J-1 Exchange Visitor

Visiting professors, research scholars, short-term scholars and specialists are eligible to participate in Western Michigan University's Exchange Visitor Program. Note that the WMU department inviting and hosting the scholar is responsible for compiling and submitting scholar applications to WMU Immigration Compliance.

Below is information, instructions, and requirements for inviting a J-1 scholar to WMU.

General Information, Scholar Categories, and Appointment

General Information

According to the United States Department of State, the purpose of the program is to foster the exchange of ideas between Americans and foreign nationals and to stimulate international collaborative teaching and research efforts. The exchange of visiting scholars promotes interchange, mutual enrichment and linkages between research and educational institutions in the U.S. with foreign countries. Participants in this program will enter the U.S. with a J-1 visa and be identified as exchange visitors. Their activities are primarily teaching, lecturing, observing or conducting research.

Categories and time limitations

Participants are accepted into the program under the following categories:

  • Professor—an individual primarily teaching, lecturing, observing or consulting. A professor may also conduct research. Minimum stay of three weeks required. Maximum stay of five years.
  • Research Scholar—an individual primarily conducting research, observing or consulting in connection with a research project. The research scholar may also teach or lecture. Minimum stay of three weeks required. Maximum stay of five years.
  • Short-Term Scholar—an individual coming to the U.S. for a period of up to six months to lecture, observe, consult and participate in seminars, workshops, conferences, study tours, professional meetings or similar types of educational and professional activities. No minimum stay required. Maximum stay of six months.
  • Specialist—an individual that is an expert in a field of specialized knowledge or skill who provides opportunities to increase the exchange of ideas with American counterparts. No minimum stay required. Maximum stay of one year.
  • Intern—an individual that is participating in a structure and guided work-based internship program in a specific academic field. No minimum stay required. Maximum stay of one year. Special note: WMU departments which would like to sponsor a J-1 intern to work on campus for WMU should schedule a consultation with the immigration officer to review eligibility. The US State Department prohibits universities from placing J-1 interns in certain fields. Program exclusions: sponsors designated by the department to administer training and internship programs must not place trainees or interns in unskilled or casual labor positions, in positions that require or involved child care or elder care; or in clinical or any other kind of work that involves patient care or patient contact, including any work that would require trainees or interns to provide therapy, medication, or other clinical or medical care (e.g., sports or physical therapy, psychological counseling, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, social work, speech therapy, early childhood education) (22 CFR 62.22).

A foreign national is ineligible to participate in a professor/research scholar exchange program if a J nonimmigrant status was held within the 12-month period immediately preceding the start of the exchange program. The 12-month period applies to spouses and dependents as well as principal nonimmigrants.

The immigration regulation prohibits foreign nationals from engaging in repeat participation in the J-1 Professor/Research Scholar Exchange Program category for a period of two years immediately following the completion of the J-1 Professor/Research Scholar program participation, even if the time participating in the program was less than five years (i.e. two-year bar on repeat participation). For more information, contact Immigration Compliance.

Once a J-1/J-2 receives either a waiver approval notice from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services/Department of Homeland Security or a waiver recommendation from the U.S. Department of State they are no longer eligible for any extensions, transfers, etc., as they are no longer considered as a bona fide exchange visitor by the U.S. Department of State, which oversees the J Exchange Visitor Program. The J-1 will be allowed to finish the current exchange program until the end date listed on the current DS-2019. A J-1/J-2 should plan the timing of a waiver application carefully.


The appointment to a position should be temporary, even if the position itself is permanent. The exchange visitor should not be a candidate for tenure in a tenure-track position (22 CFR 514.20d). Professors and research scholars may give occasional lectures and short-term consultations incidental to their primary activities. If such activities will involve wages or other remuneration, the scholar must obtain written authorization in advance from Immigration Compliance.

Inviting a J-1 Scholar: Instructions for WMU Host Department

The WMU host department is responsible for compiling and submitting an application package to WMU Immigration Compliance.

Application Package (to be collected and submitted by WMU host department)

  1. Export Control Decision Letter from WMU Export Control Committee at Office of the Vice President for Research.*
  2. Immigration Services J-1 DS-2019 request forms
    A. Part A: J-1 Form DS-2019 Request (to be completed by WMU host department)
    B. Part B: J-1 Form DS-2019 Request (to be completed by exchange visitor).
  3. Copy of WMU Letter of offer of employment, if funded by WMU.
  4. Copy of WMU invitation letter, if funded by source other than WMU.**
  5. Certified financial documents (translated to English), if funded by source other than WMU.
  6. Copies of previous DS-2019/IAP-66s, if any.
  7. Copy of scholar's curriculum vitae.
  8. Copy of applicant's resume indicating the completion of a bachelor's degree (minimum).
  9. Copy of applicant's passport and arrival/departure record (I-94), if any.
  10. Insurance Acknowledgement Form signed by J-1 scholar.
  11. Proof of English language proficiency of J-1 scholar.
  12. Dependent request form (if requesting dependents):
    A.Dependent I-20/DS-2019 Request form
    B. Proof of relationship of each dependent such as passports, marriage certificate and/or birth certificate translated in English.
    C. Bank statement showing at least an additional $4000 per year per dependent.

