J-1 Exchange Program Information | Center for International Education | SIU

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J-1 Exchange Program Information Main Content

Southern Illinois University (SIU) has been designated by the Department of State as an official exchange visitor program sponsor. SIU sponsors Exchange Visitors for a variety of educational objectives, including study, teaching, research, observation, collaboration, and student internships. The following information should help you understand your visa status, and prepare for your journey to the United States to participate in the very prestigious program.

Host an Exchange Visitor

Faculty members at SIU can invite J-1 Exchange Visitors by agreeing to "Host" a non-citizen by applying through the Center for International Education.
Download Exchange Visitor Information Form

J-1 Exchange Pre-Arrival Information
Download Pre-Arrival Information

Information for J-1 Exchange Visitors Currently at SIU

Find information here concerning current exchange visitors and their dependents.

Certificate of Eligibility, Form DS-2019

The DS-2019 is your certificate of eligibility for exchange visitor status at SIU. Check this document for accuracy, carefully read the instructions on page 2, then sign and date it. The DS-2019 was issued by a staff member at the Center for International Education (CIE) and indicates your biographical data, identifies your academic department, the beginning and ending dates of your exchange program, category of participation, and source and amount of funding. Initially, the DS-2019 helps you receive your visa, but it also governs your stay in the U.S. and must remain valid at all times. You should keep every DS-2019 for your permanent records, as they might become useful one day in the future if you decide to return to the U.S. for an additional education objective.

You have been assigned a category of participation based upon your education background, and the nature of your activity at SIU. This category is indicated in item 4 of your DS-2019 and your activities in the US must remain consistent with this classification. You will not be able to change your category after you have entered the US.

12 and 24 month "bars" on repeat participation

There are two very complicated restrictions that all J-1 Exchange participants must understand. The 12 and 24 month bar on repeat program participation applies to visitors in the Research Scholar or Professor category. This means that time spent in the US as a J-1 or J-2 might affect your eligibility for future J-1 status. Program participants should be aware that they might not be able to return to the U.S. for a new exchange program as quickly as they like. The other important restriction is known as the Two-year home country physical presence requirement. This rule mandates that exchange visitors return to their home countries and be physically present there for an aggregate of two years before being eligible to return to the US in H, L, or immigrant (permanent resident/green card) status.

Program Duration and Extension of Stay

The duration of your program is stated in item 3 of the DS-2019.  The CIE can extend your program participation to the limit allowed by law (up to five years for persons in the Professor and Research Scholar categories, up to six months for persons in the Short-Term Scholar category, up to one year for persons in the Specialist category, for the duration of your course of study if a student, and up to one year for persons in the Student Intern category). The sponsoring academic department must confer with staff at the CIE well in advance of the expiration date listed in item 3 if an extension is desired. However, if you apply for a waiver of the two year home rule, your DS-2019 cannot be extended beyond its current expiration date.

Once you have completed your program, you are no longer in J status. However, immigration law allows you to remain in the U.S. for a30-day "grace period" beyond the program completion date listed in item 3,  to settle your affairs and return home. During the grace period employment is not permitted and if you depart the US you cannot return in J status.

J-1 Insurance Requirements

Please note that J-1 exchange visitors (and their J-2 family members) are required, as a condition of their visa status, to carry health insurance.  Minimum coverage must provide the following:

  1. Medical benefits of at least of $100,000 per accident/illness
  2. A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident/illness
  3. Expenses associated with the medical evacuation to the home country ($50,000)
  4. Repatriation of remains ($25,000)Any policy must be underwritten by an insurance corporation having an A.M. Best rating of “A-“or above, and Insurance Solvency International, Ltd. (ISI) rating of “A-“or above, a Standard & Poor’s Claims-paying Ability rating of “A” or above, a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of “B+” or above, OR backed by the full faith & credit of the government of the exchange visitor’s home country.
  5. An insurance policy secured to fulfill these requirements:
    1. May require a waiting period for pre-existing conditions which is reasonable as determined by current industry standards;
    2. May include a provision for co-insurance under the terms of which the exchange visitor may be required to pay up to 25% of the covered benefits per accident or illness; and
    3. Shall not unreasonably exclude coverage for perils inherent to the activities of the exchange program in which the exchange visitor participates.

