J-1 Visa (Exchange Visitors)

DESCRIPTION:

The J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa available to aliens that fall under the designation of “Exchange Visitor.”  Before a foreign national can apply for a J-1 visa, s/he must have been accepted to one of the Exchange Visitor Program categories, and must have a sponsoring organization.  The sponsor must be accredited through the Exchange Visitor Program designated by the U.S. State Department.

 

In order to qualify for a J-1 exchange visitor visa, the applicant needs to be traveling to the United States through a Department of State approved sponsor program to teach, study, receive training or demonstrate special skills.  Typical programs for which J-1 visas are issued include the Fulbright Scholarship program, specialized training programs for foreign medical graduates, and programs for foreign university professors who will be teaching or performing research within the United States.

 

Popular Program Categories for J-1 visa holders include:

 

  • Short-Term Scholar Program.  Every year, professors and research scholars teach and conduct research at United States colleges and universities for up to 6 months.
  • Au Pairs Program.  Individuals between the ages of 18 to 26 can come to the US for up to two years, live with a family, study at a US institution, and provide childcare to the family they live with.
  • Internship.  University students or recent graduates can also come to the US to learn about US culture and receive hands-on experience in their chosen occupation.
  • Work & Travel Program.  Students who are enrolled full-time at a post-secondary school can come to the United States to work and travel during the winter, spring and summer seasons.
  • Camp Counselor.  Individuals 18 years and older can work with American youth at US summer camps as a camp counselor or teacher.
  • High School/Secondary School.  High school students can study at an accredited public or private high school and live with an American host family or boarding school.

 

The dependents of a J-1 visa holder (spouses and non-married children under the age of 21) are issued a J-2 visa to accompany or join the principal visa holder, and are required to follow the same application process as the J-1 holder.  However, not all dependents are eligible for a J-2 visa; depending on the specific type of work or educational program chosen, along with the organization that sponsors the J-1 visa.

 

REQUIREMENTS for J-1 Visa:

All J-1 applicants are required to meet strict eligibility criteria, including proficiency in the English language, and be sponsored through a university, private organization, or government program.  To qualify for a J-1 exchange visitor visa, the applicant needs to be traveling to the United States as a student, scholar, intern, international visitor, medical graduate, professor, research assistant, teacher or trainee.  Also, the applicant must be participating in a program of studies, training, research, or cultural enrichment that has been designed by the U.S. Department of State.

 

Individuals who qualify for J-1 status if sponsored through an accredited Exchange Visitor Program include:

 

  • Au Pairs
  • Camp Counselor
  • Secondary School Student
  • Summer Work Travel
  • College or University Student
  • Government Visitor
  • Intern
  • International Visitor
  • Physician
  • Professor and Research Scholar
  • Short-Term Scholar
  • Specialist
  • Teacher
  • Trainee

 

 

To be eligible for a J-1 visa, the applicant must:

 

  • Fall under one of the J-1 visitor categories (professor, college student, Au Pairs, etc).
  • Demonstrate that s/he has sufficient funds to cover expenses for the trip.
  • Be fluent in English.
  • Maintain sufficient medical insurance for accidents and illnesses for themselves and any family member(s) in the J-2 category.
  • Have a residence abroad that they have no intention of abandoning.

 

Participants in certain types of programs may be required to return to their country of origin for at least two years before applying for a green card, a change to another nonimmigrant status, or approval of an L or H visa petition on their behalf.  If the J-1 visa holder is unable to return to his/her home country to fulfill the two-year requirement, s/he must obtain a waiver approved by the Department of Homeland Security.

 

There are Five Bases for Recommendation of a Waiver

 

  1. No Objection Statement

 

  1. Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency

 

  1. Persecution

 

  1. Exceptional Hardship to a U.S. citizen (or lawful permanent resident) spouse or child of an exchange visitor

 

  1. Request by a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent (Conrad State 30 Program)

 

 

PROCESSING:

Before a foreign national can apply for a J-1 visa, s/he must have been accepted to one of the Exchange Visitor Program categories, and must have a sponsoring organization.

 

To start the process the applicant must:

 

  • 1) Locate and contact a designated sponsor.

The designated sponsors supervise the application process and are the main point of contact throughout the exchange program process.  The applicant must be accepted into the Exchange Visitor Program.

 

2)   Complete the online Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility.

Form DS-2019 is a Department of State controlled document that can only be produced through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).  Al l exchange visitors, including their spouses and dependents must be registered with SEVIS.

 

  • 3) Complete the Form DS-7002 (for Trainee or Intern visa applicants only).

 

  • In addition to the DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility), all trainee or intern visa applicants (based on Box 7 on form DS-2019) must also present Training/Internship Placement Plan, Form DS-7002 when applying for a visa.

