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International Visitor Program

J-1 Visas: Program Categories

The US Forest Service is a sponsor for J-1 participants the following categories. Each category has its own acceptable activities and time limitations.

J-1 Visas Chart
J-1 Visas at a Glance
Program Categories
Program Requirements
Time Limitation
Program Authorities
B-1 Visas

Government Visitor: Participants in this category include editors, business and professional persons, government officials, graduate students and labor leaders. According to the US Department of State, the objective of this category is to develop and strengthen professional and personal ties between key foreign nationals and Americans and American institutions. Selected foreign nationals, recognized as influential or distinguished persons and who are selected by US federal, state, or local government agencies, participate in observation tours, discussions, consultations, professional meetings, conferences, workshops, and travel. These people-to-people programs enable government visitors to better understand American culture and society, and to contribute to American knowledge of foreign cultures. The Forest Service hosts foreign government officials, key leaders and individuals who may be influential in international policy development, the protection and sustainable use of natural resources, and other issues related to the work of governments and private industry as related to natural resource management, disaster preparedness and response and international trade.

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Research Scholar: An individual primarily conducting research, observing, or consulting in connection with a research project at research institutions, corporate research facilities, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited educational institutions, or similar types of institutions. The research scholar may also teach or lecture at the primary site of activity, unless disallowed by the sponsor. Permission for occasional lectures at other sites must be requested in writing and approved by the Responsible Officer. The US Forest Service hosts research scholars involved in cooperative research in the field and at Forest Service research facilities.

  • May participate in programs of up to 5 years to engage in research and/or teaching
  • May NOT hold or be candidates for tenure at an academic institution
  • May NOT receive a DS-2019 if they have been in the US for 6 months or more in any other J Status during the immediately preceding 12 months (this does not apply to short-term scholar category) or if they have been in the Professor or Research Scholar program status for any part of the 24 months preceding the new program date.
  • May change categories between research scholar and professor if transferring to another program as a professor within the maximum 5-year program limit.
  • May engage in occasional outside lectures or consultation for compensation with written permission from the Responsible Officer.

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Short-Term Scholar: A professor, research scholar, graduate student or person with similar education or accomplishments who visits the U.S. to lecture, observe, consult, train, or demonstrate special skills at research institutions, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited educational institutions, or similar institutions. The program is limited to 6 months without possibility for extensions. Participants are not subject to the 12- or 24-month bars. Many Forest Service exchanges fall into this category as they involve research or participation in educational activities for a period of less than 6 months.

  • May participate in programs of up to 6 months to lecture, observe, consult and participate in seminars, workshops, conferences, or other similar types of educational or professional activities.
  • Have no minimum length of stay
  • May NOT extend their stay beyond 6 months
  • Are exempt from the 12- and 24-month bars for professors and research scholars
  • Although they are technically exempted from orientation requirement, it is required by International Programs.

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Specialist: An expert in a field of specialized knowledge or skill, who comes to the United States to observe, consult, or demonstrate special skills (professors, research scholars, short-term scholars and alien physicians are excluded from this category). The purpose of the specialist category is to facilitate exchange among experts at scientific institutions, government agencies, museums and similar types of institutions. Some examples of fields represented include mass media communication, environmental science, youth leadership, international educational exchange, museum exhibitions, labor law, public administration and library science. In the case of Forest Service, Specialists may be invited to exchange ideas, consult or observe practices in the US related to one of the many specialized skills or disciplines practiced in and essential to the effective management of natural resources and disaster preparedness and response.

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Other J-1 Exchange Visitor Categories

There are other categories of exchange visitors that are not discussed in this document. These include academic programs for students, training programs, short-term work and travel programs and teacher exchange programs. The US Forest Service International Programs Office is a designated sponsor of programs listed above, but does not have authority to sponsor exchange visitors in any other exchange visitor program categories.

For more information on the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, go to:

If you have any questions, please contact:

  • Brenda Dean , International Visitor Program Coordinator, Responsible Officer, (202) 644-4640,
  • Rima Eid, International Visitor Program Specialist, Alternate Responsible Officer, (202)644-4642,
  • Kristin Corcoran, International Visitor Program Specialist, (202) 644-4643,
  • Misty Sidhu, International Visitor Program Specialist, (202) 644-4645,
  • Ashlee Jackson, International Visitor Program Specialist, (202) 644-4644,
  • Lee Blaser, International Visitor Program Specialist, (202) 644-4631,

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