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International Student and Scholar Support

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Exchange Visitor Process

This section will guide scholars and their supervisors through the required immigration process.

The order of this process is very important. No immigration work can be done without first obtaining an official offer letter.

evp process

Immigration Process

Immigration document processing cannot begin without the receipt of a signed offer letter from the academic unit in consultation with the HR Office of International Services. Units should contact HR-OIS 6 months before the intended arrival of the Exchange Visitor.

After signing the offer letter, submit the Exchange Visitor Questionnaire & Attestation form online. Additionally, you will need to provide proof of funding, English language proficiency, and medical/evacuation/repatriation insurance.

  • Proof of funding: You must provide USC evidence of adequate financial support for your stay in the U.S. Certification may come from a scholarship or fellowship, personal savings, a salary from USC, other verified funding, or a combination thereof. If you will be paid by USC, the salary will count towards the total certification amount.
  • English language proficiency: The Department of State mandates English language proficiency for all Exchange Visitors. To help ensure the safety and success of USC Exchange Visitors, ISSS must receive one of three options to meet the English-language requirement.
  • Insurance: The Department of State requires all J-1 exchange visitors and their accompanying (or following to join) J-2 dependents to have and maintain medical, evacuation and repatriation insurance for the entire duration of their DS-2019. An Exchange Visitor or accompanying dependent who willfully fails to maintain the minimum level of insurance coverage established by the Department of State will be in violation of these regulations and will be subject to termination from the Exchange Visitor program.

Exchange Visitors attest to the following:

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is a public diplomacy program established to promote international educational and cultural exchange and to provide a window on American culture and values. Through special designation by the U.S. Department of State, the University of South Carolina is allowed to host foreign scholars on the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program to engage in teaching, training, observation, consultation, collaborative research, student research internships, university conferences or colloquia.

USC is authorized to host scholars in the following J-1 categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-term Scholar, Student Intern, Specialist and Student. Prospective J-1 Exchange Visitors must occupy a position in the home country similar to the one into which they hope to come to the U.S. as an Exchange Visitor. The maximum program length depends on the appropriate exchange visitor category: up to six months for Short-Term Scholars, up to one year for Specialists and Student Interns, and up to five years for Professors and Research Scholars. This exchange program should be arranged to ensure completion of your activities within this timeframe. It is understood that upon completion of your authorized exchange program you will return immediately to your last country of legal permanent residence.

Individuals must hold the minimum of a master’s degree to come to USC in the J-1 Research Scholar, Professor, or Short-Term Scholar categories. 

USC’s International Student and Scholar Support office issues Forms DS-2019 that enable international scholars (and any accompanying dependents) to apply for J-1 (and J-2) visas at a U.S. Consulate overseas.

NOTE: Internationals seeking to earn a degree at USC are administered by different University offices.

You must provide USC evidence of adequate financial support for your stay in the U.S. Excluding health insurance for you and your family members, USC estimates the minimum cost of living to be $2,267 USD per month for the J-1 scholar, plus $555 per month for the first accompanying J-2 dependent and $444 for each additional J-2 dependent.

Examples: A scholar traveling alone would need to provide certification for $27,204, or equivalent, for a yearlong program: J-1 principal 12 months @ $2,267/mo = $27,204 

A scholar traveling with a family of three (J-1 principal, J-2 spouse and child) would need to provide certification for $38,400, or equivalent, for a yearlong program:
J-1 principal 12 months @ $2,267/mo = $27,204 
J-2 dependents 12 months @ $555/mo+$444/mo = $11,988 
Total: = $39,192

Certification may come from a scholarship or fellowship, personal savings, a salary from USC, other verified funding, or a combination thereof. If you will be paid by USC, the salary will count towards the total certification amount. Scholars supported by an organization other than USC must submit a signed letter of financial award on official stationary from their home institution or sponsoring agency; the award letter must include the name of the recipient, the funding time period and the amount of support in U.S. Dollars that will be provided. Scholars supported by personal funds must submit an official bank letter verifying funds available in U.S. dollars. Documents not in English must be accompanied by a translation. Scholars should keep a copy of financial documents to submit to the U.S. consulate during the visa application process. 

NOTE: You may need additional funding to pay out-of-pocket health care and/or health insurance expenses for yourself/your family members.

The U. S. Department of State requires all participants of the Exchange Visitor Program to have medical insurance that covers the scholar and all accompanying family members for the entire period of stay in the U.S. To comply with the regulations, USC's International Student and Scholar Support office must have a copy of the medical insurance card or policy showing validity dates and coverage that meets all standards set forth in 22 CFR 62.14 as stated below. Willful failure to comply with this requirement will result in termination of your EV status.

