J-1 scholars

The Exchange Visitor Program promotes mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through educational and cultural exchanges. Through the program, foreign nationals may visit the United States temporarily to teach, lecture, study, observe, conduct research, consult, train or demonstrate special skills. Designated sponsoring organizations facilitate the entry of foreign nationals into the United States to complete the objectives of any of the 13 program categories. At the conclusion of the program, the participants are expected to return to their home countries.

Arrival information

Pre-arrival checklist

  • Look over your DS-2019 to make sure all information is accurate. Read the included welcome materials.
  • Contact the U.S. embassy/consulate in your country to schedule a visa interview. You should apply early to provide ample time for visa processing. See the U.S. Department of State website for visa application information.
  • Pay the SEVIS fee. This fee supports the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Program and is paid to the Department of Homeland Security. It can be paid online or by Western Union. You will need to bring a receipt for this payment to your visa interview.
  • Bring the required documentation to your visa interview. Required fees and documentation vary by country, so check with your local U.S. embassy/consulate to find out what applies to you. At the minimum, be prepared to present the following:
    • DS-2019
    • Financial support documentation
    • SEVIS fee receipt
    • Passport valid for at least six months into the future
    • Form DS-160: Nonimmigrant Visa Application (involves a processing fee and can be completed online)
    • One photograph that meets Department of State specifications
    • Evidence of ties to your home country
  • Make travel arrangements. Columbia has a regional airport with limited services. The closest major airports are in St. Louis and Kansas City. For details, see the information about getting to Columbia.
  • Secure temporary housing in Columbia, if necessary. For details about hotels and short-term housing options, see the information about housing.
  • Review the list of documents to submit and what to expect at the port of entry on the Customs and Border Protection website.

After arrival checklist

  • Plan to arrive in the U.S. no later than 20 days after your start date. If your trip will be delayed for more than 20 days, please contact an international scholar adviser.
  • Upon arrival in Columbia, you must check in with International Student and Scholar Services. You will be asked to complete a check-in form and provide your local address. ISSS will make copies of your documents and passport. This must be done within 30 days of the start date on your DS-2019 or you will be considered illegally present in the United States.
  • Attend a J-1 scholar orientation session. These sessions are held on a weekly basis and you will sign up for one when you check in. It is required by federal law that you attend an orientation session.
  • Enroll in a health insurance policy that meets U.S. requirements for J-1 visitors.
  • If you will be paid by your department, complete the employment paperwork (I-9 form, etc.). Your department will complete a Personnel Action Form on your behalf.
  • If you will not be paid by your department, you may request that your department file a courtesy appointment PAF for you. You will then be assigned an employee ID number.
  • Use the PAF and employee ID number to obtain an MU ID card. The ID Office is located in the lower level of the Mizzou Store in the Student Center.
  • Apply for a Social Security card. Take your passport, I-94 record and DS-2019 to the Social Security Office. Application details and directions to the office are available in the information about Social Security cards.
  • If desired, apply for a driver’s license. Take your passport, I-94 record, DS-2019 and a letter from your host department confirming your position at MU to the License Bureau. You will have to take both the written and driving tests. See the driver’s license information for details about the tests and required documentation.