Maintaining J-1 Status

J-1 Scholar: Travel

Going outside of the United States for less than 30 days  

J-1 Scholars may travel outside of the U.S. for less than 30 days with a valid travel signature.

If your J-1 visa stamp is expired, you must plan for enough time to obtain a new J-1 visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate while you are outside of the U.S.   Visa stamps are needed when crossing the border, not for maintenance of status while you are in the U.S.; therefore, it is not possible to apply for J-1 visa stamps from within the U.S. 

If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island, you do not have to have a valid J-1 Visa to reenter the United States.  Please read the details about Automatic Revalidation on the U.S. Department of State's website.   

 Travel Signature Procedure  

  1. Go to iStart --> J-1 Scholar Services --> Travel Signature  
  2. You must provide your destination and approximate dates of travel.  
  3. When your request is approved (usually within two business days), you will receive an email instructing you to come to walk-in advising to have your DS-2019 signed.  

Going outside of the United States for more than 30 days  

J-1 Scholars may travel outside of the U.S. for more 30 days, but must have special authorization in order to maintain active J-1 status during this time.  Maintaining J-1 status requires the following while you are outside of the U.S.: 

  • Continuation of authorized program activity (i.e. research or teaching)  
  • Maintenance of medical insurance
  • Updates to J-1 Scholar Advising of any address or telephone number changes through the Update Contact Information form in iStart   
  • Updates to Penn State host department on your progress and welfare  

Please note: If you have a J-2 dependent, that dependent may not remain in the U.S. during your absence.  

Out-of-Country (30+ Days) Authorization Procedure   

  1. Go to iStart --> J-1 Scholar Services --> Out-of-Country (30+ Days)  
  2. You must provide your exact dates of travel, location of program activity (usually a university or other research site), and your supervisor's name and email address. 
  3. iStart will automatically send an email to your supervisor for a detailed description of the program activity while you are outside of the U.S.  
  4. When your request is approved (usually within two business days), you will receive an email instructing you to come to walk-in advising to have your DS-2019 signed. 

General Travel Advice  

  • Please see our information about the most recent U.S. Presidential Executive Orders 
  • Carry the following documents during your international travel:  
    • Most recent DS-2019 with valid travel signature (see above)  
    • Valid passport (must be valid for at least six (6) months into the future)  
    • Valid J-1 visa stamp in your passport (except Canadian citizens) - See information above on Automatic Revalidation
    • *Proof of continuing employment (i.e. invitation/offer letter from Penn State host department).   
    • *Proof of financial support (if funded by Penn State, this may be on your invitation/offer letter)  
    • *Proof of current medical insurance  
    • Documentation listed above for any J-2 dependents traveling with you  
  • If transiting through a country of which you are not a citizen, you may need to apply for a transit visa for that country.  Consult the website of the embassy or consulate for that country to determine your visa requirements prior to traveling.   

*not required, but recommended 

J-1 Scholar: Incidental Employment

As a J-1 Scholar, you may participate in occasional lectures or short-term consultations, but only when authorized in advance by J-1 Scholar Advising.  These activities must be incidental to your program activities, which means that they must not interfere with the approved activities of your J-1 program.  According to the J-1 regulations, specifically  22 CFR 62.20(g)(1),   

The occasional lectures or short-term consultations must:  

  •    Be directly related to the objectives of the exchange visitor's program;  
  •    Be incidental to the exchange visitor's primary program activities;  
  •    Not delay the completion date of the visitor's program; and  
  •    Be documented in SEVIS.  

Authorization Procedure  

The steps below must be completed prior to participating in the proposed activity.   

  1. Have a discussion with your Penn State supervisor to make sure they agree with the proposed activity. 
  2. If your supervisor agrees, proceed with making your Incidental Employment request in iStart
  3. Upload the offer letter for the incidental employment.  This letter should be on official letterhead and include the total hours/time frame you will be working along with any payment information.  
  4. List the location of the incidental employment.  
  5. Enter your supervisor's name and email when prompted.  
  6. iStart will automatically send an email to your supervisor for explanation as to how the incidental employment will enhance your J-1 program.  

After J-1 Scholar Advising receives your supervisor's response and approves the request, we will make an authorization letter for you to participate in the incidental employment.  

You will present this letter as proof that you are allowed to receive pay for the activity.  Keep a copy of the letter for your records. 

J-1 Scholar: Program Extension

See our What is a J-1 Scholar? page for information about the length of time that applies to your J-1 Scholar category.  A J-1 program must be continuous.  Therefore, a request to extend your current J-1 program must be made before your current program expires.    

If you require an extension of your current program, follow these steps at least one month before the expiration:

  1. Discuss the possibility of extending with your Penn State host department.  
  2. If in agreement, your host department will create a new invitation/offer letter for you and begin the request in iStart using the J-1: Extension form.  
  3. The form will be routed to you for confirmation and collection of additional financial documentation, if necessary. 
  4. Complete the Update Insurance Documentation form to show you have valid insurance coverage for the entire period of your extension.

J-1 Scholar: Financial Information

Financial Documentation  

To create a DS-2019, Penn State is required by the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program to collect financial documentation showing adequate financial resources for a prospective or extending scholar and his/her J-2 dependents’ expenses for the entire duration of the exchange visitor program.   

