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Program Modifications

Change of Activities/Sites

Please consult with the IVP Specialist before making any program adjustments or changes to a program site or activities.  Any changes of activities or sites must be reviewed by an Alternate Responsible Officer, approved in writing and recorded in the SEVIS system. A change in activity and/or site also requires an updated DS-2019 form be issued and mailed to you. Failure to do so could result in program violations that can jeopardize immigration status and lead to program termination.



Permission to stay in the US ends on the date shown on the I-94 Departure Record unless it is marked “D/S” or “Duration of Status.”  Most J-1 Exchange Visitors will see “D/S” marked on their I-94 document and DS-2019s.  In this case, program activities must end on the program date on the DS-2019 and permission to stay in the USA will expire 30 days after the program expiration date on the DS-2019.

Overstaying one’s status (i.e. program end date + 30-day grace period) is a SERIOUS immigration violation that almost always has long-term consequences. Any future visa applications are likely to be denied, regardless of the visa classification or purpose of visit. 

Extension within the maximum time allowed for a particular program category: Please refer to the maximum program periods for each category.  If an extension is necessary, the hosting unit should contact their IVP Specialist/Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) to request an extension at least 4-6 weeks before the expiration date on the DS-2019.  To process an extension, proof of funding for maintenance allowance and health insurance for the period of the extension is required. The IVP Specialist will determine if the Exchange Visitor has been maintaining program status and verify that the extension meets the criteria for approval.  If approved, the IVP Specialist will amend the program in SEVIS and issue a new DS-2019. Extensions must be processed in SEVIS before the program end date.

Extensions beyond the maximum program duration: Generally, extensions beyond the maximum program duration are not considered by International Programs.  They are only allowed in some program categories for exceptional or unusual circumstances, with approval from the Department of State. To obtain approval for such extensions, the IVP Specialist must submit a written request that justifies the petition and provides supporting documentation to the Department of State on behalf of the participant. A nonrefundable fee must be paid to the U.S. Department of State. For more information go to:


Transfers between Program Sponsors (within J-1 Status)

In very special cases, a transfer of sponsorship can allow an exchange visitor to begin a new program at another institution or with another agency.  The US Forest Service must officially transfer the SEVIS record to another official Exchange Visitor Program sponsor or vice versa.  The transfer of a participant from one program sponsor to another may be allowed at the discretion of the officials of both sponsoring organizations/agencies/institutions and must be within the same category. The Responsible/Alternate Responsible Officer of the program to which the participant seeks to transfer is required to verify and document the participant's visa status and eligibility, to issue a new Form DS-2019 reflecting the transfer, and to obtain the release of the participant from the current responsible officer, who indicates approval of the transfer by completing and signing block 8 of the new Form DS-2019. Transfers are not permitted in all categories, and a transfer does not extend the maximum duration of the program. Participants should address all inquiries regarding change of category to the Responsible Officer in International Programs.

For more information go to:


Change within “J” Status to another J-1 program category

Any change of category must be clearly consistent with and closely related to the participant's original exchange objective, and necessary due to unusual or exceptional circumstances. Participants should address all inquiries regarding change of category to the responsible officer of the program. The responsible officer submits a written request with supporting justification for the change to the Department of State on behalf of the participant. A nonrefundable fee is payable to the US Department of State.

If the Department of State grants the request, the responsible officer issues a new Form DS-2019 that reflects the change. If the request is denied, the participant is expected to return home no later than 30 days from the date of the State Department's notice or the program's end date indicated on the Form DS-2019, whichever is later.

In general, a change of category represents a change of objective. The only type of category change permitted without prior approval from the Department of State or without exiting and re-entering the country to begin a new program is between professor and research scholar. These activities are “so intertwined” that a change of activity is not considered a change of category necessitating a formal approval.

An exchange visitor who has completed one program and exits the United States may return in a new category or under new program sponsorship at a later time.  If eligible, a new DS-2019 form is issued for the new program category and the exchange visitor may follow all procedures for visa application and beginning a new program. The 24-month bar will apply to those in the professor or research scholar categories. Also, there are some important exceptions to this rule which may affect reentry in the J-1 Professor/Research Scholar category for those who have participated in a J-1 program for alien physicians and foreign medical graduates. 

If an exchange visitor intends to change categories without exiting the US, the US Department of State must authorize a change of category before an RO/ARO can issue a DS-2019 for the new category.  The criteria and standards for changes of category state the reason must be “unusual and exceptional,” thus changes of category are difficult to obtain.  The RO/ARO will most likely advise against requesting a category change given the difficulty of proving “unusual and exceptional” circumstances.

Please contact the International Programs office for more information or go to:


Change of Status to another Non-immigrant Category

Information for those wishing to change to or holding another visa type.


Changing FROM J-1 to another non-immigrant status

Persons sponsored by the US Government with a 2-year home residence requirement will not be eligible for a change in visa classification in the US unless they are seeking to change to “A” (diplomatic or government official) or “G” (international organization) classifications.  

The US Forest Service invites international visitors solely for the purpose of participating in and completing the objectives of a defined program and the related activities that the Forest Service or its official partners have sponsored.  The Forest Service cannot support any efforts made by an individual to change his or her immigration status after arriving in the United States. 

International Programs strongly advises visitors who have questions about changing immigration status to consult with an IVP Specialist in the International Programs Office.  The IVP Specialist can help international visitors understand the regulations and the number of potential impacts that independent actions may have on present and future immigration status.  

