J Exchange Visitor Program Overview:
The J Exchange Visitor Program was developed to implement the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act (Fulbright-Hayes Act) of 1961. The overall purpose of that Act, and the objective of the Exchange Visitor category, is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges.
Georgia Institute of Technology is authorized to sponsor individuals on a J visa to facilitate an educational and cultural exchange through participation in academic or scholarly projects supervised by a Georgia Tech faculty host. The J visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows individuals to receive external funding or funding from the J sponsor. The J Exchange Visitor program is not an alternative to a work visa although exchange visitors may be compensated for activities which contribute to the original program objective.
At Georgia Tech, the Office of International Education is responsible for administering the J Exchange Visitor Program. The OIE does not have a role in placing prospective scholars with faculty or academic hosts. Visiting Scholars are housed in an academic school or research center at Georgia Tech and supervised by a Georgia Tech faculty member or academic professional. Individual's interested in coming to Georgia Tech, must first identify a faculty member who agrees to supervise the research program and serve as a host. Visiting Scholars are expected to complete an academic or research program. Visiting scholars are NOT eligible to enroll in academic classes. The faculty member will work with the prospective visitor to finalize plans for the proposed research exchange program and coordinate the visit with the Human Resources administrator supporting the school or research center. The faculty host will work with a human resources administrator within their college or school to initiate a DS-2019 request on the prospective scholar's behalf. Once the OIE receives a complete request for a DS-2019 immigration form and confirms the scholar has cleared Export Control review, we will review for eligibility for participation in the Georgia Tech J Exchange Visitor Program.
The academic host must identify the program is suitable to the exchange visitor's background, needs, and experience. The prospective exchange visitor must provide evidence they possesses sufficient proficiency in the English language to participate in his or her program and function independently in the community. After the sponsoring department has screened a prospective visitor the department administrator will initiate a request for a form DS-2019 for the prospective Exchange Visitor using iStart. Please communicate directly with your faculty host or human resources administrator directly for information regarding your DS-2019 request including status updates.
Georgia Institute of Technology English Language Proficiency Policy:
The Department of State (DOS) established regulations effective January 2015 which require sponsors to identify English language proficiency for exchange visitors coming to the U.S. on J-1 visas. Sponsors must review evidence from an objective measure that demonstrates the exchange visitor has “sufficient English proficiency to perform their jobs, navigate daily life in the United States, read and comprehend program materials, understand fully their responsibilities, rights, and protections, and be able to obtain assistance.” Georgia Tech requires evidence of English language proficiency to determine eligibility to participate in a specific Exchange Visitor program at Georgia Tech. The level of proficiency required aligns with category and the type of activities the Exchange Visitor will engage.
- Scholar category: High Beginner level proficiency
- Student Intern, professors and specialist categories: Intermediate level proficiency
Georgia Tech Policy and Proficiency Rubric and Test Score Matrix:
- Georgia Tech English Language Policy & Attestation (pdf)
- Georgia Tech English Proficiency Rubric (pdf)
- Georgia Tech Test Score Matrix (jpg)
GT Language Institute Assessment Description:
The Georgia Tech Language Institute (GTLI) offers an assessment of English language proficiency at the request of a Georgia Tech host unit.The assessment is arranged by the HR administrator once they have been notified the J Exchange Visitor Program is the appropriate visa type and prior to beginning a DS-2019 request. The GTLI contacts the prospective Exchange Visitor via e-mail to schedule the assessment. The assessment is conducted online using WebEx or a similar platform. Scholar must have a microphone and a webcam, and access to e-mail and the internet.The test will take approximately 30-40 minutes and assess the reading, listening and oral skills, with strongest emphasis on the oral interview. The nominal charge for administering the assessment can be paid by the host department OR the J scholar. The GT Language Institute, two to three days following the assessment, will send an email to the sponsor, the Office of International Education, and the scholar which includes a copy of the assessment report.
As a J Exchange Visitor in the United States, you must purchase and maintain health insurance that meets or exceeds U.S. Department of State standards for yourself and your J-2 dependents for the full duration of your J program. Government regulations stipulate that if you willfully fail to carry health insurance for yourself and your dependents for the duration of your J Exchange Visitor program, your J-1 sponsor must report the violation to the U.S. Department of State through a termination your J SEVIS record.
Risks of not having health insurance:
It is dangerous to be in the United States without adequate health insurance. In many countries the government bears the expense of health care for its citizens, and sometimes even for visitors, individuals and families. This is NOT the case in the United States, individuals are responsible for these costs themselves. Having adequate insurance affords you access to better and more timely health care and provides the only protection against the enormous costs of health care that are a reality in the U.S.
Health Insurance Options:
As a part of the OIE check-in, each J-1 scholar or student intern will certify an insurance compliance statement and provide evidence of the health insurance plan using iStart.
J Exchange Visitors must upload one of the following:
- Evidence of an insurance policy purchased prior to arriving to the U.S. that the Scholar has verified meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of State minimum standards.
