Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Famous 515-A - Missing DS-2019 form

All J-1 visa exchange teachers sponsored by the Cordell Hull Foundation know that CHF stresses the importance of folding and stapling the DS-2019 form into the passport. Most teachers remember and follow these instructions from our cultural workshop at the beginning of their first visa term.
Form DS-2019 for J-1 teachers
Sometimes they forget to pass on this important step to family dependents. Teachers are responsible to explain to spouses and dependent children the importance of stapling the DS-2019 form in the passport every year they receive a renewal.

If the family member leaves the US without a DS-2019 form, scanning, faxing, or emailing the DS-2019 form left behind is in violation of the J-1 visa regulations. If a teacher has done that, it is a good idea to go to the airport on the day that the family member is scheduled to arrive in the US - making sure that the family member knows you are waiting outside with the original DS-2019 form in case the inspector demands it. If s/he does not know you are there, it will not help, of course.

Teachers, please ... do not forget to instruct, then watch your family fold and staple both new and renewal DS-2019 forms in their passports. It is your responsibility to make sure they do it. They have no idea why it is so important unless you explain it to them and make them perform the task in front of you. That is why we make such an elaborate ceremony of doing the deed in front of you at the orientation.

Possible Consequences ...
If you arrive at the airport and find that you do not have your DS-2019 form, you will probably not be allowed access to the US, and you may be held in a side waiting room for questioning by the US immigration officer before being allowed to cross the border.
Permission to enter the US is left up to the discretion of the individual USCIS (Homeland Security) immigration officer.  If you are respectful, professional and presentable and can show good cause, most likely you will be admitted after being reprimanded and given Form I-515A.  This may seem obvious, but some foreign nationals do not realize that a J-1 visa is a privilege, not a right.  You are asking permission to enter - vs. exerting your right to enter.  Hearing about democracy in the US, they may feel free to make demands that an American citizen might exercise.
Most Exchange Visitors (J-1 or J-2 visaholders) will be given a Form I-515A to fill out and return to the address in Washington, DC on the form along with the original DS-2019 document. See:
In this explanation, the word "student" is used, but it also applies to J-1 teachers and holders of J-1 visas in the other 13 categories:
  • Elementary and Secondary Teachers
  • Trainees, Interns
  • College and university students, Secondary school students, and Short-term scholars
  • Professors and research scholars
  • Alien physicians
  • International and government visitors, Specialists
  • Camp counselors
  • Summer work/travel students
  • Au pairs
Marianne Mason, Executive Director, Cordell Hull Foundation