The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program has two integral parts: the exchange visitors and their program sponsors. Only U.S. State Department-designated sponsors are authorized to issue the Certificate of Eligibility for J-1 status. Without programs to sponsor their trip overseas, foreign nationals would not be able to take advantage of the J-1 program. Program sponsors are responsible for screening and selecting eligible foreign nationals for participation in their designated exchange visitor program, as well as supporting and monitoring them during their stay in the United States.
The J-1 Visa website has a large amount of information for current and prospective program sponsors, much of which is outlined here. For more information, please visit the J-1 Visa web page or see their list of designated sponsor organizations.
How to apply to be a Program Sponsor
In order to qualify to be a designated program sponsor, an organization must demonstrate its ability to comply and remain in continual compliance in the future with all provisions of the Exchange Visitor Program Regulations, as well as meet its financial obligations and responsibilities necessary to successfully operate its exchange program. Additionally, with the submission of an application, the organization is expected to be fully prepared to begin the administration of the program upon designation. Regulations for program sponsors are outlined in 22 CFR Part 62.
To submit an application for designated program sponsorship by the State Department, the organization must submit an electronic Form DS-3036 (Exchange Visitor Program Application). There is a nonrefundable $2,700 DS-3036 application fee. Any organization interested in applying to become a program sponsor should carefully review the Use Manual for Temporary Users of SEVIS (How to Complete and Submit the Form DS-3036, Exchange Visitor Program Application).
How to Administer a Program
In the administration of their programs, designated sponsors must comply with the Exchange Visitor Program regulations found in 22 CFR Part 62.ALL sponsors, regardless of their program category for which they are designated, must comply with the general administrate requirements of subpart A. Additionally, sponsors must also comply with the requirements for their relevant program category found in subpart B.
The general administrate requirements found in subpart A include:
- Accreditation and Licensure- Sponsors are required to comply with all local, state, federal and professional requirements applicable to the program category and the activity for which they are designated. Requisite licenses and accreditation are to be current at all times.
- Staffing and Support Services- Sponsors are to appoint adequate staff and support services with appropriate qualifications and training to administer the program in compliance with the Exchange Visitor Program regulations.
- Appointment of Responsible and Alternate Responsible Officers- Sponsors must appoint one Responsible Officer (RO) and Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) to administer the exchange program under the supervision of the RO. They must be employees or officers of the sponsoring organization and be citizens/legal permanent residents of the U.S. the DOS may in its discretion, however, authorize the appointment of an individual who is not an employee of the sponsor organization to serve as an ARO.
- Screening and Selection of Program Participants- Sponsors devise a method and criteria for selecting participants for their programs. All sponsors, regardless of category, are required to determine 1) the suitability of their program for prospective participants and 2) that participants have sufficient proficiency in the English language to participate in their programs. In addition, specific regulations pertaining to program categories may define other criteria found in 22 CFR 662.10 (a).
- Insurance- Sponsors are to require that their participants and their dependents have medical insurance coverage with the following minimum benefits:
- Medical benefits of at least $50,000 per accident or illness;
- Repatriation of remains in the amount of $7,500;
- Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or home country in the amount of $10,000; and
- A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.
- Orientation- Sponsors are required to offer appropriate orientation for all exchange visitors and their immediate family that provides information such as life and customs in the U.S., local community resources, available healthcare and emergency assistance, and rules that the exchange visitors are required to follow under the sponsor’s program.
- Pre-Arrival Information- Sponsors must provide the following pre-arrival information:
- The purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program
- Home-country physical presence requirement
- Travel and entry into the United States
- Fees payable to the sponsor
- Other costs that the exchange visitor will likely incur (such as living expenses) while in the U.S.
- Health care and insurance
- Other information which will assist exchange visitors to prepare for their stay in the U.S.
- Monitoring of Participants- Sponsors are required to monitor their participants’ welfare and progress to the extent appropriate for the category and provide all participants with emergency contact information.
- Accountability to the Department of State- All sponsors are required to submit an annual report, notify the State Department in writing of certain changes in their program, and of serious problems. In addition, they are to cooperate with any inquiry or investigation taken by the DOS. Failure to do so may result in the termination of sponsorship approval.
- Annual Report- Sponsors are required to submit an annual report on their program to the DOS which includes a narrative describing the course of the exchange program during the reporting program, a certificate of compliance with insurance coverage, and a statistical summary of Form DS-2019 use.
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