Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Instructions for Entering the United States as a J-1 Exchange Visitor

International Scholars > J-1 Visa Stamp

(For scholars who will be coming to MIT in J-1 visa status)

A Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (Form DS-2019) will enable you to apply for a J-1 visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and enter the United States in J-1 status. The dates on this form reflect your anticipated stay. This form is not a contract. Your dates may be changed or amended at the discretion of your hosting department.

Dependents of J-1 exchange visitors (spouse and unmarried children under age 21) can enter the United States in J-2 status. Each dependent must have a separate DS-2019. Children cannot remain in J-2 status after their 21st birthday.

In order to issue your DS-2019, information about you (and any J-2 family members) will be entered, as required by law, into SEVIS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), a government tracking program used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

If you are unable to arrive at MIT within 30 days after the start date on your DS-2019, you must notify the International Scholars Office (ISchO) so we can change your start date in SEVIS. Otherwise, your DS-2019 will be invalidated. If your plans change and you do not use the DS-2019, please return it to us promptly.

In order to enter the United States as a J-1 exchange visitor, you must:

1. Complete the DS-2019. Carefully read pages one and two and then sign the "certification" at the bottom of page one.

2. Pay the $220 SEVIS I-901 fee. J-1 scholars must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee at least three business days before submitting a visa application to a U.S. consulate and undergoing the visa interview. Canadian citizens must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee at least three business days before entering the United States. J-2 family members ("dependents") are not required to pay SEVIS fees.

SEVIS fee payment instructions

Print and bring the SEVIS fee payment receipt with you to the U.S. Consulate when you apply for the visa. It should also be carried with you and shown to immigration officials when you arrive in the United States (airport or border).

3. Go to the website of the U.S. Consulate at which you plan to apply for your visa stamp. Consulate-specific instructions can usually be found in the "Nonimmigrant Visa" section of the website. You will need to complete the online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160); pay the visa application fee and reciprocity fee, if any; schedule an appointment; and submit Form DS-2019, SEVIS I-901 fee receipt, and any other required documents. Scholars in J-1 Research Scholar, Professor, Short-Term Scholar, and Specialist categories do NOT complete or submit DS-7002. [Canadian citizens, see below.]

The J-1 is a nonimmigrant visa. The U.S. consulate must be satisfied that you intend to return home following your J-1 program and do not plan to immigrate permanently to the United States.

4. Please review the following web pages for important information about the visa application and travel to the United States:

If a security clearance or additional administrative processing is required before your visa can be issued, the clearance may take days, weeks, or longer. If your visa application is delayed, e-mail the ISchO to tell us the date you applied for the visa and the location of the consulate or embassy where you applied.

5. When you obtain the J-1 visa stamp, e-mail the ISchO to tell us when you will arrive at MIT. You may enter the United States in J-1 status no more than 30 days before or 30 days after the start date on your DS-2019 form.

Do not put your Form DS-2019 in your suitcase. Carry it with you when you travel.

6. When you arrive at the U.S. airport or border, show your DS-2019, SEVIS I-901 fee receipt and passport with J-1 visa stamp to the immigration inspector, and request to be admitted in J-1 status.      

  • If you arrive in the United States at an airport (or seaport), the U.S. immigration inspector will place an admission stamp in your passport, marked with the notations "J-1" and "D/S" (duration of status). You will also be instructed to print/download a copy of your electronic "Form I-94" admission record. Do this as soon as you have access to a computer.

  • If you enter the United States through a land border crossing from Canada or Mexico, you will complete a paper Form I-94 Arrival/Departure record. Form I-94 is a small, white card that will be marked with the notations "J-1" and "D/S" (duration of status), and stapled into your passport when you enter the United States. Please write your name on the I-94 exactly as it appears in your passport and on Form DS-2019.

7. When you arrive at MIT, please come immediately to the International Scholars Office to register in Building E18, Room 209. Bring your passport and DS-2019 form. We must "validate" your SEVIS record by confirming your arrival.

In order to apply for a U.S. Social Security Number, your record must be validated by our office. Do not apply for a Social Security Number until we have done so. 

When you register with us, we will give you information for new international scholars and families and invite you to an orientation meeting, at which we will discuss immigration issues, health insurance, taxes, MIT, and the Boston-Cambridge area.

