J-1 Scholars

Photo of researcher examining a chart Western Michigan University is a designated sponsor under the U.S. Department of State Exchange Visitor Program. WMU is honored to host our visiting scholars on our campus in Kalamazoo, Michigan pursuant to the Exchange Visitor Program.

WMU provides program-related immigration services for prospective scholars who are selected for faculty visits or research in a hosting WMU department.

Process for inviting visiting scholars

BEFORE you make a decision to host a scholar, collect:

A)  A Letter of intent—A letter on institutional letterhead requesting the visit must be submitted to the WMU  department the scholar is interested in visiting. The letter must include:

  • The nature and length of visit (e.g., research collaboration, observing classroom processes, delivering lectures on the scholar's area of expertise, etc.).
  • Method(s) of financial support (e.g., fellowships, grants or resources to support transportation, lodging and living expenses during stay).

B)  A curriculum vitae—A CV must be submitted in electronic format to the WMU department the scholar is interested in visiting.   

REVIEW guidance for WMU colleges and departments planning to invite a J-1 Scholar on the J-1 Exchange Visitor page to learn about qualifications and requirements for this visa type.

AFTER you decide that you can sponsor the scholar, then:

A) Contact WMU Export Control Committee to obtain an export control determination letter at (269) 387-8293 or via email at research-compliance@wmich.edu AND consult with WMU International Student and Scholar Services before you issue an invitation letter.

B) Collect and submit a complete J-1 Scholar Application to WMU International Student and Scholar Services—  The WMU faculty liaison for the hosting department submits to the director of Immigration Compliance a complete application, including the J-1 Request Form Part A and Part B and all items listed on the J-1 Scholar Application Checklist. These checklist and all forms may be found on the Forms page. Within 10 days processing time, a package including the immigration Form DS-2019 will be prepared and shipped to the visiting scholar with instructions on applying for a J visa.

Guidance for WMU colleges and departments planning to invite a J-1 Scholar, including qualifications and visa requirements, is explained on J-1 Exchange Visitor page.

Roles and responsibilities of an exchange visitor

J-1 Scholars on WMU's DS-2019 should be aware of how the federal immigration regulations will affect them.

Important note: This information is not exhaustive and is subject to change without notice. Scholars should contact the immigration officer in Immigration Compliance at (269) 387-5865 to arrange an appointment to discuss any change in program or questions and concerns related to the scholar's legal status in the U.S.

Arrival of a J-1 Scholar

The scholar must make an appointment to visit WMU International Student and Scholar Services for immigration orientation, including check-in, immediately upon arriving in the U.S. If this is not possible, the scholar must report to Immigration Compliance within seven days of arrival in the U.S. This includes all J-1 Scholars (paid or unpaid by the University). If the scholar's SEVIS record is not activated within 30 days of the program start date, the scholar will be out of status and must leave the country. The start date can be found on the DS-2019 issued by WMU.

If the scholar is unable to make the arrival date listed on the DS-2019, the host department must contact WMU International Student and Scholar Services so that the entry date can be deferred in SEVIS. If this is not done, and the scholar checks in beyond 30 days, there will be no way to activate the record in SEVIS. It is critical for the scholar to be in contact with the host department and WMU International Student and Scholar Services to confirm the arrival date.

During immigration orientation, the scholar must provide WMU International Student and Scholar Services with a U.S. address. This address must be a local residence. It cannot be a P.O. Box or an office address. It can be a "care of" address. Bring the DS-2019, arrival/departure record (I-94), passport, and proof of health insurance for the scholar and any J-2 Dependents to check-in.

While in the U.S.

