Hosting a Visiting Scholar
- Nominations of visiting scholars are submitted by VSU academic units after a review and approval by the head of the unit and the Dean’s Office.
- The nomination process requires a discussion with the Director of the Center for International Programs (CIP) about the potential institutional benefits of hosting a particular scholar, including but not limited to research, teaching, performances, exhibits and publications.
- The nominating unit/faculty needs to propose a specific host-stay plan approved by the department and the College that will include period of stay, duties, social and cultural activities and logistical support for the visitor. Please bear in mind that a plan with one-person support is not a realistic one.
- The academic host unit works on an intra-campus collaborative plan for the visitor with other academic units and community programs. Community engagement, i.e. lectures, round tables, local media interviews, community events support and participation are highly recommended part of the program.
- The documentation for all nominated candidates for the given fiscal year (July 1 – June 30th of the next academic year) needs to be submitted to CIP at least six months prior to the proposed date of the visitor’s arrival.
2. Initial Documentation
The required documentation for a J-1 international visitor includes:
- Letter of nomination by the unit with attached Research/Joint Project Plan for the duration of her/his stay;
- Plan for support of the visiting scholar from the host department, including logistics, office space, and financial contributions
- Candidates qualifications: scan/copy of terminal degree appropriate for the hiring, CV and other related documents of support;
- Candidates source of financial support for the duration of stay with VSU verified with official institutional letter and/or bank statement;
- It is a good idea to form a Departmental Committee to conduct a Skype interview with the potential visitor to discuss her/his preliminary plans, language skills and professional qualifications. Departmental support is essential for visitor’s integration socially and professionally.
3. Visa and Other Pre-Arrival Processes
- The Assistant Director of the CIP, who is VSU’s SEVP Responsible Officer (RO), sends the candidate the DS-2019 Request Form, which is necessary in order to issue the DS-2019 form (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status ( J1 –Nonimmigrant Visa)
- Note: Only J-1 visa will allow payments to a visiting scholar.
- The bio-data is entered into SEVIS, thus allowing for further visa processing.
- Once the DS-2019 form is issued, the CIP will mail the document to the nominee with the information on how to pay the SEVIS fee and schedule her/his eventual interview visit to the U.S. Consulate with the applicable documentation.
- Often multiple e-mail communication messages are needed to guide the nominee through the process. Specific attention is paid to the health insurance arrangements, especially in case of dependents on J-2 visa.
- Logistics of arrival/departure schedules is discussed and arrangements made at VSU to address potential issues. Both host unit representative(s) and CIP work as a task force to address multiple scenarios and changes in the plan.
- Housing needs of the visitor are addressed based on requests and availability. It is often that visitors may have unrealistic expectations as to the cost of housing in Valdosta. It is better to address these issues in advance.
- A VSU ID (870xxxxxx) number for the visitor is arranged with the Registrar in order to address IT account and other related issues
- The academic department host discuses with the nominee teaching assignments and other related program questions (Skype is a good option for a small committee to participate, especially if more than one unit is involved). If needed, changes are made to reflect eventual special topics/courses/modules in the academic schedules. In case of team- teaching specific teaching arrangements and other curricular adjustments should be discussed and made for effective participation by the nominee. Similar steps are suggested for joint research/publishing efforts.
- At a departmental meeting the leading departmental partner/host presents updated plan for professional, social and cultural integration of the Visiting Scholar; Specific tasks are assigned to all individuals participating in the project, both staff and faculty.
4. Arrival and Post- Arrival Logistics
- CIP assists the visiting scholar with visa-related, logistical formalities and issues, and maintains visitor’s immigration file for SEVIS.
- One of the most critical issues is both at pre-arrival and after arrival to verify the visitor (and dependents) health insurance status and limitations. J-1 visa requires a U.S. health insurance plan for both the visitor and dependents. This is a costly requirement, so please make sure your visitor understands the cost issue well, since she/he will be required to purchase health insurance plan with out of pocket funds.
- Schedules may need to be changed. Both host department and CIP will work on adjustments.
- The host needs to check the living conditions prior to Visiting Scholar arrival. Beware that some of the appliances will be new to the guest.
- Meeting of the guest is usually a responsibility of the host unit. If needed, CIP will help with transportation (make sure to reserve the van ahead of time).
- If the unit has plans to pay the visitor, please be aware that this is not possible until a Social Security number is secured. Consult with Chief International Officer (CIO) about the process. Realistically, the process takes up to two months.
- The visiting scholar is only eligible to apply for a Social Security number, once they have been in the U.S. for 10 days. CIP will assist in the process. The usual waiting time for a Social Security number is 2-3 weeks. Technically, until a Social Security number is secured, the Visiting Scholar cannot teach.
- Once a Social Security number is secured and the documentation for hiring completed at the VPAA office, the Visiting Scholar may start teaching and lab work.
- With the exception of those visitors who have their terminal degrees from a U.S. university, the majority will not be familiar with specific VSU grading practices and many rules and policies on interaction with students. Please make sure that you provide an introduction to the expected behavioral norms here at VSU. It is suggested that a VSU faculty should be the faculty on record for final grading.
- The host department needs to make all efforts to coordinate the professional and social inclusion of the Visiting Scholar in the life of the department, the college, the university, and the community.
- Most administrative and logistical issues that the visitor will deal with, like travel insurance, apartment maintenance, and many unsuspected other little problems will arise. Please consult with CIP. In most cases, we will be the place that can address and help with the problems.
- A weekly chat between the Visiting Scholar and her/his academic partner, and/or the head of the host department is suggested. Monthly evaluations with the CIP are strongly recommended. A final report will be required after the completion of the program.
- In case of the visiting scholar not performing agreed duties or displaying behavior that is not acceptable by the U.S. legal framework, the host will need to file a complaint via CIP for termination of the visa. Such termination will be effective upon approval by the VPAA/Provost.