Becoming a J-1 Scholar

Your host department and J-1 Scholar Advising will help you through important processes, such as applying for a visa document, meeting J-1 regulations, and arriving at Penn State. 

Pre-Arrival Tasks

After you have accepted your offer/invitation from your Penn State department, your department will go to an online portal called iStart.  There, the department will begin the request for your DS-2019 (visa document for the J-1 Visa) using the J-1: Incoming Scholar Checklist.  

Your department will complete the following forms: 

  • Program Information 
  • Inviting Faculty Responsibilities 
  • Department Head Authorization 

You will receive an email with iStart login instructions to complete the following forms in order:  

  • Applicant Information - Includes biographical information
  • Add J-2 Dependent (optional) - This is only necessary when bringing a spouse and/or child to accompany you in J-2 status. 
  • Transfer in DS-2019 (optional) - This is only necessary when transferring a current and valid DS-2019 to Penn State.
  • Proof of English Proficiency - Approved documentation of English proficiency is required to obtain a DS-2019.  Prepare your documentation by referencing the list on the EPPIC website. Every scholar must complete this form, including those from English-speaking countries and those who are transferring a document to Penn State.
  • Proof of Funding -  Includes financial information

Home-Country Tasks 

After your DS-2019 has been created, you will receive email reminders to continue with the following forms in order: 

  • I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment Confirmation - See the I-901 SEVIS Fee website for more information. 
  • Amend DS-2019 Program Dates (optional) - Use this form if the dates on your DS-2019 must be changed. 
  • J-1 Visa Confirmation - Visit the website for the U.S. embassy/consulate in the city where you will apply. 
  • Confirm Travel Plans - If flying to the United States, you will be asked to upload a PDF of your flight itinerary. See our Travel page to learn about what you should bring with you to the airport.  
  • Emergency Contact Information - This can be any individual in your home country or the United States who can be contacted in case of emergency.  
  • J-1 Scholar Training - You will be directed to an external site to participate in an online training on maintaining J-1 status and life at Penn State.  The training will take you about 30 minutes to complete and serves as your J-1 "orientation."  
  • Medical Insurance - You will be linked to the necessary websites and enrollment forms to enroll in medical insurance or to waive the requirement.  You will then upload the documentation into this form.  See our Medical Insurance page for more information. 

Post-Arrival Tasks 

After you arrive in State College, immediately check in with your host department and complete: 

  • Document Check-In - Please visit your departmental contact who will complete this form during your appointment.   
  • Check in J-2 Dependent (optional) - Only use this form if your J-2 dependent has arrived with you.  

After your Document Check-In is approved by J-1 Scholar Advising, you will be reminded about applying for a Social Security Number.