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.
  • 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. J-1 categories include: College/University Student, Intern, Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, and Trainee.
  • 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.
Program Resources Find a Program Sponsor Common Questions

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

FAQs

(Updated 05/24/24)

Academic sponsors want to utilize the STEM initiative to place academic exchange visitors off campus and are very interested in creating partnerships with local STEM businesses. Can the Department provide an example of a third party agreement, or a basic template of what is expected when sponsors place exchange visitors off campus at a host organization?

Only certain categories of Department of State Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) regulations establish requirements for third-party agreements when placing exchange visitors off campus, most notably for Trainees and Interns as contained at 22 CFR 62.22(g) and for College and University Students (student interns) at 22 CFR 62.23(i).

While not required for categories other than Intern, Trainee and College and University Student (student intern), the Department refers sponsors to the requirements of the Form DS-7002 as an example for both assessing third-party organizations and an agreement that accurately outlines expectations for all parties for an off-campus placement.

By way of example, in addition to any applicable requirements outlined in the regulations for a specific category of exchange visitor, a written agreement might include the following:

  • Full description of position, title, duties, compensation (if any), location, dates, time commitment, how the program is related to the subject field listed on exchange visitor’s Form DS-2019, and the goals and objectives of the placement.
  • Host organization information, including legal business name; a brief summary of the company’s goals and products and/or services it offers; and site location information, including an up-to-date physical address of the business.
  • Expectations for host organization cooperation, including:
    • Notification of the university sponsor promptly when participants arrive at the site to begin their exchange visitor program, when there are any changes or deviations to the program objectives, when exchange visitors are not meeting the requirements of their placements, or when exchange visitors leave their program 30 days or more ahead of their program end date.
    • Contacting the university sponsor immediately in the event of any emergency involving exchange visitors or any situations that impact their health, safety, or welfare.
    • Acknowledgement that the intent of the Exchange Visitor Program is to allow the exchange visitor to enhance skills and gain exposure to U.S. culture and business prior to returning home upon completion of the program.
    • Commitment to contact the sponsor at the earliest available opportunity regarding any concerns, changes in, or deviations from this agreement.
    • Responding in a timely way to all inquiries and monitoring activities of the sponsor.
    • Commitment to adhere to all applicable regulations, terms, and conditions that govern the placement.

As a best practice, and keeping in mind the general obligations of sponsors contained at 22 CFR 62.9 and 62.10, sponsors should also:

  • Establish a monitoring plan for the duration of the exchange visitor’s placement by, for example, identifying point of contacts, having protocols for reporting, planning for check-ins, and having a way to resolve any conflicts or issues that arise.
  • Evaluate the exchange visitor’s performance and the host organization post-program.
  • Offer host organizations an introduction to the Exchange Visitor Program to ensure they’re provided with accurate information and materials with respect to the objectives of the program and the nature and importance of the cultural components.  Sponsors should emphasize the distinction between work-based learning, which is permitted, and ordinary employment or unskilled labor, which is not.

Finally, before making the placement, and again keeping in mind the sponsor’s obligations under 22 C.F.R. 62.9 and 62.10 as well as any category-specific obligations and requirements, sponsors should:

  • 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 proposed work-based training plan aligns with the prospective exchange visitor’s program objective on their Form DS-2019.
  • Ensure that the host organization possesses and maintains the ability, personnel, and resources to provide structured and guided work-based training, internship, and/or collaborative research experiences that achieve the goals and objectives of the Exchange Visitor Program.

Can you please provide some concrete examples of off-campus STEM placements in the Specialist Category?

Below are some concrete examples of how sponsors are implementing the STEM initiative in the Specialist category, based on a March 2023 data snapshot. All exchange visitors are on a STEM exchange connected to a Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List: https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/stem-list.pdf

  • Personal Protective Equipment manufacturing company hosts a manufacturing engineering Specialist from Sri Lanka who advises on technical aspects of glove manufacturing and product development.
  • Magazine and television company hosts a Specialist from the United Kingdom to share expertise in marine biology and environmental research.
  • Television network hosts a Specialist from the United Kingdom to be a content contributor and subject-matter expert in the field of geology and earth science.
  • Technology corporation sponsors and hosts a Specialist from Italy in the field of computer semiconductor engineering.

Can you please provide some concrete examples of off-campus STEM placements in the Research Scholar Category?

