Hosting J-1 Exchange Visitors at Texas A&M University San Antonio

 

The J-1 "Exchange Visitor" visa is a non-immigrant (temporary) visa. The purpose of the J-1 visa is to increase mutual understanding between people of the U.S. and people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges, thereby strengthening the ties between the nations. Texas A&M University San Antonio sponsors “Exchange Visitors” for full-time and temporary activities that include teaching, lecturing, observing, consulting, conducting research, or interning. At the time of appointment, the expectation is that the Exchange Visitor will return home upon completion of the activity.

J-1 Categories sponsored at A&M-SA

Texas A&M University-San Antonio sponsors four (4) categories under the J-1 Exchange Visitor program:

Student Intern: Objectives are for foreign college and university students to come to the United States to gain exposure to U.S. culture and to receive hands-on experience.  Student interns may participate in an internship program for a minimum of 3 weeks and up to 12 months for each foreign degree/major.

Short-Term Scholar: Objectives can be to lecture, observe, consult, train, or demonstrate special skills. Short-term scholars will come to the U.S. for a short visit and have no plans to continue beyond the 6-month limit. Visiting Short-term scholars may stay in the U.S. anywhere from 1 day to 6 months.

Professor: The primary purpose is to teach, lecture, observe, or consult. The professor may also engage in research and participate in occasional lectures if authorized by the program sponsor. Visiting Professors may participate in the program for a minimum of 3 weeks and up to a total of 5 years, which includes transfers between exchange visitor programs.

Research Scholar: This category is for an individual whose primary purpose is to perform research, observe, or consult in connection with a research project.  Visiting Research Scholars may participate in the program for a minimum of 3 weeks and up to a total of 5 years, which includes transfers between exchange visitor programs. They may not change their objective in the U.S.

Obtaining J-1 Status at A&M-SA

The departments at A&M-SA must carefully select and screen prospective exchange visitors to ensure that their English language proficiency and academic background are suitable for the intended activity, and that they have adequate financial support including health insurance. 

After the departments have screened the prospective exchange visitor, the documents must be provided to the Office of International Affairs (OIA) who facilitates the immigration process. It is the OIA’s responsibility for analyzing the documentation and determining eligibility for the Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for the J-1 Exchange Visitor visa).

 The following documents must be submitted to the OIA:

  1. A Memorandum from the Department Chair and/or Dean addressed to the Provost - The memo should include type of research/teaching the exchange visitor will be performing, include title, form of funding source, period of appointment, and percentage of time to be spent in research and/or teaching activities.
  2. Invitation Letter - This letter must outline J-1 visa sponsorship dates.   
  3. Proof of English language proficiency - Unless the exchange visitor is an English native speaker or lives in an English speaking country, they will need to submit ONE of the following:
    • Test score or result from a recognized English test (TOEFL or IELTS for example)
      • The TOEFL score should be at least 80 TOEFL IBT (550 paper-based) and the IELTS score should of at least 6.0;
      • GRE or GMAT verbal scores are acceptable; or
      • An official certification from an English academic institution or school or language training center of successfully completed English classes or training within the past two years.
  4.  A completed and signed J-1 Exchange Visitor's Information Sheet
  5. Export Controls Attestation Form w/accompanying Memo - Evidence of the sponsoring Chair/Dean having completed Export Controls Training via Train Traq will be needed.
  6. $495 - An invoice from TIEC (DS-2019/express mail charges) will be sent to your department at a later date.

To prevent our exchange visitor from encountering delays in entering the U.S. to begin their appointment, departments are advised to submit the above documentation to the OIA at least three (3) months prior to sponsorship start date.

Evidence of Funding or Financial Support

This evidence must be provided by the Exchange Visitor. Financial support may come from a variety of sources including the Exchange Visitor’s personal funds, an entity in their home country, a U.S. government agency, or Texas A&M University-San Antonio, or any combination of these. Note that personal funds or funds from family/friends are not acceptable as the sole source of funding unless your visit at A&M-SA is less than 3 months.

Evidence of funding must be in English and equivalent to U.S. dollars must be stated. Acceptable supporting documents providing sufficient financial resources are:

  • Official bank statement and bank letters - These documents should be dated within the last 6 months and must have the bank official’s signature, name of the account holder, and the final balance in the account
  • Official sponsorship letter from the home government or institution - This letter should list the scholar’s name, state the award amount, and dates of the award
  • Funding from family members - If funding comes from family members, a support letter signed by the family member arranging the funds must be provided.

