By Nikki Whetstone, Senior Attorney

The J-1 research scholar category is a little-known and thus underutilized immigration option. Many are familiar with the J-1 visa which is designed to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and skills between the U.S. and other countries. However, the most common types of J-1 programs (interns, trainees, etc.) are limited to 12 or 18 months which often makes them not the ideal path. The J-1 research scholar can be a great option for qualifying individuals and organizations, as it can be granted for up to 5 years. This article will discuss what it is, who qualifies, and how it may benefit you.

What is the J-1 Research Scholar program?

The Department of State created the J-1 Research Scholar category to promote the exchange of ideas, research, mutual enrichment and linkages between research and academic institutions (including private employers) in the United States and foreign countries. This program not only enriches research communities by introducing diverse perspectives and expertise but also fosters international collaboration and cultural exchange.

Who Qualifies as a Research Scholar?

In order to qualify as a Research Scholar, you must have at least a Bachelor’s degree and expertise in a specific area of research. Those who currently hold or previously held J-1 or F-1 status may still qualify.

What Positions Qualify for the Program?

The offered U.S. position should involve the research and development (R&D) of new products or the enhancement of existing products. Some common research areas include: IT, AI, Biotech, Fintech, Material Engineering, Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Data Science, and Design Engineering.

Who Qualifies as a Host Company?

Host organizations may range from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. They must be involved in R&D efforts, which may include the STEM sector, but do not need to be fully devoted to research.  The host organization must have the resources to host a research scholar, including the designation of a U.S. supervisor and in-office work at least 3 days per week.

If you are interested in learning more about whether the J-1 Research Scholar may be a good fit for your situation, please reach out to schedule a consultation.