Below are some concrete examples of how sponsors are implementing the STEM initiative in the Research Scholar category, based on a March 2023 data snapshot. All exchange visitors are on a STEM exchange connected to a Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List: https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/stem-list.pdf

  • A biotechnology corporation partners with an international student exchange organization to host a Research Scholar from Finland in the field of cancer biology.
  • A university sponsors a Research Scholar from Spain hosted by a NASA research center in the field of astronautical engineering.
  • A university sponsored Research Scholar in the field of molecular genetics and genomics is hosted by a not-for-profit plant science research center.
  • A battery technology corporation hosts a Research Scholar in the field of battery materials engineering, sponsored by an international exchange organization.
  • A personal genomics company hosts a Research Scholar in the field of cardiovascular science.

Can you please provide some concrete examples of off-campus STEM placements in the Student Intern Category?

Below are some concrete examples of how sponsors are implementing the STEM initiative in the Student Intern category, based on a March 2023 data snapshot. All exchange visitors are on a STEM exchange connected to a Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List: https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/stem-list.pdf

  • A supply chain operations and logistics company hosts a university sponsored Student Intern from Republic of Korea in the field of Engineering.
  • A hospital hosts a Student Intern from Japan, sponsored by a university, in the field of neurology.
  • A national research institute hosts a Student Intern from Germany in the field of cellular and molecular biology.

Can you please provide some concrete examples of off-campus STEM placements in the Short-Term Scholar Category?

Below are some concrete examples of how sponsors are implementing the STEM initiative in the Short-Term Scholar category, based on a March 2023 data snapshot. All exchange visitors are on a STEM exchange connected to a Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List: https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/stem-list.pdf

  • Through an international arts organization sponsor, an art museum hosts a Short-Term Scholar from India in the field of animation, interactive technology, video graphics, and special effects animation.
  • A fermentation research and development company hosts a Shot-Term Scholar from Denmark to conduct research to improve the performance and fermentation characteristics of yeast strains.
  • A science foundation partners with an international exchange organization to host a Short-Term Scholar from Japan in the field computational astrophysics.
  • A university sponsors a Research Scholar in the field of astronomy and astrophysics to study solar flares at a NASA flight center.
  • A not-for-profit applied science and technology development company hosts a Research Scholar from India in the field of chemical engineering hosted by a U.S. Department of Energy research laboratory.

Can you please provide some concrete examples of off-campus STEM placements in the Intern Category?

Below are some concrete examples of how sponsors are implementing the STEM initiative in the Intern category, based on a March 2023 data snapshot. All exchange visitors are on a STEM exchange connected to a Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List: https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/stem-list.pdf

  • An agricultural consulting firm partners with a university to host a plant protection and integrated pest management Intern from Guatemala.
  • Through a partnership with a university, a seed company hosts an Intern focused on agricultural and horticultural plant breeding.
  • Through their connections with a business association, an automotive and power generation company hosts a Trainee from Germany in the field of mechanical engineering and manufacturing.
  • A healthcare research corporation hosts an image processing and algorithm development Intern from the Netherlands.
  • A solar power and energy storage company hosts an Intern from Ireland in the field of energy systems engineering.
  • A zoo partners with a cultural exchange organization to host a wildlife biology Intern from the United Kingdom.
  • A dairy production farm partners with a university to host a dairy science Intern from Haiti.

Can you please provide some concrete examples of off-campus STEM placements in the Trainee Category?

Below are some concrete examples of how sponsors are implementing the STEM initiative in the Trainee category, based on a March 2023 data snapshot. All exchange visitors are on a STEM exchange connected to a Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List: https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/stem-list.pdf

  • A software company hosted a Trainee in the field of computer software engineering after partnering with a business association who provided sponsorship.
  • A steel manufacturing company hosts an industrial engineering Trainee from Mexico, sponsored by a professional membership organization.
  • A car manufacturing corporation partners with an international exchange organization to host a computer software engineering Trainee from Japan.
  • A shipping logistics software company hosts a Trainee from France in the field of artificial intelligence.

What is a designated sponsor?

Sponsors are designated by the U.S. Department of State to conduct exchange visitor programs. There are approximately 1,450 private sector, academic, and federal, state, and local government entities currently designated as sponsors who conduct 15 categories of exchange programs. This includes the seven categories which are eligible to participate in the STEM Initiative: College and University Student (Student Intern and Academic Training), Intern, Trainee, Specialist, Short term Scholar, Professor or Research Scholar. Only Department-designated sponsors are authorized to issue the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (Form DS-2019), which is the document that permits a J-1 exchange visitor visa application.  The Form DS-2019 identifies the exchange visitor, their sponsor, and provides a brief description of their exchange program, including the program start and end dates and exchange program category.

