J-1 Scholar Status Information

An Exchange Visitor (J-1 scholar) may travel outside the U.S. during his or her J program. An unexpired, multiple entry U.S. J-1 visa stamp in the passport along with a valid Form DS-2019 grants permission to request re-entry to the United States. Visas are issued by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside of the U.S. and may expire while the Exchange Visitor remains in the U.S. Form DS-2019 must remain valid and unexpired in order for the Exchange Visitor to remain legally in the United States. If an Exchange Visitor or J-2 family member leaves the U.S. after the visa has expired, or if a change of status to J-1 has been approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Exchange Visitor and/or dependent must apply for a new J-1 visa in order to return to the U.S.



Time spent outside the U.S. during your exchange program must be no longer than 30 days. A stay longer than 30 days requires ISSO to confirm you are still continuing your program objective while outside the U.S. and that you continue to abide by the J-1 immigration requirements for health insurance. If ISSO cannot confirm these two things, your J program will be terminated for an absence longer than 30 days and you will not be eligible to return to the U.S. to continue your J program.

Following the end of your J program, you have a 30-day period in which to depart the U.S. Once you depart, you may not re-enter the U.S. as a J-1 unless you have received a new, valid Form DS-2019. Departure from the U.S. includes travel to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean Islands.

Travel Validation Request:

Your DS-2019 contains a section in the bottom right corner for travel validation by a responsible officer. All J-1 responsible officers for ISU are employed by the ISSO. A travel signature is valid for up to one year (or until the end date listed on your DS-2019). The travel signature confirms that you are maintaining legal J-1 nonimmigrant status, which includes engaging in the J program activity listed in section #4 of your DS-2019 at the location listed in section #1 of your DS-2019.

To request a travel validation signature, log into Cystart at https://bit.ly/2OWWupo and open your J-1 Scholar Services tab. Complete the e-form named “Travel Validation Request." Here are the steps in the process:

  • Discuss your travel plans with your ISU faculty host.
  • Complete the Travel Validation Request e-form at least three weeks prior to your planned departure date. To request expedited service due to travel in less than three weeks, please complete the e-form and then send an e-mail message to issoscholar@iastate.edu.
  • Enter your ISU faculty host’s information in the “Host Department Information” section of the e-form and click “Submit” to send the e-form to your ISU faculty host for approval. Your ISU faculty host will approve or deny your request for time away from your program activity.
  • Your faculty host submits the completed e-form to ISSO for a final review. ISSO will complete this review within three working days.

ISSO will send you an e-mail with a date and time to bring your Form DS-2019 to ISSO for the travel validation signature. If your J-2 dependents are also traveling, please be sure to bring their Forms DS-2019 to ISSO for travel validation signature as well.


Re-entry into the United States as a J-1 student or scholar (and J-2 dependent) requires the following:

  • Passport valid for at least six months from the date of re-entry (some exceptions apply)
  • A valid J-1 visa stamp (does not apply to Canadian citizens)
  • A valid unexpired DS-2019 with a signature authorizing travel for the J-1 and J-2's

Scholars may find it useful to carry a letter from their academic department head or supervisor verifying that they are a visiting scholar or employee in good standing at Iowa State University.

The general purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program is to promote international education and cultural exchange to develop mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. For more information on this program, we recommend you visit the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program website. The U.S. Department of State has authorized Iowa State University to host J-1 research scholars, professors, short-term scholars, specialists and student interns. The U.S. Department of State offers a welcome brochure with important immigration requirements and regulations that can be found here

J-1 Exchange Visitor Categories:

The J-1 Exchange Visitor has several categories. It is important to know which category you fall under as regulations vary slightly for each one.

Research Scholar

Conducting research, observing or consulting in connection with a research project. Must have earned the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree. Duration of stay from three weeks to five years maximum. Individuals accepting tenure-track positions are not eligible for J-1 status.


Teaching, lecturing, observing, or consulting; also may conduct research as a secondary activity. Duration of stay from three weeks to five years maximum. Must have earned the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree. Individuals accepting tenure-track positions are not eligible for J-1 status.

Short-Term Scholars

Lecturing, observing, consulting, training, or demonstrating special skills. Duration of stay from one day to six months. Must have earned a bachelor's degree. Must have earned the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree.


