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J-1 Visiting Scholar

Western Carolina University welcomes the opportunity to host J-1 visiting professor and research scholar for a semester, a year or longer. This is accomplished through the Department of State J-1 visa program, which authorizes WCU to bring in lecturers and research scholars for a stipulated period of time. IPS issues the appropriate J-1 visa documents through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

The purpose of the J-1 exchange visitor visa for professors, research scholars, and short-term scholars is to facilitate international collaborative teaching and/or research efforts. Visitors (who must typically have trained at the master’s level or higher) are invited to the U.S. for a program with a specific objective and length of stay not to exceed five years.

The Office of International Programs and Services (IPS) is here to assist departments and colleges with many of the initial aspects of a visiting professor/researcher program for Western Carolina University. Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

If you are an individual conducting teaching and research at overseas post-secondary accredited educational institutions, museums, libraries, or similar types of institutions, who have been invited to WCU for an academic program with a specific objective and length of stay not to exceed five years, then the process and information below is pertinent to you. Please review it thoroughly.

This process should start 3 months before the intended arrival of the visiting scholar to allow time for document preparation, mailing the immigration documents, and visa processing. In some cases, scholars may experience significant delays in visa processing due to increased U.S government security requirements. If the scholar is in the U.S. in a different status and wishes to change status within the U.S. (if eligible), additional time beyond 3-4 months may be necessary.

    1. The faculty member or department head communicates with possible international visitor and determines the area of research interest, the time and duration of the visit, funding for the visit, housing arrangements, etc.

    2. The faculty member or department head accesses the Guidelines for J-1 Visiting Professors and Research Scholars on the IPS website and communicates with the International Programs and Services director about the proposed visit.

    3. The department head communicates with the college dean about the proposed visit and seeks approval.

    4. The faculty member or department head sends the “Request for J-1 Visa Document” to the visitor (see separated document).

    5. The department head sends a letter of invitation to the visiting scholar on department letterhead and sends it to IPS (Appendix C).The visiting scholar follows the visa application procedures stated on the U.S. Embassy/Consulate website, makes an appointment at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate, pays the visa fee, complete visa interview, obtain a visa, makes travel arrangements, and notify the department and IPS of arrival date.

      1. IPS issues the J-1 visa document
      2. IPS mails the department’s letter of invitation, the visa document, IPS visa cover letter with visa instructions, and a copy of the HTH Health Insurance Plan to the visiting scholar.
      3. The visiting scholar arrives in Cullowhee.
    6. The visiting scholar contacts the IPS office the schedule a MANDATORY J-1 orientation upon arrival.

    7. If the visitor is teaching classes, he/she must attend the New Faculty Orientation at the beginning of the fall semester. If the visitor arrives in spring, the department needs to provide academic orientation for the visitor.                                                                 

According to the J-1 U.S. State Department Guidelines, a Professor is defined as an individual primarily teaching, lecturing, observing, or consulting at post-secondary, accredited educational institutions, museums, libraries, or similar types of institutions. A professor may also conduct research unless disallowed by the sponsor.


A research scholar is defined as: An individual primarily conducting research, observing, or consulting in connection with a research project at research institutions, corporate research facilities, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited educational institutions, or similar types of institutions. The research scholar may also teach or lecture unless disallowed by the sponsor.                                                           

All J-1 visitors at WCU are required to have at least a master’s degree in a related field and have demonstrated relevant experience in their field of expertise.

A. Either a WCU overseas partner institution works with IPS to send a professor/research scholar to Western Carolina University OR

B. The prospective visiting professor /research scholar contacts a WCU faculty member, department or college to determine if the department or college is willing to receive a professor or research scholar. All requests for a visiting professor or research scholar must be granted by the Dean of the sponsoring college, after consultation with the Director of IPS. In order to do so, the college needs to agree to review the visiting professor/research scholar’s teaching or research proposal to determine if there is ample interest on the part of one of the WCU faculty members to serve as a mentor for the research.Once the College Dean approves the proposal, the College Dean needs to assess whether the college can provide the incoming professor or research scholar with the following:

  • Faculty mentor to oversee the research and/or teaching responsibilities of the visiting professor/research scholar

  • Office space or computer desk

  • Laboratory or studio space and materials access

  • Telephone access

  • Computer access

  • WCU email address

  • CAT card

C. If the WCU College Dean agrees to the above, the College Dean will then

  1. Send a letter of invitation on college letterhead that stipulates the purpose of the visit, the length of time, where the visiting professor will be located, and any other conditions or stipulations that the department/college determine necessary (for visa application). Please see Appendix C for a sample invitation letter.

  2. Identify suitable housing on campus or nearby housing.

D. IPS will work with the incoming visiting professor/research scholar 

  1. To acquire the necessary information to issue the J-1 DS2019 form and other documents for visa application
  2. To obtain adequate health insurance coverage for the entire length of stay in the U.S. for the professor/research scholar and all dependents, should there be any.
  3. To prepare other logistics for the J-1 scholar’s arrival. 

All SEVIS approved universities must indicate the location of the exchange activity. In the case of WCU, that location is a specific department in Cullowhee, NC. If the visiting scholar and accompanying dependents visit other cities in the U.S. on vacation or for professional reasons (attending a conference, visiting another institution), the visiting scholar must provide the itinerary and dates to the faculty mentor and IPS.

IMPORTANT! The US Department of State (DOS) federally mandates all J-1 and J-2 status holders to carry adequate health insurance coverage. Each J-1 scholar must purchase insurance for him/herself and his/her J-2 dependents before arriving in the US. If he/she and/or dependents fail to maintain the mandatory health insurance coverage, they will be in violation of federal immigration regulations; will be subject to termination as a program participant, and must leave the US immediately.Insurance coverage must meet the following:
Medical insurance must cover the entire period of participation in the Exchange Visitor program. Medical evacuation must be covered in the amount of $10,000, minimum (emergency medical transportation to the home country).

