Office of International Affairs

Exchange Visitors (J-1)

The J Exchange Visitor classification authorized by I.N.A. 101(a)(15)(J) was developed to implement the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. The general purpose of the Act and the objective of the Exchange Visitor classification 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." 22 C.F.R. 62.1 (a)

Five principal parties interact in the J Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) process:

The Department of State (DOS) designates program sponsors, issues J visas to Exchange Visitors and their dependents, and creates and administers federal regulations and policies governing the EVP.

The Exchange Visitor Program Sponsor is a legal entity that has applied for and received designation from DOS to conduct an Exchange Visitor Program. At UTHealth, the Office of International Affairs (OIA) is solely responsible for issuing Forms DS-2019, maintaining SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) records, monitoring Exchange Visitor activities and compliance with EVP regulations.

Responsible Officers (RO) and Alternate Responsible Officers (ARO) are the only individuals authorized to represent the Exchange Visitor Program and perform the duties set forth by the regulations. At UTHealth, they are the International Visitor Advisors from the Office of International Affairs.

The Exchange Visitor is the foreign national selected to participate in the EVP and who is seeking to enter the U.S. temporarily on a J-1 visa. The term does not include the visitor's immediate family. Spouse and/or children are referred to as J-2 dependents.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) admits a foreign national to the U.S. in J Exchange Visitor status. DHS maintains the SEVIS database, in cooperation with the Department of State

Exchange Visitor Program Activity Categories Commonly Used at UTHealth

The Exchange Visitor Program through different categories of participation enable foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to study, teach, conduct research, demonstrate special skills or receive on the job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years. As a higher education institution, UTHealth is designated by the U.S. Department of State to sponsor students and scholars in several categories:

J-1 Short-term Scholars: this category of the J-1 visa is usually appropriate for exchange visitors invited to lecture, observe, consult, or conduct similar types of educational or professional activities for up to six (6) months. There is no minimum length of stay required for short-term scholars and stay may not be extended beyond six months. To learn about the different categories of visitors at UTHealth, visit the Office of the Executive Vice President for Academic and Research Affairs (EVPARA). For some visitors, the J-1 visa in the Short-term Scholar category might be the most appropriate. Contact the Office of International affairs to discuss visa options.  

J-1 Professors and Research Scholars: with an specific objective , foreign professors and research scholars can be invited to teach classes (non-tenure Professors) and/or conduct research in a particular field (Research Scholar). This category is used for programs up to five (5) years and imposes a 24-month bar on repeat participation after completing the program. The five-year period is not an aggregate of five years but a continuous five-year period given on "use or lose" basis. Additionally, as federal regulations establish what is referred to as a "12-month bar", time spent in another J visa status may affect a visitor's eligibility to participate as a professor or researcher. To be eligible for this J-1category a scholar may be financed by:

    • The program sponsor (college or university), 
    • A U.S. government agencies, 
    • International organizations, 
    • The exchange visitor's foreign government, 
    • The Bi-national Commission of the scholar's country, 
    • Other organizations, 
    • Personal funds.

J-1 Students:

Foreign students have the opportunity to study at an American degree-granting post-secondary accredited academic institutions, or participate in a student internship program that will fulfill the educational objectives of the student’s degree program in his or her home country.

To be eligible for this visa category, a college or university student must meet one of the following criteria:

    • The student or program is financed directly or indirectly by the U.S. government, the student's home country government, or an international organization
    • The program is pursuant a written agreement between American and foreign educational institutions or between the U.S. government and a foreign government
    • The student is supported substantially by funding other than personal or family funds.
    • University/College students may engage in a full time degree-granting program until completion or in a non-degree granting program for no more than 24 months.  

J-1 Physicians

This category is utilized by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) to sponsor foreign national physicians who come to the U.S. for graduate medical education or training. J-1 exchange visitors coming to the U.S. on the 'Physician' category of the J-1 are required to return to their home country for a period of two years upon completion of medical training and prior to obtaining other work-authorized nonimmigrant status, or obtaining permanent residence.

J-1 physicians planning on joining or continuing medical training at UTHealth on J-1 ECFMG Sponsorship are welcome to visit our dedicated page for appropriate instructions and forms

Health Insurance Requirement

All exchange visitors (J-1) and their dependents (J-2) in any of the sponsored categories are required by federal regulations to maintain basic health insurance coverage coverage

J-2 Visa Status for Dependents

The J-2 visa is a non-immigrant U.S. visa, which is issued to the family members of a J-1 visa holder. This dependent visa is appropriate for the spouse and unmarried children (under age 21), who want to accompany the J-1 holder to the United States. The J-2 visa holders can reside in the United States as long as the J1 visa holders remain in valid J-1 status.

J-2 dependents may request work authorization from USCIS if J-2 can state that money is needed for his/her expenses and not to financially support the J-1 visa holder. J-2 dependents may engage in full-time or part-time study while maintaining “J” status.

Contact us for questions related to sponsorship under the UTHealth J exchange Visitor Program