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International Student Office - International Scholar Guide



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J1 Department Request

How to Invite an International Scholar to WKU

The U.S. Department of State’s Exchange Visitor program is designed to promote international education and cultural exchange in order to develop mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Exchange Visitor (J-1) visa status is designed for a variety of educational purposes to bring persons to the United States under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State.


 Prior to issuing the federal immigration document SEVIS DS-2019 for Exchange Visitors, the WKU International Student Office (ISO) is required to document that all visitors will have sufficient funding while in the U.S. so they will not experience financial hardship during their period of stay at WKU. A living allowance of $1,500 per month for the scholar, $500 for the spouse, and $250 for each child is considered to be the minimum amount required for ISO to issue the DS-2019 form.  The scholar must submit an original financial document(s) to ISO that verifies sufficient funding for the duration of stay.

 If WKU or another institution is providing financial assistance, the original letter documenting the funding must be submitted to ISO. If the scholar is self-funded, he/she will be required to provide an original financial document form(s) that shows total assets of $1,500 per month which can include personal (bank) funds, government funds, or any other source of funding.

 As a condition of the J-1 visa, ALL visiting scholars and their dependents are required to have medical insurance for the period of their appointment, starting with the day of arrival.  ALL WKU visiting scholars will be required to purchase the WKU-contracted health insurance policy upon their arrival to United States with an estimated cost of $1,600 per calendar year. Please see chart below for 2013-2014 rates. It is very important that visiting scholars do not purchase health insurance plan from their home country prior to their coming to the U.S. Please note that the health insurance cost for the dependents is approximately two (2) to three (3) times the cost for the visiting scholar.

AHP Rates for J1 scholars - 2013-2014

Scholar:  approximately    $130.00 per month 
Spouse:  approximately    $314.00 per month
One child: approximately  $190.00 per month 
Two or more children approximately $279.00 per month  

In order for ISO to help guide you through the process of what to do before your J visitor arrives, please follow the instructions below. 

Pre-Arrival Instructions

1. Due to the lengthy J-1 visa procedure, please provide a MINIMUM of three months lead time in preparing paperwork for new visiting scholars (Departments should be aware that delays in visa processing and security checks can mean that some scholars may need up to 4 months to secure a J-1 visa in order to arrive at WKU).

2. In order to initiate the procedure to invite a visiting scholar, please provide ISO with the prospective scholar's FIRST AND LAST NAME, DOB, E-MAIL ADDRESS AND CITIZENSHIP AND WKU 800# (see instructions below for obtaining 800#).

3. Hosting Department should arrange and or assist the visiting scholar with airport pick up and search for housing.

4. If visiting scholars will teach at WKU, they MUST bring ORIGINAL TRANSCRIPTS with them to WKU.

5. ALL J visitors MUST purchase and maintain valid WKU- health insurance for themselves and their dependents at all time in the States. Therefore, they should NOT purchase health insurance from overseas.

6. It is extremely important to reserve housing for your visitor as soon as possible! To secure housing, YOU must complete the Visiting Scholar Residences' Departmental Agreement Form. Bedrooms are available on a first come, first serve basis only. Ms. Stephanie Hammons is the contact.

* Visiting scholars who are here by themselves have priority over visiting scholars who are here with a spouse. Visiting scholars with dependent children MUST seek off campus housing due to scholar residences being not suitable for children.

Post-Arrival Instructions

 1. As soon as you know the date of the J visitor’s arrival, make an appt. for the J visitor to meet with ISO for a J-1 orientation. This is required by the U.S. Department of State and must be within the first week of their arrival to the U.S.

2. During the week your J visitor arrives, please help them obtain a WKU ID card and Social Security card (if visitor is paid by WKU). The WKU ID card is $10.00 for visiting scholars and the scholar must provide the Invitation Letter and 800# to the ID Center.

STEP # 1 ► Request a WKU 800 number for your J-1 Visitor 

In order for ISO to be able to issue the appropriate immigration documents, a WKU 800 number must be first assigned to the prospective scholar. So please e-mail Sherry Merkling the following information about your J-1 visitor:

  • First and Last Name
  • Gender
  • DOB
  • Citizenship
  • Email
  • Hosting WKU Department
  • Will visitor be a WKU employee?

Let Sherry know that this individual is coming on a J Visa and copy on the email. WKU BANNER takes about 24 hours to update the system with the new name and 800 number. Sherry will send you the 800#. If the Visitor will be an employee at WKU, Sherry will also provide you with the Visitor’s email address and further instructions on the payroll process.

 ***Please provide ISO with Visitor’s 800# before logging into iStart below. ***

STEP # 2
► Log in to iStart to initiate the process 

First you will need to access iStart

 iStart is a software that reads from BANNER to assure accurate transfer and reporting of students' and scholars' data to appropriate offices and agencies. Visa Request forms and petitions requested by students or departments are easily submitted through this service. All services require using your WKU NetID Username and Password to Login in to setup an access account. Once approved, using e-forms or request is reliable, secure, and fast.

 In order to bring your scholar, you will need to be given access to iStart. Please follow these steps:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on "Administrative Services for University Departments" (this will be on the bottom on the page).
  3. At iStart Services Login Page you will need to log on with your NetID Username and Password. If you do not know your Portal Username and Password please go to the following link: NetID Help.
  4. Once you log in the iStart screen click "Departmental Access Request" (it will be on the left hand side). Please fill out your information. After you have done this ISO will be able to approve you within 24 hours as a user for iStart.
  5. You will receive an e-mail from ISO informing you of your approval as an iStart user. If you have trouble logging into iStart please contact

After you have received access:

  1. Log into iStart at and click the "Administrative Services for University Departments" link.
  2. You will then click the “Departmental Services” link on the left hand side.
  3. Finally click the “J-1 Scholar Services” link and complete the following 2 forms in order for ISO to receive your completed Application.

I. J-1 Scholar Host Department Form

II. J-1 Scholar Application 

You may bookmark iStart for your reference or you can access it from our ISO website homepage

If you have questions or need assistance feel free to call us at 745-4857 or e-mail us at

STEP # 3 ► Send the Letter of invitation/offer to ISO 

Once ISO receives the iStart Department Request Form, financial documents and your department invitation letter, ISO will issue form DS-2019 to allow the prospective scholar to apply for the J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate at his/her country.

 ISO will contact you to pick up and mail the packet. We strongly encourage using Fed Ex to send international mailing.

NOTE ► Please make sure the prospective scholar stays in direct contact with ISO in regards to J-1 visa requirements and procedures.

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 Last Modified 9/24/14