What are the roles and responsibilities of the Department-designated sponsor in the STEM Initiative?

Department-designated sponsors are responsible for exchange program administration. This includes the selection of prospective exchange visitors and monitoring of their health, safety, and welfare during the program. Sponsors provide guidance and resources to exchange visitors, which may include health insurance verification and housing assistance, and ensure that the activities in which exchange visitors are engaged are consistent with the category and activity listed on their Forms DS–2019. Sponsors are also responsible for ensuring that STEM placements meet the regulatory requirements for specific categories of the Exchange Visitor Program.When an exchange visitor is placed at a host organization, the sponsor and the host organization will collaborate to facilitate a meaningful exchange. The designated sponsor is the host organization’s primary resource and implementing partner for the duration of the exchange visitor’s program.

Sponsors should conduct routine check-ins with the exchange visitor as well as their supervisor or mentor at the host organization. Department-designated sponsors are required to provide an annual report to the Department and monitor both the program and exchange visitors to ensure program integrity.

The Department 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.

Why would a school place a J-1 research scholar or other academic exchange visitor with an off-campus host? What are the benefits?

  • Providing off-campus opportunities will increase a university’s connection with STEM businesses in your community. Current trends in international education continue to show that exchange visitors are increasingly seeking professional development and hands-on experience in their chosen fields of research and study. STEM students and scholars are especially keen about practical research and training experience in their chosen fields.Providing skills-based training and research opportunities for your academic exchange visitors at STEM businesses increases your stature and competitiveness. This will help connect academic institutions and alumni with the business community. It establishes colleges and universities as a resource that brings innovative ideas and diverse perspectives to STEM businesses through the Exchange Visitor Program.Companies seeking to gain a competitive edge in our global economy with the perspectives and skillsets of exchange visitors, particularly in the STEM fields, will become a formal part of your institution’s network.This can assist in your marketing and recruitment outreach to future exchange visitors and attract more STEM-based exchanges to your institutions and communities. Establishing this pipeline can be a major draw and incentive to then attract future exchange visitors seeking these research and training opportunities in the United States.

Who is eligible to be a host organization for the STEM Initiative?

Any organization or business (including non-profits, for-profits, foundations, or laboratories) can potentially serve as a host organization for STEM research or training. A business does not need an independent research division to qualify as a host organization. Further, an exchange visitor can be placed at a host organization that offers placements in STEM, but whose core business isn’t STEM-focused.STEM exchange visitors hosted by a business must be engaged in an activity that is linked to the subject/field code (CIP code) that is listed in section four on the exchange visitor’s Form DS-2019.

There are two key criteria to determine whether a STEM business (host organization) can serve as a viable host placement: 1) ability to provide authentic training or research activities that align with the exchange visitor’s program objectives as listed on their Form DS-2019 and 2) ability to provide program activities consistent with the exchange visitor’s field of study or research, which is listed as a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) STEM Designated Degree Program: https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/stem-list.pdf

What is a host organization in the STEM Initiative?

Host organizations provide research, training, teaching or internship opportunities in the United States on behalf of a designated sponsor pursuant to an executed written agreement with the sponsor. Host organizations are where exchange visitors conducting training or research in a STEM-related field or industry are placed.
For additional information on host organizations, visit https://j1visa.state.gov/hosts-and-employers/employers/.

What are the benefits for host organizations participating in the STEM Initiative?

This initiative aims to promote a global perspective for U.S.-based STEM businesses interested in transforming their operations with international exchange. This results in diversified teams, enhanced innovation, and enhanced and increased global network opportunities. Participating organizations may gain a competitive edge in our global economy with the perspectives and skillsets of international visitors, particularly in the STEM fields.Hosting an exchange visitor may build your organization’s international credibility, stature, and brand and positively affects the lives of future professionals across borders. This creates new networks and partnerships generally and strengthens existing ties within your networks.

I represent a STEM business. What are the roles and responsibilities for host organizations hosting a STEM exchange visitor?

Once you connect with a Department-designated sponsor, it will be your primary resource and implementing partner for the duration of the exchange. It can guide you through the recruitment and sponsorship of exchange visitors for your organization. It will inform you of your roles and responsibilities as a host organization.

First, the sponsor will work with you to determine whether your business meets the category-specific regulatory requirements and the goals of the Exchange Visitor Program. Sponsors will assess whether your business will be a good match for an exchange visitor and will determine whether you have the necessary infrastructure to host and support a STEM exchange visitor. Host businesses must demonstrate that their industry or field of research or study aligns with the background and skills of the prospective exchange visitor.

