Maintaining J-1 Scholar Status

J-1 scholars must take care to maintain lawful status during their stay in the US.

Failure to maintain lawful status can have serious short-term and long-term consequences for J-1 Scholars.

The exchange visitor may only perform duties limited to the pre-established educational objectives as stated on the DS-2019. Any additional employment must be incidental to the visitor's primary program activities, must be directly related to his or her original objectives, and must be authorized in writing by ISSS in advance.

J-1 scholars should pay close attention to the following items to ensure that they remain in valid status:

  • New Scholar Orientation:

    • J-1 scholars must attend ISSS orientation within 10-14 calendar days of the start date on the DS-2019.  

    • Failure to attend the New Scholar Orientation session within 14 calendar days of the program start date on the DS-2019 will cause the scholar’s program to be automatically terminated;

    • If the scholar cannot attend within 14 days due to delayed arrival to the US, the department must complete the J-1 Scholar Late Arrival form within 14 days of the scholar's start date on the DS-2019.

    • Orientations are held on Monday and Friday mornings at 10:30am and last approximately 1 hour.

    • Please notify ISSS via email if the J-1 scholar plans to arrive later than expected so that ISSS may defer the program start date on the DS-2019 to avoid SEVIS auto-termination.

  • Valid DS-2019: J-1 Scholars should take notice of the program dates on their DS-2019 and not overstay.  If the J-1 scholar’s appointment at Penn is being extended, the hosting department must contact ISSS to have the DS-2019 form extended at least six weeks prior to the current DS-2019 end date.

  • Valid Passport:  Passports can be renewed by the J-1 scholar’s home country consulate in New York or Philadelphia or by the embassy in Washington, DC. The DOS maintains a complete list of Foreign Embassies in the US.

  • Valid Entry: Your US entry/admission stamp in passport and I-94 (whether paper or electronic), should always be marked “J-1” and “D/S.”  If there are any errors by an immigration officer, immediately meet with an ISSS advisor.

  • Do not accept unauthorized employment. The only activity a J-1 scholar is permitted to do is the one described in section 4 of the DS-2019 form at the pre-determined site(s) of activity in SEVIS.  If you are unclear about your approved activity and site(s) of J-1 activity, contact ISSS.  J-1 scholars must consult an ISSS advisor in advance if he/she wishes to take up any other work during their stay.

  • Report any address change to ISSS.  The J-1 scholars are required to report change of address to DHS within 10 days of the change; however, because the J-1 scholars are entered into the SEVIS system, he/she should inform the address change to ISSS to update it in SEVIS.

ALL non-postdoc J-1 Visiting Scholars and Student Interns are required to either

  1. Purchase a pre-selected J-1 Insurance Plan from Garnett-Powers at the J Visa Scholar Benefit Plan Portal
  2.  or waive out of the coverage requirement by submitting evidence of comparable or better insurance to Garnett-Powers at  the portal

For questions regarding coverage or which plan is more appropriate, Visiting Scholars should contact Garnett-Powers directly.

As J-1 Visiting Scholars are required to be covered for the entirety of their program, we recommend that you purchase coverage prior to your arrival.

Insurance plans that are offered to Visiting Scholars directly from the University as part of their benefits do NOT meet the medical evacuation and repatriation requirements of the Department of State.  Visiting Scholars may purchase evacuation and repatriation coverage from ISOS or another company of their choosing.

J-1 Exchange Visitors with a Postdoctoral Appointment should not purchase the above plans, but instead should find consult the postdoc portal here.  Penn's postdoctoral researcher insurance plan meets the DOS required health insurance coverage requirement for both J-1 scholars and their enrolled J-2 dependents.

