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The J-1 Visa for International Scholars

MIT Administrators > J-1 Visa

Overview of the J-1 Visa for International Scholars

The International Scholars Office (ISchO) is designated by 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."

This means that individuals enrolled in degree programs abroad are technically students and are not eligible for sponsorship through the International Scholars Office. MIT does not provide visa sponsorship for library, technical, administrative, or computer positions.

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Eligibility for J-1 Sponsorship at MIT

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

  • hold a temporary MIT position (non-tenure track)
  • on an academic appointment, at least 50% time
  • be appointed with the appropriate title (common examples: Visiting Scientist, Visiting Engineer, Visiting Scholar, Postdoctoral Fellow, Postdoctoral Associate, or higher)
  • meet funding minimum 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 for the scholar. 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 call the International Scholars Office for details.

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Important Considerations

  • In the post-September 11 environment, it is taking much longer than previously for scholars to obtain visa stamps to enter the United States. This applies to new scholars and to scholars returning after trips abroad. Be sure to provide ample time for the ISchO to issue Form DS-2019 and for the scholar to receive an entry visa stamp. Please remember the ISchO requires 30 days to issue the visa eligibility document.
  • Substantial changes in a scholar's funding source or amount must be discussed with the ISchO. Any change in 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.
  • A J-1 scholar is authorized to work or collaborate only at the institution(s) listed on the Form DS-2019 and/or 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 may be permitted. However, such activity must be approved in advance and in writing by the ISchO after consulting the J-1 regulations.
  • 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.
  • International medical doctors cannot perform direct patient care or have direct patient contact while under MIT 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 International Scholars Office 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.

For more questions and answers, see our Frequently Asked Questions about J-1 procedures.

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Last Updated: April 2005

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