The J-1 visa is an exchange visitor visa that allows foreign nationals to come to the United States for a variety of educational and cultural exchange programs.
J1 programs includes students, scholars, trainees researchers, teachers, as well as some business people, college graduates, and others. Some J-1 visa are subject to a two year home residence requirement” and cannot change their status to that of a temporary worker (such as an H-1B visa holder) or US permanent resident until they have satisfied this requirement or obtained a waiver. The length of time you may spend in J-1 status varies, as there are several categories under the J-1 program. J-1 Visa Information Q: What is the J-1 visa category, and who can use it? A: The J-1 visa category is used by foreign students, scholars, experts, medical interns and residents, international visitors, and industrial and business trainees to enter the United States as exchange visitors”, in U.S. government approved Exchange Visitor Programs, for the purpose of gaining experience, studying, or doing research in their respective fields. Q: How does one apply for a J-1 visa? A: The U.S. Sponsor must proceed through an Exchange Visitor Program designated by the U.S. Department of State, the government agency that oversees and approves all such programs.
Q: What is the Duration of Stay for the J-1 visa? A: The permissible period of stay depends on the category in which the Exchange Visitor was admitted. See below: Students: Secondary school students may be admitted for one year. College and university students may be admitted for the duration of their program. Students in degree programs below the doctoral level may also engage in 18 months of training after completion of their degree programs. Non-degree college and university students are admissible for a two-year period. Short-term scholars: This allows for a six-month maximum period of stay. Trainees: Business trainees may be admitted for 18 months. Trainees in flight training programs may be admitted for 24 months. Teachers: Primary and secondary school teachers may be admitted for 3 years. College and university professors and research scholars: Admission in one of these categories is allowed for up to 3 years. Specialists: Admission in this category is up to 1 year. Foreign medical graduates: Foreign doctors participating in U.S. internships and residencies may be admitted for the length of their program, with a usual maximum of 7 years. Summer student work/travel programs: Although a maximum is not stated, visitors usually stay for 4 months. Au pairs: One year. International visitors: One year. Government visitors: 18 months. Camp counselors: 4 months.
Q: What is the Two-Year Foreign Residence Requirement? A: A two-year foreign residence requirement is imposed on certain categories of exchange visitors once their U.S. stay is completed. Anyone subject to this requirement is barred from a change of status, including permanent residence, until either a waiver is obtained, or the two-year requirement is satisfied. Spouses and dependents on J-2 visas are also barred from changing status until the principal applicant fulfills the two-year requirement or a waiver. Business and industrial trainees are most often subject to the two-year requirement because their field of training and expertise appears on the Skills List maintained by the USIA. Exchange visitors may also be subject if they received funding from the U.S. or home government. This situation most often occurs with research scholars. Foreign graduates of U.S. Medical schools are also subject to this requirement. Q: Will I be able to receive a waiver of the Two-Year Foreign Residence Requirement? A: Waivers can be obtained in limited circumstances. In general, the following three categories of Exchange Visitors will not be eligible for waivers: Exchange Visitors who possess skills that have been determined to be in short supply in their own countries. Exchange Visitors whose training program is financed in whole or in part by either an agency of the U.S. government or by the government of the alien home country. Exchange visitors who came to the U.S. to receive graduate medical education or training.
However, if you believe you are eligible for a waiver, you can pursue one of the following options: Obtain an objection letter from your government stating that your government has no objection to you remaining in the U.S.(unavailable to foreign graduates of U.S. medical schools). Prove that compliance with the two-year residency requirement will result in exceptional hardship to your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child. Prove that you will be subject to persecution upon returning home. Obtain a waiver from an interested U.S. government agency on behalf of yourself.
Q: Can my spouse work while I am on a J-1? A: Family members may enter on a J-2 visa, which does allow for employment (with authorization from the USCIS in the form of an EAD), but only if the compensation received will be to support themselves, and not the principal alien. If the spouse can qualify for another nonimmigrant visa which allows for employment (H-1B, L-1), then he/she may apply.