Skip to main content

Visa & Immigration Status

Steps for Hosting a Visiting Scholar

  1. The hosting department must contact Kate Stoetzner and Troy VanKoevering at the Padnos International Center in person, by telephone, or by email, and convey their intent of hosting a scholar. 
  2. Troy VanKoevering will then send the GVSU host and proposed visiting scholar an application for their visit.
  3. The proposed visiting scholar must fill out and complete the application and send it back to Troy along with a copy of their passport.  If the scholar has been in J-1 status during the previous 5 years, they must also include photo copies of all previous DS-2019s.   
  4. Either the visiting scholar or the hosting department must provide PIC with proof of funding for the visit. 
  5. The GVSU host must provide proof of the visitor’s English Language Ability.  More details follow this section.
  6. The hosting department must then provide PIC with an official letter of intent to invite the proposed visiting scholar; this letter must be on the department’s official letterhead.  The invitation letter should include the following information:
    1. Specific beginning and ending dates of the scholar’s program
      1. When choosing the beginning and ending dates of the program, do not factor in extra travel time.  Scholars may enter the US up to 30 days prior to the program start date and may depart up to 30 days after the program end date (the J-1 visa grace period).
    2. Summary of the scholar’s proposed activities.
    3. Specific amount of payment, if any.
  7. PIC processes the DS-2019 form. 
  8. PIC mails the completed DS-2019 form and departmental invitation letter to the proposed visiting scholar.


It is very important that you allow ample time not only for the visa application process, but also for the internal GVSU processing that must take place. A sufficient allowance of time for both processes is usually 6-8 weeks. 

Specifics of the English Language Requriement

Under federal law, all J-1 exchange visitors must be proficient enough in English to participate successfully in their exchange program and to function on a day-to-day basis in the United States. This requirement is important to ensuring that scholars are able to live productively and successfully in the US during their exchange program. While sponsors are given some leeway in determining how proficient scholars must be, they must document proficiency through one or more of the following objective measurements.

All J-1 exchange visitors are subject to this requirement, including those who are native speakers of English.

Results of a recognized English language test

The visiting scholar may forward the results directly to the Padnos International Center. On a pass/fail test like a Cambridge English exam, the exchange visitor must have at least passed. On a scored test like the TOEFL, proficiency is determined to be at 65. Online or informal tests are not an acceptable way of meeting this requirement.

Signed documentation from an academic institution or English language school

For this measure, the scholar should forward information on institutional letterhead directly to the Padnos International Center. The document should give the scholar’s name and assess their proficiency; if the document is not from an English language school (that is, a school that teaches the English language), it should give some basis for the assessment, for example, coursework in English or a substantial period of time spent living in an English-speaking country.

A documented interview conducted by the sponsor

For this measure, the faculty host should conduct and document an interview with the visiting scholar and give an assessment of the scholar’s proficiency. This interview should be performed in person or by video conference. If neither of those options are possible, a phone interview may be used. The documentation should include the following information:

  • The names of the participants,
  • The date, time, and method of the interview, and,
  • How English proficiency was assessed.

What to Expect from the Padnos International Center

PIC asks for 7-10 business days to complete the DS-2019. Once the documents are completed, the host department will be contacted and the form will be mailed to the proposed scholar. PIC express mails DS-2019s directly to the proposed scholar.

The scholar’s packet will include:

  • Original DS-2019 (and DS-2019 for dependents if applicable)
  • A Departmental Invitation Letter

NOTE: After receiving the DS2019, Scholars must pay the SEVIS fee at Upon arrival, they must submit their receipt for the SEVIS fee in person to PIC for reimbursement. If the scholar’s trip is canceled for any reason and the SEVIS fee has already been paid, PIC will not reimburse the scholar. 

Visa Application

If the potential visiting scholar is from outside the US, they should contact a US Consulate to schedule an appointment to apply for a visa.The SEVIS fee must be paid prior to completing the visa application. The visa application process time varies from a matter of a few days in some cases to weeks or months in other cases. The length of time can depend on many factors: the location of the Consulate, the scholar’s citizenship, and/or the scholar’s area of study. The website below will provide links to typical wait times based on the location of the Consulate.


Security Clearance

Some scholars will be subject to a Security Clearance procedure when applying for a visa. It is hard to predict exactly who will be subject to this procedure, as the Department of State’s policies regarding security clearances are not made public.

The security clearance process is supposed to last a maximum of 30 days. If a scholar experiences a security clearance delay of longer than 30 days, please contact PIC.