Financial Documentation Requirements:   

  • Bank statements must be official and dated  
  • All accounts must be easily accessible, liquid assets  
  • It is preferred that all documents are in English or are accompanied by a translation
  • All supporting documentation must be dated within the last six (6) months  
  • Letters of sponsorship must include exact amount of support and dates of sponsorship  

Financial Documentation Types:  

  • Personal bank statement  
  • Official letter of support from a government, organization, or employer  
  • If you are receiving a scholarship from your home government and the letter provides a range for your monthly stipend, we use the lowest amount to calculate your financial support (e.g., if you will receive between $1,400 and $1,800 per month, we will assume your support to be $1,400 per month). 

The following documents are NOT acceptable:  

  • Payroll statements  
  • Statements verifying future earnings  
  • Insurance policies  
  • Property or personal assets (automobiles, land, buildings, jewelry, etc.)  
  • Non-liquid assets such as stocks, bonds, equities, retirement accounts  
  • Income tax returns  
  • Attestations only stating that a sponsor can meet the expenses  

ESTIMATED Monthly Penn State Financial Requirements 

  Scholar J-2 Spouse J-2 Child (per child)
Living Expenses $1,850 $870 $490
Medical Insurance $287 $287 $287
TOTAL $2,137 $1,157 $777

Multiply the totals above by the number of months your program is expected to last to get your total financial guarantee requirement amount.   

J-1 Scholar: 12- & 24-Month Bars

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program was founded primarily to foster exchange between United States citizens and countries around the globe.  Its creation was not intended to be used for employment purposes. Barriers or “Bars" to repeat participation exist within the regulations of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program in order to support/preserve the spirit of the program. 

These bars can be confusing and should not be mistaken for the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement,  which prevents exchange visitors from changing their status in the U.S., applying for an H-1B or L employment visa, or adjusting their status to legal permanent resident before it has been fulfilled or waived.    

Additional information about the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program and the 12- and 24-month bars can be found on the Department of State's website .  If you have additional questions about these bars, please contact J-1 Scholar Advising.  

The chart below describes the bars that would be imposed on you if you were in one of the listed categories for the duration listed and intending to become a J-1 Research Scholar/Professor.  

Previous Category 6 months or less More than 6 months
J-1 Student Non-Degree  No bar 12 months
J-1 Student  No bar 12 months
J-1 Research Scholar/Professor  24 months 24 months
J-1 Short-Term Scholar  No bar N/A
J-1 Specialist  No bar 12 months
J-2 Dependent of Research Scholar/Professor Category  24 months 24 months
J-2 Dependent of any other J-1 category except Short-Term Scholar No bar 12 months

Example 1  

John was a J-1 Research Scholar from January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2006 (more than six months).  John intends to return to the United States as a J-1 Specialist.  Based on the chart above, John was eligible to return as a J-1 Specialist as early as January 1, 2008.   

Example 2  

Maria has been a J-1 Professor since May 1, 2016. Her program will end on April 30, 2018. She has been invited back as a J-1 Research Scholar starting July 1, 2018.  Unfortunately, Maria will not be able to participate in this activity in the J-1 Professor category because the 24-month bar would apply to her until May 1, 2020.

J-1 Scholar: 212(e) Two-Year Home Residency Requirement

Are you subject to the 212(e) Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?  

If you have a J-1 Visa and meet one or more of the criteria listed below, you may be subject.  You would normally see this requirement marked on your J-1 Visa stamp and/or DS-2019. If you are subject to the requirement, your J-2 dependents are also subject to this requirement.  


  1. You have received funding from your government or the U.S. government for J-1 program participation; or, 
  2. Your skills are deemed to be in short supply by your home country; or, 
  3. You have participated in clinical training (i.e. a medical residency or fellowship) 

If you are subject to the two-year home residency requirement, you must “reside and be physically present” in your “home” country for an aggregate period of two years after completion of your J-1 program OR apply for a waiver of this requirement before being eligible for certain immigration benefits. If you are subject to 212(e), you are also ineligible for the following benefits: 

  • An immigrant visa or adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (immigrant/green card) status  
  • H Visa (temporary workers and dependents), an L Visa (intra-company transferees and dependents), or a K Visa (fiancé and dependents)  
  • A change of your nonimmigrant status within the U.S. from J to any other nonimmigrant category except A (diplomatic), G (international organization), or U (victims of qualifying criminal activity) statuses  

Waiver of 212(e)  

Please note that if you intend to apply for a waiver of the 212(e), you should discuss your plans with J-1 Scholar Advising and your host department, as this can impact your eligibility for an extension of your J-1 status or a transfer of your J-1 record to a new institution.  Applying for a waiver and having it approved without consulting J-1 Scholar Advising and your host department does not obligate Penn State to sponsor you for an H-1B.  

Advisory Opinion on Subjectivity to 212(e)  

If you do not know whether the two-year home residency requirement applies to you, after having reviewed the eligibility information on the Department of State website, you can request the Department of State's Waiver Review Division to conduct an Advisory Opinion. An Advisory Opinion is a review of your exchange visitor program documents to determine if you are subject to this requirement. Please refer to Department of State Advisory Opinion for more information.