J-1 Exchange Visitors (Scholars) Frequently Asked Questions

J-1 Basics

If you would like to participate at the University of Michigan as a “scholar”, you should first make contact with a Unit or Department of the University with which you are interested in spending time working and may fit your qualifications. There are many academic and research departments at University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. The department would invite you to join them if positions are available. The U-M International Center will help the University department and you with the visa process and issuance of a Form DS-2019 for J-1 status, if appropriate.

Under specific circumstances, J-1 and J-2 status holders may incur a two-year home physical presence requirement. If subject to the rule, this means that he/she is not eligible to change to H, L or Permanent Residency (PR) classification without first returning to the home country for a total of 2 years. A waiver of this requirement can be applied for and obtained in specific circumstances. If the two year rule applies, changing status from J to another non-immigrant classification (such as F-1) in the United States is prohibited. The Two Year Rule does NOT prohibit one from returning to the U.S. in any classification other than H, L, or PR.

All J-1 exchange visitors and accompanying J-2 dependents at the University of Michigan are required to have health insurance coverage that meets the University's standards. You will be required to enroll in our Aetna Student Health insurance program at the mandatory immigration check-in program. If your government or program sponsor is providing you with health insurance, you will later have the opportunity to apply for a waiver of the mandatory health insurance. In order for a waiver to be granted, your health insurance coverage must be proven to meet specific mandatory standards, so please bring a copy of the insurance policy with you to the U.S.

If you need instructions on how to use Wolverine Access to update your address, you should follow our Address Guidelines. J-1 status holders must report two personal addresses (current and permanent) in Wolverine Access within 10 days of a move. The current address must be your residential address in the United States. The “Permanent” address must be your home country residential address.

Immigration/Travel/Visas

The Department of Homeland Security requires a fee of $180 for all new J-1 program applicants to cover the costs of the operation of the SEVIS program. If you are issued a new DS-2019 for “beginning a new program” you are required to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. Transfer, extension, or other updates to your original DS-2019 do not require you to pay a SEVIS fee. You can read more information at What to Expect When Traveling and go to the official website for SEVIS fee information and payment. You should print a copy of the receipt and carry it to your visa interview and when traveling to the U.S.

The University of Michigan is committed to assisting our international students and scholars when possible, through our Visa Assistance Program. You should go to the Visa Assistance Web Form and complete all the information including your contact people at the University. The information gathered in this form will be sent to a U-M email group. The members of this group will take all possible steps to assist you with U-M related matters such as admission, enrollment, and employment. The U-M can also assist with suggestions and recommendations about best practices regarding visa requests and will advise on next steps.

In order to maintain legal J-1 status, a J-1 scholar or professor must complete the Mandatory Check-In Process. This process consists of two online immigration trainings and a physical presence check-in at the International Center.

If you are planning to travel outside the U.S., you should check that your DS-2019 will not be expiring soon, and that the DS-2019 has a travel signature dated less than a year from your planned date of re-entry to the U.S. If you need to obtain a new travel signature, you should submit the DS-2019 Travel Signature request form with your original DS-2019. You must also bring your passport with you to the International Center when you submit your request. You should also make sure your passport is valid more than six months into the future on your re-entry date, and that your J-1 visa will still be valid for your re-entry. Refer to our Travel Advisory for additional information.

The U.S. visa (stamp or sticker in your passport) is a travel document which allows entry to the United States with a valid DS-2019. You only need to have a valid J visa when you are re-entering the U.S.; you may remain in the U.S. with your valid DS-2019. If you plan to travel and re-enter the U.S. from abroad after your visa has expired, you need to apply for a new visa before you re-enter. You can only apply for the visa outside the country at a U.S. Consulate. Please read the detailed information on our website about travel and visa application for further details.

Family/Life

To obtain J-2 DS-2019 documents for your spouse and/or minor children under 21 years, please download and complete the appropriate request form for J-1 Scholars. Once you have submitted the form and necessary documents as listed on the request form, we will issue DS-2019 form(s) for your spouse/children to obtain J-2 status. Then, your family member will need to apply for and obtain the J-2 visa to enter the U.S. (except Canadians) as your dependent. Your family will need official proof of your family ties, such as birth/marriage certificate.

