Hosting a J-1 Scholar

This section is for faculty who would like to invite international visitors to campus as J-1 Scholars.

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.   

What positions are ineligible for a J-1 visa?

Because of the temporary nature of the J-1 visa, this visa category cannot be used for:

  • Tenure-line positions, because of the assumed permanency of these positions
  • Staff positions, for the same reason

Visa Processing for a J-1 Scholar

ISSA is responsible for all immigration processing, and the specific unit in ISSA is J-1 Scholar Advising.  If you have further questions after reading this information, contact:

We ask that the department initiates a request for the visa eligibility document (DS-2019) at least three (3) months in advance of the expected program start date of the J-1 Scholar. This allows time for the scholar to receive the DS-2019 and obtain a J-1 Visa in a timely manner.  The information below will help you to start this process.

The role of your Departmental Contact

Every department has identified a departmental contact who has access to our immigration management software.  This software, called Sunapsis (or iStart), is used to make requests for incoming scholars as well as faculty hires.

To determine the most appropriate visa category for your visitor, consult your departmental contact soon after you invite an international visitor. 

For a J-1 Scholar, your departmental contact will complete all of the departmental paperwork in the J-1: Incoming Scholar Checklist.  Then, your scholar will be alerted via email to do their portion of the request:

J-1: Incoming Scholar Checklist


  • Program Information -- DEPARTMENT
  • Inviting Faculty Responsibilities -- DEPARTMENT
  • Department Head Authorization -- DEPARTMENT
  • Applicant Information -- SCHOLAR
  • Transfer in DS-2019 -- SCHOLAR
  • Add J-2 Dependent -- SCHOLAR
  • Proof of English Proficiency -- SCHOLAR
  • Proof of Funding -- SCHOLAR
  • Additional Documentation -- SCHOLAR or DEPARTMENT


  • I-901 Fee Payment Confirmation -- SCHOLAR
  • Amend Program Dates -- SCHOLAR
  • J-1 Visa Confirmation -- SCHOLAR
  • Confirm Travel Plans -- SCHOLAR 
  • Emergency Contact Information -- SCHOLAR
  • J-1 Scholar Training -- SCHOLAR
  • Medical Insurance -- SCHOLAR


  • Document Check-in -- DEPARTMENT
  • Check in J-2 Dependent -- SCHOLAR or DEPARTMENT

English Proficiency for J-1 Scholars

International scholars who are applying for J-1 Exchange Visitor visas must comply with U.S. State Department requirements to demonstrate English language proficiency that is sufficient: 1) to participate successfully in their exchange programs; and 2) to function on a day-to-day basis in the United States.

A scholar must prepare documentation by referencing the list on the EPPIC website. Every scholar must complete the Proof of English Proficiency form, including those from English-speaking countries and those who are transferring a document to Penn State.  Approved documentation of English proficiency is required to obtain a DS-2019. 

Funding requirement for J-1 Scholars

The individual must demonstrate the finances to be here for the length of time and have medical insurance that meets the State Department requirements.  It does not matter where the finances come from:  personal, institution, government, sponsoring agency, professional organization, etc.  

Funding from Penn State: Penn State can pay an individual in J-1 status as they would any other instructor or researcher as long as the position is not permanent. The funding must meet the basic financial guidelines listed below.   

If the individual in this position will be paid by Penn State, the position must be advertised on the Penn State Jobs site to meet Affirmative Action guidelines.  Departments should work with their HR Strategic Partners and contact Affirmative Action with any questions.  

No Funding from Penn State:  Any international scholar who has no funding from Penn State must provide proof of funding to get a DS-2019 which is the visa eligibility document used to apply for a J-1 visa.  The current financial requirements are below.

Annual breakdown of funding requirements for 2022-2023

  Living Insurance TOTAL
Scholar $22,200 $3,500 $25,700
Spouse  $10,450 $3,500 $13,950
Each Child $5,900 $3,500 $9,400




Monthy breakdown of funding requirements for 2022-2023

  Living Insurance TOTAL
Scholar $1,850 $287 $2,137
Spouse  $1,157 $287 $1,157
Each Child $490 $287 $777




University Policy AC01

The university policy AC01: Visiting Scholars applies to all J-1 Scholars who are not employees of the university.   The Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs must approve an unpaid visiting scholar before J-1 Scholar Advising can issue a visa document.  Your departmental contact will complete all necessary forms.

What happens after a request is submitted in iStart?

Once the forms are completed by the department and the invited scholar, the J-1 Scholar Advisers will review the materials and when everything is in place, they will create the DS-2019.  The DS-2019 cannot be transmitted electronically, so the document is shipped to the individual.  

The scholar uses the DS-2019 to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee ($220), complete the DS-160 visa application ($160), and make an appointment at the consulate.  From an immigration perspective, anyone can pay the SEVIS fee with a credit card although it accompanies the form I-901.  The visa fee is typically paid at a local bank in the country where the individual is applying for the visa.

Occasionally, the appointment is far into the future (could be months), but after making the appointment, the scholar can request an expedited appointment, if such appointments are available.  Special considerations for Russian and Ukrainian citizens: No visa appointments have been available in Russia for more than a year for reasons beyond the current war.  There are no consular services in the Ukraine, and the assumption is that the consular posts where most of the Ukrainians are currently living are overflowing with appointments.  

Once the visa is obtained, the scholar can fly to the U.S.  Once the individual enters the U.S., the department will go back to iStart and complete the arrival information in iStart and upload the required documents, so that the scholar’s arrival can be validated in SEVIS (Department of Homeland Security database).      

Inviting Faculty Responsibilities

By extending an invitation to a visiting scholar, the faculty member agrees to the following:

  • Notify the scholar of the English proficiency requirement
  • Notify the scholar of the medical insurance requirement 
  • Provide assistance to the scholar for any needs regarding arrival, including housing
  • Be present on campus for at least 75% of the working days during the scholar's visit
  • Ensure that the scholar checks in with the departmental contact immediately upon arrival
  • Meet with the scholar at the start of the program to discuss research strategy and goals
  • Be an ad hoc adviser if the scholar is currently a degree-seeking candidate in their home country
  • Have a general idea of the scholar's whereabouts (e.g., out for illness, out for vacation)
  • Report as soon as possible any unexplained, extended absences to J-1 Scholar Advising
  • Obtain prior approval from J-1 Scholar Advising before any changes occur in the scholar's program (e.g., finances, end date, duties)
  • Contact J-1 Scholar Advising and your department's Human Resources representative if the scholar is not performing at previously agreed-upon expectations
  • Since this immigration status is part of public diplomacy, ensure the J-1 scholar has opportunities to learn about American culture and meet Americans

Housing and Arrival

On-campus housing is not available to J-1 Scholars.  Therefore, the host department should assist scholars with finding suitable housing as well as transportation after their arrival.