Skip to main content

Immigration Compliance & Requirements

J-1 Exchange Visitors (EV) must abide by certain immigration requirements outlined below. There are additional requirements for those in the Student Intern, and Research Scholar or Professor categories.


J-1 EVs 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 $2,470/month or $29,640/year for a scholar with an additional $610 per month for each dependent (spouse or child). This amount does not include childcare or healthcare costs.

English Language Proficiency

Per Department of State guidelines, J-1 EVs must possess “sufficient proficiency in the English language, as determined by an objective measurement of English language proficiency, successfully to participate in his or her program and to function on a day-to-day basis. A sponsor must verify an applicant's English language proficiency through a recognized English language test, by signed documentation from an academic institution or English language school, or through a documented interview conducted by the sponsor either in-person or by videoconferencing, or by telephone if videoconferencing is not a viable option.”

The purpose of this Department of State requirement serves many purposes, mainly to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the visitor:

  • The visitor will be able to contact authorities in the event of an emergency and discuss medical treatment with a doctor.
  • The visitor will not be dependent on others for translation services.
  • The visitor will be able to be productive and start the program objectives from day one without having to struggle too much with language.
  • The visitor will have an easier time with day-to-day life. For example, the EV will be able to order meals at a restaurant and if they are a parent, the EV will be able to discuss academic progress or any issues with the school teachers and administrators.

In order to be eligible for J-1 sponsorship, all new EVs will need to provide evidence of English Language Proficiency in one of the following ways:

  1. Copy of a diploma or other signed documentation that confirms the EV earned a degree from an institution of higher education that operates in English
  2. Approved English test score from the past 2 years:
    1. TOEFL score of at least 57 (87 if the visitor will be teaching)
    2. IELTS score of at least 5.5 (7.0 if the visitor will be teaching)
    3. English3 Interview of at least 3 (4 if the visitor will be teaching)
    4. J-Check/iTEP score of at least 3.5 (4.0 if the visitor will be teaching)
    5. Cambridge English score of at least 162 (185 if the visitor will be teaching)
  3. If the EV has lived, worked, or studied in an English speaking country* for two years within the past five years, a verbal interview can be used to evaluate English proficiency. Please see English Proficiency Attestation for interview guidelines.

*The World Factbook has information about languages spoken in each country. Please select the country in question from the menu and look under "People and Societies" for language information.

Northwestern University has partnered with both English3 and J-Check to provide discounted exams. To access the discounted rate, please have your prospective Exchange Visitor follow the steps below:

  • For English3, complete the interview online and receive the score within 24 hours. The interview takes about 25 minutes. Receive the 30% Northwestern discount by entering the code “TAMUJ130”.
  • For J-Check testing, please go to J-check for Northwestern University and you will automatically receive the NU discounted rate. After payment, feel free to use the complimentary practice ID to practice the exam before using the official ID and test link to take the exam. You will receive your official grade report within 24 hours of testing. 

Scores should be send to the hosting department after they are received. The hosting department will include the score with the Exchange Visitor request to OISS.

Maintaining J-1 Status

Enter the Country in the Correct J-1 Status

  • Present your DS-2019 and visa stamp to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer to ensure you are entered in J-1 status correctly.
  • Even if you have a valid B-1 visa or are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, it is important that you always enter in J-1 status to maintain your J-1 status. If you do not enter in the correct status, you will need to leave the U.S. and reenter.

Maintain Valid Immigration Documents

  • Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months into the future at all times.
  • Your DS-2019 dates should be valid. Apply a DS-2019 extension before the expiration date.
  • Your visa stamp must be valid for entry into the U.S. Your visa stamp can expire while in the U.S, as the end date on the DS-2019 determines the date you are admitted to the U.S. until.
  • Access your Electronic I-94 record online each time you enter the U.S.. and save it for your records. The “Admit Until Date” should be listed as “D/S”, which stands for duration of status.

Maintain Accurate Records

If your residential address changes, email your assigned OISS Advisor within 10 days.

30-Day Grace Period

  • Enter/exit the country within 30-days before/after the program.
  • You are not allowed to work, conduct research, or transfer your J-1 to another institution during the grace period.

Providing Off-Campus Lectures or Consultations

Generally, J-1 EVs cannot engage in employment outside of their J-1 program. However, occasional off-campus lectures/consultations at other institutions are permitted in some cases.

Occasional lectures or short-term consultations must:

  • Be directly related to the objectives of the EV’s program;
  • Be incidental to the EV’s primary program activities;
  • Not delay the completion date of the EV’s program; and
  • Be documented in SEVIS.

To engage in occasional lectures or short-term consultations involving wages or other remuneration, the EV must present the following to the OISS:

  • A letter from the host institution setting forth the terms and conditions of the offer to lecture or consult, including the duration, number of hours, field or subject, amount of compensation, and description of such activity; and
  • A letter from the EV’s department head or supervisor recommending such activity and explaining how the activity would enhance the EV’s program.

Email your assigned OISS advisor prior to any off-campus lecture/consultation for written approval before the lecture/consultation.

The Two-Year Home Residency Requirement - 212(E)

Certain J-1 EVs are subject to the 212(e) two-year home residency requirement. This requirement is implemented by your home country and upheld as part of U.S. law in the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212(e). Your DS-2019 and J-1 visa stamp indicate whether you are subject or not subject to the requirement.

If you are unsure whether you are subject to the 212(e), or if the determinations on your DS-2019 and J-1 visa stamp do not match, contact your OISS Advisor for assistance.

Those subject to 212(e) must spend two years physically present in their country of citizenship or last legal permanent residence. This time does not have to be continuous. 212(e) will apply to your record until the requirement has been fulfilled or waived by the Department of State.

The following EVs are subject to the requirement:

  • Any EV whose field of study is listed on the State Departments's Exchange Visitor Skills List. Double-check the Skills List even if your documentation does not reflect subjectivity.
  • Any EV receiving U.S.. or home government funding specifically targeted to sponsor the exchange.
  • Any EV receiving graduate medical education or training.

Until the requirement is fulfilled:

  • You are not eligible for an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (immigrant/green card) status.
  • You are not eligible for an H visa (temporary workers and dependents), an L visa (intracompany transferees and dependents), or a K visa (fiancé and dependents).
  • You are not eligible to change their nonimmigrant status within the United States to any other nonimmigrant category except to:
    A (diplomatic)
    G (international organization)
    T (victim of human trafficking)
    U (victims of qualifying criminal activity) or
    H-1B for J physicians receiving waivers on the basis of the recommendation of a state or federal agency        interested in facilitating the physician's H-1B employment in a federally designated shortage area.

Applying for a 212(e) Waiver

EVs who are subject 212(e) can apply to waive the requirement. The waiver process is initiated and filed by the exchange visitor, not by the Office of International Student and Scholar Services. More information on this waiver process can be found on the Department of State's website.

Important notes about the 212(e) waiver:

  • Ineligibility for J-1 DS-2019extension: Once you receive a written waiver recommendation from the U.S. Department of State, you cannot extend the current end date of your DS-2019.
  • Transferring a J-1 program after receiving a waiver: While not recommended, if you are a J-1 scholar at another institution who has already received the 212e waiver but would like to transfer your record to Northwestern, it is possible to transfer the J-1 provided the end date remains the same on the current DS-2019.