Exchange Visitor Program (J-1)

The J-1 classification (exchange visitors) is authorized for those who intend to participate in an approved program for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training in the U.S. on a temporary basis. 

In carrying out the responsibilities of the Exchange Visitor Program, the Department of State designates public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors. J-1 nonimmigrants are therefore sponsored by an exchange program that is designated as such by the U.S. Department of State. These programs are designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills, in the fields of education, arts, and science. 

James Madison University is approved for the following categories: 

  • Research scholars: An individual primarily conducting research, observing, or consulting in connection with a research project or plan, who may also teach or lecture unless disallowed by the host.   The maximum length of stay is 5 years. 
  • Professor scholar: An individual primarily teaching, lecturing, observing, or consulting, who may also conduct research unless disallowed by host.  The maximum length of stay is 5 years.
  • Short-term scholar: An individual who comes to the university for short-term academic exchange for the purpose of lecturing, consulting, or research.  The maximum length of stay is 6 months.
  • Student Intern: A student enrolled in degree program abroad, who needs to complete an internship experience that fulfills educational objectives of the degree program at the home institution.  The maximum length of stay is 12 months.      

Requirements for participation:

  • An invitation by an academic department or unit is required for the J-1 sponsorship.
  • J-1 Exchange Visitors must have a sufficient command of English to conduct their program in the U.S. Documentation will be required. 
  • Those sponsored in the scholar category must have a bachelor’s degree or functional equivalent.
  • The J-1 Exchange Visitor is required to maintain health insurance for the duration of their program and meet the minimum requirements for the health insurance coverage. 
  • The J-1 Exchange Visitor is required to attend a short orientation and complete a check in process when they arrive on campus.
Health Insurance

It is required by the U.S. government that all J-1 visa holders maintain a health insurance that meets or exceeds specific coverage minimums throughout the program dates listed on the DS-2019 form. If a J-1 scholar or dependent willfully refuses to maintain a valid health insurance policy, then their visa will be terminated. The minimum benefits required by the U.S. government are:

  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness.
  • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000.
  • Expenses associated with medical evacuation to your home country in the amount of $50,000.
  • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.

An insurance policy secured to meet the benefits requirements must be underwritten by an insurance corporation with an A.M. Best rating of "A-" or above, an Insurance Solvency International, Ltd. (ISI) rating of "A-I" or above, a Standard and Poor's Claims Paying Ability rating of "A-" or above, or a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of B+ or above.

JMU offers a health insurance policy to J-1 scholars and dependents through Cultural Insurance Service International (CISI) that meets these requirements and is accepted by many medical providers in the Harrisonburg area. Coverage can begin on any date. You may also choose to purchase your own insurance policy that meets the necessary criteria by submitting the J-1 health insurance validation form. If you do not purchase a health insurance policy and submit the waiver form by your program start date, your visa may be terminated.

Health Insurance Providers

We strongly encourage scholars to utilize our CISI policy. They have excellent coverage and customer service, and ISSS is able to assist you with the medical claims process should you need it. If you would like to enroll yourself in our CISI policy, please follow the instructions below:

If you would like to compare insurance policies from other companies, please note that we are not affiliated with any insurance providers besides CISI and cannot provide medical claims assistance for any other provider. Other insurance providers might include GBG or ISO.

Further questions?

If you have any further questions about the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, please contact Sherry Lu.

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