J-1 Research Scholars Visa

The information below contains pertinent information regarding J-1 Research Scholar visa/status in the United States.

What is a J-1 Research Scholar Visa?


The J-1 visa’s formal name is the Exchange Visitor Program and is governed by the U.S. Department of State.


The Program was created to “…promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange […]”. Its purpose is to allow the J visa holder(s) to visit the U.S. to gain knowledge, skills, and ideas, and to then return to their home country and share what they have acquired during their stay.


J-1 Research Scholars must establish “nonimmigrant intent.” All J visa holders must prove their intent to return to their home country at the completion of the program.


A J-1 Research Scholar is an individual primarily conducting research, observing, or consulting in connection with a research project or plan.


The J-1 Research Scholar category has a minimum stay of three (3) weeks, and a maximum continuous stay of five (5) years. The period begins with the start date on the Form DS-2019 and remains available five years from that date or the date of the J-1 program’s conclusion.


Meharry’s Exchange Visitor Program is reviewed by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department every two years. To learn more about how the Department of State runs the J Exchange Visitor Program, please watch a short video or read the information posted on their website. You can also read their Welcome Brochure, which summarizes many of your rights as an Exchange Visitor.

Contacts and Concerns


Contact the Department of State

As a J-1 Research Scholar, your visa is governed by the U.S. Department of State (DOS). The Office of Private Sector Exchange Administration Academic and Government Programs (OPA-AG) monitors and enforces full compliance with Department regulations and policies with a focus on exchange visitor’s health, safety, and well-being; and responds to complaints and incidents. At any point prior to coming to Meharry, or during your program, you should feel free to contact the DOS using the information below.

Meharry Medical College has been approved by the U.S. Department of State to sponsor J-1 Research Scholars participating in academic research, teaching and observation at Meharry.


Individuals use the J-1 Research Scholar program for official appointments such as visiting faculty, postdoctoral or postgraduate fellows and associates, as well as other temporary academic appointments.


The J-1 visa cannot be used for ladder-track or tenured appointments as well as Managerial and Professional (M&P) or Clerical and Technical (C&T) positions. Permanent or long term academic or non academic staff positions are prohibited.

Initial Steps in J-1 Process

  1. The host Meharry department must determine that the individual has the appropriate academic credentials, funding support and English language proficiency.
  2. The department requests a Meharry appointment title, and submits data to the International Office.
  3. The International Office prints a Form DS-2019 which is mailed to the scholar.
  4. The SEVIS Fee must be paid.

Pre-Application Checklist

Before you begin the visa application process, you must have the following documents:

  • Form DS-2019 (Sent to you in the mail from Meharry after you have accepted an appointment offer). Your DS-2019 is required when applying for a J-1 Research Scholar visa at an American embassy or consulate and for entry into the United States. The DS-2019 has been produced by the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and is an acknowledgement that your record is in the SEVIS system. The form includes your SEVIS ID number, which is found in the upper right hand corner above the bar code (starting with an N) and Meharry’s program number in section two (2).
  • SEVIS Fee Receipt. All new scholars coming in J-1 status must pay a SEVIS fee prior to applying for your visa.
  • Additional DS-2019 Forms. If you have family members traveling with you in J-2 status, each J-2 dependent (spouse and child(ren) only) should have his or her own DS-2019 form. Meharry will issue a DS-2019(s) through SEVIS for their use.

The Application Process

You must apply for your visa well in advance of your arrival. In some instances it can take several weeks, and occasionally longer, to obtain the J-1 Research Scholar visa.


To apply for a U.S. visa, you will need to present the following documents at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest to you:

  • Your Form DS-2019
  • The SEVIS Fee receipt
  • A copy of your financial support documents, i.e. evidence that you have sufficient funds to meet the expenses of studying at Meharry, e.g. bank statement.

In addition, the application for a U.S. visa requires you to present:

  • A valid passport
  • Passport-size photographs
  • Completed visa applications forms (Visa application forms are available on individual consular websites.)

An application fee and an interview will also be required.


There have been (and continue to be) changes in the visa application process and these changes are usually reflected on the consular websites.


Find a U.S. Consulate or Embassy Now

A Final Note

If the U.S. consulate has any questions regarding your Meharry appointment, please contact the International Office. And if your visa application is delayed or denied for any reason, please contact the International Office and your Meharry sponsoring department immediately.


Safe travels and we look forward to meeting you when you arrive in Nashville!


