Hosting STEM Exchange Visitors: The Process


Each year, thousands of communities across the United States welcome international visitors into their homes, schools, and businesses. That person-to-person interaction, exemplifying citizen diplomacy, ensures that Americans and international visitors learn about each other’s culture and way of life. Hosting an exchange visitor builds your institution’s international credibility, stature, and brand, positively affecting the lives of future professionals across borders, creating and strengthening your overseas network to partner organizations, and setting your institution apart from the competition with innovative ideas and perspectives.

  • STEP 1: Interested host sites/STEM businesses should reach out to BridgeUSA Sponsors (ECA’s implementing partners for exchanges) to determine the best fit. STEM initiative points of contact for Sponsors who have opted into the initiative are listed here: https://j1visa.state.gov/early-career-stem-research-initiative/#get-started.
  • STEP 2: Sponsors and hosts will follow their own internal procedures and applicable regulations to operationalize an exchange.
  • STEP 3: Host organizations may enter into agreements with their selected sponsors to identify the appropriate J-1 category and eligible candidates.
  • STEP 4: STEM host organizations identify suitable positions, relevant educational and cultural exchange experiences, and resources, e.e., fully funding an exchange or offering a hybrid approach where the exchange visitor pays for some of the programming costs.
  • STEP 5: Sponsors recruit, screen, and offer STEM host candidates to review for suitability e.g., interviews and resume reviews.
  • STEP 6: Once STEM host identifies the best match for their opportunity, the partnering sponsor will issue the necessary documents for the exchange visitor to apply for their J-1 visa.
  • STEP 7: Upon arrival, the partnering sponsor will continue to monitor the exchange visitor’s time with the STEM host organization.
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FAQs

Which BridgeUSA categories are eligible to participate in the Early Career STEM Research Initiative?

  • Eligible categories for participation include Professors and Research Scholars, Short-term Scholars, Trainees and Interns, College and University Students, and Specialists.

Can a non-STEM business host a Research Scholar under this initiative? For example, is a newspaper publisher or a restaurant seeking to enlist/hire an environmental scientist ​​to conduct research on green energy solutions for its building ​eligible?

  • No, a non-STEM company cannot host a Research Scholar under this initiative. A restaurant, ​for example, cannot satisfy 62.20(c) because the regulation requires sponsors to place exchange visitors “at research institutions, corporate research facilities, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited educational institutions, or similar types of institutions in the United States.”

Where can I find a list of the designated program sponsors that have expressed a specific interest in the Early Career STEM Research Initiative?

  • You can find the list of interested sponsors and points of contact here: Get Started

I am a company interested in hosting a J-1 Research Scholar. The regulations indicate that Research Scholars may engage in research or consulting at “corporate research facilities … or similar types of institutions in the United States.” I am unsure what is meant in the regulations regarding “corporate research facilities.” Is my STEM business permitted to host a researcher?

  • Yes, companies are permitted by current regulations to host J-1 Research Scholars onsite at their respective places of business. The purpose of the Research Scholars category of the Exchange Visitor Program is to foster the exchange of ideas between Americans and foreign nationals and to stimulate international collaborative teaching, lecturing, and research efforts. A STEM business does not have to have an independent research division to qualify as a host organization. A company, organization, or similar entity may host a J-1 Research Scholar, as long as it can ensure that program requirements are being met, the field of research aligns with the prospective exchange visitor’s area of study, and the host organization maintains the ability, personnel, and resources to achieve the goals and objectives of the Research Scholar’s program. Sponsors and host organizations have a shared responsibility to ensure whether a host organization will be a good match for an exchange visitor (e.g., determining that the necessary infrastructure is in place to host and support that exchange visitor during the program).

Which BridgeUSA categories are eligible to participate in the Early Career STEM Research Initiative?

  • Eligible categories for participation include Professors and Research Scholars, Short-term Scholars, Trainees and Interns, College and University Students, and Specialists.

How do I sign up for the Early Career STEM Research Initiative?

  • The STEM Initiative will connect U.S.-based STEM entities interested in serving as host organizations with BridgeUSA sponsors of STEM-focused exchange visitors seeking opportunities in the United States.
  • Prospective host organizations should reach out to BridgeUSA Sponsors (ECA’s implementing partners for exchanges) to determine the best fit. Points of contact are listed here: https://j1visa.state.gov/early-career-stem-research-initiative/#get-started.

What is the process for initiating the Early Career STEM Research Initiative and what are next steps? How will I be notified?

