Van Andel Institute’s (VAI) Exchange Visitor Program provides opportunities to study, conduct collaborative research, and participate in scientific training opportunities at Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) and Van Andel Institute Graduate School (VAIGS).
Our program seeks to promote the general interest of international educational and cultural exchange by offering educational, training, and research opportunities in the various fields of research conducted at VARI and VAIGS.
VAI charges no fees to program participants. Exchange visitors are responsible for their own visa application costs. Estimated minimum costs of living in Grand Rapids are:
These are minimal estimates for essential living expenses (including only: food, health insurance, transportation, rent for a one or two bedroom apartment [as applicable] and minor incidental expenses). Additional personal funds may be required.
Exchange visitors must have an offer of invitation from a Van Andel Research Institute laboratory or the VAI Graduate School. In addition, you will be required to meet the following eligibility requirements prior to issuance of Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status):
J-1 exchange visitors must possess sufficient proficiency in the English language to participate in our program AND to function on a day-to-day basis in Grand Rapids. Proficiency will be assessed via official English language proficiency test score or Skype/telephone interview.
Exchange visitors will be required to show evidence of program funding in the amount of our estimated minimum Cost of Living for Grand Rapids. Evidence of funding may include VAI salary or stipend, non-VAI salary, scholarships or other sponsored funding. Personal funds will NOT be accepted for the primary J-1 visa holder, but are acceptable for J-2 dependents.
Visiting students and researchers must be affiliated with an overseas (non-U.S.) institution, and Van Andel Institute must enter into an educational exchange agreement or research collaboration agreement with that institution before VAI will issue Form DS-2019. Please speak to your sponsoring VARI lab to determine if an agreement already exists or will need to be created.
You must not be otherwise barred from issuance of a Form DS-2019 (example: subject to repeat participation bars). Ineligibility is rare, but VAI will make a determination of eligibility before issuing Form DS-2019.
Per U.S. law, all J-1 and J-2 exchange visitors:
Must maintain health insurance coverage for the duration of their program, which meets certain minimum coverage requirements.
All J-1 visitors and their J-2 family members are required to have the following minimum health insurance coverage from program begin date to program end date:
Postdoctoral Fellows, VAIGS students, and their J-2 dependents will be eligible to enroll in VAI’s Priority Health Insurance Plan, which meets the J requirements.
Visiting researchers and students will be required to purchase a qualifying third-party plan and provide proof of coverage on their first day at VAI. The following plans meet the J-1 and J-2 Health Insurance minimum coverage requirements, but you are free to purchase any plan that meets the requirements:
May be subject to the following regulatory restrictions which can affect your future U.S. immigration options:
Any person who participates in an exchange visitor program in the U.S. lasting more than 6 months (and not in the Short Term Scholar category) is barred from beginning a new J-1 program in the Research Scholar or Professor categories for a period of 12 months from their program completion date. This applies to both J-1 and J-2 exchange visitors.
Any person who participates in an exchange visitor program in the U.S. in the Research Scholar category is barred from beginning a new J-1 program in the Research Scholar or Professor categories for a period of 24 months from their program completion date. This applies to both J-1 and J-2 exchange visitors.
Some exchange visitors will be subject to this requirement (see below for conditions). If subject, you and your J-2 family members will be ineligible to adjust non-immigrant status in the United States, receive a U.S. employment visa (H or L), receive a fiancé visa (K), or receive U.S. permanent residency until you have fulfilled one of the following requirements:
Exchange visitors will be subject to 212(e) if one of the following conditions is met:
It can take from 6 weeks to 6 months or longer to complete the Exchange Visitor Program application process, apply for and receive a J-1 visa, and arrive in Grand Rapids. We recommend that you begin the application process as early as possible to minimize delays.