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Exchange Visitor Program

What is BridgeUSA?

As a BridgeUSA (J-1 Exchange) visitor, you are taking part in the BridgeUSA (J-1 visa) program administered by the U.S. Department of State with the goal of increasing mutual understanding through cultural and educational exchanges. New BridgeUSA scholars can find pre-arrival information below which we hope will prepare you for your program and arrival at Saint Leo University. The information in this section marked with (J Visa) is only relevant to scholars under the BridgeUSA (J Exchange Visitor Visa) program.

Please review the International Student Handbook below, for information about living in the U.S., Florida, and Saint Leo.

View International Student Handbook

Purpose of the BridgeUSA (Exchange Visitor) Program

The BridgeUSA Program (J-visa types) provides many opportunities for international candidates looking to travel and gain experience in the United States. These programs enable foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to study, teach, conduct research or demonstrate special skills for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years.

The general purpose of the BridgeUSA Program is to promote international educational and cultural exchange to develop mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. As a non-immigrant visa type, all exchange visitors are expected to return to their home country upon completion of their program in order to share their exchange experiences.

Saint Leo University is a private nonprofit Catholic University that strives to be recognized internationally as an institution of higher education providing excellence in teaching and learning. We are constantly looking for partnerships with other institutions of quality outside the U.S. to aid in this endeavor. Saint Leo University and its students will be richer from the exchange taking place in the classroom and socially.

Eligibility Requirements

There are a few basic requirements that all J-1 Exchange Visitors must meet to be qualified for the program:

  • Intent to pursue appropriate activity (such as study, research, teaching, or training)
     
  • Intent to return to home country (as determined by consular officer)
     
  • Sufficient funding for program
     
  • Appropriate background for program activity (example, Research Scholars must have at least a master's degree or its equivalent)
     
  • Adequate English proficiency to engage in the proposed activities is expected. For students, if English is not the native language, students will take an English placement exam upon arrival in the United States and if needed, English training in the Bridge program will be a part of the program.

For Professors, Research/Short-term Scholars or Specialists, prior to an invitation, telephone interviews will be conducted with the appropriate Dean, Department Chair, and the Bridge Program Director to conduct an English language interview. Saint Leo asks recommenders to address English proficiency in their comments.

Program Categories

The J-1 visa has multiple category or program types within the Exchange Visitor Program; each category has different expectations and regulations that must be followed. Follow the links to learn more about each category's program information, qualifications, and expectations.

Saint Leo University supports several different category types within the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program:

  • Limited to a stay of 6 months to 2 years at Saint Leo to engage in teaching.
  • May not be candidates for tenure.
  • Visiting Professors in this category will teach three or four courses each term of semester. They will also conduct regularly scheduled lectures and seminars for students and will conduct at least one, but no more than four, faculty development workshops for University faculty members.
  • The goals of the lectures, seminars, and workshops are the following:
    1. Improve the undergraduate experience for all students by introducing an curriculum enriched by the perspective and experience of the Visiting Faculty; and
    2. Provide an international perspective to faculty.
  • 12/24-month bars may prevent J-1 Professor sponsorship of those who have previously held J visa.
  • Minimum education level is a Doctorate degree or its equivalent.

  • Limited to a stay of 6 months to 1 year.
  • A research scholar will be a person invited to join an extant research program as a colleague. The invitation shall originate with the head of the research team (primary investigator). The research scholar shall be expected to participate in all facets of the team's research project.
  • 12/24-month bars may prevent J-1 Professor sponsorship of those who have previously held J visa.
  • Minimum education level is a Master’s degree or its equivalent.

  • Limited strictly to 6 months or less; Short-Term Scholars may not extend stay beyond 6 months.
  • A short-term scholar will be a person invited to lecture, observe, consult, and/or to participate in seminars, workshops, conferences, or engage in collaborative research. Short-term scholars may be in areas such as business, education, English, science, or the arts. The goal of the program is to enable us to jointly share the expertise of the scholar with internal researchers and, where the business program is focused on issues of rural economic development, to allow us to build partnerships across national boundary lines to foster the alleviation of poverty in rural communities through cooperative community and economic development programs.
  • 12/24-month bars do not apply to J-1 Short-Term Scholars who wish to return in J-1.
  • Minimum education level is a Master's degree or its equivalent.

