The purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program, in part, is to foster the exchange of ideas between Americans and foreign nationals and to stimulate international collaborative teaching, lecturing and research efforts. The exchange of professors and research scholars promotes the exchange of ideas, research, mutual enrichment, and linkages between research and educational institutions in the United States and foreign countries. It does so by providing foreign professors and research scholars the opportunity to engage in research, teaching, and lecturing with their American colleagues, to participate actively in cross-cultural activities with Americans, and ultimately to share with their countrymen their experiences and increased knowledge of the United States and their substantive fields.

Scholars subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement must return to their home country for at least two years at the end of their J-1 program. Subject scholars are not able to return to the U.S. as H-1B Temporary Workers, L-1 Intracompany Transferees, or become Permanent Residents of the U.S. until after they have accumulated two years of physical presence in their home country or been granted a waiver of that requirement.

Refer to the J-1 visa in your passport and your consular-signed DS-2019 to determine if you are subject to the two-year home residence requirement. Please review the portion of your visa marked “Annotations” and look for “subject” or “not subject.”

There are bars on repeat participation in the J-1 program that could apply to you.

The first is a 12-month bar. This bar affects those scholars that visit the U.S. as J-1 Student Interns or Specialists or the dependents of J-1 Student Interns or Specialists. If you visit the U.S. as a J-1 Student Intern or Specialist or J-2 dependent of a Student Intern or Specialist and remain in the U.S. for six months or more, you will be barred from becoming a J-1 Research Scholar or professor for 12 months following the end of your program.

The second is a 24-month bar. This bar only affects those scholars that visit the U.S. as J-1 Research Scholars or Professors or the dependents of J-1 Research Scholars or Professors. If you visit the U.S. as a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor or J-2 dependent of a Research Scholar or Professor for any length of time, you cannot become a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor again for 24 months following the completion of your J-1 program.

Iowa State University offers a health insurance plan through Wellmark for visiting scholars. While the cost of this plan may change from year to year, the plan always meets or exceeds the minimum insurance coverage requirements for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program as explained on page 2 of your DS-2019. You can find further information regarding the ISU Student Scholar Health Insurance Program (SSHIP) here.

Billing for the ISU insurance plan is based on full calendar months. Monthly payments are not adjusted for less than a month’s coverage. For example, if your program begins on December 24, 2020, and ends on January 12, 2021, you will be charged for two full months of coverage.

To contact SSHIP, send an email to isusship@iastate.edu.

Remember – U.S. Department of State regulations require that all J-1 Exchange Visitors and J-2 dependents have health insurance coverage that meets U.S. government requirements for the entirety of the J-1 program. Failure to maintain qualifying health insurance coverage for yourself and your dependents is a violation of J-1 immigration status and can lead to termination of your J-1 program.

As an exchange visitor, you should plan to have a minimum of $1,586 per month to cover your own living expenses (includes cost of health insurance). Below are the minimum monthly living expense estimates (includes cost of health insurance) which include both the scholar and dependents.


NOTE: New estimates will take effect August 1, 2022.

            Scholar and spouse                            $2,325

            Scholar and child* (no spouse)           $2,250

            Scholar, spouse and child(ren)*          $2,990


            *Add $473/month for each additional child


Typical expenses include housing, utilities such as gas and electricity, food, medical care, medications, phone service, laundry, bus pass, renter’s insurance and entertainment. If you purchase a car you will have additional expenses for required auto insurance, a license plate, and a driver’s license. Since these expenses can vary greatly depending on individual circumstances, no actual estimates have been provided. The figures above should be considered a bare minimum.

Form DS-2019 certifies your acceptance to Iowa State University’s (ISU) Exchange Visitor Program P-1-00732. Your stay in the U.S. is subject to the conditions stated on the back of Form DS-2019. It is very important that you read and understand these conditions. To acknowledge your acceptance of these conditions, please sign the Exchange Visitor Certification at the bottom of your Form DS-2019 in blue ink, including the place (city) in which you were located when you signed the form and the date you signed it.

Each member of your family must have their own Form DS-2019 to enter the U.S. in J-2 status. Only a spouse to whom you are legally married and your children under the age of 21 may enter the U.S. as your J-2 dependents.