  • As a J-1 Research Scholar, your employment in the United States is limited to the activity described on your DS-2019 form.
  • Research Scholars should not accept any new employment without first checking with the International Office. This includes any kind of compensation (money, gift cards, etc…) for services, including clinical trials, guest lectures, and in some cases earnings from editorial work or royalties from publications.
  • Paid employment is permitted by law only if the payment is included on the Form DS-2019 issued to the J-1 Research Scholar visa holder.
  • In most cases, it is not possible for a J-1 visa holder to accept paid employment outside of Meharry Medical College.

According to the Code of Federal Regulations 8 CFR 274 (a) (f) the term employee means an individual who provides services or labor for wages or other types of remuneration. Therefore employment is work performed or services provided with the expectation that there will be compensation, either financial or other. “Volunteer work” on the other hand refers to philanthropic activity without financial gain.


The most important employment issue that you always need to keep in mind is the issue of legal (or “authorized”) versus illegal (or “unauthorized”) employment. You must always make sure that any employment you plan to engage in is legal employment. Any unauthorized (i.e. illegal) employment – even for one day – even if you did not know it was illegal – poses a grave threat to your ability to remain in or return to the United States.


You must always make sure that you have the necessary employment authorization before you begin work, since starting work without prior authorization–even if you receive authorization later–constitutes illegal employment.

Program Regulations

During your appointment at Meharry it is critical that you follow the J-1 Research Scholar regulations to maintain legal status. Failure to follow the J-1 Research Scholar regulations can have serious long-term consequences for your immigration status in the U.S. Fortunately; there are some simple steps you can take to ensure that your stay in the U.S. remains valid:

  • Form DS-2019: At orientation, we will review your immigration documents (passport, visa stamp, I-94 record and Form DS-2019). The Form DS-2019 is similar to an immigration contract. If anything changes, you must notify the International Office and have the form updated, including in the following:
    • Name correction (section 1)
    • Work address (section 1)
    • Expiration/ extension (section 3) – The end date on your DS-2019 should never expire while you hold an appointment at Meharry. Take a moment to note the expiration date, mark it in your calendar, and remember to request an extension if you will stay longer.
    • Meharry appointment title (section 4)
    • Funding amount and source (section 5) – The only activity you are permitted to be paid for is the one described here. You must consult the International Office in advance if you wish to take up any other work during your stay.
  • Program Objective: You have been invited to Meharry to engage is specific research activities. To maintain legal status you must continue in this same objective, and be making what Meharry considers to be normal and successful progress towards these goals.
  • Contact information: You must report within 10 days any change in your residential address, telephone number or e-mail address. Please contact the International Office to report changes.
  • Insurance: Health insurance requirements are mandated for all J-1 visa holders and their families. Willful disregard of these requirements will result in termination of your program and your J-1 status.
  • Leaving Meharry: If offered a comparable position at another college or university, please discuss your plans with the International Office to make sure that the required transfer procedure can be accomplished.
  • Extra time: J-1 exchange visitors are allowed a 30-day grace period beyond the end date on their DS-2019. This additional 30-day period is not for employment, extensions, transfers or international travel. Please contact the International Office if you have any questions about the grace period.
  • Passport: Keep your passport valid at all times.

Extension of J-1 Status

To request an extension of your J-1 status up to the maximum period allowable under the regulations, you must initiate your request through your department. The extension process (including obtaining a new DS-2019) must be completed before the end date as noted on your current DS-2019 form.


The International Office will need the following information from the supervising faculty member or other authorized department personnel:

  • Your position title
  • The proposed dates of the extension
  • The amount and source of the funding

If your stay is not supported by Meharry funding, you will need to provide the International Office with proof of funds (i.e., external grant award letter, personal bank statement, etc).


Salary support must meet the minimum established for certain Meharry Medical College positions, e.g. postdoctoral or postgraduate appointments.

Obtaining a New DS-2019

The International Office will prepare a new DS-2019 reflecting the extended period. Please note that a new DS-2019 will be issued to reflect the new period of stay. That document legally extends your J-1 visit as long as you remain in the U.S. If you have a spouse or child(ren) in J-2 status, their stays will also be extended.


Should you travel outside the U.S. during this new period of valid J-1 status (other than visits of less than 30 days to Canada or Mexico and adjacent territories), you must have a valid J-1 visa in your passport. If your current J-1 visa has expired, you will use the new DS-2019 to apply for a new J-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the U.S.


When you apply for a J-1 extension, you do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again.


In extending your J-1 stay you must also be certain to extend your health insurance coverage. Failure to do so will result in the termination of your J-1 status.

Two Year Home Residency Requirement 212(e)

Some J-1 and J-2 visa holders are subject to return their home country (the country in which they hold permanent residence) for two (2) years following the completion of the J-1 Program.


This requirement is in place to allow the Research Scholars to return to their home country with a better understanding of the U.S., and to share their skills to benefit their home country.


