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J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

The J-1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States to individuals participating in approved exchange visitor programs. Also known as the “Exchange Visitor Visa”, the program facilitates educational and cultural exchange between the United States and other nations.

The J-1 visa program covers lots of categories for different types of exchange visitors. Some of the categories are students, scholars, researchers, professors, interns, teachers, au pairs, and participants in specialized programs.

Eligibility Criteria for J-1 Visa

The requirements for obtaining a J-1 visa vary, depending on the category and purpose of the visit to the United States. However, there are general requirements and they include:

  • The purpose of the applicant’s intended visit to the U.S. must align with one of the categories under the J-1 Visa program.
  • An exchange program approved by the U.S. Department of State must sponsor the applicant.
  • Applicants must prove that they have sufficient financial resources to cover their expenses during their stay in the United States.
  • Applicants must prove intent to return to their home country.
  • For some programs, applicants may be required to;
    • Demonstrate English proficiency.
    • Meet certain educational or professional qualifications.
    • Undergo a medical examination to ensure they meet some health standards.

How to Apply for a J-1 Visa

To apply for the J-1 visa, applicants will submit various required documents to the U.S. Department of State or the organization sponsoring the program. Hence, applicants can follow this process as highlighted:

  • Find a designated sponsor that administers the specific exchange program they wish to participate in.
  • Apply with the sponsor to participate in the exchange program.
  • If found eligible, the sponsor will issue the DS-2019 to the applicant.
  • Complete the DS-2019 Form (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status) online.
  • Pay the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee.
  • Schedule a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.
  • Adequately prepare the required documents for the visa interview. Documents include:
    • Valid passport
    • DS-2019 form issued by the designated sponsor
    • DS-160 confirmation page
    • SEVIS fee payment receipt
    • Proof of financial support
    • Evidence to demonstrate intent to return after the exchange program
  • Attend the visa interview.
  • Await and receive a decision on the visa application.
  • If approved, applicants can enter the United States with the J-1 visa amidst other necessary documents.

However, there may be peculiar steps that may need to be taken in unique conditions. In such cases, it is crucial to seek the services of an experienced immigration attorney to help with the process.

Sponsors of the Exchange Visitor Visa Program

The U.S. Department of State designates sponsors to oversee the administration of J-1 exchange visitor programs. These sponsors are expected to:

  • Design and manage exchange programs that align with J-1 Visa program objectives.
  • Screen and select eligible participants for their exchange programs.
  • Oversee the entire duration of the exchange program
  • Ensure exchange visitor’s compliance with program regulations.
  • Provide support and guidance to exchange visitors during their stay in the U.S.
  • Coordinate events that will help the visitors understand the American culture and society.
  • Report accurate records of the exchange visitor activities to the Department of State.

Exchange Visitor Visa Categories

The J-1 Visa program has different categories for various types of exchange visitors. Listed are some of the categories, highlighting their criteria, objectives, and requirements.

J-1 Student Visa

The J-1 Student Visa is designed for foreign individuals looking to pursue academic studies at accredited institutions in the United States.

These individuals can:

  • Enroll in academic programs ranging from secondary school to postgraduate studies.
  • Participate in student exchange programs sponsored by educational institutions or organizations.
  • Access practical training and internships related to the academic field of study.

Learn about other U.S. student visas for foreign individuals.

J-1 Research Scholar Visa

The J-1 Research Scholar Visa is for international scholars, professors, and researchers. They can engage in research, teaching, or lecturing activities at academic institutions, research facilities, or other organizations.

Duration typically ranges from several months to five years, depending on the program’s objectives and the scholar’s eligibility.

Another option for a research scholar will be the EB-1B Outstanding Professors and Researchers visa.

J-1 Intern Visa

International students and recent graduates can gain practical experience and enhance their professional skills through internships in the United States via the J-1 visa.

The duration is limited to 12 months, with a possible 12-month extension for some programs.

J-1 Teacher Visa

Qualified educators can teach in accredited primary and secondary schools in the U.S. on a J-1 visa. The teachers can be placed in K-12 schools to teach subjects such as foreign languages, STEM, or other specialized fields.

The visa duration is typically limited to three years, with options for program extension or transition to other J-1 categories.