  • Prospective host organizations should reach out to BridgeUSA Sponsors (ECA’s implementing partners for exchanges) to determine the best fit. STEM initiative points of contact are listed here: https://j1visa.state.gov/early-career-stem-research-initiative/#get-started.
  • After interested parties connect, sponsors and host sites will follow their own internal procedures to determine whether a placement meets category-specific regulatory requirements and the goals and objectives of the Exchange Visitor Program.
  • For host organizations that pursue a partnership with a Department-designated sponsor, that sponsor will be your primary resource and implementing partner for the duration of the exchange.

Will the Department allocate additional DS-2019 for these STEM exchanges?

  • No new Forms DS-2019 will be allocated for the STEM Initiative.

As an academic institution, we are normally both the sponsor and host site when it comes to hosting exchange visitors. I am confused about what we would be agreeing to if we sign the statements of interest.

  • This initiative does not impact your institution’s ability (as a J-1 sponsor) to continue to host exchange visitors in STEM fields/departments on your campus. The placement of Professors and Research Scholars, Short-term Scholars, College and University Students (academic training), Student Interns, and Specialists off campus at appropriate host organizations (e.g., STEM businesses) is permitted by current regulations. This initiative will expand your network of institutions that may serve as possible host organizations for your exchange visitors.

As an academic institution and a J-1 sponsor, can a private business ask our institution to issue a Form DS-2019 on their behalf for an EV, even though they might not have an affiliation with our university?

  • Yes. Current EVP regulations allow a diverse spectrum of private sector organizations and businesses to host exchange visitors, including those in academic categories, e.g., Research Scholar. BridgeUSA sponsors remain responsible for the identification and placement of exchange visitors at reputable host organizations that offer exchange visitors quality training and/or research opportunities, and for ensuring the placements meet the regulatory requirements for specific categories.

Are there new regulations or additional requirements expected of sponsors who want to participate?

  • The placement of Professors and Research Scholars, Short-term Scholars, College and University Students (academic training), Student Interns, and Specialists off campus at appropriate host organizations (e.g., STEM businesses) is permitted by current regulations.
  • BridgeUSA may, at its discretion, conduct a site visit to ensure that program requirements are being met, including that the host organization possesses and maintains the ability, personnel, and resources to provide structured and guided work-based training experiences that achieve a program’s stated goals and objectives.

What criteria do STEM host organizations have to meet?

  • Department-designated sponsors will work with host organizations to implement their BridgeUSA program. Sponsors will contact the host organization and follow their own internal procedures to determine whether a host organization meets the relevant regulatory requirements and the goals of the program. Sponsors will assess whether host organizations will be a good match for an exchange visitor e.g., by determining that the necessary infrastructure is in place to host and support an exchange visitor during their program. Host organizations also must show that their field of research or study aligns with the prospective exchange visitor.
  • BridgeUSA may, at its discretion, conduct a host-organization site visit to ensure that program requirements are being met, including that the host organization possesses and maintains the ability, personnel, and resources to provide structured and guided work-based training, internship, and/or research experiences that achieve BridgeUSA goals and objectives.

I am a host organization interested in sponsoring STEM exchange visitors. How can I become a Department-designated sponsor?

    • In the long term, after demonstrating experience hosting exchange visitors, STEM host organizations may also apply for their own Department designation as a BridgeUSA sponsor after meeting the Department’s eligibility requirements. Please contact AGexchanges@state.gov for more information.

Will the initiative affect the home-residency requirement for exchange visitors?

  • The initiative will not affect the home-residency requirement for exchange visitors. Some exchange visitors are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement following their exchange program. Please visit https://travel.state.gov for additional information.

I represent a STEM business. Why should the business sign the STEM Statement of Interest (Host)? Where is it?

  • The Department created a webpage for the Early Career STEM Research Initiative (https://j1visa.state.gov/programs/early-career-stem-research-initiative/) so that interested businesses could easily find the STEM Statement of Interest (Host). If a business is not already hosting exchange visitors through a BridgeUSA sponsor or if it is interested in exploring new options, signing the STEM Statement of Interest helps streamline the process.
  • For you, these exchanges mean bringing a global perspective into your operations – diversifying your teams, enhancing your innovation, and building your global network.

The Early Career STEM Research Initiative is now listed as a separate program on the BridgeUSA website. Does this mean that a program sponsor that a company already uses must be separately designated for the Initiative in order to participate?