Please note – The DS-2019 cannot be scanned and emailed to you. However, if you contact our office, we can provide your SEVIS ID number and other information from the DS-2019 required to schedule a visa appointment. You must wait for the hard copy of your DS-2019 to arrive to attend your visa interview.


When you sign the front of the DS-2019, you verify that you have read and agree to all the conditions listed on page 2 of the DS-2019. Be sure to read the back of the form carefully and let us know if you have questions. Page 2 is where you will find the details you are agreeing to with your signature. On this page, you will find information regarding the two-year home country physical presence requirement (212(e)), benefits of the J-1 program, health insurance requirement for you and your dependents, and more.

Once you have the DS-2019 for your J-1 program in your possession, you can pay the required SEVIS fee on Form I-901. All J-1 Exchange Visitors must pay a SEVIS I-901 Fee. J-2 dependents are not required to pay this fee. Visit the I-901 website to pay the fee and obtain more information. Print a copy of your SEVIS I-901 Receipt before logging off this site.

If you require a J-1 visa, you must pay the SEVIS Fee before you appear for your J-1 visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You may schedule your visa appointment before you pay the SEVIS Fee. However, the fee must be paid early enough so you can take your payment receipt to the visa interview. No J-1 visa will be issued without a SEVIS fee payment receipt.

Before attending your visa appointment, please read the “Know Your Rights” pamphlet published by the U.S. Department of State. The pamphlet can be found here, and will inform you of your rights when you come to work and/or conduct research in the U.S.

With the exception of citizens of Bermuda who will stay longer than 180 days and citizens of Canada, all potential exchange visitors must obtain a J-1 visa, and any dependents must obtain their own J-2 visas, through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You will need to complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160, and pay a visa processing fee. As specific requirements and procedures vary from consulate to consulate, you should inquire for any special needs at the location where you will be applying for a visa. A listing of all U.S. consulates, along with links to their web pages, is available here. Please also review the U.S. Department of State website for more information on the J visa application process.

Please be aware that Iowa State University cannot guarantee visa issuance, and cannot influence a U.S. Consular Officer if a visa is denied. Should you be denied a visa, please review this information regarding visa denials. You should also ask for a written explanation of why your visa application was denied, so the International Students and Scholars Office can advise you on how you might overcome the denial. However, the final decision on visa issuance is made at the consulate, and the university cannot appeal the decision.

J scholars may arrive in the U.S. up to 30 days before the “From” date shown in the “Form Covers Period” Block 3 on the DS-2019. If you cannot arrive in the U.S. on or before the “From” date, please send an e-mail to the International Students and Scholars Office (issoscholar@iastate.edu) and your ISU host department with your new estimated arrival date. With the permission of your host department we can electronically amend your “From” date if you request this change in advance of that date.

As you plan your arrival in Ames, please take into consideration Iowa State University closures for U.S. holidays. Visit the ISU Academic Calendar to review ISU closures. Please note that the phrase “offices closed” indicates the dates the university will be closed. Additionally, it is best not to arrive between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day as many university offices are closed during the last week of December and many key department members are away. We want to be sure you arrive at a time when your faculty host and departmental staff are available.


The following documents must be available for inspection upon arrival in the U.S. and should not be placed in checked luggage:

  • Passport
  • Form DS-2019
  • Financial support documents
  • Invitation letter from ISU host department

The closest airport to Iowa State University is roughly 40 miles away in Des Moines, Iowa. If you arrive at the Des Moines International Airport (DSM), you will need to find transportation from Des Moines to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. For a list of transportation options, go to www.dsmairport.com. Select the “At The Airport” link at the top of the page, and then select “Ground Transportation” from the drop down menu.

A shuttle service operated by Executive Express is available for trips from the Des Moines Airport to the Iowa State University campus. Details regarding departure times from the Des Moines International Airport to the Iowa State University campus can be found here.

The trip from the Des Moines airport to the Iowa State University campus takes approximately one hour.

Although your host department should assist you with identifying housing options in Ames, here are some resources to get you started.