These policies have been put in place in order to facilitate University compliance with Department of State requirements.  The requirements state that all J-1 Exchange Visitors are required to have health insurance during the entirety of their stay, which meets the following requirements:

  • Medical coverage of at least $100,000 per accident or illness.
  • Medical evacuation must be covered in the amount of at least $50,000.
  • Repatriation must be covered in the amount of at least $25,000.
  • The deductible must not exceed $500 per accident or illness.
  • Any coinsurance requirement cannot exceed 25%
  • The carrier must be at least A- rated or backed by the full faith and credit of the Exchange Visitor’s home government.
  • For J-1 Visiting Scholars who will be in the US for longer than 12 months, pre-existing conditions must be a covered benefit, with the waiting period for coverage no longer than 12 months.  If the insurance policy has the pre-existing conditions benefit as a set amount, benefit coverage must be the same as illness coverage.  

Willful failure to comply with these requirements will result in the termination of the Exchange Visitor’s program.  

Individuals who are Resident Aliens for tax purposes are subject to the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.. For more information please see:

All J-1 exchange visitors are required to report the following in iPenn:

  1. Report an email address for themselves and their J-2 spouse;

  2. Report if an accompanying spouse or dependent permanently departs from the US prior to the Exchange Visitor’s departure date;

  3. Report as soon as possible, but no later than 10 days, any change in US address, phone number, email address or site of activity

  • Professors, Research Scholars, and Short-Term Scholars may give occasional lectures and short-term consultations incidental to their primary activities, if approved by ISSS in advance.

    • To work for any organization or in any role other than that described on your DS-2019 form, a J-1 scholar obtain approval in writing in advance using the J-1 Scholar Occasional Lecturers or Consultations form, which may be found under the J-1/J-2 Reporting section in iPenn.  

    • In order to be considered occasional, your external activities must be:

      • directly related to your program objectives;

      • incidental to your primary program activities; and

      • not delay the completion of your Exchange Visitor program

    • If such activities will involve wages or other remuneration, the exchange visitor must be working as an independent contractor, not as an employee.


    Scholars and their dependents will be permitted a 30-day grace period following their program end date or their DS-2019 end date, (whichever is earlier) during which time they may remain in the United States.

    • Exchange Visitors may not leave the US during the grace period and re-enter using the same Form DS-2019. 

    • Exchange Visitors may not work during their grace period.

    Scholars may change departments within the University if they can document that the change does not constitute a new "activity" (e.g., a different area or field of research). Such documentation takes the form of a letter from both the current and prospective supervisors, containing the following:

    • Current Supervisor: describes in detail the present duties of the scholar and proposing that the scholar continue to enhance his/her career through the new appointment. The present supervisor should demonstrate awareness of the nature of the new appointment, which should be related to the job function of the existing appointment.

    • Prospective Supervisor: notes the duration of the new position, describing in detail the duties the scholar will be performing, and stating that these are related to the research area or specialization of the scholar. The new supervisor should demonstrate awareness of the previous duties of the scholar.

    Upon receipt of these letters and J-1 Request Packet (eform) ISSS will prepare a DS-2019 form to reflect the new position.

    • If the J-1 scholar wishes to transfer from one J-1 sponsor to another, he/she must seek clearance from the original program sponsor. Once the program sponsor has transferred the J-1 scholar's SEVIS record and the new institution has produced a new DS-2019, the J-1 scholar is then considered under the sponsorship of the new program.

    • The scholar may not accept any appointment with the new program until the transfer process has been successfully completed. The transfer of J-1 program sponsorship must be completed prior to the individual's termination from the previous J-1 program and before the current DS-2019 form expires.

    • For scholars transferring to Penn, the hosting departments should complete the J-1 Request Packet including the Transfer-In Request form for J-1 scholars. Please note that time spent in a previous program(s) prior to the transfer will be counted toward the maximum stay allowed.

    • If you wish to transfer your J-1 status from Penn to another institution, please use the Transfer Out Request for J-1 Scholars.


    • Scholars are required to give notice to ISS if they are going to be absent from the US beyond their accrued sick or vacation days.  The absence from the US should not be more than 30 days unless it has been approved by ISSS in advance.

    • Scholars' program related absences may not be longer than 6 months in duration. 

    • Scholars may submit their Notice of Absence by completing the J-1 Scholar Notice of Absence eform under the J-1/2 Reporting header in iPenn.