Exchange Visitors Program

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The Department of Energy program offices engage in a variety of cooperative international exchanges and program initiatives which involve sponsoring foreign national scholars and specialists to work on projects in the U.S. The Office of Travel Management provides assistance to DOE Program Elements on employer-sponsored J-1 visa issues and related requirements.

Eligibility criteria and program requirements for the Exchange Visitor Program are described at the Department of State webpage: J-1 Visa Eligibility and Fees for Participants

Use this link to the Contact Us page for the Exchange Visitors Program contacts.

J-1 Visas

The Department of Energy is authorized by the U.S. Department of State to be a Designated Sponsor of the Exchange Visitor Program. The purpose of the Program is to provide foreign nationals with opportunities to participate in educational and cultural exchanges in the United States and return home to share their experiences, and to encourage Americans to participate in educational and cultural programs in other countries.  Educational and cultural exchanges assist the Department of State in furthering the foreign policy objectives of the United States.

DOE currently sponsors exchange visitors on J-1 Visas in the categories of Government Visitors, Specialists, Short-Term Scholars, and Research Scholars.  The Exchange Visitor Program is of critical value to the DOE scientific community.  For over forty years this program has been a vital management tool enabling DOE to bring foreign national researchers and scientists to the U.S. to participate in research programs and projects at the National Laboratories and DOE Program Offices.

The Exchange Visitor Program implements the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (the “Fulbright-Hayes Act”) as amended,  The purpose of the Fulbright-Hayes Act 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.  These exchanges are defined by section 102 of the Act, 22 U.S.C. 2452, and section 101(a) (15) (J). The Secretary of State facilitates activities specified in the Fulbright-Hayes Act, in part by designating public and private entities to act as sponsors of the Exchange Visitor Program. 

Eligibility criteria and program requirements for the Exchange Visitor Program are described at the Department of State webpage: J-1 Visa Eligibility and Fees for Participants

References - U.S. Laws and Regulations:

J-1 Visa Waivers

Exchange Visitors may be subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement of Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Government funded exchange program - The program in which the exchange visitor was participating was financed in whole or in part directly or indirectly by the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitor's nationality or last residence;
  • Graduate medical education or training - The exchange visitor entered the United States to receive graduate medical education or training;
  • Specialized knowledge or skill: Skills List - The exchange visitor is a national or permanent resident of a country which has deemed the field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of the country, as shown on the Exchange Visitor Skills List.

Exchange Visitors who are subject to, but do not wish to comply with, the two-year home residency requirement, may be eligible for a waiver of that requirement under any one of the five applicable grounds provided by the United States immigration law.

“No Objection” statement from the home government
The exchange visitor’s government must state that it has no objection to the exchange visitor not returning to the home country to satisfy the two-year residence requirement of Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, and remaining in the U.S. if he or she chooses to do.  If the Exchange Visitor received direct or indirect funding from a U.S. government source, that source will also be consulted.  The Department of Energy is only able to provide a "No Objection" statement in limited circumstances.

Request by an interested (U.S.) Government agency, or IGA
If an exchange visitor is working on a project for or of interest to a U.S. federal government agency, and that agency has determined that the visitor’s departure for two years to fulfill the two-year home-country physical presence requirement would be detrimental to its interest, that agency may request a waiver in the public interest. The Interested Government Agency (IGA) request must be submitted by the Agency to the Department of State. In order to receive Interested Government Agency (IGA) sponsorship from the DOE you must meet the following criteria:

  1. Your work has to be done in a DOE sponsored laboratory.
  2. The head of the DOE sponsored laboratory and the DOE Program Element must be willing to sponsor you for an IGA waiver.
  3. A labor certification and/or evidence of unsuccessful attempts to fill the position by a U.S. worker must be included in the package.

DOE does not accept applications of self-nomination nor does DOE accept applications from researchers who have not worked in connection with any of our laboratories.  As the waiver process can range from four months up to one year, DOE limits the waiver process to the researchers who have worked for and on DOE-related projects.

Persecution
If the exchange visitor believes that he or she will be persecuted upon return to the home country due to race, religion, or political opinion, he or she may apply for a waiver.

Exceptional hardship to a United States citizen (or permanent resident) spouse or child of an exchange visitor
If the exchange visitor can demonstrate that his or departure from the United States would cause extreme hardship to his or her United States citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or child, he or she may apply for a waiver.

References - U.S. Law and Regulations:

International Visitor Leadership Program

The Department of Energy is a sponsor of the International Visitor Leadership Program and operates under authority of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (Fulbright-Hays Act). The emphasis of the program is to increase mutual understanding through communication at the personal and professional levels.

The International Visitor Leadership Program brings participants to the United States from all over the world each year to meet and confer with their professional counterparts and to experience the U.S. firsthand. The visitors, who are current or potential leaders in government, politics, the media, education, and other fields, are selected by American Officials overseas. More than 200 current and former Heads of State, 1,500 cabinet-level ministers, and many other distinguished world leaders in government and the private sector have participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program.

Participants in this program come to the United States on J-1 Visas at the invitation of the Department of State.  Senior executives and management officials in DOE Program Offices host the visits of these potential leaders when they come to DOE facilities.

The Department of State directs the program in cooperation with a wide range of non-profit organizations operating under cooperative agreements with the Department of State. The program also relies on the commitment and skills of over 95 community-based organizations across the country. They represent a wide range of institutions and expertise from universities to World Affairs Councils to all-volunteer organizations.

Further information on the International Visitor Leadership Program is available on the Department of State website:
https://eca.state.gov/ivlp

The Interagency Working Group (IAWG) on U.S. Government-Sponsored International Exchanges and Training

The Interagency Working Group (IAWG) on U.S. Government-Sponsored International Exchanges and Training was established in 1997 to make recommendations on improving the coordination, efficiency, and effectiveness of U.S. Government-sponsored international exchanges and training.  The IAWG consists of five statutory members – the Departments of State, Defense, Education, and Justice, and the United States Agency for International Development – and is chaired by the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. In addition to the statutory members, the IAWG consists of many other cabinet-level and independent federal agencies. Each federal agency has a designated representative in the IAWG.  The Department of Energy Representative on the IAWG is Umeki G. Thorne, Director, Office of Travel Management, MA-45.

The IAWG is tasked with, among other things, collecting and analyzing international exchange and training data and establishing an information clearinghouse to share exchange and training program information among federal agencies. For example, The Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Appropriations Act, 1999, and the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 contain provisions requiring the annual reporting of requested data.  The Department of State has the government-wide lead to obtain data submitted annually by federal agencies and compile an annual (fiscal year) inventory of USG sponsored international exchanges and training programs.

The Department of State implements this responsibility through the IAWG which, in turn, collects program data by fiscal year, on USG-sponsored international exchanges and training activities from all federal departments and agencies that administer such programs.  The product of the IAWG’s assignment is annual Inventory of Programs and region-specific statistical information.  This inventory is sent to the President, the Congress, and published for the public on the IAWG’s website at https://iawg.gov/.  The purpose of the Inventory is to qualify and clarify the role these programs play throughout the U.S. Government in meeting the US government’s foreign policy goals.

The Office of Travel Management is responsible for the annual data collection from the DOE Program Elements and develops the Department’s Annual Report submission to the Department of State.  For more information on the Annual Report requirements, contact Umeki Thorne, Director, Office of Travel Management (MA-45) on 202-586-4048 or at umeki.thorne@hq.doe.gov.

Related Resources

DOE Travel Services - is the Departmental Point-of-Contact for travel policy and regulations:

MAAdm updated 01/30/2018 - New Format