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Overview of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program


The J Exchange Visitor category was developed to implement the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act (Fulbright-Hayes Act) of 1961. The overall purpose of that Act, and the objective of the Exchange Visitor category, is "to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges." Virginia Tech is one of the organizations who have been designated by the Department of State as a J-1 Exchange Visitor Program Sponsor which allows Virginia Tech to host foreign nationals as participants in educational and cultural exchange programs conducted at Virginia Tech. 

Frequently Used Terminology

Electronic records for all J-1 exchange visitors are maintained in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).  GSS creates a SEVIS record for each exchange visitor Virginia Tech sponsors and is required to report certain information or changes for these exchange visitors.  Furthermore, some types of changes are not allowed.  For this reason, it is very important that VT departments hosting J-1 exchange visitors inform GSS in advance of any anticipated changes to a Scholar or Student Intern’s J program such as funding changes, change in work site, changes in program length, etc.

Form DS-2019. All exchange visitors are issued a document called a Form DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (“DS-2019” for short) which is generated by SEVIS upon the creation of a new record or when changes are made to an existing record.  Participants use this document to obtain a J visa and enter the United States on the J visa as “exchange visitors.” GSS will issue the DS-2019 upon receipt of a complete and accurate J-1 Scholar and Student Intern Request form. 

Visa status refers to your formal immigration classification in the U.S. as indicated on one’s I-94 record. It is possible to have multiple visas in one’s passport, but an individual can only have one immigration status while in the U.S. One’s visa may expire while in the country, but one’s status should not.

The expiration date of your status at the port of entry is shown on your I-94 record. This date might be different than the visa expiration date and/or the end date on your immigration documents (e.g. DS-2019). For J-1/J-2, the I-94 record should always state D/S (Duration of Status) as the expiration date.  

A visa, or visa stamp, is a physical stamp/sticker in your passport that is issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate outside of the U.S. It indicates that you are eligible to apply for entry to the U.S. in a specific visa category (e.g., J-1/J-2). Please note that Canadian citizens are not required to have a U.S. visa, but are required to have all other documentation for entry into the U.S.

A visa in your passport issued by from a U.S. consulate does not determine how long you can remain in the United States; it is only an entry document. Therefore, you may stay in the U. S. beyond the expiration date of a visa as long as you are maintaining your J-1/J-2 status and the immigration document (DS-2019) remains valid.