J1 Scholars

The J Exchange Visitor category was developed to implement the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act (Fulbright-Hayes Act) of 1961. The overall purpose of that Act, and the objective of the Exchange Visitor category, is "to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges."

The J Exchange Visitor Program (BridgeUSA) consists of six principal parties:

  1. The Department of State (DOS), which issues J visas to exchange visitors and their dependents, designates exchange visitor program sponsors, and creates and administers federal regulations and policies governing the Exchange Visitor Program.
  2. The University of Arkansas or other exchange visitor program sponsor, which are legal entities that have applied for and received designation from the Department of State to conduct an exchange visitor program and have been enrolled in SEVIS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). The exchange visitor program sponsor either directly offers the "program" in which the exchange visitor will participate or places the exchange visitor in an appropriate program.
  3. Sara Parrott and Audra Johnston are the individuals who have been appointed by the University of Arkansas to perform the duties of Responsible Officer and Alternate Responsible Officer as set forth in federal regulations and to represent the University of Arkansas in the administration of the University's exchange visitor program.
  4. Exchange visitors that have been selected by the University of Arkansas or another exchange visitor program sponsor to participate in a particular exchange visitor program.  NOTE:  The University of Arkansas issues J-1 visa documents (Forms DS-2019) for departments of the University of Arkansas (UAF) or departments of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture (UADA).  We do not issue J-1 visa documents for placement of exchange visitors with third-party organizations.  
  5. The immigration bureaus of the Department of Homeland Security, which manage SEVIS, admit foreign nationals to the United States in J exchange visitor status, and adjudicate certain immigration benefits for J exchange visitors and their dependents.
  6. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, which administers the SEVIS database, SEVP Resource Center, and SEVIS Help Desk.

Depending on the category of a particular exchange visitor's program, there may also be other essential parties involved, such as the exchange visitor's government, contracting agencies, funding sponsors, etc.

Exchange Visitor Categories

Exchange Visitors participate in the Exchange Visitor Program within a particular Exchange Visitor category. The University of Arkansas has obtained specific authorization from the Department of State to invite people to participate in any of the following activity categories, through the designation process. Each activity category has specific, detailed requirements. The exchange visitor categories authorized for the University of Arkansas in the SEVIS system are:

  1. Student Non-degree: A student not pursuing a degree. A student in this category cannot change categories to become a degree-seeking student.
  2. Student Bachelors: A student pursuing a bachelor's degree.
  3. Student Masters: A student pursuing a master's degree.
  4. Student Doctorate: A student pursuing a doctoral degree.
  5. Student Intern: A student currently enrolled in and pursuing a degree (either undergraduate or graduate level) at a postsecondary academic institution outside the United States, whose internship at the University of Arkansas will fulfill the educational objectives for his or her current degree program at his or her home institution. Student Interns MUST return to the home (foreign) institution and complete the degree program there following the internship with the University of Arkansas.
  6. Research Scholar: An individual primarily conducting research, observing, or consulting in connection with a research project.
  7. Short-Term Scholar: A professor, research scholar, specialist, or a person with similar education or accomplishments coming to the University of Arkansas on a short-term visit (maximum of six months) for the purpose of lecturing, observing, consulting, training, or demonstrating special skills.
  8. Professor: An individual primarily teaching, lecturing, observing, or consulting.
  9. Specialist: An expert in a field of specialized knowledge or skill coming to the University of Arkansas for observing, consulting, or demonstrating special skills.
Category Minimum Length of Program Maximum Length of Program
Non-degree 3 weeks 2 years
Bachelors 3 weeks N/A
Masters 3 weeks N/A
Doctorate 3 weeks N/A
Student Intern 3 weeks 1 year
Research Scholar 3 weeks 5 years
Short-Term Scholar N/A 6 months
Professor 3 weeks 5 years
Specialist 3 weeks 1 year

