J Scholar Visa
The J-1 visa allows academic institutions and other educational exchange programs to sponsor international researchers to participate in educational and cultural programs in the United States.
On August 9, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) instituted a revised policy directed at F, J and M visa holders who violate their visa status. According to this policy, USCIS will begin counting and tracking unlawful presence for any individual on one of these visas who does something, intentionally or unintentionally, to violate the terms and conditions of their visa status. It is now more important than ever for all nonimmigrants (individuals on U.S. visas) to maintain valid visa status at all times. Penalties of unlawful presence could result in individuals being barred from returning to the U.S. for three years, ten years, or even permanently. You can read more here.
What is unlawful presence?
You will accrue unlawful presence if you violate the terms of your visa status (see below). It is your responsibility to maintain your J status. The HIO and your host department are here to help you understand often complex immigration regulations and provide resources to keep you up to date with immigration regulations. In order to avoid accruing unlawful presence you must:
• Report a new residential address to the HIO within ten days of moving to a new address
• Maintain your health insurance as required by the Exchange Visitor Program
• Obtain authorization from the HIO for any additional employment opportunities outside your original objective at Harvard or its affiliated hospital prior to the start date of employment
• Apply for an extension of your status before your current DS-2019 expires
• Depart the U.S., transfer to another J program, or change to another visa status within the 30-day grace period at the end of your J program
• Check your I-94 record each time you enter and reenter the U.S.
• Never accept any public benefits or assistance from the federal, state or local government such as MassHealth, free school lunches, food stamps, etc.
Unlawful presence can have serious, negative effects on your U.S. immigration status and future U.S. immigration options. We do not want anything to interfere with your purpose for coming to Harvard – whether it be studying, teaching, or doing research. Please read all emails from the HIO and contact your HIO advisor if you have any questions.
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program allows academic institutions and other educational exchange programs to sponsor international researchers to participate in educational and cultural programs in the United States. Harvard University has been approved by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to serve as the visa sponsor for international visitors to participate in research, teaching and degree programs at Harvard and its affiliates. The J-1 visa program is managed by a shared database called SEVIS.
To be eligible for the J-1 visa an individual must meet the following criteria:
- must have a temporary academic appointment at Harvard University such as a postdoctoral/research fellow, or a faculty member.
- must have adequate financial support for all living expenses, including additional financial support for any accompanying family members either from Harvard or any other sources.
- must maintain health insurance which covers for sicknesses or accidents during the period of time when they are in J status. Failure to maintain health insurance coverage may jeopardize a J visa holder's status.
J-1 Research Scholar/Professor
J-1 visa holders in the Research Scholar or Professor category may remain in the United States for up to five years on the J-1 visa. There are some restrictions to this category. Research scholars and/or professors who complete their J-1 programs and leave the United States are not eligible to return as J-1 visa holders in the Research Scholar or Professor Category for 24 months.
Paid employment for J-1 research scholars or professors is permitted only if it is described on the Form DS-2019 issued to the J-1 visa holder. In most cases, it is not possible for a J-1 visa holder to accept paid employment outside of Harvard. However, there are occasional exceptions. Please consult the HIO for more information regarding the possibility of employment outside Harvard.
J-1 Short Term Scholar
A professor, research scholar, specialist, or a person with similar education or accomplishments coming to the United States on a short-term visit for the purpose of lecturing, observing, consulting, training, or demonstrating special may remain in the United States for up to six months. No extensions are permitted beyond six months. Access to University facilities may be limited. Check with the hosting department for details. Paid employment for J-1 short-term scholars is permitted only if it is described on the Form DS-2019 issued to the J-1 visa holder.
A J-1 specialist is an individual who is an expert in a field of specialized knowledge or skill coming to the United States for observing, consulting, or demonstrating special skills. J-1 visa holders in the Specialists category may stay for the length of time necessary to complete their program, not to exceed one year. Extensions beyond the 1-year program are not permitted.
