Students & Scholars

Take home message: All international students or scholars attending or visiting U-M must apply for and enter the United States on an appropriate visa, and take all necessary steps to maintain legal immigration status while at U-M. Departments hosting foreign nationals as visiting scholars or professors must make sure those visitors obtain a J-1 visa before coming to the U.S.

Note: if you are travelling overseas to work or study abroad, see the Travel Compliance page.

U-M Policy and helpful links

  • Any international students or scholars attending or visiting U-M must apply for and enter the United States on an appropriate U.S. visa, that reflects their purpose for entering the U.S. (such as study or scholarship) and adequately caters for their intended length of stay.
  • International students will require either an F-1 student visa or a J-1 student visa, depending on their circumstances (J-1 visas are for students who are exchange visitors, such as Fulbright scholars). The Admissions departments throughout U-M (including Undergraduate Admissions and Rackham Graduate Admissions, as well as individual schools with their own graduate admissions) have established processes for issuing documentation to international students that allows them to obtain the necessary visa in their home countries. These immigration processes are coordinated and supported by the International Center.
  • Visiting scholars are considered exchange visitors, and require a J-1 visa. At U-M, there are three types of J-1 exchange visitors: students, visiting scholars, and visiting professors. For information about these different categories, and the permitted activities under each, see the International Center page About J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Status.
  • For information about F-1 visas or J-1 visas and what people on those visas need to do in order to maintain legal immigration status, see the immigration pages on the International Center site. Students on F or J visas must be enrolled full time in a degree program or non-degree course of study, unless they can lawfully qualify for reduced course load, which must be approved in advance by the International Center.
  • U-M Faculty and Departments inviting foreign nationals to visit or attend U-M need to be aware of the immigration requirements surrounding such visitors – which must be attended to before the visitor comes to the United States.
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security uses the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), to track and monitor students, exchange visitors and their dependents (everyone on F or J visas) throughout the duration of their participation within the U.S. education system. Before they obtain a visa, all students and exchange visitors must be registered in the SEVIS system by the International Center.

Things to remember

  • U-M Faculty and Departments inviting foreign nationals to visit or attend U-M need to be aware of the immigration requirements surrounding such visitors: it is not acceptable to simply invite the person to come to the U.S., then “work it out” when they get here! See the International Center’s page on Hosting a J-1 Exchange Visitor (login required) for details.
  • If a foreign national is brought to study or work at U-M under an inappropriate visa, then the whole of U-M risks losing its ability to sponsor international students, scholars and employees. Always think carefully about the true nature of the job that will be performed by a foreign national employee, and consult with the International Center early to allow time to obtain the appropriate visa.
  • Medical doctors can only be brought to U-M on a J-1 visa if they will not be engaged in any patient care – otherwise, they need to be hired through an employment-based visa. See the International Center FAQs (“Can a Medical Doctor be sponsored on J status”) for more information about the circumstances in which a physician can appropriately be classified as an exchange visitor.
  • Academic integrity & plagiarism: The expectations regarding citations and collaborative work differ from nation to nation – and ideas about what constitutes “plagiarism” vary. It is important to help international students understand U-M’s academic integrity standards, since academic misconduct may have immigration status consequences as well as academic consequences: an international student on an F-1 or J-1 visa who is suspended or expelled may be unable to maintain legal immigration status, meaning that they would either need to transfer schools, or leave the United States. See the International Center’s page on Academic Integrity for further guidance.
  • The International Center exists to support U-M’s compliance with immigration laws, as well as to support U-M’s community of international staff, faculty, students and scholars. There is a wealth of information on the International Center website, and staff from the International Center are always happy to come and talk to U-M departments.

People to talk to

For questions about immigration issues, contact the International Center by calling (734) 764-9310, emailing them, or reviewing other options on their Contact Us page.

For legal assistance or advice relating to immigration and international issues, contact Donica Varner in the Office of the General Counsel.


Established 3/4/11, last updated 3/7/17 – Contact us if you believe any information is incorrect or outdated