University of Arkansas Handling of Exchange Visitor Applications

  1. Non-degree and degree-seeking student categories: These applications must be processed through the Office of Graduate and International Admissions. Please adhere to the deadlines published by this office.
  2. Student Intern: Complete the Request form in ISS link. Complete the required e-forms and upload supporting documents directly in isslink.uark.edu. ISS will complete the Internship Placement Plan and forward to the Student Intern and the hosting supervisor for authorizing signatures. Once ISS has received the signed Internship Placement Plan, ISS will create visa documents and email the visa documents directly to the Student Intern. Please plan for the process to take at least 30 days.
  3. Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Professor, and Specialist categories: Complete the Exchange Visitor Request process via ISSLink. Once all the required steps have been completed in ISSLink and all required supporting documents received, ISS will review the request and create the necessary visa documents if the visitor qualifies.  ISS will email the visa documents directly to the visitor. Please allow 10 business days for processing of the visa documents once ALL request forms and supporting documentation have been received by ISS.  Please note that the Department of State restricts repeat participation in the Exchange Visitor program for the Research Scholar and Professor categories.  Although repeat participation is not limited for the Short-Term Scholar category, ISS requires at least a 30 day gap between repeat Short Term Scholar program participation and different program objectives in each of the short term visits.

Insurance Requirement

Exchange Visitors are REQUIRED by federal regulation to maintain satisfactory medical insurance for themselves and any accompanying dependents for the duration of their program at the University of Arkansas. The medical insurance must meet ALL the following minimum requirements as established by the U.S. Department of State:

  1. Medical benefits of AT LEAST $100,000 per accident or illness with:
    • A deductible not greater than $500 per accident or illness
    • A copayment not greater than 25%
    • A waiting period for pre-existing conditions that is reasonable by current industry standards
  2. Repatriation of remains in the amount of AT LEAST $25,000
  3. Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor and/or dependents to the home country in the amount of AT LEAST $50,000
  4. The policy must be underwritten by an insurance corporation having an A.M. Best rating of "A-" or above, a McGraw Hill Financial/Standard and Poor's Claims-paying Ability rating of "A" or above, a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of B+ or above, a Fitch Ratings, Inc. rating of “A-“ or above, a Moody’s Investor Services rating of “A3” or above, or such other rating service as the Department of State may from time to time specify.

NOTE:  The University of Arkansas requires Exchange Visitors under our sponsorship (and their dependents) to have satisfactory insurance coverage which becomes effective no later than the day they arrive in the United States.  They must maintain satisfactory insurance coverage through the day they depart the United States or otherwise end J-1 status.  Any J-1 scholar who fails to submit proof of satisfactory insurance coverage to  ISS by the date of their mandatory J-1 Scholar Orientation will be required to purchase coverage through the University of Arkansas policy IMMEDIATELY.

English Proficiency Requirement

Exchange Visitor program sponsors are required by federal regulation to ensure that each exchange visitor participating in their program "possesses sufficient proficiency in the English language, as determined by an objective measurement of English language proficiency, successfully to participate in his or her program and to function on a day-to-day basis." English proficiency must be documented in one or more of the following ways before the University of Arkansas will issue visa documents to a prospective exchange visitor:

  1. Copy of scores from a recognized English language test (such as TOEFL, IELTS, etc.);
  2. Signed documentation from an academic institution or English language school;
  3. Documented interview conducted by the sponsor either in person or by videoconferencing (i.e. Zoom, Teams, etc.), or by telephone IF videoconferencing is not a viable option

English Language Interview Assessment

Please click the link above to download the required interview assessment forms if you will be using the interview method to document your prospective visitor's English proficiency. Two interviewers must participate in the interview and each interviewer must complete an assessment sheet.

Exchange Visitor Welcome Brochure

Please click the link above to access a copy of the welcome brochure published by the Department of State for exchange visitors.

Sample Invitation Letter

Please click the link above to download an example invitation letter in MS Word format which you may edit to suit your needs.

Note: This invitation letter does NOT replace your offer letter if you will be hiring the prospective visitor as a University of Arkansas employee. If your visitor will be an employee, please provide him/her with BOTH the formal letter of offer and a departmental invitation letter following this example.