Paid employment for J-1 Specialists is permitted only if it is described on the Form DS-2019 issued to the J-1 visa holder. In most cases, it is not possible for a J-1 visa holder to accept paid employment outside of Harvard. However, there are occasional exceptions. Please consult the HIO for more information regarding the possibility of employment outside of Harvard.
Harvard sponsored J-1 scholars should comply with the U.S. federal regulations governing their specific J-1 categories such as Short-Term Scholar, Research Scholar/Professor, and Specialist. A scholar's J-1 category is indicated in section 4 of his or her Form DS-2019. The following is a summary of the responsibilities that Harvard sponsored J-1 scholars should have in order to maintain lawful status in the United States. Scholars sponsored by another institution (Fulbright, for example) should contact their scholar advisors for additional information. J-1 Trainees sponsored by an alternate J-1 sponsor should abide by terms and conditions of their training programs.
Initial Registration Requirements
All new J-1 scholars must register with the Harvard International Office (HIO) within 30 days of the start date on Forms DS-2019. A returning scholar with a new Form DS-2019 must also re-register with the HIO.
Restrictions on Employment
J-1 scholars should not engage in any employment that is unrelated to their original program objectives. They are permitted to work only at the location(s) listed on the Form DS-2019. They should obtain prior written authorization from their J sponsors for additional employment that is in accordance with the regulations.
Maintaining Required Health Insurance
J-1 scholars and their J-2 dependents must maintain required health insurance including basic Medical Health Insurance, Medical Evacuation and Repatriation insurance throughout their stay in the United States.
Change of Residential Address
Immigration regulations require that all non-citizens report their residential addresses within 10 days of their entries to the United States and subsequently report any changes of addresses within 10 days to the Immigration authorities. Harvard sponsored J-1 scholars may report their address changes online. Scholars and trainees sponsored by other institutions should contact their program sponsors directly regarding change of address.
J-1 scholars must apply for a program extension within the overall time limit for a specific category before their current Forms DS-2019 expire. The dates on the Form DS-2019 reflect the dates given to the HIO by a host academic department at Harvard. If scholars wish to have their J-1 visa status extended within the permitted time limit, please have their department administrators notify the HIO.
Leave of Absence
Scholars may travel abroad throughout their stay at Harvard. An extended leave of absence must be in accordance with their Harvard academic appointment agreement and their original exchange program objectives. Scholars should contact their departments regarding more detailed information on leave of absence.
Required Travel Documents
Please review the travel information page on the HIO Web site before making plans to travel abroad. A scholar should bring all required travel documents to the HIO to speak with an advisor if he or she has any questions.
J-1 scholars and their J-2 dependents must depart the United States within 30 days of their Form DS-2019 expiration date or program completion date, whichever is earlier. Scholars completing their programs at Harvard and leaving the United States earlier than the expiration dates on their Forms DS-2019 should have their department administrators notify the HIO.
J-2 Status Defined
A J-1 scholar's spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible for J-2 status. The day the child turns 21 he or she is ineligible for a dependent J-2. The J-2 Form DS-2019 can be issued once evidence of sufficient funding for their expected living expenses and required health insurance is provided. Each J-2 dependent will have his or her own Form DS-2019 with a SEVIS number. J-2 visa holders do not have to pay the SEVIS fee. All Forms DS-2019 should be signed by the J-1 visa holder.
Each J-2 dependent may accompany or follow to join the J-1 scholar in the United States and remain here while the J-1 scholar maintains status here. All J-2 dependents are required to comply with applicable federal regulatory requirements, such as maintaining required health insurance. J-2 visa holders may study in the United States.
To request a Form DS-2019 for accompanying dependent(s), please fill out a Dependent Data Sheet and submit it along with a Document Request Form to your HIO advisor. You may need to show additional funding for dependent expenses.
Maintaining J-2 Status
J-2 dependents may study part time or full time in the United States while the J-1 scholar maintains status.
J-2 Employment Permission
J-2 visa holders may apply for work permission with USCIS once they arrive in the U.S. To apply for work permission, please follow these instructions.
J-2 Travel Outside the U.S. and Reentry
For information on J-2 travel see the Travel section below.