Other exchange visitor visa categories include categories for au pairs, camp counselors, specialists, physicians, etc.

An immigration attorney can provide wholesome details on the visa, requirements, and other peculiarities to an applicant.

J-1 Visa Duration and Extension Options

How long a J-1 visa lasts is dependent on factors like the specific program category and the sponsoring organization. The general rule is that exchange visitors are to leave the United States upon completion of their program or before the expiration date on their DS-2019 form.

Though not guaranteed, it is possible to get an extended stay in the U.S. on a J-1 Visa. The sponsoring organization plays a crucial role in determining whether an extension is possible and assisting the visa holder through the application process. J-1 Visa duration extensions are subject to specific conditions and approval processes:

  • Requests for extension must be submitted before the visa’s expiration date, typically several months prior.
  • Proof of valid reasons for extension. Such as academic or research purposes, continuation of an existing project, or unforeseen circumstances that necessitate additional time.
  • Compliance with program requirements.
  • Availability of funding, program eligibility, and any applicable regulations governing the specific J-1 category.

A chat with our immigration professionals on WhatsApp can help shed more light on every other detail needed for the J-1 visa extension options and process.

Two-Year Home Residency Requirement (212(e) Requirement)

Some J-1 visa holders are expected to return to their home country for at least two years before they can apply for a change of immigration status. This requirement is called the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement or the 212(e) requirement.

After residing in their home country for two years, they can apply for another nonimmigrant visa category, permanent residency (green card), or an H, L, or K visa.

J-1 visa holders expected to meet this requirement are those:

  • Who participated in an exchange program that was funded, either directly or indirectly, by the U.S. government, their home country’s government, or an international organization.
  • Whose skills or knowledge are listed on their home country’s Skills List, designating certain fields or areas of expertise as essential to their country’s development.
  • Who participated in graduate medical education or training in the U.S.

In some cases, J-1 Visa holders can apply for a waiver of the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement (212(e) Requirement).

J-1 Visa Waivers

A J-1 Visa waiver allows individuals subject to the two-year home residency requirement to either avoid or fulfill the requirement without returning to their home country for two years.

Grounds for waiver application may include:

  • A statement from the home country’s government, stating that it has no objection to the individual not returning home for two years.
  • Demonstrating that returning to the home country would pose exceptional hardship to the exchange visitor or their family members in the U.S.
  • Fear of racial, religious, or political persecution.
  • The individual’s work is in the public interest or serves a significant purpose for the U.S. government.
  • Physicians who have completed a medical residency or fellowship in the U.S. agree to work in a medically underserved area for a set period called the Conrad 30 Waiver Program.

Application Process for an Exchange Visitor Visa Waiver

The J-1 visa waiver application process varies depending on the grounds or waiver. But here is a general step to follow:

  • Determine and ensure eligibility for the chosen waiver category.
  • Prepare all required documents, including application forms, supporting letters, statements, and evidence to support your waiver request.
  • Submit waiver application to the appropriate authority, such as the Department of State, USCIS, or a designated state health department for Conrad waivers.
  • Monitor the application status and respond promptly to any requests for additional information.
  • Wait for the waiver decision.
  • Comply with additional requirements if there are any. Such as fulfilling a service obligation or maintaining legal status in the U.S.
  • If the waiver is approved, proceed with immigration plans, whether it’s applying for a change of status, adjustment of status, etc.

Contact CFUIS – J-1 (Exchange Visitor) Visa Lawyer

There are several steps involved in the process of getting a J-1 visa. We can help you fill out the forms correctly and answer any questions you might have.

Our team, specializing in immigration law, ensures personalized support tailored to your unique circumstances. Here is why CFUIS stands out:

  • Proven expertise in securing successful J-1 visa applications.
  • We recognize the uniqueness of each case and provide tailored guidance.
  • We are well-versed in the latest immigration laws and developments.
  • From form submissions to approvals to waivers, we help to make the immigration process less stressful.
  • Beyond paperwork, we offer ongoing support, addressing any queries you may have.

You can call us today at 813-298-7222, chat on WhatsApp, email us, fill out our contact form, or schedule an appointment. In cases where the applicant does not meet the J-1 requirements, we can even help decide other U.S. immigration options.