J-1 Exchange Visitor

The J-1 visa category was created "to increase mutual understanding between people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges." -U.S. Department of State. 

J-1 status is suitable for scholars coming to Northwestern University as visiting researchers, professors, and lecturers. Staff positions hired through human resources cannot hold J-1 visa status; please see our H-1B page for more information on sponsoring staff positions.

J-1 Exchange Visitors may receive a salary or stipend from various parties. They can receive funding from Northwestern, the government, private organizations, their current place of employment (outside the U.S.), or personal funds but the funding must meet the current living expense requirements.  This requirement is currently $1,765/month or $21,180/year and does not include childcard or healthcare costs.

According to J-1 Department of State regulations, all EV's must maintain sufficient health insurance during the duration of their J-1 status and this insurance must be approved by the Office of Risk Management. 

TYPES OF J-1 Exchange Visitors

Within the overall J-1 visa status, there are several different types of J-1 categories.


  • Coming to NU to lecture, observe, consult, train staff, demonstrate special skill(s). 
  • Position at NU: Visiting Scholar, Visiting Predoctoral Fellow, Specialized non-research, non-staff position
  • Duration of visit between 1 day and 6 months


  • Coming to NU to conduct research (primary focus), observe, consult, teach
  • Position at NU: Visiting Scholar, Visiting Predoctoral Fellow, Postdoctoral Fellow, Research Associate
  • Duration of visit between 3 weeks and 5 years


  • Coming to NU to teach (primary focus), lecture, observe, consult, research
  • Position at NU: Lecturer, Visiting Faculty, Visiting Scholar
  • Duration of visit between 3 weeks and 5 years

Student Intern

  • Coming to NU to participate in structured internship program
  • Position at NU: intern
  • Duration of visit between 1 day and 12 months
  • Only for students who are currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in their home country.  More information on our J-1 Student Intern page.

Each category is used for different purposes and valid for varying lengths of time. For further information regarding each category, please review the Types of J-1 Visas Table.

Requesting/extending/transferring J-1 status

All forms associated with the J-1 can be found here. If you have questions, please contact your IO advisor

Once the NU department has submitted a complete J-1 Request to the IO, the IO advisor will issue a DS-2019 for the Exchange Visitor (EV) within two weeks.  The EV will use the DS-2019 to obtain his/her J-1 visa stamp at the U.S. embassy/consulate outside the U.S.

Note: U.S. consulates and embassies will issue J-1 visa stamps no earlier than 120 days prior to the start date listed on the DS-2019.

Whether applying for a new J-1, an extension, transferring from a different department at NU, or transferring from another institution to NU, the following steps are required:

Step 1: Collect documents

  • Send the Exchange Visitor DS-2019 Request to prospective Exchange Visitor (EV) for completion (electronic copies are acceptable). The EV should return the completed form and associated documents to the assigned NU Department Contact.
  • Complete the DS-2019 Department Request Form and obtain required signatures.  NOTE: NIH Grant Chart Strings cannot be used to process extension J-1 Requests.
  • Obtain an approved Visiting Scholar Health Insurance Application (VSHIA) OR obtain a waiver of the Visiting Scholar Health Insurance, both through the Office of Risk Management.
  • Obtain official university position confirmation such as Research Staff Appointment form (research positions), Postdoctoral Research Appointment form (postdoctoral positions) or NU Offer Letter.
  • Obtain funding documentation (if not already included on official university position confirmation above). When submitting bank statements, institutional letters of support or bank letters please use the following guidelines:
    • Must have been issued within the last 3 months.
    • Name of EV as account holder or recipient of the letter of support
    • Account balance with currency or statement that they have at least $1765 (not including dependents) of support per month
    • The letter must be in English or notarized English translation
    • If the funding information is an institutional letter of support, the dates of coverage and total amount of support must be present
  • Collect all documents on the checklist, located on the last page of the Department DS-2019 Request Form including the signed Exchange Visitor DS-2019 Request completed by the EV and any associated documents from him/her.
  • If transferring from another U.S. institution to NU, please include the J-1 Transfer In Form.  If the EV is eligible for a J-1 transfer, the start date at NU must be the date after the current/previous DS-2019 ends, or earlier. There cannot be a gap in DS-2019 coverage. 
  • Note: we are no longer requiring EMPLID's.

Step 2: Scan/email request to IO

  • Placing pages 1-4 at the beginning; complete requests should be emailed as one PDF to EVrequest@northwestern.edu
    • e-mail subject: "LAST NAME, New/Extension, Start Date" (e.g. WILDCAT, New, 04/01/2013)
    • file name: "DS2019Req_LAST NAME, First Name" (e.g. DS2019Req_WILDCAT, Willie)
  • The request will be forwarded to the appropriate advisor, who will be in contact with the Department and/or the EV with any questions or missing paperwork.