  • No new designations are required to participate in the Early Career STEM Research Initiative. The Initiative links interested STEM businesses with interested BridgeUSA sponsors. If a STEM business is already working with a BridgeUSA sponsor and it is satisfied with that partnership (e.g., the sponsor is providing enough eligible, high quality exchange visitor candidates), there is no need for the business to sign up.

Seeking guidance regarding a STEM Research Scholar who is nearing the end of their program, which has lasted the full five years, but they are still in the writing process of some important publications. Are exchange visitors in STEM permitted to request extension beyond maximum duration of participation?

  • If there was no exceptional reason that the exchange visitor missed time during the five-year program (e.g., COVID-19, medical leave of absence), then no extensions are permitted beyond the five-year maximum time allowed under the Research Scholar regulations.

I am interested in signing up for the Early Career STEM Initiative but I have more questions. How can I learn more?

  • In partnership with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), BridgeUSA will launch a series of virtual roundtables with professional associations and businesses to offer interested parties opportunities to ask real-time questions about the initiative. If you want to participate in a virtual roundtable please write: stemresearch@ostp.eop.gov.

Does Permission to Issue apply to Academic Sponsors placing academic exchange students and scholars at STEM host organizations?

  • A: No. The Department does not require sponsors to submit a Permission to Issue request when placing exchange visitors at U.S. businesses serving as STEM host organizations. Placement of academic exchange visitors at off-campus host organizations is currently permitted by the regulations and consistent with the current practice and placement of students performing academic training or student interns at off-campus host organizations in their chosen field of study. With respect to the Early Career STEM initiative, short-term scholars, research scholars, professors and specialists in the STEM field may also be placed at host organizations by academic sponsors.
  • As clarified by the Department in Guidance Directive 2019-02, Permission to Issue Form DS-2019 authorization facilitates the entry of qualified exchange visitors to participate in the Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) at academic or research institutions that are not currently designated as EVP sponsors. The Department uses this opportunity to further clarify that in this circumstance, “academic or research institutions” typically refers to institutions of higher education.
  • Please note that student interns are still required to have a signed Form DS-7002 in place between the sponsor, student intern, and host organization. Designated sponsors issuing Forms DS-2019 must ensure that both exchange visitors and host organizations in the STEM field are sufficiently educated on and comply with the purpose and regulations of the EVP. This obligation includes, but is not limited to, the following requirements: verifying the exchange visitors are eligible to participate in the selected EVP category; ensuring that the activities in which exchange visitors are engaged are consistent with the category and activity listed on their Forms DS-2019; monitoring the exchange visitors’ health, safety, and welfare; and meeting all reporting obligations of the designated sponsors, including updating the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

I am a host organization interested in becoming a Department-designated sponsor for STEM exchange visitors. Please clarify whether organizations are required to host exchange visitors before they can apply to be designated as a sponsor or can they apply now for designation as a sponsor?

Can research scholars conduct their research off-campus at more than one site of activity (STEM organization)?

  • Yes. Research scholars may be placed off campus at multiple sites of activity (STEM organizations) if their program objectives remain the same.  Sponsors will need to first ensure that each host organization meets the relevant regulatory requirements and goals of the Exchange Visitor Program and that the necessary infrastructure is in place to host and support the research scholar.  Please note that sponsors and host organizations are required to monitor the exchange visitor’s progress at each host organization, and all sites of activity should be listed in SEVIS.
  • As a reminder, 22 C.F.R. § 62.10(d)(4) requires sponsors to report in SEVIS within ten business days any change in the exchange visitor’s current physical U.S. address, telephone number, email address, and/or primary site of activity.
  • Research scholar participation in occasional lectures and short-term consultations.
  • When placing research scholars at new sites of activity, please also remember the following:

After authorization by the sponsor, professors and research scholars may participate in occasional lectures and short-term consultations. If wages or other remuneration are received, exchange visitors must act as an independent contractor, and:

Occasional lectures or short-term consultations must:

  • Be directly related to the objectives of the exchange visitor’s program;
  • Be incidental to the exchange visitor’s primary program activities;
  • Not delay the completion date of the exchange visitor’s program; and
  • Be documented in SEVIS.
  • To obtain authorization to engage in occasional lectures or short-term consultations involving wages or other remuneration, the exchange visitor must present to the sponsor:
  • A letter from the offeror setting forth the terms and conditions of the offer to lecture or consult, including the duration, number of hours, field or subject, amount of compensation, and description of such activity; and
  • A letter from the exchange visitor’s department head or supervisor recommending such activity and explaining how the activity would enhance the exchange visitor’s program.
  • The responsible officer must review the letters required in paragraph (g)(2)(i) of  22 C.F.R. § 62.20 and make a written determination whether such activity is warranted, will not interrupt the exchange visitor’s original objective, and satisfies the criteria set forth in paragraph (g)(1) of that section.