The Department of Residence at Iowa State University has a limited number of furnished apartments on campus for long-term or short-term Guest Housing. Please e-mail housing@iastate.edu for more information, availability, and to make a reservation.

Additional short-term lodging options can be found on the Ames Convention & Visitors Bureau website.

For information on places to eat, look hereCheck out this great website before your arrival to Ames so that you can begin exploring and enjoying what Ames has to offer as soon as you arrive.


Other sources of information for long-term housing:

Rental management companies in Ames


Please note - Once you sign a rental lease, it is considered a legal contract between you and your landlord. You will be responsible for paying the rent, and utilities included in the lease, until the end date listed on your lease.

Department of State regulations require you to check in with the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) before you can begin your J program activities and gain access to university services. Please register to attend an ISSO Scholar Check-In session on or before the start date on your DS-2019. If you fail to report as required, the Department of State will electronically cancel your Form(s) DS-2019 and you must leave the U.S.

A few days before arriving in Ames, please go to the ISSO Scholar Check-In webpage to schedule an appointment for the first New Scholar Check-in session after your planned arrival. Check-In Sessions are available Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday by appointment only. These sessions start promptly and last approximately one hour. If you are unable to arrive on time for your check-in session, we will help you reschedule for the next available session.


Please report to Room 3241 Memorial Union and bring with you:

  • Your passport and those of your J-2 family members
  • Form(s) DS-2019 issued to you and J-2 family members
  • Form(s) I-94 for yourself and J-2 family members
  • Your current address in the U.S. (even if it is temporary)
  • Phone number for the person ISSO would call if you have a personal emergency
  • Name, phone, and e-mail address for ISU faculty host


At the ISSO Scholar Check-In Session, we will amend the program start date on your DS-2019 to the first business day after your arrival in the U.S. If you arrive before your DS-2019 start date, we will get approval from your supervisor before making this change. You will be enrolled in the ISU Student and Scholar Health Insurance coverage from that date in compliance with U.S. Department of State regulations. We will also review your documents and help you complete required university forms and access necessary university services. Finally, we will provide information about ISU, the City of Ames, and answer any questions you may have.


Social Security Numbers are used to report wages to the U.S. government for income tax purposes. This means, if you are not employed during your time in the U.S., you do not need to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN). All J-1 Scholars are allowed to obtain a number, but unless the scholar is employed, the SSN is rarely required or even helpful. Please review this information provided by the Social Security Administration. It will be helpful in determining if obtaining an SSN would benefit you. You cannot apply for an SSN prior to checking in with ISSO. If you are interested in applying, we will give you further information regarding the process during check-in.

The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) issues driver licenses and Iowa identification cards to qualified individuals. The documents that you will need to obtain a license or ID will vary. The Iowa DOT website provides information to assist in determining what you should bring with you in order to apply for identification. A step-by-step guide can also be found at their website.

You may be employed at Iowa State University only if your DS-2019 lists “Current Program Sponsor” funds from Iowa State University in Block 5 of your DS- 2019. All J-1 scholar employment in the U.S. must be directly related to and part of your J program activity. Any changes in employment, or addition of employment, require advance approval by the International Students and Scholars Office to verify consistency with J-1 regulations. If you will be on payroll as an ISU employee, you must complete an I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form) in ISSO on or before your first day of work. We will assist with the I-9 form as part of your scholar check-in process.

If you are employed by the university, your wages are subject to U.S. taxation, including state income tax and federal income tax. You may also be subject to FICA (Social Security and Medicare) tax for all or part of your visit. The amount that is paid in taxes varies with your income, but is typically 20% or more of your salary. A tax treaty between the U.S. and your country of residence may reduce or eliminate State and Federal income taxes for all or part of your J-1 visit to the U.S. Here is more information on tax treaties.

In the United States, employers are required to deduct taxes from their employees’ wages and remit those taxes to the U.S. government. At the end of each calendar year, employees must complete a form called a tax return to determine whether sufficient taxes were withheld by their employer during the year. If the withholding was insufficient, additional tax must be paid by April 15th of the following year. All amounts shown in Block 5 on the DS-2019 are pre-tax. Note that those in J-1 status are exempt from FICA taxes (Social Security and Medicare) during their first two years in the U.S. Partial years count as full years for this purpose so that if you arrive in December of a given year, that year counts as one of the two years for FICA exemption purposes. FICA tax totals 7.65% of gross income.