For the duration of the exchange visitor’s program, the host business works in tandem with the designated sponsor to monitor the exchange visitor’s progress and welfare. The host business provides the exchange visitor with valuable skills, education, and experience in its STEM field while benefitting from the exchange visitor’s unique skills, talent, and perspective. A pre-established supervisor or mentor at your business should be responsible for the day-to-day oversight of an exchange visitor.

Importantly, the STEM initiative is an educational and cultural exchange program. While it facilitates work-based training and research and learning opportunities, it is not a labor program. Exchange visitors are expected to return home and share their newly acquired skills and knowledge in their home country.

If the sponsor is a Department-designated university, and the school already has J-1 research scholars on campus, may the school place the J-1 research scholar with an off-campus host organization?

Yes. A J-1 research scholar may continue their research off campus with a host organization if the primary objective of the exchange will remain the same (e.g., continuation of original research goals). Sponsors must add the additional site of activity in the exchange visitor’s SEVIS record and may amend the length of an exchange visitor’s program in SEVIS within the category’s maximum duration to avail of new eligible sites of activity (e.g., a STEM business). Once the SEVIS record is amended, the sponsor should issue an updated Form DS-2019 to the exchange visitor.

Does the STEM Initiative permit a sponsor to place a J-1 research scholar with a for-profit company and can the exchange visitor receive compensation or wages from the company?

Yes. Department-designated sponsors must have robust procedures in place to confirm the legitimacy of any host organization, lab, or office that will serve as a host their exchange visitors. Research scholars may receive wages or other remuneration as long as the individual is conducting research consistent with their original program objectives.

STEM placements meet the regulatory requirements for specific categories of the Exchange Visitor Program.

If a research scholar will receive wages or other remuneration from a host organization, what process do sponsors have to follow for that?

Host organizations (e.g., STEM businesses) can pay wages or other remuneration directly to research scholars during their programs. Sponsors should document the wages or other remuneration and update existing financial information in SEVIS for the selected exchange visitor. Sponsors should print updated Forms DS-2019, which will reflect the total financial support, sign it, and provide a copy to the exchange visitor.

If the sponsor is a Department-designated university, may the school place the J-1 research scholar with a host that is off-campus?

Yes. The school may place the J-1 research scholar with an off-campus host as long as the research scholar is conducting research consistent with their original program objectives. The host organization does not need to have any affiliation with the school. Examples include a startup that is affiliated with a faculty member of the school or an affiliated or unaffiliated corporation performing research and development in the school’s regional area.

I am a STEM business and am interested in being a host organization. What is the first step to participate in this initiative?

Prospective host organizations should reach out to Department-designated sponsors (ECA’s implementing partners for exchanges) to determine program eligibility and 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 organizations 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.

Is it correct that the Early Career STEM Research Initiative allows academic institutions to sponsor researchers who are placed off campus at host site STEM organizations?

  • Yes. For example, a Department-designated university can sponsor a J-1 Research Scholar to conduct research at a STEM business. This includes STEM start-ups.

If a Department-designated university sponsor currently has J-1 Research Scholars on campus and those exchange visitors would like to continue their research off campus with a U.S.-based STEM business, can the university still be their sponsor?

  • Yes. A J-1 Research Scholar can continue their research off campus with a STEM business if the primary objective of the exchange will remain the same e.g., to research a particular subject. Department-designated sponsors must have robust procedures in place to confirm the bona fides of any host organization, lab, or office that will serve as a host organization for their exchange visitors. Sponsors must add the site of activity in the exchange visitor’s SEVIS record and may amend the
    length of an exchange visitors’ program in SEVIS within the category’s maximum duration to avail of new eligible sites of activity (e.g., a STEM business). Once the SEVIS record is amended, the sponsor should issue an updated Form DS-2019 to the exchange visitor. While not required, any program sponsor can charge a fee for participating host companies or individual J-1 exchange visitors. Sponsors should properly disclose any fee in their program materials.

Can a Department-designated university sponsor collaborate with local universities who are not Department-designated e.g., a local community college, to facilitate STEM exchanges on their campus? What about the placement of STEM exchange visitors off of the partner’s campus but within their network of area STEM businesses.

