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Information for J-1 Visa Holders: Overview of Employment Opportunities

Your J-1 Responsible Officer

To work for any employer other than the school named on your Form DS-2019, you must first obtain approval in writing from your J-1 Responsible Office, who represents your J-1 sponsor and issues your Forms DS-2019. He or she must evaluate the proposed employment in terms of your program objectives and your individual circumstances, and then decide whether it would be appropriate or not. If Lehigh is your sponsor, then your J-1 Responsible Officer is the Director at the Office of International Students & Scholars. If your J-1 sponsor is an agency, and if you are uncertain how to reach your J-1 Responsible Officer, the immigration specialist at your school will help you find out, but has no authority to grant employment permission.


The proposed employment:

  1. Must be directly related to the objectives of your Exchange Visitor program;
  2. Must be incidental to your primary program activities; and
  3. Must not delay the completion of your Exchange Visitor program.


To obtain authorization for incidental employment, you should present the following to your J-1 Responsible Officer:

  1. A letter of offer from the prospective employer describing the terms and conditions of the proposed employment, including the duration, the number of hours, the field or subject, the amount of compensation, and a description of the activity for which you are being hired.
  2. A letter from your department head or supervisor:
    • Referring to the letter from the prospective employer;
    • Confirming that the employment is directly related to your principal activity, is indeed incidental, and will not delay completion of your program;
    • Explaining how the proposed activity would enhance your exchange Visitor program; and
    • Recommending approval of the employment.
  3. If your J-1 Responsible Officer approves, he or she will authorize the employment in writing.

Authorization to Work

If the employment is a lecture or consultation, you will be working not as an employee but as an independent contractor. This means that you will not have a sustained employer-employee relationship with the person or institution paying you, and will not complete Form I-9, "Employment Eligibility Verification," in order to start work.

In that situation your authorization will take the form of a letter to you from your J-1 Responsible Officer, which your employer may ask to see, and which you should keep -- permanently.

If the incidental employment is sustained, for example, if you will be teaching a course at another school that lasts an entire term, then your authorization will be a new Form DS-2019, issued by your present J-1 Responsible Officer, showing the name of the employer (as well as the institution of your principal affiliation), and the amount you will be paid. Your Responsible Officer will send the yellow copy of that Form DS-2019 to the Department of State in Washington as notification that the incidental employment has been authorized, and will give you the pink copy to use as documentation when you and your employer complete Form I-9 "Employment Eligibility Verification," before you start work.

Office of International Students and Scholars • Lehigh University • 32 Sayre Drive, Coxe Hall, Bethlehem, PA 18015 • 610-758-4859 • Fax: 610-758-5156 • intnl@lehigh.edu
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