Special J-1 Program Regulations

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program and “J” immigration status are unique.  There are many special regulations associated with this program that are specific to J-1 educational and cultural exchange programs.  Please click on the following links to learn more.


Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status: Form DS-2019

The US Forest Service International Visitors Program (IVP) Specialists are designated as Alternate Responsible Officers and issue the Form DS2019 to prospective participants. This form is required to apply for a J-1 visa but does not guarantee that the applicant will receive the visa.

Passports and Expiration Dates

Passports must be valid for 6 months beyond the period of the approved stay in the US. International visitors should check the passport expiration date and get a new passport or an extension if needed.  It is best to do this before applying for the J-1 visa.

Maintaining Lawful Immigration Status

Eligibility to remain the United States and engage in exchange visitor program activities is dependent upon maintaining lawful immigration and program status.

Program Start & End Dates

The proposed and approved program start and end dates define the period of time during which the approved program activities can occur. Extensions are only possible within the maximum duration of the particular program category and if they are mutually agreed upon by the host and visitor.

Required Check In and Validation

Exchange Visitors must be notify their Program Specialist of their arrival and provide the required documents so their record and program can be “validated” in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). 

30-Day Grace Period

A J-1 visa holder may enter the US up to 30 days before or after the program start date. They MUST exit the US no later than 30 days after the end date listed on the DS-2019. No program activities may take place outside the official program dates. The 30-day grace period is to allow for personal travel and cultural exchange.

12-Month Bar

Individuals who have been present in the United States in any “J” classification other than as a short-term scholar and who have participated in a program of more than 6 months are not eligible to start a new program as a Professor of Research Scholar until 12 months after the completion of their last program. However, they may be eligible to transfer from one program sponsor to another depending on their particular program. This is commonly referred to as the 12-month bar.

24-Month Bar

Individuals who have been present in the US as a J-1 Professor or Research Scholar are not eligible for repeat participation as a Professor or Research Scholar until 24 months after completing the previous program. Professors and Research scholars can transfer from one program sponsor to another during the 5-year maximum program duration, but if at any point the program is ended, the 2-year waiting period begins. This 24-month bar does not apply to “Short-Term Scholars,” whose programs are for a maximum of 6 months.

Financial Support – Sufficient Funds

All participants must have sufficient funds or financial support to cover living expenses and insurance for their entire programs. The minimum is $1300/month. If dependents are approved, this minimum is increased by $550/month for a spouse and $375/month for each child.

2-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement

J-1 visa holders who are on a special skills list or sponsored by the US Government or their home governments are subject to Section 212(e) of the Immigration Act, which states they are not eligible for an H or L visa, or legal permanent resident status until they have spent 2 years in their countries of residence. They may still be eligible for other visa classifications during that period.

Mandatory Health Insurance

Health insurance meeting US State Department minimum requirements is mandatory for all J-1 visa holders. Failure to have this insurance during any period of the program is a violation of immigration status.

10-day notice of any move

Exchange visitors and dependents must submit residential address changes to their IVP Specialist within 10 days of any move. This notification can be submitted via email and should be sent in a timely manner. The IVP specialist will need to update this change in SEVIS and it is important that all SEVIS records reflect accurate and up-to-date information. J-1 or J-2 visa holders who fail to submit a change of current US address, as required, are considered to be in violation of the Exchange Visitor Program regulations and are not eligible for reinstatement.

Travel Outside the US during Program

J-1 Visa holders must have their DS-2019 form endorsed by an IVP Program Specialist/Alternate Responsible Officer before traveling outside the US if they intend to return to the US in J-1 status.

Program Modifications: Extensions, Transfers, Changes in Program Site or Activities and more

Any program modifications must be reported to an IVP Specialist as soon as possible. Any activities not covered by original program description must be reviewed and approved to ensure compliance with regulations. Programs can be extended within the maximum program eligibility length of the particular program category indicated on the DS-2019. Different J-1 categories have different maximum program length eligibilities.

Program Reporting and Completion

Participants must report their final departure dates to an IVP Program Specialist and complete a Departure Report. Failure to leave within 30 days after the program end date is considered ‘overstaying a visa’ and can result in future denials of applications for any classification of visa to enter the USA.

Dependents (J-2 Visa Holders)

If approved by the program host, a spouse or children under age 21 can accompany the J-1 program participant as long as sufficient funding has been demonstrated. Dependents are subject to all J-1 regulations, including the 2-year home country presence requirement.


More Information

For more information on J-1 Program or other immigration regulations, please visit the following websites:

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Failure to abide by immigration regulations and J-1 Program rules can result in program termination and deportation from the United States.


United States immigration laws are very complex and change frequently.  The information contained on this website and in associated documents is designed specifically for international visitors and sponsoring US Forest Service Units.  Though International Programs tries to keep its website and publications up to date, we cannot guarantee that the content is fully comprehensive nor can we attest to its accuracy given the ongoing development of immigration and program policies.  The information contained herein cannot be considered legal advice.

Ultimately, foreign visitors holding US visas are responsible for understanding and complying with program and immigration regulations.  Immigration policies do change and individual cases and concerns are unique.  When seeking advice or researching policy, one should contact an International Visitor Program Specialist who serves as a J-1 Exchange Visitor Program Alternate Responsible Officer and refer to Department of State and Department of Homeland Security sources. If an exchange visitor fails to maintain lawful immigration status, he or she is subject to program termination and any decisions or actions which may be taken by the US Department of Homeland Security and US Department of State.

The Office of International Programs does its best to inform hosting units and international visitors associated with the Agency of the policies governing their programs.  Host units, exchange visitors must maintain regular communication with International Programs to ensure timely conveyance of important program related information and compliance with all mandatory monitoring and reporting responsibilities.