The Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (J-Nonimmigrant), is a controlled document used in the administration of the Exchange Visitor Program. Designated sponsors are authorized to complete and issue Forms DS-2019 to prospective exchange visitors and their spouses and dependents, if any, that have been screened and selected for participation in the Exchange Visitor Program. Sponsors generate Forms DS-2019 through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The forms are used by prospective exchange visitors and their spouses or dependents, if any, to seek an interview at an U.S. embassy or consulate to request a J-1 or J-2 nonimmigrant visa to enter the United States. After obtaining a J visa, they must hand-carry printed Forms DS-2019 to the port of entry, where the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will review the forms as part of the process of admitting nonimmigrants into the United States.
What information is contained in a Form DS-2019?
The Form DS-2019 contains the individual applicant’s program information, including the exchange visitor’s name, name of their designated sponsor, and a brief description of their exchange visitor program (including the start and end dates, category of exchange, and placement address(es)).
Will sponsors be able to digitally sign forms generated via batch?
Yes. SEVIS allows sponsors to use third-party software to send changes from their internal systems. The Department of State has coordinated the introduction of the digital signature option with its Student and Exchange Visitor Program counterparts at the Department of Homeland Security to enable sponsors to have digital signing capability. Sponsors experiencing technical difficulty with SEVIS should contact the SEVIS help desk at 1-800-892-4829.
Do the issued date and the signed date on Forms DS-2019 need to match?
No. Sponsors may issue forms on one date and sign them at a later date.
Does this rule have any impact on the allocation of Forms DS-2019?
No. This rule does not change the allocation of Forms DS-2019 or the process of requesting annual allotments of Forms DS-2019.
Do sponsors need to utilize specific digital signature software?
Sponsors can utilize any digital signature software that is an application of technology for cryptographically derived signatures that ensures meaningful authentication of the identity of the signer and integrity of the document. The Department identified three common digital signature software packages in the Interim Final Rule: DocuSign, Adobe Sign, and Global Sign. The Department emphasizes digital signature software is a subset of electronic signature software, but digital signatures employ cryptography, i.e., are backed by a process such as a public key infrastructure. Only digital signatures are permitted. Sponsors should consult information technology experts to determine which digital signature software is suitable for their operations.
How can sponsors test whether their digital signature software is sufficient?
Sponsors should consult information technology experts who can advise sponsors on the implementation of digital signature software compatible with the rule.
Can sponsors electronically transmit Forms DS-2019 to any entity or third party?
No. The new regulation specifically limits electronic transmission of Forms DS-2019 to the following entities: exchange visitors; accompanying spouses and dependents; legal guardians of minor exchange visitors; sponsor staff; Fulbright commissions and their staff; and Federal, State, or local government agencies or departments. Sponsors may also continue to send paper Forms DS-2019 via mail to these entities as well as to foreign third parties acting on sponsors’ behalf.
Do sponsors have to encrypt email messages used for transmitting Forms DS-2019 electronically?
No. Using encryption is a best practice, not a regulatory requirement.
If applicants do not have printing capacity, can sponsors electronically transmit Forms DS-2019 to foreign third parties to print before the applicants’ visa interview?
No. Sponsors may not electronically transmit Forms DS-2019 to any party not identified in the regulations. Sponsors may mail paper Forms DS-2019 to applicants without access to printers.
Does the new rule affect which Responsible Officer or Alternate Responsible Officer (collectively, Officers) can sign Forms DS-2019?
No. The Form DS-2019 is generated from SEVIS and will print with the Officer’s name that last updated the SEVIS record. The Officer whose name is printed on the form must sign it.
What options are available for transmitting Forms DS-2019?
- Sponsors may continue to print, physically sign (blue ink not required), and mail paper forms to the entities listed in the Interim Final Rule and foreign third parties acting on behalf of sponsors.
- Sponsors may print and physically sign paper forms in ink (blue ink not required), scan, and save them (e.g., as portable document format (PDF) files), and electronically transmit them (e.g., via email).- Sponsors may now use digital signature software to sign Forms DS-2019 and then electronically transmit them (e.g., via email) or mail them.
Can Officers use a computer mouse to draw their signature, type their name, or copy and paste their signature to sign Forms DS-2019?
No. The only type of electronic signature permitted is a digital signature that ensures meaningful authentication of the identity of the signer and integrity of the document.
What should sponsors do if they cannot make the digital signature software work?
Sponsors should consult information technology experts for advice on obtaining and implementing digital signature software. Sponsors that are unable or do not want to apply digital signatures may utilize one of the following options:
- Print, physically sign (blue ink not required), and mail Forms DS-2019 (e.g., via postal or delivery service)- Print and physically sign paper Forms DS-2019 in ink (blue ink not required), scan the form (e.g., as PDF files), and electronically transmit them (e.g., via email).
Do exchange visitors still have to use paper Forms DS-2019?
Yes. Exchange visitors and their J-2 accompanying spouses and dependents, if any, should print out their Forms DS-2019 after their sponsors transmit them electronically and sign them with ink. They must continue to present paper Forms DS-2019 at U.S. embassies or consulates when they apply for a J-1 or J-2 nonimmigrant visa and at the U.S. port of entry to participate in the Exchange Visitor Program. They should continue to use printed Forms DS-2019 when applying for a social security number or driver’s license and if they depart and re-enter the United States. Sponsors should advise exchange visitors that they may not reprint their initial forms if they are lost, stolen, or damaged.
Will consular officers or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers accept Forms DS-2019 with digital signatures?
Yes. The Department of State has informed U.S. embassies and consulates and CBP of the Interim Final Rule to minimize confusion as exchange visitors travel to the United States.
Are there any changes to travel signatures on Forms DS-2019?
Yes. Sponsors may now apply digital signatures in the Travel Validation section of Forms DS-2019. When exchange visitors plan to travel outside the United States, their sponsors’ Officer must sign Forms DS-2019 – either with a digital signature or in ink – to denote travel approval. Exchange visitors must then present a paper version of their Form DS-2019 to re-enter the United States. Without a valid travel signature, the exchange visitor may be unable to re-enter the United States.
Should exchange visitors reprint Forms DS-2019 if they are lost, stolen, or damaged?
No. If Forms DS-2019 are lost, stolen, or damaged, exchange visitors must contact their sponsors and ask for a new form. Sponsors must not electronically transmit or print a previously issued Form DS-2019, but rather, they must use the reprint function in SEVIS and send the form (electronically or via mail) to the exchange visitor and/or their dependents, if any.
Can sponsors digitally sign and electronically transmit Forms DS-3036, DS-3037, DS-3097, and DS-7002 Training/Internship Placement Plans?
Sponsors and supervisors may digitally sign and electronically transmit Forms DS-3036, DS-3037, DS-3097, and DS-7002.
Does the new rule make any other changes?
Yes. In the Interim Final Rule, the Department clarifies, corrects, and/or deletes ambiguous, obsolete, or technically inaccurate language and requirements. It also replaces the term “original” with the term “paper” when describing the physical Form DS-2019.