Hosting a Visiting Scholar

The Division of International Education (formerly Office of International Programs) supports the international endeavors of SF State faculty members by providing information and support, identifying opportunities, coordinating activities for faculty international development, and working with faculty to help internationalize the curriculum.

San Francisco State University Faculty who would like to host a visiting scholar should contact for more information. 

Visiting Scholar Program

What is a J-1 Visiting Scholar?

A J-1 Scholar is a visiting researcher, professor, or specialist from a country outside of the United States who has been approved to enter the United States for a specific purpose and for a limited amount of time.  The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) for the express purpose of promoting international educational exchange of expertise and stimulating collaborative teaching and research efforts. 

The purpose of the J-1 visa is to increase mutual understanding between people of the US and people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges, thereby strengthening the ties between the world's nations. Every year SF State sponsors several dozen “Exchange Visitors” for full-time, temporary activities that include teaching, lecturing, observing, conducting research, consulting, or demonstrating special skills. 

The Division of International Education is responsible for administering the J-1 Visiting Scholar Program at SF State. 


How to Sponsor a J-1 Exchange Visitor

When to begin

Faculty members should begin the process as early as possible, allowing sufficient time for the Exchange Visitor to apply for and receive the J-1 visa and travel to the US. If complete information is submitted to the Division of International Education, the Form DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status will be sent to the sponsoring academic department within two weeks. The department should forward the DS-2019 to the Exchange Visitor at least three months in advance of the program start date.  


How to Submit a Visiting Scholar J-1 Visa Request to the Division of International Education

Step 1: The sponsoring academic department gathers supporting documents and information from the prospective Exchange Visitor, acquires approval signatures from the Department Chair and Dean, and submits the J-Visa Request Form to the Division of International Education. 

Step 2: The Division of International Education reviews the request for completeness. The Division of International Education then generates and issues the DS-2019 document by creating a record for the Exchange Visitor in the Student & Exchange Visitor Information System ("SEVIS").  SEVIS is the US government's immigration database.  The sponsoring academic department then sends the DS-2019 physically to the Exchange Visitor. 

- Note - it is against federal law to send the DS-2019 electronically, it must be sent to the Exchange Visitor physically. 

Step 3: The Exchange Visitor receives the DS-2019, reviews it for errors, and then schedules a visa appointment (except Canadian citizens) with the US embassy or consulate in their home country at:  The Exchange Visitor then pays the SEVIS fee online at least three days before their visa appointment at

Step 4: The U.S. Embassy / Consulate reviews the Exchange Visitor's visa application, conducts an interview and background check, and issues a J-1 visa stamp in the Exchange Visitor's passport. 

Step 5: The Exchange Visitor arrives in the US, and their visa and original DS-2019 are checked by border agents at their port of entry. 

Step 6: The Exchange Visitor checks in with the hosting academic department, and within 30 days of their arrival attends a mandatory check-in/orientation with the Division of International Education. 



Host Department Responsibilities

As a host department, faculty have certain responsibilities to ensure that their invited scholar is successful as a J-1 Exchange Visitor. Here are some important things to consider: 


Determine Position and Visa Type

What type of position will the person have at SF State? The type of activity the visitor is involved in while in the U.S. helps the Division of International Education determine the most appropriate visa category.  There are three primary positions that Exchange Visitors can hold at SF State:

     Professor / Research Scholar 

  • Program Duration: Three (3) weeks to five (5) years (continuous time)  
  • Primary Activity: Teaching or collaborative research.  Details are available on the State Department's website for Professors and for Research Scholars.  
  • This category is subject to the 12- and 24-month Bars on Repeat Participation

     Short-Term Scholar 

  • Program Duration: One (1) day to six (6) months  
  • Primary Activity: Teaching or collaborative research.  Details are available on the State Department's website.
  • This category is NOT subject to the 12- and 24-month Bars on Repeat Participation, but may still be influenced by it.   


  • Program Duration: Three (3) weeks to one (1) year  
  • Primary Activity: This category is used for visitors who bring a unique skill set and often provide seminars or "master classes." Details are available on the State Department's website.  
  • This category is NOT subject to the 12- and 24-month Bars on Repeat Participation, but may still be influenced by it.


Determine funding type

The J-1 program requires that Exchange Visitors have sufficient finances to support themselves while in the US.  The following funding types are acceptable:

  1. Payment from SF State (salary, wage payroll, etc).  The amount and duration should be listed in the offer letter.
  2. Home Government Funding
  3. U.S. Government Agency Funding
  4. International Organizations or Other Organizations
  5. Personal Savings (Bank Statement)

The current minimum required by SF State is $2,000 per month for the duration of the program.  If the Exchange Visitor is accompanied by a spouse or children, an additional $600 for a spouse and $400 per child per month is required. 