Please note that the SIU insurance plan does NOT cover items 3 & 4 (medical evacuation and repatriation).  If the exchange visitor will have SIU health insurance, s/he must purchase a separate policy that covers these 2 items.  This type of insurance may be purchased from a variety of companies on-line.  One example can be found at: http://www.hginsurance.com/medevac.asp (the Harbour Group).

If not otherwise insured, visitors should plan on purchasing health insurance prior to or immediately upon arrival in Carbondale.  If s/he plans on purchasing insurance after arriving in the US, s/he may want to purchase a short-term travel policy that will provide coverage during the journey from the home country.  In the U.S. certain kinds of elective medical care, such as eyeglasses or dentistry, are not ordinarily covered by insurance and can be quite costly. If at all possible, these needs should be taken care of prior to the trip to the US.

J-1 visitors and their dependents must maintain health insurance coverage for the entire duration of stay in the US.  If the stay is extended beyond the initial time period, visitors will be responsible for renewing and extending health insurance coverage.  Please understand that failure to comply with this mandated health insurance requirement will result in the termination of the visitor’s participation in this J-1 Exchange Visitor program. CIE must have a current and updated copy of the visitor’s health insurance policy at all times.  Visit the Department of State website for more detailed information on the health insurance requirement. http://j1visa.state.gov/sponsors/how-to-administer-a-program/

As insurance rates may vary based upon the company chosen, as well as the health-status, age, etc. of the insured, it is recommended that visitors get estimates from at least 3 different agencies to make certain that the best choice is made.

However, we do recommend that visitors call the following agency to get one estimate.  Many international students and exchange visitors have purchased their insurance from the Diederich Agency and have reported both good service and fair rates.

Diederich Insurance Agency
506 W. Main Street
Carbondale, IL 62901
Phone: 618-457-6721

Other reputable insurance companies that provide J-1 compliant policies include but are not limited to:

Gateway USA
ISO COMPASS (Gold or Silver plans)
International SOS
Patriot International

Overview of the Visa Process

A visa is a stamp on a page of the passport that allows you to travel to the border of the US, where you ask an immigration officer for permission to enter the US. The visa includes biographical data, visa type (J-1 or J-2), the location of the visa issuing office, date of issuance, number of entries allowed, expiration date, photograph and fingerprint.

Applicants for visas are interviewed by a US consular officer. During the brief interview, you must satisfy the officer that you will depart the U.S. at the conclusion of your program. Schedule your interview appointment as early as possible, remembering that consulates charge a fee for issuing the visa which is in addition to the SEVIS fee.  The visa need not remain valid after you enter the US. Your DS-2019 and passport, however, must remain valid at all times.

  • To apply for the J-1 visa, present the DS-2019, a receipt confirming payment of the SEVIS fee, evidence of funding, and your valid passport to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The interview process may take several hours, due to security reviews. The consular officer may return the DS-2019 to you in a sealed envelope. Do not open this envelope!
  • Applicants for J-2 dependent visas present to the consular officer their DS-2019s, passports, and evidence of family relationship (marriage certificate if spouse of the J-1, or birth certificate if child of the J-1).
  • Canadian citizens do not require visas, but must present the DS-2019 and receipt showing payment of the SEVIS fee to the immigration officer upon entry into the US.

The $180 SEVIS fee

SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is a government database that maintains and manages information on exchange visitors during their stay in the US. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires payment of a $180 SEVIS FEE to cover operational costs of the SEVIS program.

