The J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals who would like to temporarily enter the United States to participate in a U.S. Department of State approved program that promotes educational and cultural exchange between the United States and other countries. The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program’s purpose is to advance U.S. foreign policy interest by increasing mutual understanding between people of other countries and the United States by means of mutual educational and cultural exchanges.
Certain J-1 visitors are subject to a two-year foreign residence requirement after completing their program, although waivers may apply.
Common categories for the J-1 visa are: Trainees; Interns; Professors or Research Scholars; and College or University Students. Additional categories are Teachers; Short-Term Scholars; Secondary-School Students; Graduate Medical Education or Training; International Visitors; Government Visitors; Summer Work/Travel Students, Camp Counselors; and Au Pairs.
A J-1 applicant must maintain a foreign residence abroad that he or she intends to return after completing the J-1 program and must show sufficient financial resources to support him or herself during the course of study. Additionally the J-1 applicant must demonstrate at least conversational English-speaking skills, as verified by an interview with the J-1 Program Sponsor, to fully benefit from the training and cultural opportunities in the United States. A J-1 applicant must maintain medical insurance for himself or herself and his or her family members in a minimum amount of $50,000 per accident or illness.
Certain J-1 visitors are subject to a two-year foreign residence requirement, meaning they must physically return to their home country or country of last residence upon completion of their training in the United States before they are eligible to adjust status; apply for an H, L, or immigrant visa; or change status inside the United States (with a few narrow exceptions).
A J-1 visitor who is subject to the two-year foreign residency requirement but does not wish to comply may apply for a waiver of the requirement. USCIS can grant a waiver only after the U.S. Department of State makes a favorable recommendation.
A waiver may be applied for under one of five grounds: 1) a no-objection statement from the visitor’s country of nationality or country of last residence; 2) a request by an interested U.S. federal executive agency; 3) exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse or child; 4) possible persecution in the country where the J-1 visitor would have to return; or 5) a request by a designated state health department or its equivalent (for foreign medical graduates only).
Where a J-1 exchange visitor is subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement, his or her J-2 dependents are subject to it as well.
Contact our office if you would like more information on obtaining a waiver of the two year foreign residence requirement.
How to Apply
A J-1 applicant must apply through a J-1 Program Sponsor that has been approved by the U.S. Department of State. The sponsor can be a school, company, public organization or private organization.
The J-1 applicant and the host company next will contact an approved J-1 Program Sponsor, which will require the applicant and host company to go through the sponsor’s own application process. The J-1 Program Sponsor registers the J-1 applicant in SEVIS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). Additionally, J-1 Program Sponsors are required to conduct site visits of host organizations that have fewer than 25 employees or less than $3 million in annual revenue, so new host organizations that meet this description should expect a visit.
After the J-1 Program Sponsor approves the application, it will issue Form DS-2019, a Certificate of Eligibility, to the J-1 applicant. The applicant will use the form to make an appointment at a U.S. Consulate abroad to secure a J-1 visa. Once the J-1 visa is issued, the J-1 exchange visitor will be admitted into the United States for a temporary period as described below to engage in the training or internship program.
J-1 visitors are issued Form I-94 with the annotation “D/S,” meaning duration of status. After completing their program, all J-1 visitors have a grace period of 30 days to depart the United States. Different periods of stay are specified for different J-1 categories, as described below.
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age may apply separately for J-2 status. They also may apply separately to USCIS for work authorization, and in doing so must show that their income is not necessary to support the J-1 nonimmigrant. Employment is authorized for the length of the J-1 visitor’s stay or four years, whichever is shorter.