Step 3: IO Advisor issues DS-2019

  • The International Office will email the SEVIS ID number, along with other pertinent information, to the EV. The department contact and payroll (if the EV will be paid by NU) will be cc’d on this email.
  • For new EVs- once the document is issued the department contact will pick up the DS-2019 and send it to the EV. We strongly recommend that departments use FedEx, UPS, or another courier service.
  • For extension EVs - scholar will be asked to pick up the DS-2019 themselves at the International Office.
  • For transfer EVs - the IO may issue the DS-2019 from Northwestern on/after the date your SEVIS record is released; not before
  • Please consult your IO advisor if the EV is interested in applying for a Change of Status within the U.S.

Arrival to the U.S.

Step 4: New EV's will pay the SEVIS fee, obtain the J-1 visa stamp & review pre-arrival information

Step 5: New/Transfer EV's arrive to campus and complete Immigration Check-In
  • EV's are eligible to come into the U.S. in J-1 status up to 30 days before the start date listed on his/her DS-2019
  • To ensure that the EV enters in J-1 status, the EV should present the DS-2019 and J-1 visa stamp to the immigration official.
  • EV should bring Check-In Form, DS-2019 and passport to complete Immigration Check-In within 5 days of arriving to campus.
  • EV should access his/her Electronic I-94 record here each time s/he enters the U.S. and save for his/her records.
  • The IO does not retain copies of the EV's immigration documents. S/he should keep these copies
  • EVs paid by Northwestern should Check-In with the IO before completing the I-9/E-verify process.
  • If EV does not Check-In within 30 days of the start date listed on the DS-2019, the SEVIS record automatically becomes inactive and EV must stop work on campus and leave the U.S.
  • Review our Post-Arrival Information "You're here...Now what?"

Step 6: Attend J-1 Orientation & Apply for Social Security Number

  • After the EV completes check-in s/he must attend mandatory J-1 Orientation. We offer J-1 orientations once per month; please check our homepage for specific details. 
  • All J-1 Exchange Visitors are eligible to apply for a Social Security Number.  All J-1 EV's who will be paid by NU are required to apply for a SSN.  More information on our website here

212 (e) - 2 year Home Residency Requirement

Which J-1 scholars are subject?

  • Any EV whose field of study is listed on the Exchange Visitor Skills List through the Department of State. The IO recommends that EV's double-check the Skills List even if EV's documentation does not reflect subjectivity.
  • Any EV receiving U.S. or home government funding.
  • Any EV receiving graduate medical education or training.

What does it mean to be subject to the 212 (e) two-year home residency requirement?

  • EV is not eligible to obtain an H or L visa at a U.S. consular office, or to change to these visa categories within the U.S.
  • EV is not eligible for lawful permanent residence status
  • EV is not eligible to apply for a Change of Status within the U.S., any change of status must be done by exiting and re-entering
  • Please note that 212(e) will apply to the EV's record until the requirement has been waived or fulfilled.

How can the requirement be fulfilled? 

After completion of the J-1 program, the EV must spend two years physically present in the country of citizenship or last legal permanent residence. Time does not have to be continuous.

How can the requirement be waived? 

The waiver process should be initiated and filed by the EV and not by the International Office. More information on this waiver process can be found on the Department of State's website.

Can I extend my DS-2019 after I receive a waiver?

No, once an EV receives a written waiver recommendation from the US Department of State, then he/she is not eligible for an extension beyond the current end date of the DS-2019.

Can I transfer to Northwestern from another U.S. institution after I receive a waiver?

While not recommended, if a J-1 scholar at another institution has already received the 212e waiver but would like to transfer his/her record to Northwestern, it is possible to transfer the J-1 provided the end date remains the same on the current DS-2019.

24 Month Bar

Which scholars are subject to the 24 month bar?
EV who is currently in the J-1 Research Scholar or Professor category, or who has been in the J-1 Research Scholar or Professor category in the past 24 months.

What does it mean to be subject to the 24 month bar?
After the end of the J-1 program, the EV cannot return to the U. S. in the J-1 Research Scholar or Professor category for 24 months.This does not bar scholars from entering in the J-1 Short-term category, or in other nonimmigrant statuses.

When does the 24 month bar go into effect?
The 24-month bar will apply to EV regardless of whether he/she was in status for only a few months or for the full five year limit of the J-1 program.The 24 month bar goes into effect when the J-1 program finishes and the SEVIS record goes inactive.To take advantage of the full five years of the J-1 Research Scholar or Professor category, the EV would need to have an appointment of five continuous years to keep your SEVIS record active.

Maintaining J-1 Status

  • EV must present DS-2019 and visa stamp to immigration official to ensure that s/he is entered in J-1 status correctly
    • Note: even if you have a valid B-1 visa or are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program; you must always enter in J-1 status
  • Maintain valid immigration documents (passport, DS-2019, visa stamp)
    • Passport should be valid for at least 6 months into the future at all times
    • DS-2019 dates indicate eligibility to be in J-1 status; apply for DS-2019 extension before expiration date
    • Visa stamp must be valid for entry into the U.S.; it is not a problem if the visa stamp expires while in the U.S
    • EV should access his/her Electronic I-94 record here each time s/he enters the U.S. and save for his/her records.
  • If the EV's residential address changes, email the assigned IO Advisor within 10 days.
  • J-1 scholars have a 30 day grace period before and after the J-1 program.
    • During the grace-period, the EV can be in the U.S. but is not allowed to work or conduct research.

