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Through the Exchange Visitor Program, international exchange visitors may enter the United States temporarily to teach, lecture, study, observe, conduct research, consult, train or demonstrate special skills. “The purpose of the program is to provide foreign nationals with opportunities to participate in educational and cultural programs in the United States and return home to share their experiences and to encourage Americans to participate in educational and cultural programs in other countries.” [CFR 22 62.1 (b)]   

The U.S. Department of State has provided more details about the J-1 exchange visitor's program in their Welcome Brochure for exchange visitors.

ISSS has created a Welcome Handbook for our international scholar community that includes many practical resources and considerations for living in the U.S.

Department of State Contact Information


  • Office of Designation Academic and Government Programs Division ECA/EC/AG

  • SA-5, Floor C2 2200 C Street, NW

  • Washington, DC 20522-0582

  • Fax: 202-632-2701

J-1 Exchange Visitor Categories

The J-1 exchange visitor's status includes many different categories that allow for employment or other collaborative opportunities. Participants may be eligible based on several funding sources: personal, government, and international organizations, such as the Fulbright Commission or IREX

Note:  All J-1 scholar categories listed below require the following minimum educational requirements: Bachelor’s Degree in the relevant field.  The exception is the Student Intern category which requires proof of full-time enrollment in a course of study at the home institution. 

Below is a brief summary of current J-1 categories approved by the Department of State for the University of Kentucky including Instructions to invite a J-1 scholar.

Research Scholar &/or Professor

This category is intended for individuals who come primarily to conduct research, teach or lecture (i.e. postdoctoral scholars/fellows, visiting scholars, and other non-permanent positions, etc.). Under most circumstances, the category allows for a maximum stay of 5 years. 

There is a 24-month bar on repeat participation.  This means that when the program is completed, the scholar cannot return to the U.S. as J-1 Research Scholars or Professors for a period of two years.  Scholars may return in another visa status or another J-1 category such as the Short-Term Scholar if the department wishes to continue sponsorship. For departmental instructions, see Instructions to Invite a J-1 scholar.

Short Term Scholar

This is intended for individuals who will remain at UK for a maximum duration of six months to conduct research, to teach, or observe. Extensions cannot be granted beyond the six month period of stay. The Short-Term Scholar is not subject to the 24 month bar on repeat participation. For departmental instructions, click here.




This is an expert in the field of a specialized knowledge or skill who enters the U.S. for the purpose of observing, consulting, or demonstrating his or her expertise (i.e. artist, athlete, visiting coach). The duration of this category is one year with no possibility for extensions. Repeat participation is permissible.  For departmental instructions, click here.

Student Intern

Student Intern program participants come to the United States to pursue a structured and guided work-based internship program in their specific academic field. Prior work experience is not required.  For departmental instructions, click here. The below guides are also available for viewing when completing the appropriate iCAT request.

J-1 Student Intern DS-7002 Part 1 Guide (For Department Administrator).pdf

J-1 Student Intern DS-7002 Part 2 Guide (For Supervisor-2nd Approver).pdf

Student Non-Degree

This category is limited to 24 months and is intended for visitors to UK's campus who are pursuing a course of study in a non-degree program or who are current students in their home country and are coming to UK to conduct research, teach, or observe.

EVs who are students in their home country must complete the J-1 Non-Degree & Home University Attestation Form and all departments must submit the Full Course of Study Form on the EV’s behalf.

Student Academic Training

At times a J-1 student may be hired by the University of Kentucky while participating in Academic Training. The University of Kentucky or another university or institution may approve Academic Training but only if the student is eligible and has been pre-approved by the J-1 advisor.  

This is employment related to a student’s field of study and may be used anytime during his or her program of study but is generally utilized after completion of a degree. Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree are eligible for a total of 18 months of Academic Training. Doctoral graduates receive an additional 18 months, allowing them a maximum of 36 months. 

The hiring department provides a job offer letter to the student so the J-1 advisor can authorize the employment. Therefore, there are no applications or fees to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). There is also no ISSS processing fee or additional documentation required from departments. For information, contact ISSS.

More Resources

J-2 Dependents

The dependents of J-1 Exchange Visitors are referred to as J-2 dependents.  Only the spouse and unmarried minor children (under 21 years of age) are eligible for J-2 status. 

