The purpose of the J-1 visa is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges. The J-1 Visa is a nonimmigrant visa granted to participants in the US Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program, which is administered by government approved Exchange Programs. In carrying out the responsibilities of the Exchange Visitor Program, the Department of State designates public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors.
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is comprised of categories for various types of programs, such as the following: internships, traineeships, au pairs, visiting teachers, scholars and physicians, students, and summer work/travel and camp counselor programs for foreign university students. Each category of exchange has its own specific requirements and program duration. Regardless of the category, or the duration of the exchange experience, all J-1 visas are nonimmigrant visas, and participants of the programs are to return to their native countries upon completion. All participants have to show that they possess advanced spoken and written English language proficiency and that they have sufficient funds to stay in the U.S. for the duration of the program.
Once the Visa is Granted
J-1 exchange visitors, and J-2 spouse and dependents may enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the applicant’s program start date as shown on the Form DS-2019.
J-1 Traineeship Requirements
Degree from a foreign, post-secondary accredited academic institution and one year or more of foreign professional work experience related to the proposed training.
- If you do not hold a degree then you must have five or more years of foreign professional work experience related to the proposed training.
- The J-1 traineeship visa may be granted for a maximum of 18 months.
J-1 Internship Requirements
Be a currently enrolled student pursuing a degree at a foreign post-secondary accredited academic institution, or a recent graduate (you cannot have graduated more than 12 months prior to program start date) from such an institution.
- The degree must be in an academic field related to the proposed internship.
- The J-1 internship visa may be granted for a maximum of 12 months.
Family of J-1 Visa Holders
The spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age, regardless of nationality, are entitled to J-2 classification.
- Work: The spouse and/or children may not work in J-2 status. If employment is desired, the dependent must make an application to DHS, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and be approved for permission to work. However, their income may not be used to support the J-1 visitor. To apply for work authorization as a J-2 nonimmigrant, your spouse or child would file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
- Study: The spouse and/or children of an exchange visitor visa holder who are in the U.S. on an exchange visitor visa may study in the U.S. without also being required to apply for a student (F-1) visa or change to F-1 status.
Two Year Home Residency Requirement
Since the policy behind the foreign exchange visitor visa category is not to provide a vehicle for immigration to the United States, but instead to promote the exchange of knowledge and skills and promote good will between the U.S. and foreign governments, in certain instances a two-year foreign residency requirement is imposed on some categories of exchange visitors once their U.S. stay is completed. For example, if the exchange visitor’s skills are determined to be in short supply in his home country or if he or she has received funding for his program, either from his home government or from the U.S. government, or if he has come to the U.S. to receive graduate medical training, the exchange visitor will be subject to the 2 year foreign residency requirement. Any J-1 exchange visitor subject to the foreign residence requirement is ineligible for permanent residence or approval for a visa in the H or L category until he spends two years – after completion of U.S. J-1 program – in his home country or country of last residence. The only visa categories which do not require a waiver of foreign residency for J-1 visitors are A, G, and O. The A visa category is reserved for diplomatic employees and their households. G nonimmigrants are employees of international organizations, such as the U.N. and the International Monetary Fund. The O category is reserved for extraordinary ability aliens in the sciences, education, business, and athletics (see O-visas).
If an exchange visitor is subject to the foreign residence requirement, a waiver of the requirement may be granted under one of the following four conditions:
- A “no objection” letter is issued by the alien’s government to the Waiver Review Branch of the Department of State stating that the foreign government has no objection to the alien remaining in the United States.
- The exchange visitor’s compliance with the foreign residence requirement would result in exceptional hardship to this U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child.
- The exchange visitor would be subject to persecution upon returning home.
- An interested U.S. government agency (IGA) seeks a waiver on behalf of the exchange alien.
We will assist you in finding a Department of State agency to administer the J-1 program, and in preparing the employer’s training plan. We will also determine if your home country requires you to return home for two years following completion of your J-1 training program and if a waiver may be applied for thereafter.