 

  • Form DS-7002 must be signed in blue ink by the Supervisor, Intern/Trainee and the German American Chamber of Commerce New York (GACC) prior to the issuance of the DS-2019.  The J-1 visa is used for practical training and is only granted for temporary stays (maximum 12 months for interns and 18 months for trainees).

 

4)   Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee.

The SEVIS fee is separate from visa fees and school SEVIS administration fees, and varies, depending on the exchange program category and sponsoring organization.

 

  • 5) Schedule an interview.

Schedule an interview with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country where you live.  Wait times () for interview appointments vary by location and season, which can be anywhere from a few days to 2 weeks.

 

  • 6) Complete the online nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-160.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility) is a prerequisite document and should be submitted before completing Form DS-160.

 

  • Submit the DS-160 electronically (via the Internet) to the Department of State, and print out the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.  The online DS-160 can be accessed at the Consular Electronic Application Center website.

 

  • Upload a digital photograph while completing the online Form DS-160.  Please refer to photograph requirements for detailed guidance.

 

  • Pay the non-refundable application fee of US$160.

 

 

Spouses and Children:

Eligibility for a J-2 visa depends on the specific exchange program being offered to the J-1 non-immigrant by a sponsor organizations.  The J-1 applicant’s dependents may or may not be eligible for a J-2 visa, depending on the specific type of work or educational program chosen, along with the organization that sponsors the J-1 visa.  For example, the exchange categories of Au Pairs, camp counselor, secondary school student and summer work travel do not permit J-2 visas.

 

The dependents of a J-1 visa holder (spouses and non-married children under the age of 21) are issued a J-2 visa to accompany or join the principal visa holder, and are required to follow the same application process as the J-1 holder.

 

Restrictions:

In order to obtain a J-1 Visa, the applicant needs to apply for the visa at a United States Embassy or Consulate in the country where they live.  Once they have been granted a J-1 visa they may enter the United States no more than 30 days before the start of their program and be on valid J-1 status.

 

J-1 Foreign Residency Requirement

Participants in certain types of programs may be required to return to their country of origin for at least two years before applying for a green card, a change to another nonimmigrant status, or approval of an L or H visa petition on their behalf.  If the J-1 visa holder is unable to return to his/her home country to fulfill the two-year requirement, s/he must obtain a waiver approved by the Department of Homeland Security.

 

Waiver of the 2-Year Residency Requirement

Applying for waiver of the foreign residency requirement is a multifaceted process requiring the applicant to complete Form DS-3035, available on the J Visa Waiver Online webpage.  The applicant must use the online form.  No other version of Form DS-3035 will be accepted.  After completing the online form, the information will be downloaded into a barcode, and the applicant will be immediately issued a waiver case number and further instructions.  Next, the applicant must print your online Form DS-3035 with barcode.  The barcode must be printed in black and white only.  The processing fee for the online DS-3035 is US$120.00.

 

The next step is to choose a basis for recommendation of a waiver from the following:

 

  1. No Objection Statement
  2. Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency
  3. Persecution
  4. Exceptional Hardship to a U.S. citizen (or lawful permanent resident) spouse or child of an exchange visitor
  5. Request by a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent (Conrad State 30 Program)

 

Once a basis of recommendation is chosen, the applicant must submit the DS-3035 application, plus processing fee and supporting documents to either the Department of State (DOS) Waiver Review Division or to USCIS, depending on which basis for recommendation of waiver is selected.  This next step requires the applicant to complete and submit Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement.  The processing fee for the I-612 is US$930.00.

 

 

Period of Stay:

Most students may remain in the U.S. for the duration of their programs plus an additional 18 months of practical training employment.  Remaining in the U.S. for the additional 18 months of practical training is at the student’s discretion.  Postdoctoral training is limited to 36 months (3 years) minus any previously used practical training time.

 

Exchange visitors who are teachers, professors, research scholars, or people with specialized skills may be issued J-1 visas for no more than 60 months (5 years), plus 30 days in which to prepare to depart the United States.

 

Foreign medical graduates may be issued J-1 visas for the length of time necessary to complete their training programs, up to a usual maximum of seven years (with limited exceptions), plus 30 days in which to prepare to depart the United States.

 

Students between the ages of 15 and 18½ who are participating in a high school exchange program (living with a U.S. host family or residing at an accredited U.S. boarding school) are limited to one year’s stay. They are not allowed to accept U.S. employment, except at odd jobs such as babysitting or yard work.

 

 

Read more about J-1 visa status and Visatopia’s J-1 waiver services:

J-1/J-2 Visa Comprehensive Overview

J-1 Waiver Comprehensive Overview

J-1/J-2 FAQ

J-1 Waiver FAQ