Employment at the Location(s) listed on Form DS-2019
J-1 scholars (Short-Term Scholar, Research Scholar/Professor, and Specialist) are required to be employed and conduct their exchange activities at the location(s) listed on their Forms DS-2019. Paid employment for J-1 scholars is permitted only if it is an integral part of the exchange program. In most cases, it is not possible for a J-1 visa holder to accept paid employment outside of Harvard without prior authorization. However, there are some exceptions.
Occasional Lectures or Consultations
J-1 exchange visitors in Short-Term Scholar and Research Scholar/Professor categories may participate in occasional lectures and short-term consultations at off-campus locations. Scholars must obtain prior written authorization from their HIO advisor. Such lectures and consultations should not interfere with the activities of the exchange visitor's program. The term occasional is generally understood to refer to single events rather than an ongoing activity. If a scholar will receive wages or other remuneration for lectures or consultations, the J-1 regulations require that the scholar act as an independent contractor. Click here to apply for occasional employment authorization from the HIO.
Social Security Numbers
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has many responsibilities, among them processing applications for Social Security Numbers (SSN) from our international students and scholars who are eligible to apply. As a J-1 visa holder you are eligible to apply for an SSN.
What to take to apply for a Social Security Number
For a J-1 visa holder under Harvard's J-1 program sponsorship: take your passport, Form DS-2019, and Form I-94 to the Social Security Administration office at 10 Fawcett Street, 1st floor, Cambridge. From the Harvard Square T station take the #78 or #74 bus to Fawcett Street.
At the Social Security Administration office, you must complete the SSN application form. You will receive notification of your Social Security Number in the mail. The process usually takes four to eight weeks. If you have not heard within this time period, please contact the HIO. You may call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or visit the Social Security Administration website with any questions.
Once you have obtained a U.S. Social Security Number, it is not necessary to apply for a new one if your employment changes. If you lose your SSN Card and need to apply for a replacement card, you must prove once again that you are employed in the United States at the time of your application.
When to apply
You must have been in the United States for at least ten days and must have registered with the HIO. This waiting period assures that your record will have been updated in the Government's database. In addition, you cannot apply before the effective start date of your Form DS-2019.
The following is general information regarding taxation of international scholars. To review detailed tax information (including tax return filing during tax season) please visit the tax section of this website.
International scholars should be aware that taxes may be deducted from salaries or fellowship if funds are from U.S. sources. The available income after taxes may be less than anticipated as scholars may be subject to federal, state, and/or Social Security taxes which can range from 14-30% of one's total income. The amount of taxes scholars may pay depends on the type of income they receive and their tax status in the United States. In addition, there are many tax treaties between the United States and other countries which may exempt certain earnings from taxes. Those who receive funding from Harvard will receive information from the University Financial Services office.
All international scholars and their dependents with U.S source income are required to report their annual income by completing tax forms between January 1 and April 15 of the following year. Accompanying dependents on J-2 visas must complete at least one tax form as well.
To help guide individuals through the tax filing process, the HIO has purchased Windstar, a web based tax return preparation software designed exclusively for international students, scholars, and their dependents who are nonresidents for tax purposes. It is available to anyone with a valid Harvard ID and PIN. Users will need their HUID and PIN to access the software.
Windstar is available to anyone with a valid Harvard ID and PIN. Users will need their HUID and PIN to access the Windstar site.
Due to legal restrictions, the HIO staff is not able to answer questions regarding individual tax situations. For additional information regarding U.S. income tax issues, visit the tax section of our website.
For travel outside the United States the following documents are required for re-entry.
- Valid Form DS-2019 signed once a year in the "travel validation" section by a Responsible Officer of your Exchange Visitor Program*
- Valid J-1 visa in the passport (except for Canadian citizens)
- Valid passport
* If the HIO issued your Form DS-2019 it must be signed in the 'travel validation' section by an advisor in the HIO. If your form was issued by another Exchange Visitor Program (Fulbright, LASPAU, AID) you should contact that organization directly to obtain travel signatures.