Expert in a field of specialized knowledge or skills who enters the United States for the purpose of observing, consulting, or demonstrating special knowledge or skills. This category may not be used if the primary activity will be teaching, lecturing, or researching. Duration of stay from three weeks to one year maximum. This category is unique and rarely used, so your Iowa State University host department must consult with ISSO to determine if it can be used.

Student Intern

Participant in a student internship program that will fulfill the educational objectives of a degree being completed at an educational institution outside the U.S. Duration of stay from three weeks to one year. Must be currently enrolled in a degree program in a country outside the U.S. that student will resume upon completion of internship. Bachelor's degree is not required.

Individuals accepting tenure-track positions are not eligible for J-1 status.

Maintaining Legal J-1 Nonimmigrant Status

To maintain legal status, a J-1 exchange visitor must:

  • Maintain a valid DS-2019. Extensions must be completed prior to the expiration date of the current DS-2019.
  • Have a valid passport
  • Work only as authorized on the DS-2019
  • Maintain required health insurance coverage for the J-1 and all J-2 dependents
  • Update current and permanent address information with ISSO within 10 days of any move
  • Update phone number information with ISSO within 10 days of obtaining or changing phone number
  • Update e-mail address information with ISSO within 10 days of obtaining or changing an e-mail account

Twelve month Bar

Any individual who has been in the United States for more than six months in the previous year in J-1 status is not eligible to enter the United States as a J-1 research scholar or professor for a 12-month period. Time spent in the J-1 short-term scholar category does not count towards the 12-month bar. Individuals subject to the 12-month bar may return to the U.S. with another visa type or as a J-1 in another category such as short-term scholar or student.

Twenty-four-month Bar on Repeat Program Participation

During check-in with ISSO, visiting scholars will be provided with the information necessary to enroll in the Iowa State University Student and Scholar Health Insurance Plan. In some cases, the host department may cover the cost of health insurance. Please contact your host department for more information regarding this benefit.

Enrollment Procedures:

When an exchange visitor arrives in the United States in J-1 status in the research scholar or professor category a 5-year eligibility "window" opens. When the program ends the exchange visitor becomes subject to a 24-month bar on repeat participation as a J-1 exchange visitor in the research scholar or professor categories. This is true even if the program is less than 5 years in length.

This 24-month bar means that the exchange visitor will not be able to start a new research scholar or professor program at any institution in the United States until two years have passed from the completion date of the previous program. Those two years may be spent outside the United States or in the United States in another immigration status.

Certain J-1 exchange visitors are subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement which requires you to return to your home country for at least two years at the end of your exchange visitor program. For more information about waiving this requirement, view the website below.

Department of State Website

Transfer of J-1 Program (from ISU or to ISU)

A transfer from ISU request is necessary when a scholar plans to leave ISU to continue his/her current J program activity with another J program sponsor. This transfer request allows ISSO to transfer the scholar’s SEVIS record to the new J program sponsor. The new sponsor then issues a new DS-2019 for the scholar, keeping the same SEVIS number. Select the following links for the form needed to make the necessary changes as well as important information in the frequently asked questions page.

Requests to transfer J programs are submitted electronically through Cystart.

Who can be a J-2 dependent?

J-2 dependents (spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21) of a J-1 Exchange Visitor may be eligible to enter the U.S. in J-2 status so that he or she may reside in the United States during the J-1 scholar's program. A child who will turn age 21 while in the U.S. in J-2 status must apply for a different status in order to remain in the United States. The application must be submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services prior to the child’s 21st birthday.  Please contact our office at isso@iastate.edu at least three months in advance of your child’s 21st birthday for assistance with this process.  Parents and other relatives are not eligible for J-2 status. 

How do I request a DS-2019 for a dependent?

Requests for DS-2019 forms for J-2 Dependents are submitted electronically through Cystart.  While in the United States, dependents on J-2 status must have health insurance coverage. The J-1 scholar must also prove that he or she is financially able to support dependents. Please go here for financial estimates to bring J-2 dependents to the U.S. 

How does a J-2 dependent apply for work authorization?

J-2 dependents may apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for permission to work. When granted, this permission is valid for on- and off-campus work and may be full or part time. This permission is obtained by mailing certain documents to USCIS. It may take 90 days or more for the application to be approved. When approval is granted, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You must have the EAD before you begin work. More information, including sample forms, is available in the links below.

Learn more about J-2 Work Permission on the J-2 Work Permission Frequently Asked Questions page.