J-1 Exchange Visitors can request a J-2 dependent DS-2019 at the same time that their DS-2019 is prepared or if they initially come alone but later want their dependents to join them, they will need to submit a request in iCAT by adding a new scholar dependent e-form. 

The minimum annual funding requirement for a J-1 at UK is $22,000; to add a spouse an additional $6,800; and to add a child an additional $4,700 per child.  If additional funding is required and funding is not through UK, it's necessary to upload a copy of an official bank statement or other funding source documentation in iCAT. 

If a J-2 spouse DS-2019 is being requested, a copy of the official marriage certificate should be uploaded with an English translation if necessary.  For each accompanying J-2 dependent, a copy of the passport bio page should also be uploaded in iCAT. 

A J-2 DS-2019 is issued for dependents and each family member will have his or her own SEVIS ID number as noted on his or her DS-2019. 

If you would like to add a J-2 dependent, submit the Add a New Scholar Dependent (SEVIS Document) e-form in iCAT under J-1 Scholar Services. Multiple submissions are permitted to add each new dependent if more than one.

J-2 Employment

J-2 dependents are eligible to work while in the US and can apply for employment authorization by completing form I-765 from USCIS.  Once approved, the J-2 will receive an Employment Authorization Document also known as the EAD card.  The J-2 may begin employment only after receiving the EAD and applying for a social security number. 

The I-765 application form can be found at www.uscis.govin the "Forms" area. Further instructions are available under J-2 Employment Instructions, click here.



All J-1 Exchange Visitors have a SEVIS record and number. Scholars planning to transfer to the University of Kentucky must notify their current J-1 Advisor of their plans to transfer to UK. Their Advisor will then release their SEVIS record to UK so that a new DS-2019 can be issued once the J-1 scholar has met with the new J-1 Advisor at UK. Only scholars who have maintained legal J-1 status are eligible to transfer. 

Transferring from UK to Another University

You must complete the Transfer Out e-form found under the J-1 Scholar Services tab in iCAT. UK will retain control over your scholar records in SEVIS until the "transfer out" date is reached. The transfer may be canceled at any time prior to the transfer out date, but it cannot be canceled after the transfer out date has been reached

Change of Status

Traveling and Re-entering the U.S.

Change of status by traveling requires you to depart the U.S. and apply for a J visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy.   When you re-enter the U.S. with your new visa and DS-2019, you will gain your new J status.  

Before your visa appointment, you must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.

Change of Status in the U.S.

Changing status inside the US requires an application through USCIS. Processing of the change of status application through the USCIS can be lengthy and the process cannot be expedited.  You can check current processing times on the USCIS website.  However, you may stay in the U.S. to await the results if you maintain your current, or other, nonimmigrant status while the application is pending. This may require you to file a bridge application. For more information about this process, see the USCIS special instructions. If changing status inside the US, we recommend consulting with an immigration attorney about requirements for filing.

A few weeks after you mail your application to change status, you can expect to receive a “Notice of Action” document (acknowledgment of receipt).  With the receipt number, you can track your “case status” at

Please note that visa stamps are not issued for a change of status application.  If you wish to travel abroad after your status has been changed, you will need to apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate to return to the U.S. 

Application and supporting documents should be sent to USCIS. These documents will include but are not limited to:

* The revised Form I-539 includes the following significant changes: 

  • Every co-applicant included on the primary applicant's Form I-539 must submit and sign a separate Form I-539A, which will be available on the Form I-539 webpage on March 11. Parents or guardians may sign on behalf of children under 14 or any co-applicant who is not mentally competent to sign.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant must pay an $85 biometric services fee, except certain A, G, and NATO non-immigrants as noted in the new Form I-539 Instructions to be published on March 11.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant will receive a biometric services appointment notice, regardless of age, containing their individual receipt number. The biometric services appointments will be scheduled at the Application Support Center (ASC) closest to the primary applicant's address. Co-applicants who wish to be scheduled at a different ASC location should file a separate Form I-539.

USCIS will reject any Form I-539 that is missing any of the required signatures or biometrics fees, including those required for Form I-539A.

Health Insurance

For more information about health insurance for J-1 and dependents, please click here.

