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Frequently Asked Questions about J-1 Procedures

MIT Administrators > J-1 Visa > FAQs about J-1 procedures

J-1 Eligibility Requirements

J-1 Process and Required Paperwork

Changes to a J-1 Scholar's Appointment, Work Location, or Funding

Leaving MIT

 

J-1 Eligibility Requirements

Who is eligible for a J-1 visa?

The ISchO is designated by the Department of State to administer a J-1 program for scholars and to issue Forms DS-2019 to collegial level researchers and teachers "in the various fields of instruction and research conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for qualified foreign professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, and specialists." MIT does not provide visa sponsorship for students visiting from overseas; or for library, technical, administrative, or computer positions.

A foreign national is eligible for MIT's J-1 sponsorship if he or she will be:

  • holding a temporary MIT position (non-tenure track)
  • on an academic appointment, at least 50% time
  • appointed with the appropriate title (common examples: Visiting Scientist, Visiting Engineer, Visiting Scholar, Postdoctoral Fellow, Postdoctoral Associate)
  • meeting minimum funding, education, experience, and health insurance requirements

Please note that if a scholar is already inside the United States, a J-1 visa may or may not be the best option. In addition, after advising, it may take a number of months in order for the scholar to change immigration status from within the United States. If the scholar is not currently eligible to work, he or she must not be appointed or start work at MIT until approval is received from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Please contact the ISchO for details.

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What J-1 visa categories does the ISchO sponsor?

The ISchO will select the appropriate J-1 category based on the information provided by the MIT DLC and the prospective international scholar.

J-1 Research Scholar Category* (most international scholars at MIT):

Activities: Conducting research; teaching also permitted.

Duration: Six months or greater, up to three years.

Extensions: Up to five years of total participation (the maximum under the regulations) under certain circumstances.

J-1 Professor Category*:

Activities: Teaching (non-tenure track); research also permitted.

Duration: Six months or greater, up to three years.

Extensions: Up to five years of total participation (the maximum under the regulations) under certain circumstances.

* Restriction on repeat visits in the J-1 Research Scholar or Professor category: The J-1 regulations state that international scholars who complete a J-1 program in the Research Scholar or Professor category and their J-2 dependents may not return to the U.S. in the future for another J-1 program in the Research Scholar or Professor category until 24 months have passed.

J-1 Short-term Scholar Category:

Activities: Research, teaching, observing.

Duration: Six months or less. Extensions beyond six months are not possible.

J-1 Specialist Category:

Activities: MIT bring scholars to the U.S. in this category under special circumstances and for certain types of appointments only.

Duration: One year or less.

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Can we invite someone who is a student in his/her home country?

An individual who is enrolled in a degree program overseas and who will not have completed the degree prior to the desired period of MIT affiliation does not qualify for an academic appointment nor for J-1 sponsorship through the ISchO.

Visiting Student status is the appropriate category to enable a non-MIT student to use MIT resources and faculty contacts, primarily to enhance the student's own course of undergraduate or graduate study and/or to fulfill a degree requirement at another institution. The Visiting Student category is administered through the International Students Office, for both U.S. and international students.

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Is health insurance a requirement?

Yes. Department of State requires all J-1 scholars and their J-2 dependents to have health insurance in order to stay in the United States. We require all J-1 visa holders to sign a Statement of Compliance. Please refer to our health insurance information for details.

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What are the funding level requirements?

They are listed on Form B. We believe these funding levels are fair and are in the best interest of the scholar and his/her family. Unfortunately, exceptions cannot be made.

Form DS-2019 is a legal document and must be accurate. Please verify a scholar's source and amount of financial support.

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How do I verify funding information?

Any governmental organization that is directly funding the scholar must be appropriately indicated. If the funding is noted as either "Exchange Visitor's Government" or "Other Organization," be sure to obtain a recent statement on the organization's letterhead to verify the amount of the funding that has been awarded to the scholar. If a scholar indicated funding as "personal funds," you should request a recent bank statement or other evidence to verify the availability of this funding.

Once the funding is verified, the amount(s) should be listed in U.S. dollars for the entire period requested, not as monthly or annual salary.

It is essential to list the source(s) of funding accurately, since this will influence whether or not a scholar will be subject to the two-year home country residence requirement. Please do not use acronyms. The ISchO will request clarification and/or documentation from you when needed.

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We have a researcher who is also an M.D. Is this an issue?

International medical doctors cannot perform direct patient care or have direct patient contact while on MIT's J-1 sponsorship, but may be engaged in research. The faculty sponsor or principal researcher hosting any international medical doctor on academic appointment at MIT must sign a "medical statement" form available from the ISchO.

Medical doctors whose visas are sponsored by institutions other than MIT must have written authorization from their visa sponsors in order to hold MIT appointments. They must come to the ISchO to register, with all of their documentation, like all other international scholars. Medical doctors sponsored by ECFMG on the J-1 in the "alien physician" category for clinical work at specified clinical sites cannot engage in any other work or receive additional funding unless authorized in advance by ECFMG. This includes affiliations, paid or unpaid, at MIT.

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May a scholar who has a J-1 visa through another institution work at MIT?

Some scholars who have recently completed their degrees in the United States may still be on J-1 student visas and may receive Academic Training; these scholars may be eligible to work at MIT. Those on other types of J-1 visas sponsored by another institution may or may not be eligible for affiliation at MIT. If you would like to appoint a scholar from another institution who is currently in the U.S, please consult with the ISchO well in advance.

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J-1 Process and Required Paperwork

How do I help a scholar get a J-1 visa?

