The Department of State (DOS) issued a final rule, effective May 23, 2024, on J-1 exchange visitor program regulations that apply to sponsors that DOS designates to conduct international educational and cultural exchange programs. The final rule includes a requirement for digital signatures when signing the Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.

DOS noted that most of the 64 commenters addressed two topics: sponsor preference for electronic signatures rather than digital signatures, and the need for sponsors to electronically transmit Forms DS-2019 directly to third parties acting on their behalf. After consideration, DOS has retained the requirement for digital signatures for signing Forms DS-2019, and it makes no changes to the list of entities to which sponsors may transmit Forms DS-2019 electronically. However, the final rule will allow third parties to retrieve Forms DS-2019 directly from sponsors’ password-protected computer network systems and/or databases. “This modification allows third parties to retrieve copies of digital Forms DS-2019 directly from sponsors that wish to give them such access,” the rule notes. DOS will also continue to allow sponsors to “wet sign” and physically mail Forms DS-2019 to exchange visitors and/or third parties.

DOS explained that a digital signature, which requires digital signature software, provides a “higher level of security” over an electronic signature.

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