Graduate Research Program "Sandwich Year"

The Graduate Research Program “Sandwich Year” at Western Michigan University connects international graduate students with WMU departments, professors and faculty of interest to complete research during the student’s research abroad or “sandwich” year.  To apply, graduate students will complete an intake form describing their intended research and identifying specific faculty members of interest. WMU departments and faculty members will review the intake forms and contact eligible students to negotiate terms and complete export control review. International graduate students must have funding for their research, living expenses, health insurance, transportation and housing during their stay.  

Currently, international graduate researchers may apply to conduct research with departments and faculty in the College of Engineering and Applied SciencesHaworth College of Business, or the College of Fine Arts (School of Music).

College of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Haworth College of Business
College of Fine Arts (School of Music)

Application Process   Roles & Responsibilities

Application process for international graduate student researcher

Research at Western Michigan University is a strategic way to enhance your professional resume and work with talented professionals in your field. To participate in the Graduate Research Program "Sandwich Year" at WMU, please complete the following steps:

1.  Explore
2.  Apply

NOTE: The Intake Form explains your research interest, scope, and desired length of stay and outlines your available method(s) of financial support (e.g., scholarships, fellowships, grants or resources to support transportation, lodging and living expenses during your stay).

If the WMU department is interested in considering your application, you will be guided to the steps below.

3.  Export Control Review

NOTE: The WMU hosting department may elect to negotiate terms before undergoing Export Control Review.

4.  Negotiate Terms

If the WMU department offers an invitation to research at WMU, you will be guided to the step below.

5.  J-1 Scholar Visa Application
  • WMU Immigration Compliance assists approved international graduate student researchers with the J-1 Scholar Visa application process and collects fees. 
  • You will be asked to provide documents and materials as required by the J-1 Scholar Visa application process (e.g., proof of funding, proof of insurance, proof of English proficiency, CV, diploma, copy of passport, Immigration Compliance Request Forms, fees).

Roles and responsibilities of an international graduate student researcher

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

Arrival of a J-1 Scholar

The scholar must make an appointment to visit Immigration Compliance 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 Immigration Compliance 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 Immigration Compliance to confirm the arrival date.

During immigration orientation, the scholar must provide Immigration Compliance 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 Immigration 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 Immigration Compliance 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 conduct their program as indicated on the DS-2019 form. The DS-2019 form approves a specific program at a specific location with a specific funding source. Any changes must be submitted to Immigration Compliance and approved in SEVIS in advance. An updated DS-2019 will be issued upon approval.
  • The scholar must report any change of address to Immigration Compliance within 10 days.
  • If working at WMU, the scholar will need a social security number. Please contact Immigration Compliance for further information.

Important note: This information is not exhaustive and is subject to change. International Graduate Student Researchers (scholars) should contact 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.


When the program is finished, the scholar must check out with Immigration Compliance. 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 Immigration Compliance 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. Immigration Compliance 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 Immigration Compliance 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.