Sources of funding should be sufficient to cover living expenses while the J-1 Exchange Visitor lives in San Antonio, Texas as follows:

  • J-1 Professor/Research Scholar: $1500 per month
  • J-2 spouse: $550 per month
  • J-2 child: $300 per month for each child

Health Insurance Minimum Requirements

The sponsoring department of the J-1 Exchange Visitor is required to ensure each exchange visitor and their dependents who enter the U.S. as exchange visitors have insurance in effect that covers the exchange visitor and his/her dependents for sickness or accident during the period of time that the exchange visitor participates in sponsorship's exchange visitor program. The current minimum insurance coverage requirements are:

*REQUIRED MINIMUM INSURANCE COVERAGE

 (1) Major Medical Coverage per person………............................................$100,000

(2) Medical Evacuation per person…….....…..…………………….….............$50,000

(3) Repatriation of Remains per person….....................................................$25,000

(4) Maximum Deductible per Accident/Illness................................................$ 500

It is the responsibility of the J-1 Exchange Visitor to maintain valid Medical Insurance and valid Medical Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains Insurance for the J-1 and all J-2 dependents during the entire J program as outlined on the Form DS-2019. The J-1 Exchange Visitor is also responsible for providing a copy of the valid insurance to the Office of International Affairs to maintain in their file.

*MINIMUM POLICY RATING - *(Must Comply With One) A.M. Best rating of “A-” or above; Insurance Solvency International Ltd., rating of “A-”; Standard and Poor’s rating of “A-” or above Weiss Research, Inc. rating of “B+” or above

Duration of J-1 Status

Depending on their category of participation, Exchange Visitors may hold J-1 status for just a few days or up the maximum of five (5) years plus a 30-day “grace period” following completion of the program. They are then expected to return home to exercise the skills and knowledge acquired in the United States. Employment is not permitted during the grace period.

Termination from the Program

The sponsor must terminate from the exchange visitor program any participant who willfully fails to maintain the required insurance for him or her and all J-2 family members. 

Two Year Home Residency Requirement

An exchange visitor coming to the U.S. in "J" Research/Teaching status will be subject to the two-year foreign residency requirement if his/her financial support comes from the U.S. government, his/her government, an international organization, or if his/her country and field of specialization are listed, which indicates the manpower needs of most developing countries in the world. 

NOTE: Research Scholars who receive funding from a U.S. government research grant awarded to an institution for a specific research objective are not considered to be subject to the foreign residency requirement because of such funding.

U.S. Entry Process

The exchange visitor should not make any travel arrangements to enter the U.S. until he/she receives the Form DS-2019 and is granted the "J" visa by the U.S. Embassy.

The final decision to grant the J-1 Visa is that of the U.S. Embassy or Consul abroad and is based on the applicant: 1) establishing he/she qualifies for the appointment offered (educational credentials); 2) is English proficient; 3) has sufficient funds to support his/her stay in the U.S.; 4) evidence that any prior stay in the U.S. was in compliance with the Department of Homeland Security regulations; and 5) is able to demonstrate strong ties to the home country.

The final decision to grant admission to the U.S. as a J-1 Exchange Visitor is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Inspector at the Port of Entry.  The same documentation presented to the U.S. Embassy or Consul may be requested at the U.S. Port of Entry.  

J-1 Exchange Visitors Check-In Procedures at A&M-SA

As the institution hosting the J-1 visitor, The Office of International Affairs is required by federal regulations (through TIEC) to timely report all activities of J-1 and J-2 visitors in the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).  This reporting begins upon the visitor’s arrival to the U.S. and continues throughout the period they are with our institution. 

The first obligation under the J-1 visa requires a "check-in" visit to the Office of International Affairs immediately upon the exchange visitor's arrival in the U.S.

At the time of their "check-in" visit to our office, the exchange visitor will be required to present their original valid passport, Form I-94, approved Form DS-2019, and any other immigration documents issued to them and/or their dependents (if applicable) by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The OIA will review with the visitor their immigration rights and responsibilities under the J-1 visa status. The office will also discuss insurance coverage with the visitor and will retrieve the visitor's original immigration documents for review/copying. Finally, should the visitor also have dependent spouse and/or children with them, the OIA will also review their documentation/information. 

Furthermore, if for any reason the sponsoring department is made aware that the J-1 visitor will be unable to enter the U.S. by the begin date indicated on the DS-2019, the OIA must be immediately notified in order that we may take appropriate action.  

The OIA strives to provide our international visitors with as much information as available to ensure compliance with U.S. federal regulations. For this reason, our J-1 visitors are required to check-in with the OIA at point of arrival to the U.S.  We encourage the sponsoring department to maintain constant communication with our office for any updates or information.

After Checking In

Information collected from exchange visitors during the "check-in" visit will be submitted to TIEC so that they may “validate” the J-1 exchange visitor’s program participation in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which holds their electronic immigration record. Failure to report to the Office of International Affairs and complete SEVIS validation within 30 days of the expected program start date causes the SEVIS immigration record to become inactive and automatically reports a violation of status to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Department of State.