  • Responsible Officers have the discretion to request “Permission to Issue” Forms DS-2019 from the Department on behalf of non-designated academic or research institutions if sponsors determine such placements support the purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program (EVP), and the applicants and proposed institutions meet all eligibility and program requirements set forth in 22 CFR Part 62 Exchange Visitor Program Regulations. The Department created Guidance Directive 2019-02 Permission to Issue in the Exchange Visitor Program to provide sponsors additional information on this process. Available here:
    https://j1visa.state.gov/sponsors/current/regulations-compliance/
  • Sponsors may coordinate with other academic institutions to identify viable host organizations for their exchange visitors; however, they may not abdicate their responsibility for ensuring the host organization meets all regulatory requirements prior to placement. In addition, any exchange visitors placed through this process will remain the responsibility of the sponsoring university. Additionally, sponsors must ensure that SEVIS and the exchange visitor’s Form DS-2019 reflects the actual site of activity (i.e., the STEM business).

Can a community college apply to become a Department-designated sponsor? If yes, what categories would they use to sponsor the placement of exchange visitors at local STEM businesses?

  • Yes, community colleges are eligible to apply for Department designation to become an Exchange Visitor Program sponsor. Details on applying for designation are available here:
    https://j1visa.state.gov/sponsors/become-a-sponsor/.
  • Regardless of the sponsor type, the J-1 categories eligible for the Early Career STEM Research Initiative include College and University Student (Student Intern and Academic Training), Intern, Trainee, Specialist, Short term Scholar, Professor or Research Scholar.

Can a consortium, such as an industry association of member companies, a chamber of commerce, a state association of community colleges, or innovation development organization, obtain its own designation or otherwise utilize the Early Career STEM Research Initiative as a consortium?

  • Yes. A chamber of commerce, economic development agency, industry trade group, or private corporation could help build capacity for its members by underwriting the cost of becoming its own designated J-1 program sponsor or creating its own hub with an existing designated sponsor. Details on applying for designation are available here:
    https://j1visa.state.gov/sponsors/become-a-sponsor/.

What type of oversight is recommended for J-1 exchange visitors in the Early Career STEM Research Initiative categories?

  • As explained in the DOS guidance for Responsible Officers of designated programs, the program sponsor must ensure that STEM Initiative exchange visitors have a positive experience – paying close attention to their health and welfare while on program and providing appropriate orientations, oversight, and cross-cultural experiences. Regular check-ins (often but not exclusively by email) and a site visit (whether in person or by video) are essential to support program integrity.

I am interested in the Early Career STEM Research Initiative and have some specific questions on how to get started, what should I do?

  • If you are a STEM organization or an association representing STEM businesses either broadly or in a specific industry, please express an interest in receiving more information by writing to
    AGalert@state.gov describing your organization and interest.

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.

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).

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Are candidates who possess Masters, and sometimes Bachelors, level STEM degrees qualified for the J-1 Research Scholar category and STEM Initiative?

Yes, 22 CFR 62.20(d) does not establish minimum education requirements nor preclude applicants with master’s and/or bachelor’s degrees from participating in the J-1 Research Scholar category.

As sponsors seek to pursue placements outside of traditional academic environments, some questions have arisen regarding the suitability of those placements. Can the Department elaborate on the appropriate duties of J-1 Research Scholars placed in private STEM-focused businesses?

  • As defined in 22 CFR 62.4(f), regardless of program length, research scholar activities may include research, lecturing, observing, consulting at research institutions, corporate research facilities, etc.
  • Research scholars are expected to be able to share their expertise and perspectives through the provision of lecturing/teaching/training or consulting. While there will be some on-boarding of scholars and training in the context of learning about the operation of their hosting organizations, they should not be recipients of continuous training, which is more appropriate for other types of exchange visitor placements, such as the Intern and Trainee category. Exchange visitor research should be collaborative in nature, and any training to help prepare a scholar for a successful exchange should be incidental.
  • Testing, preparing data for review; liaising between departments; and general laboratory duties – including the preparation of samples, operating and maintaining lab equipment, and keeping records of experimental results–are all considered appropriate duties by the Department.

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.

  • Society for Human Resource Management
  • ICCE, Inc. (International Culture & Career Exchange)
  • FUSIA Communications, Inc.
  • 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: Tara Severino
  • 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
  • University of Massachusetts Boston
    • Categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist
    • Point of Contact: Shaun P. Morgan
  • LifeTRAVELED
    • Categories: Intern, Trainee
    • Point of Contact: Marina Onaca
  • Spirit Cultural Exchange
  • Rian Immigrant Center, Inc.
  • InterExchange, Inc.
    • Categories: Intern, Trainee
    • Point of Contact: Megan Ames
  • 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: Jenn Nina
  • 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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