Off-Campus Lectures/Consultations

Off campus lectures/consultations are allowed as long as they do not interfere or delay the J-1 program objectives. Please e-mail your assigned IO advisor prior to any off-campus lecture/consultation for written approval before the lecture/consultation and provide the following information so that we may write you a letter:

  • Name of Host Institution
  • Name of Main Contact at Host Institution
  • Address at Host Institution
  • Date(s) of talk/lecture/consultation
  • Name (if any) of presentation

Travel while in j-1 status

Travel Signature

All EV's will require a valid travel signature on their DS-2019 before traveling internationally.  You may either drop your DS-2019 off at the front desk of the IO and pick it up with a new travel signature the following business day or drop by one of our scheduled 'Travel Signatures To Go' sessions advertised on our homepage here.

Before traveling, please review the following and contact your IO Advisor with any questions.

What do I need if I am traveling within the U.S.?

  • Valid passport
  • Copy of DS-2019

What do I need if I am traveling to Canada or Mexico and will stay for less than 30 days?

  • Valid passport
  • DS-2019 with a valid travel signature
  • If the J-1 visa stamp has expired, the EV may re-enter the U.S. using the expired visa stamp.

What do I need if I am traveling outside of the U.S. for any period of time?

  • Valid passport
  • DS-2019 with valid travel signature
  • If the J-1 visa stamp has expired, EV's must obtain a valid J-1 visa stamp to re-enter the U.S.

Obtaining a J-1 Visa Stamp Abroad

All J-1 visa stamps must be obtained outside the U.S.  Procedures/requirements vary; please contact the local U.S. Embassy/Consulate for specific information on how to apply for the J-1 visa stamp including how to schedule an interview and the documents needed.

If while applying for a J-1 visa stamp, the EV's name is sent for a background check, there is very little the university can do. However, if more than 60 days have passed since the date of application, and no information has been given regarding application status, please follow the instructions on the IO website regarding Visa Stamp Delay.

Requesting Immigration Documents

J-1 Exchange Visitors may use our online International Scholar Document Request Form to request a J-1 immigration status letter.  Please plan ahead and allow two weeks for processing. The IO will notify the EV when the requesthas been processed.


The J-2 visa category is for dependents (husband/wife and/or unmarried children under the age of 21) of the J-1 Exchange Visitor. All J-1 visa regulations which apply to the J-1 EV, also apply to the J-2 dependent including the 24 month bar and the 212 (e) home residency requirements.

If J-2 dependents will join the J-1 EV in the U.S., please submit the J-2 Dependent Request Form.

Health Insurance Requirements:

The Department of State regulations governing the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program require that all J-1 exchange visitors and their J-2 dependents have health insurance coverage that meets the following requirements. It is your responsibility to monitor that you and your dependents have such insurance while living with you in the US; failure to comply with this regulation could result in the loss of your J-1 status.

  • Medical benefits of at least $50,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $7,500
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $10,000
  • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.


J-2 dependents are eligible for full or part time study. If a J-2 spouse wishes to enroll in a full-time degree-seeking program at NU or any other post-secondary institution, it may be advantageous to consider a change of visa status to F-1 or J-1 student.


J-2 dependents are eligible for full or part time employment. J-2 dependents must file form I-765 with USCIS and receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card before beginning employment. For more information on how to apply for J-2 employment authorization, please access our J-2 Employment Authorization Guide.

Out of U.S. Request

Out of U.S. status should be requested if the J-1 EV will continue participation in his/her program at NU while at another institution outside of the U.S. for more than 30 days.  Out of U.S. status will be authorized for no more than 1 year at a time. 

In order to comply with the Out of U.S. status, the EV must:

  • Maintain active health insurance and NU appointment for the duration of the Out of U.S. status  
  • Communicate with the IO and the NU department and report any changes while in Out of U.S. status
  • Maintain J-1 program objectives while outside of the U.S. and resume his/her objectives upon return to the U.S. 
  • Remember to obtain a valid travel signature, necessary for entry into the U.S. in valid J-1 status


  • If the EV is vacationing outside of the U.S., the Out of U.S. status is not required.
  • If the EV wishes to make short visits to the U.S. in the middle of Out of U.S. status, this is possible and does not require a new form or a change in dates.
  • If the EV will leave the U.S. and will not be pursuing his/her J-1 program objective, the J-1 Early Departure Form should be submitted to the IO. We will end the J-1’s status and the 24 month bar will go into effect.

Please submit the Out of U.S. Request Form at least 5 business days before the EV departs the U.S. Note: the IO cannot extend the Out of U.S. period once the return date has passed. Please notify us in advance if the plans change.

Early Departure/Transfer-Out

If the EV will complete his/her program more than 15 days before the intended end-date, resigns, is terminated, changes his/her immigration status or wishes to transfer his/her J-1 record to another U.S. institution please submit the J-1 Early Departure/Transfer Out Form to our office.