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Overview of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program

Purpose. The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program exists to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges.  The purpose of the J-1 program is to provide foreign nationals with opportunities to participate in educational and cultural programs in the United States and return home to share their experiences, and to encourage Americans to participate in educational and cultural programs in other countries. The U.S. Department of State has designated Virginia Tech as a J-1 Program Sponsor which allows VT to host foreign nationals as participants in educational and cultural exchange programs conducted by Virginia Tech.  

SEVIS. 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).  ISS 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 ISS 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.”    ISS will issue the DS-2019 upon receipt of a complete and accurate J-1 Scholar and Student Intern Request form. 

J-1 Appointments at Virginia Tech

J-1 status is a nonimmigrant status meaning that exchange visitor programs are temporary in nature.  For this reason, the use of J-1 status for permanent or tenure track appointments is prohibited.  Furthermore, the J-1 visa is not an employment visa, although an exchange visitor may receive compensation from Virginia Tech when employment activities are part of the exchange visitor's program.  Appropriate activities for J-1 exchange visitors vary based on the J-1 category but in general, the J-1 categories for which Virginia Tech is designated allow for conducting research, teaching, consulting, observing, and participating in work-based learning internships. 

The following restrictions on J-1 appointments should be considered before inviting a J-1 visitor to Virginia Tech:

  1. J-1 status at Virginia Tech may not be used for clinical activities.  This includes any hands-on patient contact, or clinical internships, residencies, externships in the VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine or the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.  
  2. J-1 Scholars and Student Interns are not VT enrolled students.  Therefore a J-1 Scholar or Student Intern will not be allowed to register for or audit classes.
  3. Since Scholars and Student Interns are not VT students, they also do not have access to services usually associated with VT students such as BT Transit, housing in residence halls, use of student recreation facilities, VT health insurance, Schiffert Health Center, Cook Counseling Center, etc.
  4. If currently enrolled in an institution abroad, J-1 Scholars and Student Interns will not receive a VT seal on their diploma or any kind of VT certificate.
  5. Generally a foreign national cannot begin as a J-1 Scholar or Student Intern and then change to become a student while in the U.S. as this process is either prohibited or takes too long to complete.  Instead, the scholar or student intern would usually have to travel internationally, obtain a student visa, and re-enter the U.S. in order to obtain the necessary immigration status to study as a student.