*An export control determination should be completed before a formal/written WMU invitation is extended. Contact the WMU Research Compliance Coordinator in the Office of the Vice President for Research to obtain an export control determination at (269) 387-8293 or via email at research-compliance@wmich.edu. For more information, visit the export control page of the research website. A copy of the export control determination letter must be submitted with the application materials to Immigration Compliance

**Please refer to the sample WMU invitation letter for a J-1 Exchange Visitor for the prescribed format. WMU's immigration officer will review the draft letter prior to sending it to the international visitor.

Submitting Application Package (to be submitted by WMU host department):

Before forwarding the completed application package to WMU Immigration Compliance, reference the J-1 Scholar Application Checklist.

Forward the application package to:
Immigration Compliance
Attention: Immigration Officer
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5246 USA

For further assistance, call the WMU immigration officer at (269) 387-5865.

Once all necessary documents are received by Immigration Compliance, a DS-2019 form (J-1 immigration document) will be issued within 10 business days. Immigration Compliance will request the department's fund and cost center to cover the cost of shipping the documents to the scholar abroad. Once the scholar receives the documents they will be able to apply for a J-1 visa.

The U.S. Department of State regulations require that all J-1 Scholars and their J-2 Dependents carry a comprehensive health plan for the duration of their visit. WMU's employee health insurance plan does not include repatriation and medical evacuation insurance. The scholar must purchase it separately and provide proof to Immigration Compliance.

Requirements for Export Control, Minimum Funding and Health Insurance

Export Control requirements

J-1 Visiting Scholar requests first require clearance from the WMU Export Control Committee in the Office of the Vice President for Research. The sponsoring department must contact the research office at research-compliance@wmich.edu or (269) 387-8293 for an export control decision. For more information, visit the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Minimum funding requirements

These figures will help determine minimum financial support required to host an exchange visitor and any dependents. These funds may come from WMU or an organization, or the individual may be supported by their own resources and should be equal to or greater than $1500 per month ($18,000 per year).

An additional $4000 per year will be required if the scholar plans to bring a dependent. For a J-1 stay of less than an academic year, please pro-rate based on the 12-month funding requirements. The exchange visitor must also be prepared to meet increasing costs due to inflation and other fluctuating economic conditions on a continuing basis.

If the exchange visitor is not a salaried employee at WMU, Immigration Compliance needs to confirm the exchange visitor has sufficient funding to cover the entire period of stay. If the exchange visitor is funded by an organization, the funding promise letter from the organization should list the entire funding required or the annual funding, in addition to the length of its financial sponsorship. If the funding is not adequate, Immigration Compliance will issue the Form DS-2019 for the period which could be covered by the funding available at the time of the DS-2019 issuance. The exchange visitor can later apply for an extension with a new financial document that is less than six months old.

Health insurance requirements

Unlike other immigration categories, the U.S. Department of State federally mandates that all J-1 and J-2 status holders carry adequate health insurance coverage. The exchange visitor must purchase insurance immediately upon arrival in the U.S. for themselves and any dependents. If the exchange visitor and any dependents fail to maintain the mandatory health insurance coverage, they will be in violation of federal immigration regulations, will be subject to termination as a participant, and must leave the U.S. immediately.

Insurance coverage must:

  • Cover the entire period of participation in the Exchange Visitor Program.
  • Provide a minimum of $100,000 per accident or illness.
  • Provide a minimum amount of $50,000 coverage for medical evacuation for emergency transportation back to the home country.
  • Repatriation must be covered in the amount of $25,000, minimum. If death occurs, repatriation insurance covers the cost of transporting the body back to the home country.
  • The deductible must not exceed $500 per accident or illness.

For additional health insurance information and detailed requirements, please reference the International Admissions and Service's health insurance page.

English Proficiency 

The U.S. Department of State requires exchange visitors to have enough sufficient English language proficiency to perform their jobs or complete their programs; to navigate daily life in the United States; to read and comprehended program materials; to understand fully their responsibilities, rights, and protections; and to know how to obtain assistance, if necessary.

Verification of sufficient English language proficiency is mandatory, and sponsors must ensure that J-1 exchange visitors have verifiable English language skills sufficient to function on a day-to-day basis and in their program environment before issuing a DS-2019.

Sponsors must use one of the following objective measurements of English language proficiency:

  1. A recognized English language test
    a. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of 80ibt, 550 PBT minimum
    b. International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of 6.5 minimum
    c. Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB) score of 77 minimum
    d. International Baccalaureate (IB) grade of 5 in English at a higher level
  2. A signed documentation from an academic institution or English language school
  3. A documented interview conducted by the sponsor either in person or via videoconferencing (or telephone if videoconferencing is not a viable option). A letter is required summarizing the interview findings, including an attestation by the sponsor verifying sufficient English language proficiency to participate in the program and to navigate daily life in the United States.

Please provide certification of the above to Immigration Compliance