*Important* If you do not come to the International Scholars Office to register within 30 days after the start date on your DS-2019, your J-1 status will be invalidated.

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Canadian citizens please note

Canadian citizens are not required to obtain a visa stamp from a U.S. Consulate. However, they are admitted in a specific visa classification and must present the DS-2019 and SEVIS I-901 fee receipt at the border or port of entry in order to be admitted in J-1 status and be given a Form I-94 or arrival stamp with the correct notations. Canadians are typically asked to pay a $7 border-crossing fee related to the Form I-94.

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Department of State (DOS) program information and requirements

J-1 Visa - Exchange Visitor Program website

Download the Department of State's Exchange Visitor Program Participant Welcome Brochure

Early Departure or Change in Plans: The ISchO is required to report in SEVIS if you do not come to MIT or if you leave before the end date on your DS-2019. Please tell us when you intend to leave MIT, if you cancel your plans to come to MIT, or if your start date will be delayed.

Health Insurance: All J-1 scholars and J-2 dependents must have health insurance that meets specific requirements. We must notify DOS if you fail to meet the requirements.

Employment Authorization: The J-1 authorizes your work at MIT as described on the DS-2019; it does not permit you to work elsewhere. If you have questions regarding other employment in the United States, please contact the ISchO.

J-1 Visa Categories:

  • Research Scholar*: MIT brings most international scholars in this category. It is for scholars whose appointments are expected to be longer than six months. Research Scholars are primarily expected to conduct research, but may also teach. MIT policy allows Research Scholars to remain at MIT for up to five years (the maximum under the regulations) under certain circumstances.

  • Professor*: International scholars whose duties will primarily be teaching and whose stays are expected to be longer than six months are brought to MIT in this category. Research duties are also permitted. MIT policy allows scholars in the Professor category to remain at MIT for up to five years (the maximum under the regulations) under certain circumstances.

    *Upon completion of the J-1 program, the Research Scholar or Professor and his/her dependents will become subject to the regulatory 24-month bar on repeat J-1 program participation (see below).

  • Short-Term Scholar: For scholars coming to the United States for no longer than six months. Extensions are not possible. This category is appropriate for scholars whose visits will be short and will not exceed six months, or for scholars who may come and go periodically to MIT. Repeat or back-to-back, 6-month short-term scholar documents/programs are not permitted.

  • Specialist: MIT bring scholars to the U.S. in this category under special circumstances and for certain types of appointments only. The maximum limit for a J-1 program in the Specialist category is one year.

Twenty-four Month Bar: If you are coming to MIT as a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor, you and your J-2 dependents will become subject to the 24-month bar if: (1) you complete a full five years of J-1 Research Scholar or Professor program participation with one or more J-1 program sponsors, or (2) You complete a particular J-1 Research Scholar or Professor program of ANY LENGTH, and your SEVIS record becomes inactive BEFORE the full five-year period is over. You must then wait at least 24 months before you may begin a new J-1 program in the Research Scholar or Professor category.

Two-Year Home Country Residency Requirement [212(e)]: Be sure to read page two of your DS-2019 form. You and your J-2 dependents will be subject to this requirement if your J-1 program is funded by either your government or the U.S. government, involves specialized knowledge or skills deemed necessary by your home country, or if you came to the U.S. for graduate medical training. If this requirement applies, you must return to your home country for a cumulative total of two years at the end of your J-1 program. You are not prohibited from traveling to the U.S. but you may not benefit from certain employment-based or family-based visas until the requirement is satisfied.

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Travel outside the United States

Do not leave the United States without the immigration documents required for your return. You must have a valid J-1 entry visa stamp in your passport and a valid DS-2019, signed on the front by an ISchO staff member.

We are happy to assist with questions about your documents. If your visa stamp has expired or will expire soon, please check with the ISchO to get the proper instructions for applying for a new one. It is not possible to renew a U.S. visa stamp inside the United States.

Special regulations apply to visits to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands. More Information about Travel and Visa Renewal

Visa requirements and immigration regulations are complex and they do change. Please do not hesitate to consult the ISchO's website, call or e-mail us, or visit our office at any time. We hope you will have a productive and happy stay at MIT.

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Last Updated: October 2019

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