J-1 – Training and Exchange Visa
The United States government issues J-1s to individuals who take part in a wide range of exchange visitor programs sponsored by schools, businesses, and a variety of organizations and institutions. These programs are envisioned for business and industrial trainees, scholars, students, international visitors, researchers and those on cultural missions. In addition, there are several exchange visitor programs for young people, including summer employment programs, internship programs and au-pair programs.
Who is Eligible for status as a J-1 Exchange Visitor?
Anyone who takes part in an exchange program approved by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) including but not limited to:
- Au-pairs and nannies
- Business and Industrial trainees
- Foreign scholars sponsored by universities as temporary faculty
- Government visitors
- Medical students coming to the United States as residents or interns
- Post-graduate students
- Research scholars
- Summer camp counselors and staff
Each category has specific requirements for obtaining a J-1 visa.
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE J-1
Applicants must work with a designated sponsoring organization and must show:
- A plan to remain in the U.S. for a temporary and specific period
- Evidence of funds to cover their expenses in the U.S.
- Evidence of compelling social, economic or other ties to their home country that will ensure their return at the end of their U.S. visit.
PROCESS AND TIMING
An individual must first be accepted as a participant in a J-1 program approved by the U.S. Department of State before applying for J-1 visa at a U.S. consulate. Upon approval of the visa the individual is able to travel to the U.S.
Timing varies greatly because programs vary greatly. Many universities, research institutions and some companies have their own DOS approved J-1 programs so can issue the necessary documents for the individual to take to the consulate to apply for the visa. Other organizations with J-1 programs have agreements with specific employers which facilitates processing documentation needed for the visa fairly quickly, while others must apply individually to a J-1 program that specifically works with individual employers in which case the process takes much longer.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE J-1
How long can those in J-1 status stay in the U.S.?
Those who enter the U.S. in J-1 status have programs of varying length. They are generally given a period of stay designated “duration of status” which indicates they can stay as long as they are meeting their program requirements. Summer programs for young people are only a few months in duration while doctoral students are expected to take several years to complete their program. Because there is such a wide variety of programs for the J-1, there is no way to state a specific period of stay.
Can the J-1 be extended?
It depends on the program. Many programs for scholars and researchers can be extended while some other programs cannot.
Can a J-1 change status to H-1B or another status while in the U.S?
Those in J-1 status who are not restricted by being subject to the two-year home residence requirement are eligible to change to status while in the U.S. provided they meet the requirements for the new status.
What is the two-year home residence requirement?
Some of those in J-1 status are required to return to their home country, or country of last residence, before being able to apply to change status in the U.S., apply for an H-1B or L-1 visa, or seek permanent residence. The requirement attaches if the J-1 visa holder received funds from the U.S. government or his/her home country, or if she or he is subject to the home country’s (or country of last residence) skills list. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/study/exchange/waiver-of-the-exchange-visitor/exchange-visitor-skills-list.html
Is returning home or to country of last residence the only way to fulfill the two-year home residence requirement?
An individual must either fulfill the requirement by returning home or to the country of last residence for two years, or obtain a waiver of the requirement. There are four different kinds of waivers:
- No objection waiver
- Waiver based on hardship to applicant’s spouse or child who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Waiver based on interested government agency
- Waiver based on persecution if returned to home country.
- Additional information on the two-year home residence requirement and waivers can be found at the U.S. Department of State’s website at www.state.travel.gov
Can a J-1 work in the U.S.?
For some of those in J-1 status work is incidental to their J-1 status because employment is part of an approved program. Others may be eligible to apply for employment authorization at the end of a program of study.
Can spouses of those in J-1 status work?
Spouses and children of those in J-1 status are eligible to apply for J-2 status and are eligible to apply for an employment authorization document.