Exchange Visitor Categories

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Professor and Research Scholar

Minimum education requirement

Professors or research scholars participating in an exchange program are expected to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and an appropriate amount of experience in their area of expertise.

Flexibility in roles

Because teaching and research are often intertwined, the regulations allow for an exchange visitor in the Professor category to conduct research and an individual who is in the Research Scholar category to teach without the need to change categories.

Limitations regarding tenure

Individuals assigned either of these J-1 categories cannot be placed in tenured or tenure track positions.

Foreign medical graduate (physician) participants

It is permissible for Foreign Medical Graduates (FMGs) to participate in a program in either of these categories; however, their program activities must be non-clinical. If an FMG plans to participate in the professor/research scholar category strictly for the purpose of observing, consulting, teaching or conducting research, the J-1 sponsoring department must submit a No Patient Contact Statement to IS certifying that the FMG will not be involved with patients. The statement should be typed on department letterhead and must be signed and dated by the J-1 sponsor, the department chair/head, and the J-1 Responsible Officer.

Minimum and maximum period of participation

Individuals in either of these categories must participate in an exchange visitor program for a minimum of three weeks and can remain in the program up to a maximum of five years. Exchange visitors in the professor and research scholar categories have a five-year window in which they may participate in an exchange program. The five-year period of eligibility is based on continuous participation and ends when the exchange visitor completes a program. The clock for this five-year window commences with the program start date entered on the Form DS-2019.

12-month bar

The Department of State established a "12-month bar" from J-1 participation to prevent those who were recently in J-1 or J-2 (dependent) status from immediately returning to the United States to begin a new J-1 program as a Professor or Research Scholar. Individuals who were in J-1 or J-2 status as a Professor or Research Scholar for at least six months during the 12 month period immediately preceding the proposed start date of a new J-1 program are prohibited from beginning the new program until after 12 months from the date of their last program participation.

  • Exceptions to the 12-month bar include:
  • Exchange visitors transferring from another institution
  • Exchange visitors present in the United States for less than six months
  • Participation as a short-term scholar

24-month bar

Once a J-1 exchange visitor has completed a program in either the Professor or Research Scholar category, the exchange visitor will not be allowed to participate in another program as a professor or research scholar for a period of 24 months from the date the current program ends. This is referred to as the "24-month bar." This rule applies regardless of the duration of the exchange visitor’s program and is only applicable to individuals in the Professor or Research Scholar categories. The 24 month bar also applies to any dependents (J-2) who accompanied the exchange visitor to the United States.

  • Example: A J-1 exchange visitor enters the United States under the Research Scholar category and plans to participate in the J-1 program for three years. His wife (J-2) travels with him to the U.S. After a period of only 15 months, the exchange visitor is forced to end his program and return to his home country for personal reasons. The J-1 will not be allowed to return to the U.S. in an exchange visitor program as a Research Scholar/Professor for a period of 24 months. Also, since J-2 dependents are subject to the 24 month bar, the same restrictions apply to the spouse.

"Out of country" status

Exchange visitors in the professor/research scholar categories are sometimes involved in collaborative research projects with U.S. colleagues. An exchange visitor might continue to actively work on a project after leaving the United States and may make return visits to the United States throughout the year to consult with his/her U.S. colleague. Exchange visitors who remain outside the United States for extended periods of time will become subject to the 24-month bar unless International Services establishes an "out of country" record in SEVIS on behalf of the exchange visitor. The out of country record signifies that the exchange visitor is continuing his/her program outside of the United States. Departments must keep IS informed of the exchange visitor’s arrivals and departures so that the out of country record can be updated.