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J-1 Scholar FAQs

What is a definition of a J-1 Research Scholar or J-1 Short-Term Scholar?
An individual primarily conducting research, observing or consulting research in connection with a research project. The research Scholar can also teach or lecture unless disallowed by the sponsor. (Note: MSU sponsors the visas for almost all J-1 Scholars at MSU and we would not disallow teaching/lecturing. If teaching is the primary activity, the J-1 Professor category can be used.)

What is the difference between a Short-Term Scholar and a Research Scholar?
A Short-Term Scholar's program lasts between one day and 6 months while a Research Scholar's program can last for a minimum of 3 weeks and as long as 5 years.

What academic credentials does a J-1 Scholar need?
Research Scholars and Short-Term Scholars are expected to have appropriate academic or similar credentials. The Department of State (DOS) has not specified minimum academic levels. However, generally a prospective exchange visitor or researcher should have at least a bachelor's degree with appropriate experience in the field of endeavor.

What does this mean for MSU's J-1 Scholar program?
MSU will require at least a bachelor's degree for the J-1 research Scholar or Short-Term Scholar. Exceptions to this rule can be made if a person's skill or experience is extraordinary and the person will engage in appropriate program activities. Examples of this might be an accomplished artist or musician without a traditional bachelor's degree, or someone with more than 12 years of full-time experience in the field of endeavor.

Can a J-1 Scholar enroll in course credits?
There is no regulatory prohibition on a J-1 Scholar enrolling in class as long as the classes are incidental to his or her primary activity, the Scholar continues to pursue the objectives for which he or she came, and the program continues to fulfill the objectives of the Scholar category. A J-1 Scholar should never be admitted to a degree-seeking program or enroll in classes on a full-time basis. If enrollment in classes or a degree program will become the primary activity, the Scholar should change his/her visa classification before engaging in a full-time degree-seeking program. Include details on enrollment limitations.

What is the 6-month bar?
Anyone who has been on a J program (as a student/dependent/Scholar) during the previous 12 months for 6 months or more is not eligible to begin a new J program in the Research Scholar/Professor category until 6 months have passed from the end of the previous J visa program. The only exception is someone who has been in Short-Term Scholar status or someone who is going to be in Short-Term Scholar status.

What can J-2 dependents do?
J-2 dependents are the spouse and children (under the age of 21) of the J-1 Scholar. J-2 dependents can take classes and can apply for employment authorization. Application guidelines for J-2 employment authorization are available through the Office for International Students and Scholars. Applications are submitted directly to the Department of Homeland Security.

What is the 2-year home residency requirement and can it be waived?
The Department of State determines who will have to return home for 2 years after the J-1 program is completed. This determination is made based on government funding and/or the Exchange Visitor Skills List. This determination is noted on the visa and is sometimes incorrectly marked, therefore anyone who is interested in more information about the 2-year home residency requirement should see an advisor in OISS for more information.

What is the J-1 health insurance requirement?
J-1 visa holders and their dependents must have health insurance coverage at all times.

The health insurance must cover the following minimums:

  • $100,000 per sickness/illness
  • $100,000 per accident/injury
  • $50,000 for medical evacuation
  • $25,000 for repatriation
  • Maximum $500 deductible
Scholars who are officially employed by MSU may already have this coverage. Scholars who are not official MSU employees will need to secure these types of coverage for themselves. For more information on health insurance, click here.