J-1 Research Scholar and Professor Visa

The majority of international scholars at Harvard are brought to the U.S. on a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa, which is governed by the U.S. Department of State. The purpose of the J-1 visa is to promote the exchange of ideas, research, mutual enrichment and linkages between research and academic institutions in the U.S. and foreign countries. Professors, research scholars and other individuals with similar education or accomplishments travel to the United States to lecture, observe, consult, train or demonstrate special skills at research institutions, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited academic institutions or similar types of institutions.


To qualify for the J-1 Research Scholar or Professor visa, and individual must be offered a full-time academic appointment at the University or affiliated hospital. In addition, Department of State regulations require international scholars on the J-1 visa to have either a fully in person or hybrid schedule. Scholars cannot be fully remote on the J-1 visa. If a department is considering a remote position for an international scholar, contact the HIO before proceeding with the visa sponsorship request.  

Duration of the J-1 Visa

J-1 visa holders in the Research Scholar and Professor categories may remain in the United States for up to five years on the J-1 visa. There are some restrictions to these categories. Individuals who have been in the United State as J-1 Exchange Visitors in any category for more than 6 months are not eligible for the Research Scholar or Professor category unless they have been outside the United States for the previous 12 months. In addition, research scholars or professors who complete their J-1 programs and leave the United States may not return in the Research Scholar or Professor category of the J-1 visa for 24 months. For more information, please see here

Requesting J-1 Sponsorship

To request J-1 visa sponsorship for an incoming scholar, a department administrator must create and submit a record to the HIO via the intake database ISD. For instructions, please see Step 2: Initiate Visa Sponsorship Request.

Employment Activities Outside Harvard

J-1 visa holders at Harvard are expected to conduct their academic activities at Harvard only. However, it is possible for J-1 Research Scholars or Professors to accept occasional lecture or consultation opportunities and to accept reimbursement for expenses. If an occasional lecture or consultation involves compensation for services, the J-1 Research Scholar or Professor must obtain written permission from the HIO before participating in this type of activity outside Harvard. 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.

Extending a J-1 Scholar

Scholars on the J-1 visa may be extended up to 5 years maximum. Departments must request the extension before the current Form DS-2019 expires (see the dates on section #3 of the DS-2019 form). There must be adequate funding to cover the new time period, and the department must support extending the academic appointment with the University.

To request an extension, the department hosting the scholar must confirm the scholar's reappointment and funding has been finalized. The department then must send a Notice of Extension form to the HIO prior to the scholar's DS-2019 end date.

After the request is made, the HIO may issue an extended Form DS-2019. 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.

Transferring a J-1 Scholar

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 their 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. All transfer requests must be made before the end date on your DS-2019 form.

J-2 Dependents

The married spouse and children under the age of 21 are eligible to apply for the J-2 dependent visa. J-2 dependents may apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for permission to work in the United States. The HIO is able to assist with these applications.