EVP regulations require J-1 scholars and any accompanying J-2 Dependents to have a medical insurance policy that provides a minimum of $100,000 per accident or illness with a deductible of no more than $500 per illness; a $25,000 allowance for medical evacuation and $50,000 coverage for repatriation. The J-1 scholar must be covered by this policy for the entire duration of the program, and J-2 dependents must be covered anytime they are present in the U.S. Coverage for a family of three can cost up to $4,500 per year depending upon age, while the cost for an individual may be as little as $700 per year. The amount for family coverage is NOT reflected in the estimated cost of living shown above.

EV program participants are NOT ELIGIBLE to receive any U.S. federal benefits such as Food Stamps or Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Acceptance of such benefits may jeopardize your future chances of obtaining a visa to come to the U.S.

The U.S. Department of State mandates English language proficiency for all international scholars invited to the U.S. under the Exchange Visitor Program [22 CFR Sec. 62.10(a)]. Specifically, EV program sponsors such as USC are required by DOS regulations to establish, prior to their participation in the Exchange Visitor Program, that all international scholars have “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” [22 CFR 62.10(a)(2)]. J-1 scholars must have sufficient English ability to be able to perform their jobs or otherwise benefit from their program; read and comprehend program materials; navigate daily life in the United States; understand fully their responsibilities, rights, and protections; and be able to obtain assistance in an emergency.

All J-1 Exchange Visitors and J-2 dependents are to report to the international office within 30 days or less of the date they first enter U.S. territory. You must also report to our office any change of address in the U.S. within 10 days of moving.

Professors, Research Scholars, Short-Term Scholars and Specialists can work only in their academic unit at the institution listed on the DS-2019 used to enter the U.S. Short-term consultations or occasional lectures elsewhere may be possible, but must be approved in advance by the J-1 Responsible Officer; the work must relate to academic discipline of the scholar and must NOT delay the completion of the original purpose in coming to USC.

NOTE: J-2 Dependents may apply for work permission through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services after arrival in the U.S. Contact ISSS for details.

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program was established to promote mutual understanding among peoples of the world and to provide a mechanism for the exchange of ideas and training. Section 212(e) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act was promulgated to ensure an opportunity for the Exchange Visitor to share what was learned in the U.S. with others in their home country. Please be advised that entering the United States on the J-1 Exchange Visitor visa will require people - under certain circumstances - to return to their home country for two years upon completing their original objective for entering the U.S. For those who are subject to 212(e), the requirement also applies to all family members who accompany the J-1 principal as J-2 dependents. If you receive either U.S. or home government funding to come to the States, you will be subject to the 212(e) Home Residency Requirement. If you work in an occupation in short supply in your home country and your government has notified the U.S. government of this need, then you will be required to return home on the basis of a published "Skills List."

If you have been in the U.S. on a J-1 program in the Professor or Research Scholar category, you are not allowed to return to the U.S. again in the J-1 Professor or Research Scholar category until you have remained out of the U.S. for a minimum of 24 consecutive months.

If you have been in the U.S. in any Exchange Program for more than 6 months, you are subject to a 12-month bar on returning to the U.S. as a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor category. People in the Short-Term Scholar category are exempt from this bar.

These are important considerations if you are collaborating on long-term research at several different institutions in the U.S. In such cases, you should plan your trips carefully and consult with the university’s international office and make use of the Short-term Scholar category when possible.

The supervisor submits the USC Exchange Visitor Program Supervisor Agreement form.

Supervisors attest to the following:

  • Notify ISSS in writing before any material changes to EV’s program activities, including but not limited to: duties, appointment dates, schedule, supervisor, compensation (if applicable), and/or site(s);
  • Actively monitor EV’s wellbeing and notify ISSS immediately of any serious incident involving EV as described herein;
  • Actively engage EV in opportunities to participate in cross-cultural activities (e.g., Departmental meetings and social gatherings, lectures, colloquia to share research findings, etc.);
  • Assist EV and any accompanying dependents with settling into the Columbia-area community (e.g., welcoming the EV upon arrival at the airport, securing housing, etc.); and
  • Provide EV with equitable supervision/training/resources to support program activities and goals.

Academic unit sends $100 SEVIS Maintenance Fee to ISSS.

Only scholars in the "Student Intern" category are required complete Form DS-7002 with ISSS and their faculty supervisor. Scholars complete Sections 1 & 3, supervisors complete Section 4, including Phase Information.

After all documents and forms are collected, Form DS-2019 can be issued. ISSS will email the document, which is used to obtain the J-1 visa. Once a scholar has receipt of the SEVIS number, a visa interview appointment can be scheduled with the U.S. consulate.

Check the Department of State for visa appointment wait times.

Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee then prepare and submit form DS-160 (Nonimmigrant Visa/NIV application), to schedule the J-1 visa interview. You will use the information on the DS-2019 for this.

I-901 FAQsDS-160 FAQs

Make an appointment with ISSS for check-in and orientation. Bring your local contact information as well as immigration documents for SEVIS verification. An active SEVIS status then allows HR-OIS to set up payroll, USC ID and email, and more. You will receive emails from this office about activation of USC systems.

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