Berkeley Lab

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

A J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa issued by the U.S. Department of State to Exchange Visitors participating in programs that promote cultural and educational exchange. Berkeley Lab sponsors both the J-1 Short-Term Scholar visa category (maximum stay in the U.S. of six months, with no extensions possible) , as well as the J-1 Research Scholar category (maximum stay in the U.S. up to five years).

If you have been offered employment at Berkeley Lab or will become a Berkeley Lab affiliate in the near future, you will be contacted with the necessary information to help facilitate the J-1 visa issuance process. You will be asked to complete preliminary forms (J-1 Intake Form) that will help your advisor create the DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility) document, which is required prior to applying for the J-1 visa stamp, if entering the U.S. from abroad. If you are currently located inside the United States and are transferring your J-1 program to Berkeley Lab, you will be contacted to help coordinate and process the transfer.


***24/7 EMERGENCY NUMBER FOR J-1 EXCHANGE VISITORS ONLY: In the event of an emergency or to report a very serious situation, please call this hotline number and you will be put in touch with a Berkeley Lab Visa Advisor: 510-486-6999***

J-1 Medical Coverage:

All J-1 exchange visitors (as well as their accompanying spouses and dependents) must have medical insurance in effect that covers them for sickness or accidents during the time of their exchange visitor program. Required coverage includes:

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

If your employment at Berkeley Lab includes medical coverage benefits, you must select from one of our offered Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans which meet the U.S. Department of State’s requirements as listed above.  Please visit Berkeley Lab’s Benefits site to learn more about your options. If your employment at Berkeley Lab does not include medical coverage benefits, or you choose to waive Berkeley Lab offered medical benefits, please refer to the following document to help in your selection of an adequate medical plan: Optional Health Insurance Providers for J-1. J-1 Postdocs at Berkeley Lab may find information about medical plan coverage here.

Berkeley Lab HMO plans do not include Repatriation of Remains or Medical Evacuation coverage. BETINS International Health and Travel Insurance is a company which offers Repatriation of Remains and Medical Evacuation coverage as a stand-alone option. Please refer to the BETA plan, if you need to purchase only Repatriation of Remains and Medical Evacuation coverage as a supplement to your current plan.

SEVIS – Student and Exchange Visitor Information System Information:

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a U.S. government system that manages data and application processes for  J-1 nonimmigrants in the United States. If you are beginning a new program in the United States, you are required to pay a one-time fee before you may obtain a J-1 visa and enter the United States. The SEVIS fee is in addition to any visa fees you may be required to pay at a U.S. consulate. Please find additional information about the SEVIS fee and process on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.

**212(e) Home Residency Requirement: 

Certain J-1 Exchange Visitors are subject to a two-year home country physical presence requirement. J-1 visitors “subject” to this rule must return to their country of last legal residence for two years or obtain a waiver of this requirement before they are eligible for the H (temporary employment), L (intracompany transfer), K (fiance)  or Permanent Residence (Green Card) categories. This requirement does not prohibit a visitor from returning to the U.S. in any other immigration status. For example, if the visitor wishes to return as a tourist or student within the two-year period and meets the requirements for those entries, the two-year physical presence requirement does not prohibit this. To learn more about this requirement and to know if you may be subjected, please visit the U.S. Department of State’s website. If you believe you are subjected, you may discuss this with your Berkeley Lab Visa Advisor. If you have been subjected to 212(e) but believe that it is in error or are unsure if the requirement applies to you, please find information regarding an Advisory Opinion on the same U.S. Department of State website.

Please note that during the “skills list” waiver process, once you have received a favorable “Waiver Recommendation” or “No Objection Statement” from the U.S. Department of State, we are no longer permitted to extend your J-1 Research Scholar visa status or transfer you out to another program. Therefore, the first step in applying for a waiver should be to work with your Visa Advisor and Host/Manager to extend your DS-2019 and J-1 visa status.

**IMPORTANT: Do not request an Advisory Opinions OR begin the J-1 Waiver Process without first consulting with a Visa Advisor.

24 Month Bar

On January 11, 2007 the U.S. Department of State (DOS) published a final rule announcing that effective November 18, 2006, an individual who participates in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program in the Professor or Research Scholar category becomes subject to a 24-month bar on “repeat participation” in this category after completing their program. (Your J-1 category can be found in section 4 of the Form DS-2019.) Scholars subject to the bar may not return to the U.S. on “repeat participation” as a J-1 in the Research Scholar category for the 24-month period.

The maximum period of participation for the J Research Scholar categories is 5 years. The 24-month bar will be in effect regardless of whether status in the program is a few days/weeks in duration or the full five years allowed. Whenever an exchange program ends and the SEVIS record becomes “inactive”, the five-year window is “closed” and the individual must wait 24 months before beginning a new program as a J Research Scholar. To take advantage of the full five years of the J Research Scholar category, a scholar would need to have an appointment of five continuous years to keep his/her SEVIS record active. Unused time from the five-year window may not be saved for use later.

12 Month Bar

Individuals who have been in the U.S. for more than six months in the previous year (12 months) in any J visa status are not eligible to enter the U.S. as a J-1 Research Scholar (or Professor) for a 12-month period. Time spent in the J-1 Short-term Scholar category does not count towards the 12-month bar. The 12-month bar applies to both the J-1 principal and any J-2 dependents. The 12-month bar does not prevent individuals from returning to the U.S. in any other visa status or in some other J categories such as Short-Term Scholar or Student. Do not confuse the 24-month bar with the two-year home residence requirement (212e). These are two completely different regulations. The two-year rule (212e) may apply to visitors in any J category. The 24-month bar only applies to J visa holders who enter the US in the Research Scholar or Professor categories or as their J-2 dependent.

J-1 Transfers from Other Programs within the U.S.

A J-1 may request to transfer from one designated J-1 Exchange Visitor program to another designated program provided the J-1 time does not exceed the maximum permitted by their J category.  J-1 scholars intending to transfer to another program should discuss their plans with a Visa Advisor of both J-1 sponsoring programs.  The transfer is processed through an update in the J-1 scholar’s SEVIS record and must be completed prior to the end date as noted on the form DS-2019. Both Berkeley Lab, and the new sponsor—must agree on a transfer release date in SEVIS/start date at new institution. The Transfer Release Date in SEVIS selected should be your first day of employment at the new institution. Please note:  We are unable to extend or transfer a J-1 visa status or DS-2019 during the Waiver process, once you have received a favorable “Waiver Recommendation” from the U.S. Department of State. This applies to transferring into Berkeley Lab from another program, or transferring out from Berkeley Lab to another program.

On-Site Activity Requirement

Please note: As of January 1, 2024, all J-1 Exchange Visitors sponsored by Berkeley Lab must participate in their program activities on-site (site(s) listed in SEVIS as the primary or secondary site of activity) at least three out of five days per week – or 40% of the time. Please review this Guidance Directive for further details. If you are a Hiring Manager or Host of a J-1 Visa holder, please ensure that they are collaborating, researching, working, etc. on-site in a hybrid mode (fully remote is not permitted), at least 3 out of 5 days per week, or alternatively, fully 100% on-site. This Directive is subject to change, as is the work-mode requirement for the Exchange Visitor visa; the Department of State may make changes to this guidance at any time.

For further information about the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, please visit the U.S. Department of State’s J-1 web page.

To contact an International Researchers and Scholars Office (IRSO) Advisor at Berkeley Lab with questions regarding the J-1 Visa/Status, please email us at, call 510-486-4774, or contact your Visa Advisor directly.