J-1 Visas: Requirements – Maintaining Lawful Exchange Visitor Immigration Status

All J-1 Exchange Visitors are required to meet the following requirements to be eligible for program participation.   Eligibility to remain the United States and engage in exchange visitor program activities is dependent upon maintaining lawful immigration and program status.  By signing the DS-2019 form, the Exchange Visitor agrees to abide by the conditions of the J-1 status while in the US.

  • Intent to pursue appropriate activity
  • Intent to return to home country (Establishing non-immigrant intent is determined by consular officer)
  • Have sufficient funds to support oneself and dependents for the duration of the program
  • Appropriate background/qualifications for program activity - Research scholars are expected to have appropriate academic or similar credentials. Generally, a prospective exchange visitor researcher should have at least a bachelor’s degree with appropriate experience in the field of activity.
  • Adequate English
  • Maintain mandatory health/emergency evacuation insurance for oneself and all dependents.  Willful failure to carry insurance is considered a violation of program regulations and can result in program termination. The Department of State treats “willful failure” to carry insurance as a serious infraction. One’s record cannot be corrected nor can one be reinstated if charged with this infraction.  Please see section on the mandatory insurance requirement.
  • Attend appropriate program orientation offered by program sponsor
  • Meet program criteria for participation
  • Hold a Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) status, known as the DS-2019 Form. This form is issued by the program sponsor for specific program activities.
  • Provide all updates required for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a large database accessed by program sponsors, the US Department of State and the US Department of Homeland Security.
  • Follow procedures and go through application process and interviews at a US Embassy or Consulate to successfully obtain a J-1 visa to enter the US.
  • Enter the USA successfully by being issued a “J-1” stamp at port of entry.
  • Register with the International Programs Office upon arrival and continue to follow guidelines for maintaining Exchange Visitor status to avoid violating immigration regulations.
  • Maintain a passport that is valid for at least 6 months into the future
  • Hold an I-94 card marked D/S – D/S stands for “duration of status” and refers to the program period listed in Item 3 on the DS-2019 form.  The definition of J-1 “duration of status” is the period specified on the DS-2019 plus a period of 30 days for the purpose of travel.
  • Engage only in approved program activities at approved sites of activity and abide by all rules for the particular program and program category.
  • Have appropriate authorization for any work  - Unauthorized employment is a violation of program status. An exchange visitor’s program can be terminated if s/he engages in unauthorized employment.
  • Notify program sponsor of any changes in program activities and any changes of address within 10 days of a move. 
  • Avoid becoming a burden to the state or public charge.  Accepting forms of State or Federal aid for which non-immigrants are not eligible may compromise legal immigration status.
  • Abide by the 2-year home country physical presence requirement
  • Abide by all USDA and US Forest Service regulations.
  • Agree to and abide by all USDA, USFS and other regulations stated on the Visitor Application Form (Intellectual Property Rights, Security, etc.)

All visitors will be asked to agree to the following terms upon applying for the program:


It is mutually agreed:

  • That the visiting personnel shall not be considered an employee of the Forest Service.
  • Publication of the results of the research under this agreement may be made by the Forest Service, or by the Forest Service and the visiting personnel as mutually agreed upon.
  • All rights to inventions in which the Visiting Personnel has a part shall be assigned to USDA unless agreed otherwise in writing by the USDA ARS Assistant Administrator, Office of Technology Transfer.
  • This agreement shall be effective for the dates shown above, unless otherwise legally altered. Intellectual property rights survive this agreement.


  • I, _________________________________, as a participant in the US Forest Service International Exchange Visitor Program, acknowledge that I have received, read and understand the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program regulations that affect my immigration status and program participation while I am in the United States.  I understand that some of the terms and conditions comply with US J-1 visa and immigration regulations and that some policies supersede visa regulations.  In order to participate in this program, I understand that I must submit signed copies of all required documents related to my participation and the conditions of this program.
  • In compliance with all federal regulations governing the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, I certify that all information given on this form is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge. 
  • My electronic/written signature indicates that I have read, understand and agree to abide by the US Forest Service J-1 International Exchange Visitor Program guidelines.
  • I understand that failure to abide by government regulations and US Forest Service policies will result in separation from the exchange visitor program.
  • I understand that I must maintain my legal permanent residence in my home country or country of legal residence and that I must return to my home to fulfill the obligations of the 2-year home presence requirement if it is determined that I am subject.  I will not attempt to remain in the USA beyond the expiration date of my authorized stay.
  • I authorize International Programs to process this application and any necessary security checks that may be required.
  • I have been informed by personnel in the US Forest Service International Programs Office that as an Exchange Visitor in J-1 status, I am required by United States Department of State – Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs regulations to maintain a health insurance policy with designated minimum standards of coverage for myself and all my J-2 dependents while in the United States.  I have received a copy of these requirements, read them and agree to abide by this requirement.
  • I understand that the Forest Service and its partners assume no liability for any injury, accident or other events that may lead to illness or disability.
  • I understand that it is my personal responsibility to follow all regulations and procedures to maintain active J-1 immigration status for myself and my J-2 dependents.
  • I understand that the US Forest Service will do its best to advise me of matters relating to the J-1 Exchange Visitor program; however, it is ultimately my responsibility to stay abreast of changes, developments and important deadlines and to maintain lawful status.
  • I understand that I and all J-2 dependents may be subject to the 2-year home country presence rule [212(e)].
  • I understand that any violation of program rules may result in the forfeiture and/or repayment of any reimbursements, grants, travel costs or allowances disbursed to me for the purpose of supporting my program activities.
  • I understand that I am responsible for understanding my US and international tax liability and for filing US income tax returns if applicable.
  • I understand that I am responsible for paying in full and on time all personal bills and accounts.
  • I understand that any publications that result from participation this program may be subject to US property and copyright laws.  Before publication, I must have the permission from the program sponsor.
  • I understand all reporting requirements and agree to submit progress reports, address changes, and final reports as directed.
  • I understand and agree to abide by the terms and conditions listed above. I understand that failing to comply will result in program termination. 
  • I understand that I am obligated to report my current address and telephone number to the International Programs office for entry into the SEVIS system and that any moves or changes must be reported within 10 days of the change.
  • I understand that if I wish to leave the United States for a short period of time and return to my J-1 program, I must obtain the “endorsement” for travel on my DS-2019 (signature of the Responsible Officer or Alternate Responsible Officer) prior to leaving the US.