If an Exchange Visitor is outside the USA…

If an Exchange Visitor is outside the US, but had previously been in the US as an exchange visitor, s/he may apply for a different type of non-immigrant visa at the US Embassy or consulate.  No minimum time abroad is required to obtain a different visa unless s/he is subject to the 2-year home country physical presence requirement and s/he is applying for an H or L visa.  If s/he is subject to 212(e) and is granted another visa in another category, s/he is still subject to the 2-year home presence requirement and must fulfill it before ever applying for an H or L visa or permanent residency.

For More information:


Changing TO J-1 status from another non-immigrant status

Forest Service units wishing to invite an international visitor who is already in the United States in another immigration classification, must contact and consult with an International Visitor Program Specialist.   There are very specific regulations governing the types of activities international visitors can participate in while holding certain visa classifications.   Foreigners already present in the United States in another non-immigrant status who will require J-1 status for Forest Service or USDA programs, must either depart and re-enter the USA and re-enter with a new visa or they must apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office for a change of status to J-1.  Any benefits of J-1 status are not available until the change of status is approved by USCIS. Processing times for change of status requests can be extraordinarily long and requires fees.   Hence, in most cases it is better for the individual to depart the US, obtain all necessary invitations and documents, apply for a J-1 visa, then return to begin their program activities.

For More information:



Resolving problems related to invalid program or immigration status

On occasion, exchange visitors fail to maintain valid program or immigration status through circumstances beyond their control, inadvertence, or neglect on their part or as result of an error made by their program sponsor or IVP Specialist.

Some minor errors or technical infractions that might be considered violations can be corrected without a need for a formal reinstatement, provided no more than 120 days have elapsed since the infraction. However, if an Exchange Visitor is out of program status for more than 120 days and if the violations are substantive, the Exchange Visitor must file for reinstatement.

For substantive infractions beyond minor errors, Exchange Visitors are not eligible for reinstatement if they have:

  • Knowingly or willfully failed to obtain or maintain the required health insurance at all times while in the USA.
  • Engaged in unauthorized employment
  • Been suspended or terminated from most recent exchange visitor program
  • Failed to maintain valid program status for more than 270 calendar days
  • Received favorable recommendation from DOS on an application for waiver of 212(e)*; or,

*Please note that if the Department of State has recommended a waiver for the 212(e) home residence requirement, you are not eligible for reinstatement. If you have applied for a waiver but the Department of State has not yet issued a recommendation for a waiver, you are eligible for a correction and reinstatement.

The process of requesting reinstatement for substantive infractions is as follows:

  1. The Exchange Visitor must request  RO/ARO approval for Reinstatement Request. The request must include:
    1. Proof that both inadvertence or circumstances beyond one’s control and unusual hardship will occur if s/he is not reinstated; 
    2. Proof that the visitor has pursued the activity on his DS-2019 for all time since entering the USA;
    3. Copies of all DS-2019 forms issued to date;


  1. RO/ARO submits a Reinstatement Request to the Department of State through SEVIS.
  2. The RO/ARO sends fee to US Department of State (see current rate at
  3. The RO/ARO prepares and sends a written statement on behalf of the visitor containing an explanation of the violation, a declaration of the Exchange Visitor’s intention to pursue intended activities and confirmation that the violation was due to circumstances beyond the control of the Exchange Visitor or inadvertence, administrative delays or excusable neglect on the part of the exchange visitor or RO/ARO.
  4. The RO/ARO prepares and sends to the Department of State a new, completed Form DS-2019, showing in Block 3 the new program end date; a copy of the receipt showing that the Public Law 104-208 fee has been paid; and the written statement with supporting documentation justifying the request.

If approved, the Exchange Visitor is reinstated back to the date of receipt of the application, not back to the date when they failed to maintain status.  It is generally understood that this gap will not result in any prejudice and will not make an exchange visitor “unlawfully present” during that gap.

For more information on the reinstatement application and process, visit:


Terminating an Exchange Visitor - Program Violations

If, for any reason, an Exchange Visitor violated the regulations for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program and immigration status, his/her SEVIS record may be “terminated” immediately.  Terminated Exchange Visitors cannot apply for reinstatement, extensions of stay, changes of category, or any other benefit. They are required to depart the country immediately as their immigration status is no longer valid.  They are not entitled to the 30-day grace period as they did not successfully complete the program.

Terminations reasons are as follows:

  • Failure to disclose information, dishonesty or purposely falsifying documents as related to information relevant to participation in the exchange visitor program either before or after selection for the program.
  • Conviction of a Crime or other Disciplinary Action
  • Engaging in unauthorized employment
  • Failure to engage in or pursue specified Exchange Visitor program activities
  • Failure to submit change of current address within 10 days
  • Failure to report and request permission for travel outside the USA during program
  • Failure to maintain a full-course of study (if a student)
  • Failure to maintain health insurance for self and all J-2 dependents
  • Involuntary suspension from program or employment
  • Gross nonperformance of academic or organizational responsibility including dishonesty, cheating, plagiarism, failure to attend courses or report for assigned activities
  • Improper social behavior that may have the effect of negative notoriety or disrepute for the Forest Service, State Department or other affiliated government or private entity involved in the exchange visitor program.
  • Violation of Exchange Visitor Program regulation
  • Violation of Sponsor rules – US Forest Service and/or partner agency policies and regulations
  • A breakdown in physical or mental health that would seriously impair ability to continue participation
  • Exhausting all sickness and illness benefits of insurance provided by the Forest Service
  • Failure to report to International Programs a pregnancy, violation of US law or other event or circumstance which will affect program status and participation
  • Other

Special note:  Becoming a burden to the state as a non-immigrant is unacceptable. Exchange Visitors are advised not to attempt to access or accept State or Federal aid or benefits for which non-immigrants are not eligible.

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