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General J-Scholar Information

The United States Department of State (DOS) administers the Exchange Visitor Program (EVP), which implements the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (the Fulbright-Hays Act). This act promotes "mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges." The EVP provides foreign nationals with opportunities to participate in exchange programs in the United States and then return home to share their experiences. Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), as a designated sponsor of an EVP, offers such opportunities.

VUMC EVP offers programs as short as a seminar presentation to no more than 6 months for its Short-Term Scholars and no more than 5 years for its Research Scholars. The Exchange Visitors (EVs) are then expected to return to their home country to fulfill the objectives of the aforementioned Act. Some EVs will be subject to a two year home residency requirement (Section 212.e) that, unless fulfilled or waived, will bar them from obtaining H-1B status or permanent residency, among other lawful means of remaining and working in the US.

EVs are J-1 non-immigrant visa holders who pursue a specific program objective at academic institutions in the U.S., as designated by the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) and DOS. At VUMC, J-1 scholars are categorized as research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists. VUMC Immigration Services staff members are DOS – designated Responsible Officer (RO) & Alternate ROs (ARO).

VUMC Immigration Services is your liaison with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State (DOS). We do not work for either of these agencies or any other part of the U.S. government. We are here to help you and will assist you in every way possible. Remember, however, that you are solely responsible for maintaining your legal status. Whenever you have questions or problems, please make an appointment to see an adviser at VUMC Immigration Services as soon as possible.

VUMC J-Categories

These categories are not VUMC appointment titles, but rather immigration categories. The category that best meets the needs of the sponsoring department and most accurately reflects the exchange visitor's primary activity at VUMC will be stated in item 4 of the DS-2019 form. The department appointment title is not listed on the DS-2019 form.

Research Scholar

Qualifications: The Department Of State requires Exchange Visitors in the Research Scholar category to have academic credentials (generally at least a bachelor's degree or equivalent) and experience appropriate to the field of endeavor.

Activity: The activity must be full-time and temporary. Cannot be a tenure track position. Emphasis on research, observation or consultation, but may also teach and lecture. Length of Stay: The minimum stay in the US is three weeks, and the maximum stay is five years. No extension beyond five years is possible. Research Scholars/Professors have a 30 day grace period after their program ends to leave the US.

Eligibility for Repeat Participation: Exchange Visitors who complete a J-1 program in the Research Scholar category, regardless of the program’s duration, incur a two-year window of ineligibility before a new program in the Research Scholar category can begin.

Exchange Visitors (including J-2 dependents) in any category except Short-Term Scholar incur a one-year window of ineligibility before beginning a program in the Research Scholar category if they were in the US at any time during the 12-month period immediately prior to the start of the new program unless the total stay was less than six months.

Neither the two-year nor the one-year bar to eligibility for the Research Scholar category apply to exchange visitors who transfer to Vanderbilt from another institution within the US to continue their current J-1 program.

Short-Term Scholar

Qualifications: Department of State requires Exchange Visitors in the Short-Term Scholar category to have academic credentials (generally at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent) and experience appropriate to the field of endeavor.

Activity: The activity must be full-time and temporary. Short-Term Scholars may teach, lecture, observe, consult or perform research, and participate in seminars, workshops, conferences and other types of educational or professional activities.

Length of Stay: Short-Term Scholars may participate in the exchange visitor program for the length of time necessary to complete the program, not to exceed six months. Extensions beyond six months are not permitted. Short-Term Scholars have a 30 day grace period after their program ends to leave the US.

Eligibility for Repeat Participation: Regulations permit individuals who have previously participated in an exchange visitor program in the Short-Term Scholar category to begin a new program in any category without delay. Departments which invite exchange visitors for 6 months or less but anticipate extending their stay beyond 6 months should request the Research Scholar category instead of the Short-Term Scholar category. Departments which invite exchange visitors for 6 months or less and do not plan to extend them beyond six months should request the Short-Term Scholar category, especially if future visits to the US in the J-1 Professor or Research Scholar categories are anticipated within the next two years.

Specialist

Qualifications: Exchange Visitors in the Specialist category must have academic credentials and experience appropriate to the field of endeavor.

Activity: Specialists are experts in a field of specialized knowledge or skill coming to the US to demonstrate their special knowledge/skills, or to observe or consult with colleagues.

Length of Stay: Specialists may participate in the exchange visitor program for the length of time necessary to complete the program, not to exceed twelve months. A minimum stay of three weeks is required.

Eligibility for Repeat Participation: Regulations permit individuals who have previously participated in any exchange visitor program to begin a new program in the Specialist category without delay. Individuals who completed an exchange visitor program in the Specialist category may be delayed in beginning a new program in the Research Scholar or Professor categories because of the 12-month bar.

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