Social Security Number

J-1's are eligible to apply for a permanent social security number whether funded by UK or not.  Once you have completed your check-in through iCAT, your record will be reviewed and validated by your J-1 Advisor.  At that point, you will receive a confirmation email with details regarding the social security number and the earliest date that you can apply.  That date reflects the required 10 day waiting period required by The Social Security Administration.  Failure to wait 10 days can result in delays to obtain your social security card. 

Please be sure that your name is visible on the mailbox for delivery.  It is also strongly recommend that you do not move to a new apartment or home after applying for the social security number since social security cards are not forwarded to a new address.  The card will ultimately be returned to the social security office which will cause delays in you receiving it.   

The wait time to receive a social security card varies from a few weeks to a few months. 

Materials Needed

  • Passport

  • DS-2019

  • Printed I-94 to apply for the social security number.

  • If you are a Student Intern, you will also require a letter from my office verifying your status. E-mail several days prior to your planned visit.


Below you will find further information on how to get to the Social Security Administration office.


Social Security Administration 

Suite 110 

2241 Buena Vista Rd. 

Lexington, Kentucky 40505   

Phone: 1-866-530-7754 

Directions by bus: 

You can take the city bus by going to the LEXTRAN Transit Center on 220 Vine Street in downtown Lexington.  Take Bus Route #10.  Ask the driver to let you off at the Social Security Office.  It is an approximate 10 to 15 minute bus ride from the Transit Center to the Social Security Office on Executive Drive.  The driver will turn left onto Executive Drive.  You can either get off at 2260 Executive Drive or at the intersection of Buena Vista Rd. and Thunderstick Dr. The Social Security Office is a short walk away from the bus stop. 

For the return trip, go to the bus stop at 2260 Executive Drive.  There is a blue sign with a white bus to help mark the bus pick-up location. Please visit for more information regarding route times and cost. 

You will need the following documents to present to the Social Security officer:  Passport, DS-2019 and I-94 card

Driver's License

Non-US citizens can drive up to one-year on their foreign country license as long as that country is a part of the Geneva Compact. To find out if your home country is part of the Geneva Compact, please visit 

The one-year date comes from the entry date stamped on their immigration document such as the I-94. 

If from a country that is not recognized by the Geneva Compact the non-US citizen cannot drive on their foreign license.  

Scholars will attend appointments at the Fayette County Clerk.  The address is:  

141 Leestown Center Way, Ste. 115 

Lexington, KY 40511 

Phone: 859-963-4018 

To schedule an appointment (there are currently no walk-ins) to obtain a new Kentucky Driver’s License or Permit or to renew an existing license, click here.

The following information is required at the time of application:   

  • Visa, Passport, I-94 
  • Form TC 94-159 (Non - U.S. Citizen Driver Licensing & Personal Identification Application)  completed by J-1 Scholar Advisor, Marc Invergo
  • Proof of Address within the last 60 days 
  • DS-2019 
  • Social Security card, Tax ID number or an Ineligibility letter from the Social Security Administration 
  • Fees are subject to change. It is recommended to bring at least $60 in cash.

KRS 186.412 requires all non U.S. citizens wishing to apply for a Kentucky driver's license or ID card to make application to a Division of Driver Licensing Regio​nal Office.  For more information about the rules for obtaining a Kentucky Driver’s License, please go to: 

NOTE: Non-immigrants are not allowed to register to vote. Please check "NO" when asked in your application.

Global Lex has provided a Driver’s Education for English Learners series on YouTube in FrenchArabic and Swahili. Students, Scholars, or dependents who need additional help preparing for the written exam may find these helpful.


For more information about filing taxes, please click here.


The most important thing to remember is that on-campus housing is not automatically reserved for visiting scholars.  The University of Kentucky cannot guarantee on-campus housing as it depends on availability but an early application can help you secure on-campus housing. 

Housing is generally not available to scholars in the month of August and September due to the volume of newly enrolled international students. Visiting scholars should check with their department or college sponsor to see if on-campus housing is available.

For more information about on-campus graduate and family housing, click here.

Other resources for off-campus housing can be found here. For more resources regarding specialty apartments, click here.

English Language Assistance

Adult ESL classes that allow students to practice conversation and pronunciation.  Participants will learn vocabulary, phrases and American slang.  Join a class at any time.  These classes are available to the University’s J-1 scholars, J-2 dependents, and H-4 spouses. Classes are free. 

For more information about the class and the current schedule, contact Caitlin Johnson (