- Form DS-2019 signed once a year in the "travel validation" section by a Responsible Officer of your spouse's Exchange Visitor Program
- Valid J-2 visa in the passport (except for Canadian citizens)
- Valid passport
If J-1 scholars wish to extend their J-1 visa status they must apply before their current Form DS-2019 expires (see the dates on section #3 of the DS-2019 form). Extensions are not always possible. The extension requested must be within the limitations of the J visa category. There must be adequate funding to cover the new time period, and the department must support extending the academic appointment with the University.
The HIO sponsors several different categories of J visas and each has different eligibility criteria for extending time in the US. The category type is listed on the DS-2019 in section #4. Professors and Research Scholars are eligible for aggregate of 5 years. The Short Term Scholar has a maximum of 6 months. Once a scholar has confirmed that he/she is eligible for an extension and the Harvard reappointment and funding has been finalized, then the HIO may issue an extended Form DS-2019. The request should come from the Harvard or affiliate department to the advisor in the HIO. The HIO also issues departments a memo months prior to the expiration of the Form DS-2019 asking if an extension will be requested. Departments complete the extension form and return it to the HIO, or contact the HIO advisor directly to request an extension.
Transfers and Leaving Harvard
J-1 scholars may request to transfer from one employer to another. In SEVIS, the transfer is processed through updates to the J-1 scholar's SEVIS record performed by both the current employer and future employer. A J-1 scholar who intends to move from one employer to another should discuss his or her plans with the Responsible Officer (RO)/Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) of both employers, provide official evidence of academic appointment at the new program, and decide on a specific date of transfer. Since J-1 scholars are admitted for "duration of status" (D/S), which is defined as the period indicated in item #3 of Form DS-2019, plus a 30-day grace period following the program end date, all transfer requests should be made no later than the end of the 30 day grace period.
J-1 scholars who have completed their research or teaching at Harvard are given an additional 30-day grace period for departing the United States, applying to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change from J-1 status to another status (if they are not subject to the two-year home country residence requirement), or transferring to another J program sponsor if their J-1 category allows them more time to stay in the United States.
Transfer out of Harvard
Harvard sponsored J-1 scholars who plan to go to another employer should contact their HIO advisors immediately after being offered an academic appointment at another educational institution in the United States.
Updating Contact Information
Scholars who are leaving Harvard need to make sure that their affiliated Harvard departments have been informed of their departure. They should also update their contact information with the appropriate payroll office so their Forms W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) will be mailed to their new addresses.
Transfer to Harvard
Scholars who are currently in J-1 status at another U.S. educational institution may transfer their sponsorship to Harvard. Once they have received their academic appointments at Harvard for a program of research or teaching, they should complete Part I of J Scholar Transfer to Harvard Form and request their International Scholar Advisors at their current academic institutions to complete Part II of this form.
The completed J Scholar Transfer to Harvard form should then be sent to their hosting Harvard academic departments.
Transfer-in J-1 scholars will not be issued a Form DS-2019 from Harvard until all required documents are submitted to the HIO and the SEVIS record release date is reached.
Two-Year Home Residence Requirement and Waivers
Two-Year Home Residence Requirement - 212(e)
In some cases, the J-1 visa carries with it a two-year home residence requirement which obliges visa holders and their J-2 dependents to return to their home countries for two years before being eligible to apply for an immigrant visa or a non-immigrant H or L visa. The requirement also makes J-1 visa holders and their J-2 dependents ineligible to change to any other visa status within the United States if they are subject to it.
Not all J-1 visa holders are subject to this requirement. The requirement applies to those individuals in one of the following situations:
- J-1 visa holders who are funded by the United States Government, their own governments, or international organizations during part or all of their stay in the United States are subject to the requirement.
- J-1 visa holders whose skills are needed in their home countries, as registered on the Exchange Visitor Skills List, are subject to the requirement.
- J-1 visa holders who are graduates of foreign medical schools participating in internships, residencies, or clinical training programs in the United States sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) are subject to the requirement.
Are you subject to 212(e)?