- Evidence of enrollment in an appropriate insurance plan offered to you as a benefit of employment with Georgia Tech & a Medical Evacuation & Repatriation plan purchased separately
- Evidence of enrollment in one of the insurance plans offered by Georgia Tech or the University System of Georgia to international students and scholars.
Validation in SEVIS, which is a notification to the U.S. Department of State, will not occur until after completing the OIE check-in and uploading evidence of adequate health insurance. After OIE reviews and approves the Check-in e-form, the DS-2019 will be validated and the Exchange Visitor will be scheduled for a mandatory OIE Orientation.
Health Insurance Standards:
As an Exchange Visitor in the United States, under a rule effective since September 1, 1994, you must carry health insurance that meets or exceeds U.S. Department of State standards for yourself and your J-2 dependents for the full duration of your J program. Government regulations stipulate that scholars who willfully fail to carry health insurance for shall be reported to the Department of State through a termination of the J program. The Department of State has basic MINIMUM requirements for the amounts of coverage a J-1 or J-2 Exchange Visitor must have for the duration of their J program.
Exchange Visitor Program standards:
University System of Georgia Board of Regents SHIP Standards:
In addition to the federal insurance requirements, the University System on Georgia Board of Regents also has a student/scholar health insurance policy (SHIP) which ensures F and J students and scholars participating in programs at USG system institutions have access to adequate insurance. The USG SHIP policy includes:
- Both accident and sickness coverage
- Minimum benefit $250,000 per policy year
- Provision for repatriation of remains of not less than $25,000*
- Medical evacuation to one’s home country and family reunification of not less than $50,000*
- A deductible of $500 or less and/or co-pay per individual, per year
- In-patient and outpatient, mental and nervous disorder benefits
- Prescription Drug Coverage
- Pay benefits worldwide
Be aware that there are many insurance companies who promote they are US Department of State compliant. While these insurance plans may be in compliance with the minimum U.S. Department of State standards, often the insurance coverage excludes common medical needs such as pregnancy, pre-existing conditions, well-care, or injuries that occur due to common activities. In addition, insurance policies may include limits per accident or injury. Only insurance that meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of State requirements, will ensure compliance for J Exchange Visitors.
How Medical Insurance Works in the U.S.
When you pay health coverage, the money you pay (your premium) is combined with the premiums of others to for a pool of money. That money is then used to pay the medical bills of those participants who need health care. Your coverage remains valid only as long as you continue to pay your insurance premiums.
Once you purchase insurance, the company will provide you with an insurance identification card for use as proof of your coverage when you are seeking health care from a hospital or doctor. The company will also provide written instructions for reporting and documenting medical expenses (filing a claim). The company will evaluate any claim that you file, and make the appropriate payment for coverage under your particular policy. In some cases the company pays the hospital or doctor directly; in others the company reimburses the policy- holder after he or she has paid the bills.
Georgia Tech employees
Ask your department HR administrator if health insurance is a part of your employee benefits package. If so, you will learn about the insurance options by attending a benefits orientation at the Office of Human Resources as soon as possible after your arrival. Work with your sponsoring department HR administrator to schedule the HR new employee orientation or visit the OHR website.
Be aware that certain GT employee health insurance plans do not meet the U.S. Department of State minimum standards. As of the calendar year 2019, only the BlueChoice HMO, Kaiser Permanente HMO, and Comprehensive Care plans are in compliance with U.S. Department of State requirements. For further details please examine the USG Comparison Guide. As health insurance coverage amounts can change at any time, OIE recommends that you confirm that your health insurance plan is compliant with U.S. Department of State standards (see chart above) when you initially select a plan, and re-confirm that your plan is compliant each year of your program during the GT employee insurance open enrollment period.
If you are eligible for GT employee benefits: 1) you must complete the OHR enrollment process including selecting health insurance, 2) ensure you have temporary coverage if the insurance plan will not begin with the start of your J program, AND 3) purchase a separate Medical Evacuation and Repatriation plan in order to be in compliance with Department of State regulations.
Medical Evacuation and Repatriation insurance is available through the University System of Georgia partner PGH Global. Please visit the PGH Global's Med Evac./Repat. Insurance Enrollment Site to enroll online for this stand-alone coverage (NOTE: This link will send you to ACSA Insurance, which is a PGH subsidiary; this is PGH Global med evac insurance). Additionally, you can review other travel insurance options with other insurance providers at the NAFSA Association for International Educators Marketplace. The Exchange Visitor is responsible for ensuring that you enroll in a medical evac/repat. insurance plan that meets the U.S. Department of State minimum standards, as described on this page. Evidence of Medical Evacuation & Repatriation coverage, in addition to your GT OHR Employee Health Policy, is required to complete the J Scholar OIE check-in process and ensure your DS-2019 is activated in SEVIS.
Non-Georgia Tech employees or Georgia Tech employees who are not eligible for insurance benefits
Review health insurance options the health insurance section of the Pre-arrival Guide. You may purchase insurance from any provider as long as the policy meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of State insurance standards (you may search for insurance providers at NAFSA Association for International Educators Marketplace), or choose one of the options provided by Georgia Tech below.
