures or consultations must be . . .

  • Incidental to primary program activities and
  • Directly related to the objectives of the exchange visitor’s program; and
  • They must not delay the completion date of the program.

The exchange visitor must present (1) a letter from the outside entity stating the terms and conditions of the offer and (2) a letter from their department head or supervisor recommending the activity and explaining how the activity will enhance the exchange visitor’s program.

Exchange visitors and dependents must have sufficient income to live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Their stay may be financed by LSU (if employed); an institution in their country; their government; an organization or institution in the US that facilitates international exchange; other organizations; or personal funds. The total amount of support for an exchange visitor must equal or exceed $1,300 per month; an additional $4,000 for a spouse and $3,000 per child for the period of exchange is required.

Federal regulations require exchange visitors and their dependents to obtain and maintain health and accident insurance during their stay in the United States. Willful failure to obtain or maintain adequate health and accident insurance will result in the termination of the exchange visitor program. The following minimum coverages are required:

  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of remains in the amount of at least $25,000
  • A deductible that does not exceed $500 per accident or illness
  • Medical evacuation expenses of at least $50,000

Please see the J-1 Scholar Health Insurance Coverage Evaluation Form or contact Ms. Janice Goodloe for more information regarding the health insurance requirements.  

Reminders will be sent to the host department about three months prior to the expiration of exchange visitor’s DS-2019. However, it is the exchange visitor’s responsibility to be aware of the expiration date on their DS-2019 and to ensure that the DS-2019 is valid at all times. Upon the host department’s request, ISO will process the extension. The ISO will issue a new DS-2019 extending the exchange visitor’s program upon request from their host department. 

An exchange visitor may have their program transferred within their program time limit. The new program sponsor requests the current sponsor (LSU / ISO) to release the exchange visitor’s record to their program. If eligibility requirements for the transfer of program are met, the ISO will release the record to the new sponsor. The exchange visitor must be intending to pursue their original program objective.

Program Completion
Exchange visitors have a period of 30 days, called the grace period, at the end of their program to prepare for departure.

Exchange visitors are subject to the 2 year home residence requirement if . . .

  • They are funded by the US government, their home government, or an international organization; OR
  • Their country and field specialization are listed on the Exchange Visitor Skills List; OR
  • They are coming to the US to receive graduate medical education or training.

If subject to the requirement, exchange visitors are not eligible for an H or L visa or immigration status; not eligible for US immigrant visa or permanent resident status; and not eligible to change status in the U.S., except to A or G.; unless they spend an aggregate period of 2 years in their home country after completing the J program; or they apply and are granted waiver of the requirement from the Department of State and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. 

A spouse and unmarried children under 21 can enter the U.S. in J-2 status. J-2 dependents may apply for work authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.