Overview of J-1 Visa

The Exchange Visitor Program brings qualified students, teachers, professors, research scholars, specialists, and trainees to the United States for a variety of educational purposes.  The exchange visitor is under the sponsorship of an agency, institution, or organization that has been approved by the Department of State.

An Exchange Visitor at the University of South Alabama is a foreign national who is a student, student intern, professor, research scholar, short-term scholar or foreign medical graduate in a field of specialized knowledge or skill.  The Exchange Visitor is coming temporarily to the United States as a participant in a program designated by the Department of State, for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, or demonstrating special skills.  The principal Exchange Visitor obtains a J-1 visa; the spouse and minor children obtain J-2 visas.

Eligibility Requirements for All J-1 Scholars and Students

There are a few basic requirements for all J-1 Exchange Visitors:

  1. Intent to pursue appropriate activity (i.e. study, research, teaching, or training)
  2. Intent to return to home country
  3. Sufficient funding for program (see J-1 Scholar Application Packet or J-1 Student Affidavit of Support for more information)
  4. Appropriate background for program activity (i.e. the J-1 Exchange Visitor meets appropriate degree requirements)
  5. Adequate English proficiency – for scholars, adequate language proficiency must be determined by the host department through an objective measure (applicants who are non-native English speakers or who are not residents/citizens of a country where English is an official language must submit either exam results from a recognized English exam, submit signed documentation from an academic institution confirming proficiency or proof of a degree from an English language institution, or be evaluated by the USA or USA Health host department or third party organization for English language proficiency); for J-1 students, an official English Proficiency is also required (exam results from a recognized English exam or official evaluation by an instructor of English languages at the student’s home institution)

Limitations – Duration of Stay and Other Things to Consider 

J-1 Research Scholar/Professor

  • Limited to a maximum stay of 5 years to engage in research and/or teaching
  • J-1 Research Scholars/Professors may NOT hold or be candidates for tenure-track positions
  • Must have a specific objective sponsored by USA or USA Health (i.e. conduct research, teach, or consult)

J-1 Short-Term Scholar

  • Limited strictly to 6 months
  • May not extend stay beyond 6 months

J-1 Foreign Medical Graduate Physician/Trainee

J-1 Student Intern

  • Limited to a maximum stay of 12 months
  • Meant to host international students who are currently enrolled and pursuing a degree at a postsecondary academic institution outside the United States
  • May not fill a permanent or long-term position of employment, nor a labor need, in the U.S.

J-1 Student

  • USA is designated to host international students at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels in both degree programs and non-degree programs (exchange)
  • The decision to sponsor an international student for J-1 student status is typically made at the time of admission to the University of South Alabama
  • Must be financed directly or indirectly by one of the following:  United States or home government, international organization, educational institution, state or local government, or substantially from another source other than personal or family funds.

J-1/J-2 Visa Holder Insurance Requirements

As a condition of maintaining J-1 status, students, scholars and any accompanying J-2 dependents are required to have health insurance that meets the minimum requirements for the duration of the J-1 visa. Insurance coverage must begin on the first day of entry into the U.S., not the first day of class/employment. Willful failure to purchase insurance will result in the termination of your J-1/J-2 status and your participation in the Exchange Visitor program. The Office of Immigration recommends purchasing the required insurance before you travel to the United States, as policies can often be less expensive in some other countries.

To meet the J-1 requirements, your health insurance policy must meet the following minimum benefits:

  • Medical benefits - $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of remains - $25,000
  • Medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country - $50,000
  • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.

Depending on current health and/or pre-existing condition status of the principal Exchange Visitor and/or their dependent(s), the J-1 may want to consider a policy with additional coverage. 

If an Exchange Visitor does not have insurance when they arrive in the United States, they will be required to purchase it as a condition of their J visa status. The Office of Immigration will require documentation of insurance the first day of arrival. Insurance coverage must begin the day the J-1/J-2 arrives to the U.S., not the start date of class or employment.

For J-1 exchange students only: Your student account will automatically be billed for the University's health insurance plan once you enroll for classes. If you have purchased medical insurance from your home country, you will need to send a waiver and copy of the insurance policy to Rhonda Baxter in the Student Health Center. If your insurance waiver is approved, you must send a copy of the approval notice to Denise Robb. Failure to do so could result in a termination of your DS-2019 for failure to maintain status.