College wins power to issue J-1 visas

Two weeks ago, the U.S. State Department granted Geneseo authority to issue the documentation required for foreign students and faculty to apply for a J-1 visa.

Typically, J-1 visas along with F-1 visas are used to permit incoming students and faculty to study and do research at Geneseo. The F-1 is designed for international students intending to attend college for a full four years, while the J-1 is geared toward more short-term exchange programs.

Students using J-1 visas have more flexibility in choosing an academic activity than students on an F-1 visa.

Previously, those wishing to obtain a J-1 visa had to apply through the University of Buffalo. Changes in legislation, however, made it impossible for UB to continue issuing J-1 visas to foreigners attending institutions other than UB.

In September 2009, the Office of International Programs began compiling an application that would allow it to issue the required documents. The application was submitted by November 1, and the college was informed that the application had been accepted a few weeks ago.

"[The State Department] wants to know that [applicants for the J-1 visa] have cross-culture experience," said Rebecca Lewis, interim assistant provost for international programs. The Department of Homeland Security oversees the process, so the college takes on a liability when it allows foreign students and faculty to visit. By issuing a J-1 visa, Geneseo is essentially vouching for the fact that the visitor has funding and a defined period of stay.

Next fall, Geneseo will host 15 foreign exchange students, a marked increase from two years earlier when there were only five. A faculty researcher from China will also visit in the fall.

According to Lewis, being able to issue the document directly will increase Geneseo's ability to recruit international students and faculty and will "help internationalize the campus."