Time Limits for J-1 Visitor Status
Although J-1 students may remain in the U.S. for as long as it takes them to reach their original educational objective (which may include a PhD), J-1 Professors and Research Scholars (categories) are limited to five years (this was increased from three years to five years effective December 2006). Extensions beyond that time are NOT routinely granted.
The exchange visitor's appointment must be temporary, even if the position itself is permanent. The individual cannot be a candidate for a tenure-track position.
Please note that under the new regulations governing J-1 Professor and Research Scholar categories, there is a new bar between periods of activity in the U.S. in these categories, regardless if you have used the full Five years allowed. For example, if the exchange visitor has a one-year appointment at Brandeis University as a postdoctoral fellow, then returns home following completion of their activity at Brandeis, they are not allowed to pursue a new activity (say at another institution or a new position/activity at Brandeis) in J-1 Professor or Research Scholar status for at least 24 MONTHS from the end of the first activity.
This new regulatory requirement is quite controversial. While it allows someone to pursue an activity for up to five continuous years, or even transfer to another visa program within that five year program, if the individual completes the activity and returns home, they are not allowed to come back to the U.S. for a new program activity in J-1 Professor or Research Scholar category for 24 MONTHS. They may be allowed to return in a different visa category, so it will be important for the scholar to meet with the ISSO prior to their departure to discuss their longer-term plans.