  • Who must pay the fee?
    New J-1 Exchange Visitors who use a Form DS-2019 to "begin a new program" are required to pay the fee.
  • Who does not have to pay the fee?
    Continuing J-1 Exchange Visitors do not pay the fee. Dependents in J-2 status do not pay the fee.
  • When does the fee need to be paid?
    The fee must be paid at least three days prior to applying for a J-1 visa at a US consulate (or, for Canadian citizens, three days prior to entering the US).
  • How is the SEVIS fee paid?
    The SEVIS fee can be paid on-line with a credit card, or by mail with a check, or by using Western Union's "Quick Pay" service. Another person can pay the fee on your behalf.
  • Will I be issued a receipt?
    Yes. You must present the receipt to the consular officer when applying for a visa, and to the immigration officer when entering the US. We suggest you staple the receipt to your DS-2019.

Presentation of documents upon entry to the U.S.

You will be required to present the following documents upon your first entry into the United States:

  • Passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay
  • J-1 (or J-2) visa stamp. (Canadian citizens are visa-exempt.)
  • Form DS-2019
  • SEVIS fee payment receipt
  • Documentation of the source and amount of your financial support

You must enter the US within the 30-day period prior to the start date indicated in item 3 of the DS-2019. If unable to enter the US before the start date, contact your sponsoring department to request a new DS-2019 and enter using the new form.

English Requirement:

  • TOEFL IBT - 61
  • IELTS - 5.5
  • TOEFL PBT - 500
  • Documented interview conducted in person, by videoconference, or by telephone

Lawful Status in the U.S.

J-1 students and scholars are admitted to the U.S.. for the period of time noted on your immigration documents. This means you are permitted to remain in this country as a full-time student for the period of time during which you are pursuing one educational program (bachelors, masters, or doctorate) at one institution or during scholarly visit. J-1 students must extend their stay at least 30 days before the expiration of their I-20, or depart no later than 30 days after the completion of their academic program or after the expiration date on the DS2019, whichever comes first.

Full-Time Enrollment

Full-time enrollment is required to both undergraduate and graduate international students to maintain legal status. Full-time enrollment must be maintained to receive employment, practical training, and other benefits. In addition, failure to maintain full-time enrollment may create many problems in the future.


An exchange visitor traveling outside the U.S. must have a valid passport, visa and a current pink copy of Form DS2019 signed by the responsible officer.

Passport Validity

Your passport must be valid at all times. A valid passport is required to hold employment or for travel. If a validation of your passport is necessary during your stay in the U.S.., CIE can provide you with the address of your country's nearest Consulate or Embassy. We recommend you begin renewing your passport at least four months in advance of the expiration date.

I94 Departure Record

Keep the I-94 Departure Record card (white card) stapled in your passport. This document indicates your valid status and is used by USCIS for showing any authorized changes. This document is taken when you depart the U.S.. (they are inspected, but not taken, at Canadian or Mexican borders.)

Visa Validity

The visa in your passport does not govern your length of stay in the U.S.. It is only an entry permit and must be valid only when entering the U.S.. Always check the validity date of your entry permit before planning a trip outside of the U.S.. If it has expired, report to CIE at least two weeks in advance of departure so a duplicate Form DS2019 can be prepared for you to obtain a new visa at a U.S.. Embassy or Consulate in a Foreign Country.


J-1 students may work pursuant to the terms of a scholarship, fellowship, or graduate assistantship in their field of study with authorization of their program sponsor. If an economic need arises as a result of an unforeseen change in financial circumstances their Program Sponsor may issue written permission to work part-time when school is in session or full-time during vacation periods. WORKING WITHOUT PERMISSION IS ILLEGAL.

J-1 Scholars

J-1 scholars may work pursuant to the terms of the Form DS2019 issued by their Program Sponsor. J-2 Visa holders may work only after they obtain written permission from USCIS.

Academic Training

If you have a J-1 visa and have completed your degree program, you may be eligible for a maximum of eighteen months of academic training with the approval of your Program Sponsor. Practical training for J-1 visa holders is awarded for one year, renewable for an additional six months. Please consult CIE and your Program Sponsor for further information about your eligibility.