In order to qualify as a J-1 exchange visitor, an individual must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Possess the qualifications, background, and experience for the program. This requirement is further specified for each of the J-1 categories.
- Possess English language proficiency sufficient to participate in the program.*
- Possess adequate financial resources to complete program and support any accompanying dependents.
English Language Requirement
The US Department of State recently released new regulations which further address English language proficiency for J-1 exchange visitors. The new regulations require that the sponsor (VT) verify the prospective exchange visitor possesses 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. Currently, information about English Language requirements can be found here: English Language Requirements.
Criteria and rules for J-1 exchange visitors are further specified based on which J-1 category the individual will use. Virginia Tech has four J-1 categories available for individuals who will not enroll as students at Virginia Tech: Student Intern, Short-Term Scholar, Research Scholar, and Professor.
An intern (22 CFR 62.22) is a foreign national who either is currently enrolled in and pursuing studies at a degree- or certificate-granting post-secondary academic institution outside the United States or graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to his or her exchange visitor program begin date and who enters the United States to participate in a structured and guided work-based internship program in his or her specific academic field. The maximum duration of participation for this category shall not exceed 12 months. The other eligibility requirements of the Student Intern category are as follows:
- Foreign national must be currently enrolled as a degree-seeking student at a post-secondary academic institution abroad.
- Must be in good academic standing at their home institution.
- Internship may last no more than 12 months.
- Internship must consist of a minimum of 32 hours of work per week.
- Internship must not consist of more than 20% clerical work.
- Internship must fulfill educational objectives of foreign national's current degree program abroad.
- Internship must not consist of clinical, medical, or childcare work and may not involve a staffing agency.
- Internship is not used as substitute for ordinary employment or work purposes and intern does not displace U.S. workers.
- Internship exposes participants to American techniques, methodologies, and technology and expands upon the participants' existing knowledge and skills. Programs must not duplicate the participants' prior work experience or training received elsewhere.
- Interns must be evaluated upon conclusion. Internships of 6+ months must also have mid-point evaluation.
A short-term scholar (22 CFR 62.21) is a professor, research scholar, or person with similar education or accomplishments coming to the United States on a short-term visit to lecture, observe, consult, train, or demonstrate special skills at research institutions, museums, libraries, accredited post-secondary educational institutions, or similar organizations. The maximum duration of participation for this category shall not exceed 6 months. No extensions will be permitted. Thus the eligiblity requirements for the STS category are:
- Primarily conduct research, lecture, consult, or observe.
- Completed at least a bachelor’s degree
- Maximum stay 6 months (including transfers to/from other institutions.
- If there is any possibility the department or foreign national will need/want to extend past 6 months, use the Research Scholar category. If the short-term scholar category is used and the foreign national needs more time to complete his/her work, the only way to obtain more time is through international travel and re-entry with a new visa, new DS-2019 and new J-1 program which is unnecessarily costly, slow, and inconvenient compared to using the Research Scholar category initially which can simply be extended by ISS while the foreign national remains in the U.S.
Research scholars (22 CFR 62.20) primarily conduct research, observe, or consult in connection with a research project at research institutions, corporate research facilities, museums, libraries, accredited post-secondary educational institutions, or similar types of institutions. The research scholar may also teach and lecture (unless disallowed by the program sponsor) provided that these activities are incidental and do not extend the period of participation beyond the maximum duration. The maximum duration of participation for this category is not to exceed 5 years. Thus the eligibility requirements for the Research Scholar category are:
- Primarily conduct research; may also teach.
- Completed at least a bachelor’s degree (this requirements is based on standard requirements found in the higher education industry; VT policy may require an even higher degree if the individual will occupy a certain position, e.g. postdoc)
- Maximum stay of 5 years.
- 12/24 month bars apply
The Professor category (22 CFR 62.20) is for individuals who are involved primarily in teaching, lecturing, observing, or consulting at accredited post-secondary educational institutions, museums, libraries, or similar institutions. A professor may also conduct research, unless disallowed by the program sponsor. The maximum duration of participation for this category is not to exceed 5 years. Thus the eligibility requirements for the Professor category are:
- Primarily teach/lecture; may also conduct research.
- Completed at least a bachelor’s degree (this requirements is based on standard requirements found in the higher education industry; VT policy may require an even higher degree if the individual will be teaching courses)
- Maximum stay of 5 years.
- 12/24 month bars apply