Exchange Visitors Visas (J-1)
J-1 visa is for aliens coming to the United States for participating in an exchange-visitor program approved by the United States. The purpose of the Act 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. International educational and cultural exchanges are one of the most effective means of developing lasting and meaningful relationships. They provide an extremely valuable opportunity to experience the United States and our way of life. Foreign nationals come to the United States to participate in a wide variety of educational and cultural exchange programs.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States. The "J" visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs designated by the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, and the "Q" visa is for international cultural exchange programs designated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
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The J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. to participate in exchange programs to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge and skills in the fields of education, arts and sciences.
Participants include students at all academic levels; trainees obtaining on-the-job training with firms, institutions, and agencies; teachers of primary, secondary, and specialized schools; professors coming to teach or do research at institutions of higher learning; research scholars; professional trainees in the medical and allied fields; and international visitors coming for the purpose of traveling, observing, consulting, conducting research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs.
- Participants in the "J"exchange visitor program must have sufficient funds to cover all expenses, or funds must be provided by the sponsoring organization in the form of a scholarship or other stipend.
- A "J" exchange visitors must have sufficient scholastic preparation to participate in the designated program, including knowledge of the English language, or the exchange program must be designed to accommodate non-English speaking participants.
- Exchange visitors coming under the "J" program for graduate medical education or training must meet certain special requirements. These requirements include passing the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in Medical Sciences, demonstrating competency in English, being automatically subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement (after completion of their program), and being subject to time limits on the duration of their program. Physicians coming to the United States on exchange visitor programs for the purpose of observation, consultation, teaching, or conducting research in which there is little or no patient care are not subject to the above requirements.
- Participants in the "J" program must present a Form DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status prepared by a designated sponsoring organization.
Applying for J-1 visa
Exchange visitor visa applicants are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing. Applicants for visas should generally apply at the American Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence.
As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. If you are authorized by your sponsor to be accompanied by your spouse (husband or wife) and children, they will also be given a Form DS-2019 and they can apply at the same time. During the visa application process, usually at the interview, a quick, two-digit, ink-free fingerprint scan will be taken. Some applicants will need additional screening, and will be notified when they apply. You may apply for your visa at an Embassy or Consulate any time before the beginning of your exchange program.
- DS 2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status. Alien will need to submit a SEVIS generated Form, DS-2019, provided by his/her program sponsor. All exchange visitors, including their spouses and dependents must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors and their dependents (J-2 visa holders). Your program sponsor is responsible for entering your information for the DS 2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status into SEVIS. Exchange visitors not part of a U.S. Government-sponsored program will also have to pay a Sevis I-901 fee for each program.
- An application, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160;
- A Contact Information and Work History, Form DS-158;
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States;
- One (1) 2x2 photograph.
Spouses and Children
Spouses and/or children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal exchange visitor (J) visa holder in the United States for the duration of his/her stay require exchange visitor visas (derivative J visas). The application procedure is the same as that for a primary applicant. The sponsor must approve the accompaniment of the spouse and/or children and who will each be issued their own Form DS-2019. This form is used to obtain the required visa and the spouse and dependents can enter the U.S. at the same time as the principal exchange visitor or at a later date.
Work and Study
The spouse and/or children of an exchange visitor in the U.S. may not work in J-2 status. If employment is desired, the appropriate work visa will be required. Before they can work, they must make an application to DHS, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and be approved for permission to work. They must file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with the USCIS office that serves the area where they live for a work permit (employment authorization document) 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
U.S. Port of Entry
Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has authority to deny admission. Also, the CBP, not the Department of State Consular Officer, determines the period for which the bearer of an exchange visitor visa is authorized to stay in the United States. At the port of entry, a CBP official stamps and endorses Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, specifying the period of time that the alien is authorized to stay in the United States.
Stay and Extensions
The duration of J-1 visa holders and family members may not exceed the period specified on Form DS-2019, plus a period of 30 days. The family members (J-2 visa holders) may remain in the United States for the same period as the principal exchange visitor (J-1 visa holder).