Do I need to issue a new Form DS-2019 for any changes of activity for research scholars and/or professors?

  • No. The primary purpose of research scholar is to conduct research, and the primary purpose of professors is to teach. However, at the discretion and approval of the Responsible Officer, professors may engage in some research and research scholars may engage in some teaching and lecturing.  Please note that this minor change of activity is not considered a change of category necessitating a formal approval by the Department of State and does not require the issuance of a new Form DS-2019.  Such change in activity does not extend the exchange visitor’s maximum duration of program participation.

I represent a STEM business. Why should I participate in the Early Career STEM Initiative?

  • The Department created a webpage for the Early Career STEM Research Initiative so that interested businesses could easily find BridgeUSA sponsors. If a business is not already hosting exchange visitors through a BridgeUSA sponsor or if it is interested in exploring new options, host organizations are encouraged to interview several BridgeUSA sponsors to determine the best fit for their organization.
  • For you, these exchanges mean bringing a global perspective into your operations – diversifying your teams, enhancing your innovation, and building your global network.

Get Started

The following list includes BridgeUSA sponsors that expressed interest in connecting with prospective host organizations. Please reach out to the contact listed below for more details.

  • French-American Chamber of Commerce
    • Categories: Intern and Trainee
    • Point of Contact: Ericka Rodas
  • Council for International Travel (USA) (CETUSA)
  • Cultural Exchange Network (CENET)
    • Categories: Intern and Trainee
    • Point of Contact: Robin Walker
  • Western Michigan University
    • Categories:  Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist
    • Point of Contact: Lee A. Ryder
  • University of North Texas
    • Categories:Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student
    • Point of Contact: Rekha Gopalakrishnan
  • Cultural Vistas
    • Categories: Intern, Trainee
    • Point of Contact: Daniel Ewert
  • Arizona State University
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student
    • Point of Contact: Chung-Ning Gonzalez
  • Pan Atlantic Consultants
    • Categories: Intern, Trainee, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar
    • Point of Contact: Spencer Jones
  • The University of Alabama
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student
    • Point of Contact: Charter Morris
  • World Wide Cultural Exchange, Inc.
    • Categories: Intern, Trainee
    • Point of Contact: Marina Onaca
  • Spirit Cultural Exchange
  • Miami University
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student
    • Point of Contact:  Molly Heidemann
  • Rian Immigrant Center, Inc.
  • InterExchange, Inc.
  • Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist
    • Point of Contact: Olga Adamovich
  • Institute of International Education (IIE)
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, Trainee, College/University Student
    • Point of Contact: Hilary Hartley
  • I.C.E.F. Inc.
  • British American Business Inc of New York and London
    • Categories: Intern, Trainee
    • Point of Contact: Lumi Zogaj
  • Odyssey International Exchange
    • Categories: Intern, Trainee
    • Point of Contact: Nick Jones
  • Global Educational Concepts (GEC)
  • International Center for Language Studies, Inc.
  • American Immigration Council, Inc.
    • Categories: Intern, Trainee
    • Point of Contact: Lisa Murray
  • Intrax
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student
    • Point of Contact: Emily Vigneulle
  • International Exchange of North America (IENA)
    • Categories: Intern, Trainee
    • Point of Contact: Scott Curry
  • Grand Valley State University
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student
    • Point of Contact: Kate Stoetzner
  • Xavier University of Louisiana
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student
    • Point of Contact: Yu Jiang
  • Alliance Abroad Group
  • German American Chamber of Commerce California
  • Gravity International Programs Inc.
    • Categories: Trainee
    • Point of Contact: Mine Gur
  • State University of NY Tompkins Cortland Community College
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student
    • Point of Contact: Merryn Clay
  • University of Oregon
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student
  • Saint Martin’s University
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student
    • Point of Contact: Dr. Roger Douglas
  • University of South Carolina
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student
    • Point of Contact: Jean Saunders-Blanks
  • International Technological University
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student
    • Point of Contact: Dr. Concepcion Saenz-Cambra
  • Experience International
  • University of Dayton
    • Categories: Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student
    • Point of Contact: Amy Anderson
  • Brigham Young University – Hawaii
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student
    • Point of Contact: Lenisi Pasi
  • Geovisions
    • Categories: Intern and Trainee
    • Point of Contact: Hannah Gilman
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