Upon arrival to the U.S., you have the option to enroll in one of two plans offered to J scholars at Georgia Tech:
1) Student health insurance plan from United Healthcare (offered through Georgia Tech)-
- As a reminder, U.S. federal regulations “require that all exchange visitors have insurance in effect that covers the exchange visitors for sickness or accidents during the period of time that they participate in the sponsor's exchange visitor program. In addition, sponsors must require that accompanying spouses and dependents of exchange visitors have insurance for sickness and accidents.” The minimum U.S. Department of State coverage requirements for exchange visitor health insurance is presented on this webpage above, in the "Health Insurance Standards" section.
- Effective on August 1, 2019, Georgia Tech will have a new student health insurance provider: United Healthcare. J Exchange Visitors will be able to enroll in GT student health insurance starting on July 22, 2019. For more information including enrollment instructions, please visit the Stamps Health Services website at https://health.gatech.edu/finance/insurance. As a J-1 Exchange Visitor and/or dependent, you will select the Voluntary Core Plan for enrollment.
- If you currently have GT student health insurance through BCBS/Anthem company (the previous provider), your insurance will expire on July 31, 2019 and cannot be renewed. If you are a newly arrived exchange visitor, you may purchase student health insurance from United Healthcare starting on July 22, 2019. Alternative health insurance coverage options are presented in this section.
- If you choose to purchase health insurance from a different health insurance provider now, you may always purchase GT student insurance at a later date if you wish (and upload new insurance proof of enrollment to iStart using Immigration Document Update form)
2) PGH Global health insurance plan (offered through the University System of Georgia)-
- After you have arrived in the U.S. visit the website below to enroll.
- Click the "Get a Quote" link to review plan benefits and complete enrollment on-line via PGH Global's Insurance Enrollment Site
- PGH Global Health Insurance (that includes medical evacuation/repatriation insurance)
- Only PGH Global Medical Evacuation/Repatriation Insurance (NOTE: This link will send you to ACSA Insurance, which is a PGH subsidiary; this is PGH Global insurance).
- PGH Global will process your enrollment and send confirmation within 2-7 business days from the date of payment being made.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA)
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a federal statute that aims to increase the quality and affordability of health insurance, lower the uninsured rate by expanding insurance coverage, and reduce the costs of healthcare for individuals and the government. The GA Tech Student Blue Health Plan is ACA compliant.
Individuals who are considered residents for U.S. tax purposes are expected to be enrolled in an ACA compliant insurance plan. Insurance plans offered by PGH Global (linked to above) are not ACA-compliant. If you use PGH Global insurance or insurance from another provider that is not ACA-compliant, you may be subject to an IRS tax penalty if you are considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes. Student health insurance offered by Georgia Tech/University System of Georgia is ACA-compliant.
To learn more about the Affordable Care Act and ACA-compliant health plans offered through this program, please see the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website at www.hhs.gov/healthcare/.
Additional resources for Georgia Tech students and visiting scholars to help explain the ACA:
All J-1 visitors must complete the OIE scholar check-in by using your GT Network ID to log into iStart. Scholars should visit the HR administrator in the host school or research center to physically check-in, complete paperwork including a request for a GT Network ID. Completing the electronic scholar check in notifies the Office of International Education (OIE) that you arrived to the U.S. to begin your J-1 program. Completing the electronic scholar check-in and attending new scholar orientation with the OIE ensures your DS-2019 record can be validated in SEVIS.
Newly arriving J scholars must provide a copy of the I-94 record which should be available on the Customs and Border Protection website, evidence of health insurance meeting the U.S. Department of State Standards as well as a U.S. address where the scholar resides is required to complete the electronic check in using iStart.
The Human Resources administrator in your host academic department is available to answer any questions and/or help you through the process of getting your GT network ID and accessing iStart to complete the OIE check-in e-form.
OIE J Exchange Visitor (Scholar) Orientation
The Office of International Education offers a J-1 scholar orientation once per month. This orientation serves to welcome scholars to the Georgia Tech community, provide important and valuable information about how to comply with J Exchange Program rules, and introduce scholars to the Georgia Tech campus. OIE highly recommends that all J Scholars attend this orientation.
After completing the electronic check-in using iStart, an advisor will review the immigration documents used to enter the U.S. and notify the Exchange Visitor by e-mail regarding the scheduled orientation date. NOTE: This orientation is separate from the new employee orientation that some exchange visitors will be required to attend that is offered by the Office of Human Resources to new Georgia Tech employees.
OIE orientation will take place in the Georgia Tech Student Center. The specific room where orientation will be held is included in your check-in confirmation e-mail. The street address of the Student Center is 350 Ferst Drive NW (GT campus map). When you come for orientation it is best to bring your passport, DS-2019 form, I-94 record and evidence of health insurance that was submitted to the OIE when you completed the electronic check-in via iStart.
Please click here to access the orientation presentation. OIE suggests reviewing this information before the orientation meeting.