  • The scholar and any dependents must have current passports and arrival/departure records (I-94) at all times. An expired passport or arrival/departure record will mean that the scholar is out of status. If the scholar is out of status, so are the J-2 Dependents.
  • Always be in possession of a valid DS-2019, which accurately reflects the purpose for being at WMU. If it is about to expire, the scholar should request an extension from the host department to submit an extension request to WMU International Student and Scholar Services (no earlier than three months in advance, but no later than 30 days in advance).
  • The scholar and any dependents are required to maintain health insurance and repatriation/medical evacuation coverage (which is not covered by health insurance provided through employment with WMU and must be purchased separately) during the J exchange visitor program in the U.S.
  • If traveling, the scholar must come to WMU International Student and Scholar Services to have the DS-2019 signed for travel. In addition, a notice of absence form will need to be filled out each time the scholar is leaving the U.S. If this is not done, the J-1 immigration status may be in jeopardy.
  • Any event that may affect the scholar's immigration status must be reported. Examples include the birth of a child, marriage, change of legal name, divorce, or death. This rule also extends to J-2 Dependents.
  • The scholar must report any change of address to WMU International Student and Scholar Services within 10 days.
  • If working at WMU, the scholar will need a social security number. Please contact WMU International Student and Scholar Services for further information.


When the program is finished, the scholar must check out with WMU International Student and Scholar Services. This is required to report the program end date to the federal government. This could be the end date on the DS-2019 or it could be a prior date if the program is completed early.

Extension of stay

  • Request for extension must be made by the host department.
  • The program must be extended before the end date on the current DS-2019. If the end date lapses, no extension is possible and the scholar must leave the U.S.
  • To ensure that this process runs smoothly, have the host department send WMU International Student and Scholar Services extension paperwork at least 30 days prior to the program end date, but no earlier than three months prior to the current program end date. WMU International Student and Scholar Services will then verify if the scholar is eligible for an extension and process the request.

Transfer to another J program

J-1 Scholars who plan to transfer to another institution must inform WMU International Student and Scholar Services of their intent to do so prior to transferring so that this can be properly noted in SEVIS. The scholar will need to pick up and complete a transfer out form from Immigration Compliance. Through SEVIS, the current J program and the transferring J program will work together to complete the transfer process.

Other issues

  • Reinstatement to legal status will rarely be granted in the U.S. to scholars that lose their status. If out of status, the scholar must return home with no guarantee of being issued a visa to return to the U.S.
  • J-2 Dependents may request work permission from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or attend school while they are in the U.S.
  • If the scholar has a U.S.-source income in any given year, U.S. income tax returns must be filed. Even without U.S. income, the scholar and J-2 Dependents must file Form 8843 each year. Contact the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for more information.

J-1 Scholar incidental employment

In general, J-1 Scholars shall conduct their exchange visitor activity only at their sponsoring department at WMU. An exception exists for occasional or incidental lectures and short-term consultation in the field of endeavor, known as incidental employment. All incidental employment must be approved by the immigration officer in WMU International Student and Scholar Services in writing before the employment takes place.

Proposed incidental employment must meet the following criteria:

  • Be directly related to the objectives of the exchange visitor's program.
  • Be incidental to the exchange visitor's primary program activities.
  • Not delay the complete date of the exchange visitor's program at WMU.
  • In order to receive written approval for J-1 Scholar's incidental employment, the scholar must present the following two documents to the immigration officer:
    1. A letter from the prospective employer or host setting forth the terms and conditions of the offer to lecture or consult, including the duration, number of hours, field or subject, amount of compensation, and detailed description of such activity.
    2. A letter from the WMU host department chair or supervisor recommending the incidental employment and explaining how it would enhance the scholar's program.

After receiving the above documents, the immigration officer will note the approval in SEVIS and issue an approval letter to the scholar prior to the start of activity. Please allow 10 business days for processing.

Note: If the J-1 visa is sponsored by an organization other than WMU, WMU International Student and Scholar Services cannot approve incidental employment. Please contact the sponsoring organization that issued the DS-2019 with questions concerning incidental employment authorization.

For J-2 employment, see the J-2 Dependent employment information.

Visit the Forms page for the following forms:

  • Change of Address Notification
  • Dependent Request
  • J-1 Exchange Visitor Transfer Out Request
  • J-1/J-2 Health Insurance Verification Form for Exchange Visitors
  • J-1 Notice of Absence
  • J-1 Request Form—Part A (to be completed by department)
  • J-1 Request Form—Part B (to be completed by the exchange visitor)
  • J-1 Scholar Application Checklist