Each department, Laboratory, and Center (DLC) has a primary liaison, typically the Personnel Administrator or Administrative Officer, who oversees the process. This person is familiar with the MIT personnel appointment system, ISchO procedures, and non-immigrant visa types and acts as the liaison between the ISchO and the faculty member inviting the scholar to teach or conduct research at the Institute.

To begin, the ISchO's liaison in the DLC should review the information at How to Request a Form DS-2019. The J-1 visa sponsorship request should be submitted to the ISchO as outlined on this page so the ISchO can process the scholar's J-1 visa eligibility document, Form DS-2019.

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How can a scholar's family members get J-2 visas to accompany him/her?

Dependents of J-1 Exchange Visitors (spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21) can enter the United States in J-2 status. See the ISchO's Instructions for Entering the United States as a J-2 Dependent for more information.

Each dependent will need a separate Form DS-2019 from the ISchO. Dependents may travel with the J-1 scholar or join him/her later. Incoming scholars should provide information about accompanying family members when submitting their information to the ISchO as part of the J-1 request. Scholars who are already at MIT should contact the ISchO for more information.

Please Note: Dependent children cannot remain in J-2 visa status after their 21st birthday.

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How long does it take to issue the Form DS-2019 for a scholar?

The minimum processing time for the ISchO to issue a Form DS-2019 for a new scholar who is outside the United States is 30 days from the day the ISchO has received all required information. That is, the department should plan on at least 30 days between the time the ISchO receives the J-1 request and the time the Form DS-2019 is issued.

Please note: this does not mean the scholar will be able to arrive in 30 days. After the DS-2019 is issued, he/she must pay the SEVIS fee and obtain a visa from a U.S. Consulate abroad. Therefore, DS-2019s will not be issued with a start date less than 60 days from the date the J-1 request is received; if a J-1 request is received less than 60 days in advance, the start date will need to be modified. The hosting DLC and scholar should plan accordingly.

Note that Form C is used to request an extension of J-1 status for a scholar already at MIT.

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What should the scholar do upon arrival? What if a scholar will arrive later than planned?

New J-1 scholars must register with the ISchO upon arrival. Within 30 days after the start date on the DS-2019, the ISchO is required to report the arrival in SEVIS (the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), or the scholar's J-1 status will be invalidated. If the scholar's arrival will be delayed or canceled, inform the ISchO so that the ISchO can update the SEVIS record and, if needed, issue a new DS-2019.

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Some helpful hints for completing and reviewing the J-1 request

  • The name of the DLC must be the same one that will complete the MIT HR appointment form for the scholar. If the scholar will have any other affiliation at a different DLC, or at a different institution, please inform the ISchO when submitting the J-1 request. The ISchO must indicate all locations in the scholar's SEVIS record.
  • "Title of Appointment" must be identical to the scholar's title as it is listed on the MIT HR appointment form.
  • "Financial Support" must be in U.S. dollars for the entire period indicated on the J-1 request, and all funding must be verified.
  • "MIT Faculty Sponsor" should be the name of a specific individual, not simply the name of the DLC.
  • "Description of Scholar's field of appointment" should be a general field, but specify what the scholar will be doing in that field.
  • The initial J-1 request asks for the scholar's "Position title" and "Name of employer/institution in home country." This means the last activity (exact occupation or level of studies) and place of business or studies the scholar last performed in his/her home country, even if this was not the scholar's most recent activity, employment, or studies. "Home country" refers to the scholar's country of citizenship, or country of legal permanent residence, if more recent.

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Changes to a J-1 Scholar's Appointment, Work Location, or Funding

Is a change in the scholar's appointment, work location, or funding permitted while on the J-1?

Substantial changes in a scholar's funding source or amount must be discussed with the ISchO in advance. Any anticipated change in title or percentage of effort of the MIT appointment must likewise be discussed with the ISchO. Such changes may affect a scholar's J-1 eligibility. Certain changes require that a revised Form DS-2019 be issued. In addition, any anticipated change in the scholar's research or teaching location must be reviewed in advance (such as new department, additional location, or dual affiliation outside of MIT). Such changes may affect a scholar's J-1 eligibility. The ISchO must update the scholar's record in SEVIS and may need to issue a revised Form DS-2019.

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May a scholar holding a J-1 visa work elsewhere?

Regulations state that a J-1 scholar may work or collaborate only at the institution(s) listed on the Form DS-2019/in the J-1 SEVIS record. J-1 status does not give scholars permission to work outside MIT.

Under certain circumstances, occasional, short-term lectures or consulting related to the scholar's area of research/teaching at MIT may be permitted. However, such activity must be approved in advance and in writing by the ISchO after consulting the J-1 regulations. The ISchO is also required to updated the scholar's SEVIS record accordingly. Please ask the scholar to contact the ISchO for details.

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Can a J-1 scholar work at a faculty member's or P.I.'s Company?

Working at a faculty member's company while on a full-time MIT "visiting" or "postdoctoral" appointment represents a conflict of interest and will not be authorized.

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Leaving MIT

What if a scholar leaves MIT earlier than the end date listed on the Form DS-2019?

The ISchO must be informed if a scholar leaves MIT earlier than the end date listed on the Form DS-2019. Federal Regulations mandate that the ISchO report termination dates to Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The ISchO must be informed on or before the date of termination.

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I've heard of a "grace period." What is it?

The J-1 Exchange Visitor is permitted to remain in the country up to 30 days past the end date of his or her Form DS-2019. This time is to allow scholars time for tourism and packing; the scholar does not have work authorization during this time. If a scholar will require additional time to complete his/her project at MIT, please request both an appointment and Form DS-2019 extension, if eligible, before the scholar's grace period begins.

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Last Updated: March 2014

77 Massachusetts Ave, Room E38-219, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307 | Telephone: (617) 253-2851 | Fax: (617) 253-6624 | E-mail: iso@mit.edu