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Exchange Visitor Program & J-1 Visas: Authorities

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the US Department of State Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau (ECA).  The ECA determines which government agencies and organizations are designated as official exchange visitor program sponsors.  The ECA works closely with many other government agencies and divisions involved in facilitating and monitoring J-1 Exchange Visitor programs.  Exchange Visitors (EV) classified in J-1 status are governed by regulations of the U.S. Department of State, immigration regulations enforced by the Department of Homeland Security and Program Sponsor policies.  The J-1 visa category is specifically intended for professional, educational and cultural exchange programs. It is not intended for permanent employment nor may it be used to engage an exchange visitor in an activity that might displace a U.S. citizen.


United States Department of State (DOS)

  • The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) administers the Exchange Visitor Program in compliance with the regulations found at [22 CFR 62.9[c]]. ECA creates and administers federal regulations and policies governing the Exchange Visitor Program.
  • US consulates and embassies issue “J-1” visas to Exchange Visitors (EV) and “J-2” visas to their dependents.


Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Within the Department of Homeland Security, three bureaus oversee the majority of immigration activities:

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program Office within the Bureau for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) manages the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a data management system used by officials to monitor participants, programs, sponsor activity and issue forms for immigration purposes. The DS-2019, or certificate of eligibility for exchange visitor (J-1) status is issued through SEVIS. ICE also manages immigration investigations, detentions and deportations.

US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) handles immigration enforcement at the borders and admits aliens into the US in J-1 Exchange Visitor status.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for adjudicating immigration benefits.


Exchange Visitor Program Sponsors

Organizations, educational institutions and government agencies, must apply for and receive designation from the US Department of State in order to conduct an Exchange Visitor Program.

Responsible Officers (RO) and Alternate Responsible Officers (ARO) representing the sponsor have access to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) system, issue DS-2019 forms, and monitor the Exchange Visitor program.

The US Forest Service International Programs Office has obtained specific authorization from the Department of State to invite international exchange visitors in the program categories of Government Visitor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, Trainee and Intern.  Government visitors may take part in a variety of activities sponsored by the US Forest Service.  Exchange visitors are able to engage in study, research and scholarly activities that meet the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program eligibility requirements.  An exchange visitor’s activities must be clearly described by the hosting unit and primary activities must meet the J-1 Exchange Visitor program criteria. Exchange visitors may receive a maintenance allowance for their stay; however, the J-1 program is an exchange program and cannot be used for general employment purposes.  International Programs, as an official program sponsor, must maintain strict procedures to maintain the integrity of its program and international exchange activities.  Unauthorized employment of aliens and inappropriate use of exchange visitor programs are violations, which carry severe penalties. 

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