J-1 visa holders should check both their Forms DS-2019 and J-1 visas to see if they are subject to the two year home residence requirement, 212(e). Harvard sponsored J-1 s should contact the HIO with questions regarding whether or not they are subject to the requirement.
Advisory Opinion from the U.S. Department of State
In the case that there is a doubt in whether or not a J-1 visa holder is subject to the requirement, the individual may request an Advisory Opinion from the U.S. Department of State.
J-1 visa holders who are subject to the requirement based on the information noted above and who do not wish to fulfill the requirement by returning to their home countries for two years may apply for a Waiver of the two-year home residence requirement. Please note: Before requesting an Advisory Opinion or applying for a Waiver, J-1 visa holders are encouraged to contact their HIO advisors. Failure to inform an HIO advisor regarding this matter could jeopardize the visa holder's ability to secure an extension of the Form DS-2019, or the option to change into another non-immigrant status.
12-24 Month Bar
The 12-Month Bar
Individuals who have been in the United States for more than six months in the previous year (12 months) in J visa status are not eligible to enter the United States as a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor for a 12-month period. Time spent in the J-1 Short-term Scholar category does not count towards the 12-month bar. The 12-month bar applies to both the J-1 principal and any J-2 dependents. The 12-month bar does not prevent individuals from returning to the United States in any other visa status.
The 24-Month Bar
Any individual who participates in an Exchange Visitor program in the Researcher Scholar or Professor category on or after 11/18/06 is subject to a 24-month bar on "repeat participation" in those categories. Scholars subject to the 24-month bar may not return to the United States as a J-1 scholar in the Research Scholar or Professor category for the 24-month period. This bar also applies to J-2 dependents. The 24-month bar is not the same as the Two Year Home Residence Requirement. The 24-month bar does not prevent individuals from returning to the United States in any other visa status.
Impact of the 24-Month Bar
When a scholar either concludes or leaves a J-1 program, whichever happens earlier, the scholar's record becomes inactive in SEVIS; thus making it impossible for the HIO to reactivate it. At that point, the 24-month bar time starts to accrue. Therefore, it is extremely important for the HIO to be informed of a scholar's departure from Harvard and his/her future plans, so that the scholar's SEVIS record can be properly maintained to facilitate his/her possible return to the United States.
Frequently Asked Questions about the 24-Month Bar for Research Scholars and Professors
Q: Can I change jobs and have a new J-1 Professor/ Research Scholar visa with a new employer within the 5 year limit?
A: Yes. If a J-1 professor/ research scholar leaves one employer and moves to a new job with another University (that also sponsors J-1 visas) s/he can transfer to the J-1 program of the new employer. These scholars may keep extending and changing employers via the J-1 transfer process for up to 5 years.
NOTE: There cannot be a gap of time between employers. Scholars need to communicate to both employers their intent to remain in the United States on a J visa.
Q: What if I need to leave the United States for a meeting or conference—will I have to wait 24 months before I can return?
A: No. As long as the J-1 professor/ research scholar continues with the original Harvard affiliation, short stays outside the United States are permitted, and do not constitute a completion of the J program.
Q: I have a J-1 Professor/ Research Scholar visa that is only valid for one year. I may stay longer if the grant is renewed for one more year. Will I have to go home for 24 months or can I extend my J visa for a second year?
A: J-1 professor/ research scholars may extend their stay for up to 5 years as long as there is no gap of time and the HIO receives the requests of extension before the expiration of their current Forms DS-2019.
Q: Are the two year home residence requirement and the 24-month bar the same thing?
A: No. As mentioned in #2 above, the 24-month bar affects only scholars who have had the J-1 visa status in the Professor/ Research Scholar category, and who wish to use the same category again. The two year home residence requirement can be an issue for any J visa holder - not just those who have been in the J-1 Professor/ Research Scholar category.
Q: During my 24 months outside the United States, may I return to the United States for short visits?
A: Yes. You may return to the United States on any kind of visa, including the J-1 Short-term Scholar visa category. You are only prevented from returning on the J-1 visa in the Research Scholar/Professor category.