The DOS issued a final rule amending the regulations governing the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program that will take effect on January 5, 2015. These changes were initially proposed in 2009 and are the first significant change to the regulations for the J-1 program since 1993. The full text of the final rule can be accessed at:http://j1visa.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Subpart-A-Federal-Register-publication-8893_PublishedFR_10-6-2014.pdf

In summary, the rules modify five major components of the program: filing requirements for initial designated sponsors and those seeking renewals, requires private sector sponsors to provide management reviews in a specific format, enhances the rules applicable to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) database, replaces the information previously collected in Appendices A through D with the Forms DS-3036, DS-3037 and DS-3097, updates the health and accident insurance costs to reflect increases in these types of costs since 1993 (these provisions will not be effective until May 15, 2015), modifies the definitions of various terms used throughout the rules, includes specific language providing discretionary decision-making powers to the Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs with respect to the waiving or modification of the rules for programs under agreements between the United States and foreign governments and requires the Department to provide notice for such waivers or modifications, and revises the text of the regulations in an effort to make it clearer and more concise.

Certain provisions are not being modified with this rulemaking that had been included in the proposed changes to the regulations in 2009. These include requiring designated sponsors and applicants for this designation to obtain and submit Dun & Bradstreet reports, having sponsor site visits at the discretion of the DOS, and the proposed requirement that designated sponsors obtain information from Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for a principal alien's accompanying spouse and/or dependents.

Furthermore, the DOS also states that the next generation of the SEVIS (commonly known as SEVIS II) database, which has not yet been released, will have no impact on these new rules and that before it is released, the DOS will issue proposed rules to allow the public to comment.