All J-1s and J-2s present in the U.S. at any time during the calendar year must file a tax report with the U.S. government whether or not they were employed in the U.S. during that year. Individuals who were employed must file a form called a tax return with the U.S. government between January and mid-February of the year following the year in which they worked in the U.S. whether or not their income was covered by a tax treaty.

J’s who were not employed must file Form 8843 with the U.S. tax authorities to report their physical presence in the U.S. Tax rules in the United States are many and complicated. You may wish to consult U.S. Internal Revenue Service Publication 519 for additional background information. The ISSO scholar unit staff will be glad to help you find answers to tax questions. Please direct your questions to issotax@iastate.edu.


Bring to the bank:

  • Your passport or U.S. issued driver’s license
  • Your SSN or ITIN if you have one (it is not required)
  • Your ISU ID number


We hope this requirement is the easiest to fulfill! While you are here to conduct research or study, you should also experience cultural activities in the U.S. and share your own culture with others.

Iowa State University has a diverse and vibrant campus. There are hundreds of clubs and associations on campus, and many events that celebrate our campus community. The Workspace is located in the Memorial Union, the building in which ISSO is housed, and offers many opportunities to create your own art.

ISSO hosts many programs for ISU’s international students and scholars. A calendar of events listing ISSO programs and activities can be found at isso.dso.iastate.edu.

The Friends of International Women group is an informal gathering of international and American women for conversation in homes and special events in the Ames community. Meetings are held regularly. If you would like to get in touch, please contact the ISSO for current contact information.

The Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau hosts a website with constantly updated calendars of events happening in Ames. Attending these events helps to broaden your experience here, improve your English, and meet new people. The Greater Des Moines Convention & Visitors Bureau hosts a site with similar information for Des Moines and surrounding towns.

We suggest reviewing information regarding these events prior to your arrival, so you can make the most of your time in the great state of Iowa!


Pella Tulip Festival

WHAT: Experience the Dutch heritage of Pella, while enjoying the vast arrays of tulips in full bloom.

WHEN: 3 days in early May

WHERE: Pella, IA



WHAT: Festival designed to encourage music discovery and to celebrate and support music.

WHEN: 2 days in early July

WHERE: downtown Des Moines, IA



WHAT: The “Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa” is the oldest, largest, and longest recreational bicycle-touring event in the world.

WHEN: 7 days in late July

WHERE: across the state of Iowa


National Balloon Classic

WHAT: This annual event features over 100 hot air balloons, with morning and evening launches.

WHEN: 9 days in late July, early August

WHERE: Indianola, Iowa


Iowa State Fair

WHAT: Called “Iowa’s Great Celebration,” it is one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the U.S.

WHEN: 11 days in mid-August

WHERE: state fairgrounds, east side of Des Moines, IA




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, your spouse will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). J-2 spouses must have the EAD before beginning work. More information can be found here.

The school your child(ren) will attend depends on where in Ames you live. For further information regarding the public school system in Ames and enrollment, please visit the Ames Community School District website.

The process of selecting a childcare provider can be overwhelming. Child Care Aware, run by the Office of Child Care under the Department of Health Human Services, serves as a great place to start. We suggest reviewing the website prior to arriving, to find information on types of childcare in the U.S. and how to select a quality provider. The site also offers state-by-state resources, so that you can easily find information regarding childcare resources in Iowa.

Information regarding childcare within Iowa can be found on the Iowa Department of Human Services’ website under the “Family Services” menu, including resources for finding childcare in Iowa.

J-2 dependents are welcome to attend all ISSO-hosted events, as well as any other events on the Iowa State University campus. The Ames Public Library frequently hosts events, including English language practice, children’s activities, and family-friendly events, that could serve to enrich your dependent’s experience in Ames.

The YWCA in Ames regularly hosts events focused on building international relationships in Ames. Information regarding upcoming events can be found on their website.

The Friends of International Women group (see Cross-Cultural Activities) is also open to spouses of Exchange Visitors.