  • Limited strictly to a maximum of 1 year; Specialists may not extend stay beyond 1 year.
  • A specialist would come to Saint Leo University to observe, consult, or demonstrate special skills in any relevant area to the university and its community and may include areas like business, science, youth leadership, or international education. Like short-term scholars, the specialist is seen as a way to augment the programs we offer and to bring a focused internationalization to the curriculum. S/he can contribute an international perspective to fundamental questions regarding the delivery of program in his/her specific field of expertise. The goal of both the Short-Term Scholar and the Specialist programs is to enable us to jointly share the expertise of the scholar/specialist with internal researchers and, where the business program is focused on issues of rural economic development, to allow us to build partnerships across national boundary lines to foster the alleviation of poverty in rural communities through cooperative community and economic development programs.
  • 12/24-month bars do not apply to J-1 Short-Term Scholars who wish to return in J-1.
  • Minimum education level is a Master's degree or its equivalent.

  • Minimum stay - 1 semester.
  • Students currently attending Exchange Student Programs and who are planning to study on exchange at Saint Leo. This program is managed by International Enrollment and the Center for Global Engagement at Saint Leo University and the home institution/organization overseas. Visitors in this classification will be regular full time matriculating students at Saint Leo University throughout the duration of their stay here. Some students will only stay at Saint Leo for one semester as part of a study abroad program, so they will only attend classes here for 6 months / 1 semester. Others are expected to enroll in a full degree program and will be here for a longer period.

Housing Options for J-1 Exchange Visitors

Please visit our board rates page to learn more about on-campus housing and board rates for the current academic year, https://www.saintleo.edu/board-rates

If you are a Master’s degree student or faculty member, and choose to live off-campus, please review the Graduate Housing Options (PDF) document for information about local accommodations.

View Graduate Housing Options (PDF)
 

Tuition and Costs

Please visit our tuition and costs page for more information on tuition and other expenses for Saint Leo University.
 

Other Expenses

The Center for Global Engagement website has a wealth of information for costs associated with life in the US along with helpful resources during your stay here.

Please review the International Student Handbook (PDF) for more details.

Travel and Entry to United States

Once admitted to Saint Leo University, international students must obtain a J-1 exchange visitor visa from the nearest U.S. Embassy/Consulate. Helpful information on applying for the J-1 visa and much more can be found at: https://j1visa.state.gov/participants/

International students must take the following items to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate for an interview with an immigration officer:

  1. A valid passport (this should be valid for the entire period of the proposed course of study or renewable after at least one year.)
  2. The letter of admission from Saint Leo University.
  3. Form DS-2019, executed by the Responsible Officer at Saint Leo at item 7, and completed and signed by you on the bottom of the document.
  4. Evidence of your financial ability to meet the expenses at Saint Leo University. This can include scholarship letters or documentation from your exchange program.
  5. Evidence of English ability sufficient for your studies at Saint Leo University.
  6. Evidence of your residence at home, and your intent to depart the U.S. after completing the program here.
  7. A medical clearance based on a physical examination by a medical facility approved by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. (This is not always required. Students should check with the Embassy/Consulate whether or not the examination is necessary, and if so, which doctor is approved.)
  8. Two (2) passport sized photographs.
  9. A $160 Visa application processing fee, a $100.00 Machine Readable Visa (MRV) surcharge fee, and any Visa reciprocity fees that might be applicable. The application fee is nonrefundable in the event that the visa is denied.
  10. Verification of payment of the $220.00 SEVIS fee. Payment must be received either by internet or by mail to the DHS address on the Form I-901 at least 3 business days before the scheduled visa interview. You can find out more about, and pay the SEVIS fee at https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/index.html.

Once you receive your appointment at the consulate or US Embassy, an U.S. Immigration Officer will then interview you to confirm:

  1. That your purpose in coming to the United States is to remain only for the duration of the exchange program at Saint Leo University (the institution which issued the form DS-2019).
  2. That adequate funds are available for the entire duration of the proposed program of study in the United States.
  3. That you will not be employed or engaged in business while in the United States without permission from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS.)

Once you have been issued the J-1 student visa, you are ready to come to the US to study.
Please be sure to carry the documents above with you on the plane to the US because you will need to present these items at the Port of Entry to the US.

Center for Global Engagement (CGE) Office

Location: Student Activities Building (SAB), suite #221
Hours: 8 am - 5 pm
Phone: (352) 588-8442
Fax: (352) 588-8509
Email: global@saintleo.edu

Resources

Welcome Guide
International Student Handbook
How to Apply for BridgeUSA (J-1 Exchange Visitor Program)
Instructions for J-1 Visa Application

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