The two-year home country residency requirement is explained on the reverse side of the Form DS-2019.


Who is Subject to the Residency Requirement?

  • Government Funded Exchange Programs: If your stay as a J-1 Research Scholar was funded by the U.S. government, your home country’s government, or an international organization (e.g. Fulbright, AMIDEAST, etc.), you will be subject to the residency requirement.
  • Exchange Visitor Skills List: If you are an exchange visitor of a country which has deemed your field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to development of the country, you will be subject to the residency requirement. (see the Exchange Visitor Skills List for more information).

*If the J-1 is subject to the home residency requirement, any J-2 dependents will also be subject.

24-Month Bar Rule

The 24-month bar rule affects J-1 Research Scholars who have been in the U.S. on a J-1 exchange visitor visa previously, and wish to return using the J-1 visa. This bar prohibits “repeat participation” for J-1 Research Scholars.


If you have or have had a J-1 Research Scholar visa or a J-2 Dependent of Research Scholar visa, you must wait for the 24-month bar period to end prior to applying for a new J-1 or J-2 visa.



  • Transferring to another institution to continue the current J-1 Research Scholar Program does not trigger the 24-month bar.
  • Time spent in a J-1 category other than Research Scholar does not trigger the 24-month bar.

A J-1 Research Scholar may change employers or schools, which is referred to as a “transfer.” They may transfer from one designated Exchange Visitor program to another designated program provided the J-1 Research Scholar time does not exceed the maximum permitted period of five years.


J-1 scholars intending to transfer to another program should discuss their plans with the International Office, as well as with the international office (not just the hiring department) of the new school.


The transfer is processed through an update in the J-1 Research Scholar’s SEVIS record and must be completed prior to the end date as noted on the form DS-2019. There cannot be any gap of time between the two schools.


J-1 Research Scholars leaving Meharry and transferring to another J-1 program must inform the International Office of their intention to transfer to another J-1 program by filling out a Transfer Release Form.


Scholars transferring to Meharry need to be sure they have time to clear the Meharry new employee background check before the transfer start date.

The spouse or partner and dependent children of the J-1 Research Scholar are eligible for J-2 status and may use this status to accompany the J-1 individual to the U.S.


Dependents are defined as children under the age of 21 and legally married spouses. You must also demonstrate sufficient financial resources for their support.


J-1 Research Scholars that intend a spouse, partner, or child to join you after your arrival should contact the International Office for further instructions.

Applying for J-2 Status

Each person in J-2 status must have their own DS-2019. If the spouse and/or dependent child will accompany the J-1 scholar, this information must be conveyed by the host department at the time of requesting the initial DS-2019 form.


If the spouse and/or dependent child will join the scholar in the U.S, the scholar will request the DS-2019 from the International Office.


With the DS-2019, the J-2 dependent may apply for a J-2 visa at the U.S. Consulate.

J-1/J-2 Insurance Requirement

All J-1 Research Scholars and their J-2 Dependents are required to maintain health and accident insurance coverage during the entire time they participate in an J-1 program.


Minimum coverage must provide:

  1. Medical benefits;
  2. A low deductable per accident or illness;
  3. Expenses associated with the medical evaluation to the home country; and
  4. Repatriation of remains.

Insurance arrangements should be made by the J-1 Research Scholar and their J-2 Dependants prior to departure from their home country. Evidence of insurance must be presented to the International Office at the first J-1 check-in session.

J-1 Travel Document Checklist

  • Valid DS-2019 (not expired in Section #3) with a signature from the International Office in the Travel Validation section at bottom. The International Office signature should not be older than 12 months and is valid for multiple entries to the U.S.
  • J-2 dependents must have their own valid DS-2019 forms
  • Valid J-1 or J-2 visa from a U.S. embassy (except for Canadian citizens who are not required to have a visa)
  • Valid passport (see note below)
  • If Meharry is not your J-1 program sponsor, please contact them directly (e.g. Fulbright)
  • Appointment or offer letter from Meharry


All international scholars and family members planning to depart from the U.S. and return after a temporary absence must have a valid passport in order to exit the U.S. The passport must also be valid for a minimum of six months into the future at the time of re-entry to the U.S.


Some countries have an agreement with the U.S. that automatically extends passport validity for 6 months, for U.S. entry purposes only.


Except for Canadian citizens, all international scholars will also need to have a valid J-1 visa in their passport issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate.


J-1 visa cannot be obtained or renewed inside the U.S.

Contact General Counsel

Office of General Counsel
Hulda Lyttle Hall, 3rd Floor, Suite 314
1005 Dr. D. B. Todd, Jr., Blvd.
Nashville, Tennessee 37208
Telephone: 615.327.6102