J-1 Exchange Visitor (Scholar)

The Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) is administered by the United States Department of State (DOS), which designates MIT to sponsor scholars in particular categories for academic level research and teaching. The J-1 is the most frequently used visa classification for international academic visitors. Other international organizations and foundations, such as the Fulbright Commission, may also act as visa sponsors. All J-1 scholars on MIT appointment must register at ISchO, regardless of visa sponsor.

"Research Scholar" is the most commonly used J-1 category for MIT scholars. The maximum stay in the United States in J-1 status in the "Research Scholar" or "Professor" category is five years, under certain conditions. The "Short-term Scholar" category is used for short-term visitors whose stay will not exceed six months and is well suited to visitors who may come and go periodically to MIT.

All scholars under MIT's J-1 sponsorship must be on an MIT appointment. Individuals in the J-1 Trainee and intern categories sponsored by the Fulbright program, Cultural Vistas, DAAD, or other (non-employer) organizations may be eligible for appointment for the purpose of training. Please consult with the ISchO.

Per U.S. Department of State (DOS) regulations, all J-1 scholars and their J-2 dependents must have health insurance for the duration of their stays in the United States that meets DOS specifications. Details are available from ISchO and are provided to all MIT J-1 scholars in advance of and upon their arrival in the United States. Non-compliance with the health insurance requirement may lead to termination of participation in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program.

Who Qualifies

J-1 sponsorship through the MIT International Scholars Office is appropriate for postgraduates and professionals coming to MIT temporarily to engage in teaching or research. Non tenure-track teaching positions and certain other academic and research staff positions may qualify. Typical titles are Postdoctoral Associate, Postdoctoral Fellow, Visiting Scientist, Visiting Scholar, and Visiting Professor. Indefinite research staff and tenure-track faculty cannot be sponsored for J-1 visas. “Visiting appointments” are appropriate for individuals who are visiting “from” somewhere (primary affiliation is outside the U.S.).

Scholars and accompanying family members must have adequate financial support to meet MIT’s minimum funding levels. Funding guidelines for postdoctoral positions are determined by the Vice President for Research. Information on all funding requirements for international visitors can be obtained from ISchO.

Note that a prospective scholar who is currently a graduate student elsewhere (and who will not have completed the degree prior to the start of the MIT appointment) is not eligible for sponsorship in a “scholar” category through ISchO

Minimum Requirements for MIT Sponsorship in the J-1 Professor, Research Scholar, and Short-term Scholar Categories

  • There are no minimum years of experience required if the individual has a Ph.D. and will be teaching or conducting research at MIT.
  • If the individual has a Master's degree (or degrees), a minimum of two years of post-degree, progressively responsible research or teaching experience with traditional scholarly achievements (publications, conference presentations, etc.) is required. Experience gained while a student is not counted unless the individual was a full-time employee while in the Master's program.
  • If the individual has a Bachelor's degree, a minimum of five years of post-degree, progressively responsible research or teaching experience with traditional scholarly achievements (publications, conference presentations, etc.) is required. Experience gained while a student is not counted.

Application Procedures

A J-1 exchange visitor requires the immigration document Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status) in order to obtain a visa. In the case of MIT sponsorship, this process is initiated by ISchO's primary liaison in the hosting department, laboratory or center, typically the Personnel Administrator or Administrative Officer. The authorized administrator requests Forms DS-2019 from ISchO. Timing and other details are available on ISchO's web site.

An applicant who is outside the United States must then receive the document and present it to an American Consulate to request a visa stamp before traveling to the United States. The availability of visa appointments varies considerably at U.S. Consulates around the world. Securing an entry visa can take from several weeks to several months. Denial of the visa application is also possible. Transfer of J-1 sponsorship from another institution to MIT is generally possible within authorized timeframes. If the scholar is in the United States and requires a change to J-1 status, USCIS approval of the application is required before an MIT appointment or employment is authorized; this is a lengthy process.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), mandated by federal regulation, is a government tracking system that allows various agencies of the United States government to see up-to-date information about international students and scholars in F, J, and M visa status and their accompanying family members. ISchO must enter data into this system in order to issue visa eligibility documents for current or prospective J-1 scholars and their dependents. Regulations require international scholars and family members to register with ISchO within 30 days of arrival. ISchO must report qualifying events in SEVIS pertaining to J-1 scholars and J-2 dependents including registration, delayed arrival, non-arrival, departure, current address, and any change in dates of affiliation, title, department, financial support, visa type, sponsor or employer. For more information, consult the ISchO web site or an ISchO advisor.


Participation in a J-1 Exchange Visitor program in the Research Scholar or Professor category may be possible for up to five years, depending upon the circumstances. If the department is certain of a full three-year appointment with firm funding at the outset, Form DS-2019 may be prepared for this period. If not, it may be prepared for a shorter period with later extensions. J-1 status in the Short-term Scholar category may be obtained for up to six months, maximum.

Exchange visitors at MIT are limited by government regulations to employment and affiliation at MIT only. Occasional lecturing or consulting at other institutions may be allowed, under limited circumstances, per U.S. Department of State regulations. Exchange visitors should discuss any offers to do outside activity with an ISchO advisor and obtain authorization before engaging in such activity.


J-1 scholars may receive financial support from a variety of sources: MIT, United States government agencies, the scholar's government, international organizations, Fulbright grant, other organizations (e.g. sabbatical support from their own university), or personal funds. Scholars must enter the United States in J-1 visa status or receive USCIS approval of J-1 status before they are authorized to receive payment or an MIT appointment. They are not permitted to work elsewhere unless authorized to do so by their Exchange Visitor Program sponsor.

Permission to Work for J-2 Dependents

Spouses and children who hold J-2 visas are usually able to apply for permission to work from USCIS. Instructions are available on the ISchO website [no link?]. Once it is granted J-2 dependents may work anywhere at any level in the United States. USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), a small laminated photo ID card, as proof of employability. J-2 dependents must have employment authorization in order to be placed on MIT academic or research staff appointment (whether paid or unpaid) and must register at ISchO.

Two-year Foreign Residence Requirement

Some J-1 exchange visitors are required by law to return to their home countries for two years before being eligible for H or L nonimmigrant visa classification or an immigrant visa (U.S. permanent residence). This law is the result of agreements between the student or scholar's home government and the US government. A foreign national can become subject to this requirement based on the “skills list” (22 CFR 41.63), or by accepting funding from a U.S. or foreign government agency, such as the Medical Research Council of Canada, an international organization such as NATO or the European Molecular Biology Organization, or a commission such as the Fulbright Commission or the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. In some cases, the home government and U.S. government will waive the requirement through an established application process. However, depending on the circumstances, waivers can be difficult and sometimes impossible to obtain. Those who have questions regarding the residence requirement should consult with an advisor in the International Scholars Office.

Page updated August 2023