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 page two, especially regarding the two-year home country physical presence requirement, and sign the "certification" at the bottom of page one.

2. Pay the $180 SEVIS fee. J-1 scholars must pay this fee in addition to visa application fees at least three business days before submitting the visa application and undergoing the visa interview. Canadian citizens must pay the fee at least three business days before entering the United States. J-2 dependents are not required to pay the SEVIS fee.

  • SEVIS fee payment instructions

  • Bring the SEVIS fee payment receipt with you to the U.S. Consulate at the time of visa application. It should also be carried and shown to immigration officials upon arrival in the United States.

3. Make an appointment at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy and submit the DS-2019 and SEVIS fee receipt, along with any other required documents, to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy. [Canadian citizens, see below.] The J-1 is a nonimmigrant visa, and the consul who issues the visa stamp must be satisfied that you do not plan to immigrate to the United States. The burden of proof will be on you to show you have a residence in your home country which you do not intend to abandon and that you qualify for the J-1 visa category.

When you obtain the J-1 visa stamp, e-mail the ISchO to tell us when you will arrive at MIT.

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

Please be aware that 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 at which U.S. Consulate/Embassy you applied.

4. When you arrive at the airport or border, present your DS-2019 and SEVIS fee receipt along with your passport and J-1 visa stamp to the immigration examiner, and request to be admitted in J-1 status. You may enter the United States in J-1 status no more than 30 days before or 30 days after the start date on the DS-2019.

  • 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 a copy of your electronic "Form I-94" admission record.

  • 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 stamped by the immigration examiner, marked with the notations "J-1" and "D/S" (duration of status), and stapled inside your passport when you enter the United States. Your name on the I-94 should be written exactly as it appears in your passport and DS-2019.

5. When you arrive at MIT, you must register with the ISchO in Building E18, Room 209. If you do not register within 30 days after the start date on your DS-2019, your J-1 status will be invalidated. Please bring your passport and DS-2019. We will provide you with information for international scholars and their families and invite you to a required orientation meeting, at which we will discuss immigration issues, health insurance, taxes, MIT, and the Boston-Cambridge area.

Please Note: You must register with the ISchO so we can validate your J-1 SEVIS record before you apply for a U.S. Social Security Number.

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Canadian citizens please note

Canadian citizens are never required to obtain a visa stamp from a consular officer. However, they are admitted in a specific visa classification and must present the DS-2019 and SEVIS 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 during your visit to MIT. We hope you will have a productive and happy stay here.

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Last Updated: March 2017

50 Ames St, Room E18-209, Cambridge, MA 02142 | Telephone: (617) 253-2851 | Fax: (617) 253-6624 | E-mail: