NON-IMMIGRANT VISAS

J-1 Exchange Visitors

Overview

J-1 visa classification is available to foreign nationals who wish to enter the U.S. temporarily to participate in an exchange visitor program designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of arts, business, education, and sciences. Participants include a variety of fields and J-1 program classifications including, but not limited to the following: trainees in professional, business, industrial and/or medical and allied fields; students, teachers and professors and research scholars; nonacademic specialists, international and government visitors, camp counselors and au pairs.

Requirements

Depending on the J-1 classification sought, a range of scholastic preparation, funding, and eligibility requirements apply. The J-1 exchange program is overseen by the U.S. Department of State (US DOS) and often involves sponsorship by both a host organization and DOS authorized sponsoring agency. Similar to F-1 students, J-1 exchange visitors are subject to strict Non-immigrant intent, home tie, fund sufficiency, health insurance and English proficiency requirements.

J-1 Non-immigrant visa applicants must demonstrate to the consular officer that they have binding ties to a residence in a foreign country, which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they are coming to the U.S. for a temporary period. In some cases, J visa holders may be required to return to their home country for a minimum period of two years before returning to the U.S. See Two Year Home Residency Requirement section below.

Application Procedures

This classification does not require an approved petition for participation in a cultural exchange program by foreign nationals applying outside of the U.S., but does require an approved sponsor certified Form DS-2019 issued by the Department of State authorized organization through which the foreign national is being sponsored. The nature of the sponsoring organization will depend upon the classification in which J-1 status is sought. If the applicant is outside of the U.S., he or she must apply directly at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. (Please note: in some cases, the applicant must apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in his or her home country. See the Visa Issuance section for more details.)

If the applicant is inside the U.S. and wishes to change to J-1 Non-immigrant visa status, he or she must apply for approval from the USCIS.

Time Limits

A cultural exchange visitor is admitted to the U.S. or granted a change of status to J-1 for a time period that is in accordance with the sponsoring program, the length of which will depend substantially upon the classification in which J-1 status is sought, and is indicated on the I-94 card as D/S or "Duration of Status." The status expiration date is governed by the program end date, as indicated on the underlying Form DS-2019 and/or any subsequent DS-2019s issued to the exchange visitor in accordance with regulatory classification limitations and SEVIS provisions, subject to a conditional thirty-day grace period. Extensions of stay in J-1 status are subject to strict limitations.

J-1 category-specific time limits include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Business and Industrial trainees - 18 months;
  • Professors and scholars - 5 years (limited exceptions);
  • Short Term Scholars - 6 months;
  • Nonacademic Specialists - 1 year;
  • Summer work/travel - 4 months.

Dependents

The spouse and minor children of J-1 visa holders may apply for derivative J-2 visa classification in order to accompany or follow to join the principal visa holder (at the consulate) or to remain in the U.S. with the principal visa holder (through a change of status application with the US CIS). J-2 status is conditioned on maintenance of valid J-1 status by the principal visa holder and dependent eligibility, and is subject to 212(e) requirements in cases where the principal visa holder is 212(e)-subject. Unlike most dependent Non-immigrant visa classifications, J-2 is a work authorized visa classification. However, such work authorization is subject to restrictions and requires application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for authorization to accept employment in the U.S.

Two Year Home Residency Requirement or 212(e) subjectivity

In some cases, cultural exchange visitors are subject to a two-year home residency requirement as a condition of J-1 status under INA §212(e). Such subjectivity will be indicated in the bottom left hand corner of the visa or I-797 approval notice granting J-1 status. The two-year home residency requirement primarily applies when a J-1 cultural exchange visitor either trains in a field in which the home country seeks trained individuals, as governed by the Department of State Skills List, or receives full or partial funding from a U.S. or home government source.

Click here to view the list of countries and skill sets which fall under the two-year requirement. (http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/info/info_1296.html)

In cases where the J-1 visa holder is subject to the two-year home residency requirement, whether on the basis of the skills list or funding sources, he or she must return to his or her home country upon the conclusion of his or her authorized stay in J-1 status for a period of at least two years before he or she will be eligible to reenter the U.S. in Non-immigrant or immigrant status. Please note: if the J-1 principal visa holder is subject to the two-year home residency requirement, any accompanying J-2 dependents are likewise subject.

In cases where the two-year home residency requirement precludes filing a request for either a change of status to another Non-immigrant classification, or an adjustment of status to permanent resident status, a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement may be sought on the basis of: no objection by the home government, exceptional hardship to a qualifying relative, or home country persecution.

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