Family members who are NOT children (under 21) or spouse of the J-1 exchange visitor should apply for a B-1/B-2 visitor visa which allows eligibility to visit the United States temporarily for tourism or business purposes. Family members from certain countries may be eligible to travel to the U.S. for visits of up to 90 days without a B-1/B-2 visa through the U.S. Department of State Visa Waiver Program. It is recommended that you give your family members a letter of invitation to document the purpose of their visit. Refer to Family Visitors to the U.S. for an invitation letter template and more details on the visa application requirements.

Yes, we do have school information as well as other resources about children on our website. Michigan State Law requires that all children between the ages of six and sixteen attend a public, charter, or private school accredited by the State of Michigan. Public schools and charter schools are free for all students. Note: children staying less than two months may not be eligible to enroll in Ann Arbor Public Schools.

State of Michigan Driver's Licenses and State of Michigan Personal Identification Cards are issued by the Secretary of State. New changes took effect on January 22, 2008. Please refer to “Michigan Driver's License or State Identification Card” for detailed information about the new requirements.

Employment/Taxes

If you are going to be employed and do not already have a Social Security Number, you will need to apply for one through the Social Security Administration office located at the Federal Building at 3971 Research Park Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48108. Find more information on the procedure at Getting A Social Security Number. You will need, among other documents listed, the U-M Social Security letter from the U-M International Center, which you received upon your arrival during J-1 Mandatory Check-In. If you lost this letter, contact the U-M International Center.

J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for permission to work from Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) through a Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. A J-2 dependent may begin employment only after receiving the approved Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. For further guidance, refer to J-2 Dependent Employment Authorization.

In addition to employment at the University of Michigan related to your J-1 objective, J-1 scholars and professors may be eligible to be authorized for incidental employment directly related to the J-1 objective, such as providing occasional lectures or consulting. Incidental employment must be approved by the U-M International Center prior to the activity. For more information, refer to Incidental Employment for J-1 Scholars and Professors.

Yes, if you were present in the US during a calendar year, you are required to file tax paperwork in the following year. For example: if you were in the US in 2015, you must file tax paperwork in 2016 even if you did not work.

The US Internal Revenue Service is in charge of taxes. Please refer to their website for official forms and information.

GLACIER Tax Prep software is available free of charge to any international student or scholar with a U-M uniqname and password.

For complete details, please refer to the tax portion of our website and the U-M Payroll Office.

Extension/End of Program

You may be eligible for an extension of your Form DS-2019 if you have not reached the maximum duration of your J category and have not applied for and received a waiver of the 2 Year Rule. Your sponsoring U-M department would submit an extension request to the International Center on your behalf. For more information on program duration and extension you or your department may contact icenter@umich.edu.

To request a transfer, you should submit our J-1 Transfer-Out Request Form following the instructions on the form. On your transfer release date, your SEVIS database record will be moved from the University of Michigan sponsorship to your new institution. After that, your new school will be able to prepare an updated, “transfer” DS-2019 reflecting your new sponsorship. Once your SEVIS record has been transferred, you will no longer be affiliated with our institution from an immigration perspective, so you should no longer work here unless given authorization from your new sponsor.

If you are ending your participation more than one month before the end date of your current DS-2019, you are required to report leaving the U.S. to the International Center by submitting our J-1 Exchange Visitor Departure Form. You may schedule an appointment to meet with an International Scholar Advisor if you have questions about your current or future visa status but it is not required. You should also visit our health insurance office (central campus office) if you are currently covered by the International Center's Aetna Student Health insurance plan, in order to sign a cancellation form and terminate your health insurance policy early.

Read detailed instructions at Change J-1 Status Within the U.S. on our website. Because of the home residence requirement and other regulations changing your status might not be a simple procedure. You may wish to speak to an advisor before submitting an application.

The U-M International Center offers immigration advising services to J-1 scholars and dependents. Our immigration advisors can respond to all issues relating to J immigration regulations and relevant immigration documents and respond to issues related to adjusting to the U-M environment and U.S. culture. You may email questions to icenter@umich.edu.