Example: An Exchange Visitor conducting research as a Research Scholar for six months, with no accompanying dependents and not being paid by SF State would have to demonstrate a minimum of $12,000 in finances. 


J-2 Dependents

If the visitor will be bringing children, will they need to arrange for enrollment in school or childcare facility? The Division of International Education is not responsible for assisting with such arrangements. 



Will the department arrange or pay for the Exchange Visitor's transportation?  Will someone from the sponsoring department greet and pick up the Exchange Visitor from SFO when they arrive?  

What if the scholar is not able to arrive on time?

  • The Division of International Education will create a new DS-2019 and a late arrival letter.  The scholar will carry the late arrival letter along with their DS-2019 to facilitate their entry into the U.S., then pick up the new DS-2019 upon arrival. 



Will the department assist the scholars in finding housing upon their arrival in San Francisco?  Visiting Professors who are employed by SF State are eligible to live on campus.  Short-term scholars or scholars whose program of research at SF State is 6 months or less can take advantage of the Guest Suite Program at University Park North. The Division of International Education cannot assist visiting scholars with housing. 


Facilities / Services

All J-1 Exchange Visitors will be provided an SF State identification number and email address by the Division of International Education.  Any other resources will be the responsibility of the hosting department to provide.  Will students' scholars need office space?  Access to labs?  A computer?  Faculty should consider these possibilities before their scholar arrives in the U.S.


Faculty Sponsor & Host Department Responsibilities

By extending an invitation to a visiting scholar, the faculty member agrees to the following:

  • Notify the scholar of the English proficiency requirement.
  • Notify the scholar of the medical insurance requirement.  
  • Be present on campus for at least 75% of the scholar's visit (i.e., not on sabbatical or leave). 
  • Ensure the scholar checks in with the host department immediately upon arrival. 
  • Meet with the scholar at the start of the program to discuss research strategy and goals. 
  • Be an ad hoc adviser if the scholar is currently a degree-seeking candidate in their home country. 
  • Have a general idea of the scholar's whereabouts (e.g., out for illness, out for vacation). 
  • Report as soon as possible any unexplained, extended absences to the Division of International Education. 
  • Obtain prior approval from the Division of International Education before any changes occur in the scholar's program (e.g., finances, end date, duties). 
  • Contact the Division of International Education and the department's Human Resources representative if the scholar is not performing at previously agreed-upon expectations. 
  • To comply with the federal regulatory requirements of the exchange visitor program, all sponsoring units must have plans in place to offer cross-cultural opportunities to J-1 exchange visitors and their J-2 dependents.


If a hosting department wants to extend the dates of a scholar's program after the program has begun, the
request must be made in writing no later than 60 days before the scholar's current program end date.  Extensions cannot be completed after a scholar's program ends, so timeliness is very important if you wish to extend a scholar's program. 

Host departments must submit a new Request Form signed by host, chair and dean. Check
the 'Extension J-1' box on page 1, and submit new financial support documents; a formal letter approving
the extension, and proof that the scholar has extended their health insurance to the new program end date
in the extension letter.

Check-in Upon Arrival

J-1 Exchange Visitors who are new to SF State (including those transferring from another institution in the U.S.) must receive an orientation and be validated in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) no later than 30 days after the program start date indicated in Part 3 of the DS-2019 form. Exchange visitors must go through this orientation so that their arrival on campus can be reported to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as required by federal law.  The Division of International Education facilitates this orientation. 

Updated Check-In Procedures

The Division of International Education has discontinued in-person check-in sessions due to ongoing campus closures related to COVID-19. All check-in requirements can be met by remote orientation and validation.

Exchange visitors should email to request a remote check-in and validation as soon as possible after arrival in the United States. Exchange visitors will be required to review orientation information and complete a form confirming their arrival and providing all U.S. contact information.  Once the form is completed and signed, the exchange visitor will return it to the Division of International Education along with the following documents:

  • I-94 record (either the paper I-94 card in their passport OR a printout of their electronic I-94 record)
  • DS-2019 form
  • The j visa stamp on the passport
  • Proof of health insurance coverage

Upon receipt of all documents, the Division of International Education will validate the exchange visitor’s record in SEVIS. Failure to be validated in SEVIS within 30 days of the start date on the DS-2019 causes automatic revocation of the exchange visitor’s lawful J-1 status and may lead to detention and deportation if not remedied immediately. 


