What is a J-1 Scholar?

A J-1 Scholar is a visiting researcher, professor, or specialist from a country outside of the United States who has been approved to enter the United States for a specific purpose and for a limited amount of time.  The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) for the express purpose of promoting international educational exchange of expertise and stimulating collaborative teaching and research efforts.  Exchange is truly at the core of the program and based on this philosophy and directive.   

Important Characteristics of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program 

  • Permanent or tenure-track positions are prohibited for J-1 Exchange Visitors.   
  • Throughout their stay, J-1 Exchange Visitors and their dependents must have medical insurance that meets U.S. Department of State requirements.   
  • The Exchange Visitor must have sufficient English language proficiency to have a productive experience both academically and culturally.   

J-1 Exchange Visitor Categories 

The Exchange Visitor Program includes 16 different categories of Exchange Visitors.  In addition to enrolling international students in the J-1 Student category, Penn State is also authorized to use the following categories for “scholars”:  

Professor and Research Scholar 

  • Program Duration: Three (3) weeks to five (5) years (continuous time)  
  • Primary Activity: Teaching or collaborative research.  Details are available on the State Department's website.  
  • This category is subject to the 12- and 24-Month Bars on Repeat Participation

Short-Term Scholar 

  • Program Duration: One (1) day to six (6) months  
  • Primary Activity: Teaching or collaborative research.  Details are available on the State Department's website.
  • This category is NOT subject to the 12- and 24-Month Bars on Repeat Participation, but may still be influenced by it.   

Specialist 

  • Program Duration: Three (3) weeks to one (1) year  
  • Primary Activity: Used for visitors who bring a unique skill set and often provide seminars or "master classes." Details are available on the State Department's website.  
  • This category is NOT subject to the 12- and 24-Month Bars on Repeat Participation, but may still be influenced by it.

Independent Researchers and Guest Lecturers 

If you are coming to Penn State to conduct business, present a lecture, attend conferences and seminars, or hold business meetings, it may be possible to enter the U.S. on the B-1 (visitor) visa or Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for business.  If you plan to enter in this status, you MUST understand that:  

  • These visa classes DO NOT allow employment.  
  • Honoraria and per diem payments can be made, provided that you meet the 9-5-6 Rule (your stay at the university is no longer than 9 days and you have not accepted reimbursements from more than 5 other institutions in the U.S. during the preceding 6-month period).  
  • Canadian citizens who enter the U.S. without any other visa documentation are considered to be admitted in a joint B-1 (Visitor for Business)/B-2 (Visitor for Tourism) immigration classification.  
  • Reimbursements in this visa classification may be subject to substantial tax withholding.