  1. Medical benefits must provide a minimum of $50,000 per accident or illness.

  2. Repatriation must be covered in the amount of $7,500, minimum (in the unfortunate event of death, repatriation is the transportation of remains back to the home country).
  3. The deductible must not exceed $500 per accident or illness.


A visiting professor from WCU partner institutions who teaches in the place of a WCU professor on exchange to partner institution will not be paid an additional stipend. In this case, the home universities will pay the salary of its employee for the duration of the exchange.

Visiting professors (and possibly exchange professor) may be eligible for small stipends for guest lecturing or performing at WCU or elsewhere in the region or country with PRIOR APPROVAL from the IPS director. WCU pays stipends to the eligible visiting professor/research scholar as an independent contractor.

Depending on how long the international visitor is at WCU, a bank account may not be necessary. If the international visitor would like a bank account, the BB&T Bank in Cullowhee will set up an account with a completed W/8BEN Form (on IRS website), passport, and local address.                                            

Incoming Visiting Professors and Research Scholars need to be advised that there is limited public transportation in the Cullowhee/Sylva Area. The university provides CAT-Tran shuttle service for students and faculty to use around campus. Periodically there may be a shuttle that takes students to Sylva for shopping.

The Office of International Programs and Services will also assist visiting international faculty, on a limited basis, with transportation needs pursuant to University policy. If the visiting professor/visiting scholar wants to purchase a car, there are a number of car dealers in the area

Finding accommodations for J-1 visitors to campus is the responsibility of the hosting department or the visitor. IPS will assist with suggestions and advise about the availability of on-campus accommodations under its control.

Once the visit is approved by the College Dean, the visiting professor /research scholar needs to stay in contact with the WCU faculty mentor as well as with the Office of International Programs and Services. This communication will expedite the research, visa, accommodation, and other university services for the incoming scholar.

  • Required documents from visiting professor/research scholar:
  1. Research Proposal outlining the project and expected activities – submit either to IPS or the hosting WCU department or faculty member
  2. Curriculum Vita or Resume
  3. J-1 Professor/Research Scholar Application Form (submit to IPS)
  4. Proof of adequate Health Insurance while in the U.S.


  • Once on campus, the visiting professor/researcher needs to:
  1. Report to IPS and attend IPS mandatory orientation. All J-1 visa holders MUST report to the IPS within 30 DAYS of the beginning of the program.
  2. Attend the MANDATORY New Faculty Orientation at the beginning of the semester, if the visitor has teaching responsibilities.
  3. Stay in contact with the WCU faculty mentor and the sponsoring department staff.
  4. Stay in contact with the office of International Programs and Services. IPS can offer assistance and guidance as needed about the university and surrounding area.        


From the 2011 Export Control Plan:

“All foreign visitors to WCU must obtain the Provost’s approval at least three months in advance of the visit. Faculty already employed in the United States are cleared through Visual Compliance by their home institution. International Programs and Services will not be required to perform Visual Compliance on visiting scholars that are foreigners but were already employed in the United States. The Provost’s office will coordinate with the Graduate School and Research Administration with regard to Export Control Management Plan administration. The Provost’s office will also coordinate with the University Pandemic Flu Coordinator to determine, in advance of the planned visit, whether the World Health Organization and/or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued any travel notices pertaining to the international visitor’s home country.”

Responsible Contact: Provost                                                            

The academic year is divided into 2 semesters of 16 weeks each + one week of finals (17 weeks) and summer school. International visiting lecturers could be asked to guest lecture during any of these sessions:

  • Fall semester: mid-August to mid-December
  • Spring semester: early January to early May
  • Summer sessions: 2-week May session
  • 5-week session in June until July 3rd or so
  • 5-week session in July until beginning of August
  • 9-week summer session from June to the beginning of August                                                

The AA-7 form drives the process. Please review Policy 97 Data Security and Stewardship for details.

A. For Professors/Research Scholars who are receiving a stipend. The AA-7 form drives the process. Please review Policy 97 Data Security and Stewardship for details.

B. For those Research Scholars or Researchers who are not getting a payroll check.

The host department faculty or staff need to:

  • Complete the Western Carolina University Consultant/Guess Access Request Form and submit to CIO Office
  • Complete the Form of Private Individuals Who Volunteer Services to Western Carolina University and return to HR.
  • When the Guess Access Request form is signed by CIO Office, it will be forwarded to HR to enter into Banner for the creation of a 92#.

  • With the 92--- number, visiting scholars go to the CatCard office, where the scholar will be issued a CatCard, allowing library access. The scholar may also wish to add money to his/her CatCard in order to pay for meals at campus dining facilities.

WCU is committed to increasing the diversity of our faculty.  There are specific policies in place concerning the recruitment and hiring of international job applicants.  Department Heads and College Deans can find out more about the H-1B petition process when intending to recruit and/or hire international faculty.  Before you begin the search process, please consult with IPS at


Please note that in order to properly petition for permanent residency, all WCU departments are asked to publish tenure-track position announcements in print media, such as newspapers, professional journals and/or The Chronicle of Higher Education, that has national circulation. You may consult these guidelines for how recruitment advertisements should be written/view a sample job ad.  Please have your print ad reviewed by HR and IPS.


Western Carolina University Policy #92:  Hiring Internationals at WCU

Once an international faculty member has been hired, departments may petition for a green card or permanent residency on behalf of the faculty member in certain cases.  Departments and Colleges need to inform themselves about the policies in a timely manner.


H-1B Regulations:


Permanent Residency Regulations:

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