Maintenance of Required Health Insurance Coverage

J-1 Visiting Scholars are required by both SF State and the U.S. Government to maintain appropriate health insurance coverage for the entirety of their program.  SF State partners with United HealthCare to provide a comprehensive health insurance plan for J-1 Visiting Scholars and their dependents, and this is the only insurance plan that SF State can accept.  To purchase the insurance, please follow the link below:

Visit United HealthCare’s student portal at and when prompted select the 'Visiting Scholar' plan.  The plan allows scholars to purchase the insurance monthly for up to 12 months, depending on the length of their program. 



Understanding the DS-2019

The DS-2019 is a paper document issued by the Division of International Education certifying that a visiting scholar's admission into the program at SF State has been accepted and approved. The DS-2019 is officially titled the "Certificate of Eligibility" because, with it, Exchange Visitors are "eligible" to apply for a J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Their spouse or children will also each need their own DS-2019 to obtain J-2 dependent status.

Getting the DS-2019 from SF State is not enough to become a legal J-1 visitor; one must also apply for and successfully be issued a J-1 visa. 

Before entering the United States

The DS-2019 is created when the Division of International Education enters a scholar's biographical information into a U.S. government database called SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System).  The sponsoring academic department sends the DS-2019 in the mail to the scholar in their home country.  Scholars will need the DS-2019 to make a visa appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.  If there are any errors on the DS-2019, it is the scholar's responsibility to contact the Division of International Education immediately to correct them.

After their visa interview is successful, a J-1 visa stamp will be placed on their passport.  The J-1 visa is the document needed to be allowed entry into the United States.  Do not throw the DS-2019 away, it is very important that students keep both it and their J-1 visa stamp safe. The DS-2019 must be presented along with the J-1 visa to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry.

After entering the United States 

Once Exchange Visitors arrive in the United States and pass through the border inspection process, the DS-2019 will be used for identification purposes and proof of legal J-1 status. If they travel abroad and then return to the United States during the course of their J-1 program, they must take their DS-2019 with them, as it will be required by border agents when they re-enter the United States.

If they plan to travel outside the United States during their J-1 program, make sure that they have a valid 'travel signature' from the Division of International Education on the lower-right corner of the DS-2019. This signature is valid for one year for multiple visits outside the United States or until the DS-2019 expires, whichever comes first. To obtain a travel signature, they must submit their original DS-2019 to the Division of International Education; please allow a minimum of 48 hours for their DS-2019 to be signed.  Note: Exchange Visitors should be sure to plan and get this done several weeks before they depart the United States to avoid the busy time before the major holiday travel season! 

What is the 212(e) Two-Year Home Residency Requirement, and am I subject to it?  

Some countries require J-1 visa holders to return to and reside in their home country for a minimum of two years after the end of their J-1 program in the U.S.  If Exchange Visitors have a J-1 Visa and meet one or more of the criteria listed below, they may be subject.  If they are subject, it will be marked on their J-1 Visa stamp and/or DS-2019. If they are subject to the requirement, any J-2 dependents are also subject to this requirement.  


  1. Exchange Visitors have received funding from their government or the U.S. government for J-1 program participation; or, 
  2. Their skills are deemed to be in short supply by their home country; or, 
  3. Exchange Visitors have participated in clinical training (i.e. a medical residency or fellowship) 

If Exchange Visitors are subject to the two-year home residency requirement, they must “reside and be physically present” in their home country for an aggregate period of two years after completion of their J-1 program OR apply for a waiver of this requirement before being eligible for certain immigration benefits. If they are subject to 212(e), they are also ineligible for the following benefits: 

  • An immigrant visa or adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (immigrant/green card) status.  
  • H Visa (temporary workers and dependents), an L Visa (intra-company transferees and dependents), or a K Visa (fiancé and dependents).    
  • A change of their non-immigrant status within the U.S. from J to any other non-immigrant category except A (diplomatic), G (international organization), or U (victims of qualifying criminal activity) statuses.  

Waiver of 212(e)  

Please note that if they intend to apply for a waiver of the 212(e), Exchange Visitors should discuss their plans with the Division of International Education and their host department, as this can impact their eligibility for an extension of their J-1 status or a transfer of their J-1 record to a new institution.  Applying for a waiver and having it approved without consulting the Division of International Education and their host department does not obligate SF State to sponsor them for an H-1B.