J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Overview

The U.S. Department of State has approved Harvard University to use the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program to bring foreign nationals as professors, researchers, specialists and students to the University. The intent of the program is the exchange of knowledge; the foreign national is coming temporarily to the United States and expects to return home.

The J-1 Exchange Visitor visa classification is appropriate for most research scholars and for faculty who do not hold tenured or tenure-track positions. To apply for the J-1 visa, scholars are issued a Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status, Form DS-2019. The HIO issues Forms DS-2019 when Harvard serves as the visa sponsor. If the scholar is sponsored by another J-1 program, such as Fulbright, WHO, or NIH, that organization is responsible for issuing the Form DS-2019.The HIO still asks the department to enter the required information to ISD, and the scholar must still register with the HIO.

U.S. Government regulations require J-1 and J-2 visa holders to have health insurance during their stay in the United States. Please refer to the Health Care and Insurance section of this web site for more information on health insurance policies that fulfill these requirements. During a scholar's registration with the HIO, their obligation to maintain the required health insurance coverage will be acknowledged and confirmed.

In some cases, the J-1 visa carries a "two-year home country residence requirement" which requires the J visa holders to return to their home countries for two years before being eligible for certain non-immigrant visas and all immigrant visas. This restriction applies to those financially supported by the U.S. government (e.g. Fulbright grantees) or by their own governments (including travel grants) during any part of their stay in the United States in J visa status. In addition, the two-year home country residence requirement is imposed on those whose skills are needed in their home countries, as registered in the Exchange Visitor Skills List. This requirement also applies to all foreign medical graduates who enter the United States to undertake internships, residencies, or clinical training programs under the J-1 sponsorship of ECFMG. Under certain circumstances, it is possible to obtain a waiver of the two-year home country residence requirement.