J-1 Visa Characteristics
This section serves as an overview of J-1 regulations relevant to professors and researchers, not to J-1 Student Interns. To learn more about J-1 Student Interns, visit our J-1 Student Intern overview.
J-1 Scholar (Professors and Researchers) Categories
Within the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, there are two categories commonly used at Columbia. Each particular category governs the terms and duration of the exchange.
The following regulations apply to both J-1 categories:
12 and 24 Month Bars
There might be a wait time before a professor or scholar may begin their program at Columbia if they have been in the U.S. in a J-1 category. The category is listed is section 4 of the DS-2019. These wait times are referred to as the 12 and 24-month bars. The J-1 Exchange Visitor program supports its underlying premise of fostering mutual exchange by preventing immediate repeat participation through these bars.
The bars do not apply to anyone coming from or to a short-term scholar category.
The 12-Month Bar
An individual is not eligible for the J-1 category of professor or research scholar if he or she has been physically present in the United States in J-1 or J-2 status for all or part of the twelve-month period immediately preceding the intended start date of a program unless:
The 24-Month Bar
Those who complete a J-1 or J-2 program, regardless of the duration of their program, are barred for two years from beginning a new J-1 research scholar/professor program.
This bar does not apply to those who are in the J-1 short term scholar category.
Two-Year Home Residency Requirement
This requirement, also known as 212(e), does not apply to all J-1s. If subject, it means the J-1 individual (and J-2 dependents) are required to fulfill this requirement by returning to the country of nationality or last legal permanent residence for a cumulative period of at least two years (24 months) before being eligible to obtain H-1B, L, Permanent Residency status or changing visa status within the U.S.
The two-year home residency requirement applies for one or more of the following three reasons:
- Government Funding – If the scholar is receiving home government or third-country government funding or are named in a U.S. government grant or award designed to facilitate exchange.
- Skills List– If the area of expertise and training is determined by home country as being in short supply and is listed on the U.S. government’s skills list.
- Graduate Medical Training – If your J-1 program is sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).
Being subject to this requirement does not prevent a return in another visa status (for example as a tourist or F-1 student) at any time without a waiting period. Such a change of visa status, however, can occur only through international travel and re-entry and not within the U.S.
Generally, you are subject to 212(e) if there is a notation on the J-1 entry visa and/or on the lower section of your DS-2019, but sometimes it may be unclear if the requirement applies.
In such situations, the J-1 may request an Advisory Opinion from the Department of State. An Advisory Opinion is a review of your exchange visitor program documents to determine if you are subject to this requirement. Learn more on the Advisory Opinions webpage.
- The J-1 may be able to obtain a waiver of the requirement by applying to the Waiver Review Division. The Waiver Review Division will review the request and will make a recommendation to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) either for or against a waiver. It is the DHS which makes the final decision, although in most cases it will accept the recommendation of the Waiver Review Division. See instructions for applying for a waiver on the Department of State website.
If the J-1 is subject to the 2-Year Home Country requirement, any J-2 dependents are subject as well.
If the J-1 obtains a waiver, J-2 dependents are included.
After a waiver has been granted
Once the J-1 has obtained a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement, they are no longer be eligible for a J-1 extension or transfer, or for a new J-1 entry visa to be issued by a consulate abroad. Please discuss your future plans with an adviser before beginning the process of applying for a waiver.
- A waiver alone does not extend one's stay in the U.S.
- All waiver application procedures are time-consuming. The J-1 Exchange Visitor needs to be aware that it may take up to a year or longer to obtain a waiver.