J-1 Visa

Q: Who qualifies for the J-1 visa program?

A: The J-1 program aims at promoting the interchange of person, knowledge, and skills. This is applicable to the areas of education, arts, and science and is known as the “Exchange Visitor Program.”

Foreign individuals who want to teach, study, receive training, or demonstrate special skills in the U.S. need to obtain a J-1 visa. The J-1 visa is available for aliens who wish to enter the U.S. under the designation of “Exchange Visitor.”

J-1 visas can either come with a “Home Residency Requirement” (HRR) or without a HRR. However, J-1 visas that require a HRR can be waived under certain circumstances.

In order to obtain a J-1 visa, the sponsor must be accredited through an Exchange Visitor Program, which is designated by the U.S. Department of State (DOS).

J-1 sponsored individuals must fall under any one of these categories:

  • Specialist
  • College/university student
  • Secondary school student
  • Government visitor
  • International visitor, who need to move into the U.S for the purpose of travel, research, observation, consultation, sharing etc.
  • Physician
  • Short-term scholar
  • Intern
  • Au Pair
  • Camp Counselor
  • Professor and research scholar
  • Teacher of primary, secondary and specialized schools
  • Summer work travel
  • Trainee: Those who obtain eligibility for on-job training in institutions, agencies and firms

The J-1 visa holder is restricted to performing only the activity that is approved by the exchange visitor program. They need to return to their home country and stay there for a period of two years after the completion of the J-1 visa period.

A complete list of the sponsoring organizations is available with the Department of State (DOS.)

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: How do I prepare for a J-1 visa interview?

A: If you are planning for a J-1 visa interview you need to schedule for an interview, pay your application fee in advance, and collect and prepare your documents.

  • Schedule for an interview: Individuals between the ages of 14 to 79 years are required to have a J-1 interview. Those who fall out of this age bracket need not have an interview. The interview has to be scheduled with the U.S. embassy or consulate. It is essential to schedule the interview well before the start date of the program, because the wait time varies from region to region and based on the visa type and time of application.
  • Payment of application fee: A non-refundable fee of $160 USD has to be paid prior to the interview. Those who participate in the exchange visitor program through the DOS, USAID, or a federally funded education or cultural program need not pay the fee. A copy of the receipt has to be submitted during the J-1 visa interview.
  • Collect and prepare your documents: There are various documents that are to be carried to the interview. Failing to bring any of the documents may lead to denial of the J-1 visa. Here are the documents that you need to carry with you to the interview:
    • Passport
    • Form DS-160
    • Visa application fee
    • Photo
    • Form DS-2019
    • Form DS-7002: for training and intern category
    • Original interview appointment letter
    • School and college certificates
    • Evidence of employment or family ties
    • Evidence of financial ability to pay: This includes documents that showcase that you have sufficient funds to cover all the travel expenses and other expenses.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: How can I ensure my J-1 visa will not be denied?

A: Denials of J-1 visas are quite rare in some countries, but they do occur. The DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility) granted by the sponsor does not guarantee that the U.S. consulate will issue a J-1 visa. There are certain criteria based on which the consulate or the U.S. Embassy determines whether the candidate is eligible for entry into the U.S. Some of the most important factors that determine eligibility are:

  • The intent of the applicant to remain in the U.S for a limited period of time: The applicant must prove non-immigrant intent during the interview process by responding correctly to the related interview questions. The applicant must also explain the nature of the program for which they wish to enter U.S. and how the program fits into the career plan.
  • Evidence of funds:The interviewers want the applicant to provide evidence for enough funds in order to cover all the expenses in the U.S. This can be done by providing proof of contributions from the sponsor or proof of personal finances.
  • Evidence of social and economic ties abroad: Proper proof for return of the applicant to the home country has to be provided. The consular officer wants to ensure that the applicant has strong reasons to return back to his country of origin. Proof of social and economic ties such as minor children, large family and dependents, business ties, religious and social associations, and valuable property ownership are to be provided.

Although denials of J-1 visa are rare, it is essential to prove your intent and eligibility thoroughly during the interview.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: What are the privileges and limitations of a J-1 visa?

A: Individuals who move to the U.S. on a J-1 visa need to have a good idea about the various privileges and limitations of a J-1 visa.

The following are some of the privileges that J-1 visa holders are entitled to:

  • Individuals can participate in an exchange visitor program that is approved by the U.S. Department of State.
  • J-1 visa holders can move in and out of the U.S. during the visa period. They can also stay in the U.S. continuously until the expiration of their visa.
  • J-1 visa holders can take their dependents, including their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 with them to the U.S.
  • J-1 visa holders can get work permits for their relatives who accompany them.

There are some limitations to the J-1 visa. The following are some of the disadvantages:

  • J-1 visa holders must restrict themselves to the purpose for which the visa was approved. For instance, if an individual moves into the U.S. to study, it is essential that they not partake in any other activities without prior approval.
  • Before any individual can apply for the J-1 visa, they should be a part of the program that is approved by the DOS.
  • An exchange visitor, who is participating in a certain kind of program, must return to their home country for at least two years before being permitted to apply for a green card. An alternative is to this is to change status to another non-immigrant category.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: Can I waive the two-year foreign residency requirement?

A: The J-1 visa holder must move out of the U.S. and stay in their home country for a period of two years in order to be eligible for a green card or to apply for an immigrant status. Exchange visitors who move into the U.S. on a J-1 visa can get their two years foreign residency requirement waived off. In order to get the requirement of the section 212 (e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) waived off, you must meet certain criteria.

There are five statutory bases provided by the U.S. Department of State that may be used by J-1 visa holders to waive the foreign residency requirement. They are as follows:

  • No objection letter by the government of the home country: The foreign residency requirement can be waived if the home country’s government provides a “no objection certificate” stating that it does not object to the waiver of the two-year foreign residency requirement. A “no objection certificate” is not available to medical interns who received training in the U.S.
  • Threat of persecution: If the alien will be subject to persecution upon return to his or her home country, the two-year foreign residency requirement can be waived. The J-1 visa holder must provide proof that he or she will be subject to persecution upon return. The threat of persecution must be on one or more of the following grounds in order to obtain the waiver:
    • Race
    • Religion
    • Political opinion
  • IGA request: The J-1 visa holder can get the waiver of the two-year foreign residency requirement if the Interested Government Agency (IGA) shows interest in the J-1 visa holder’s stay in the U.S. This is possible if the J-1 holder works on a project for the agency or if the alien is working on a project that is of interest to the agency. The IGA is a U.S federal government agency. This request must be agreed upon by both the DOS and the USCIS in order to get the waiver.
  • Hardship: If the two-year foreign residency requirement imposes hardship on the dependents of the J-1 visa holder or if the spouse or child is a U.S citizen, then the foreign residency requirement may be waived.
  • Upon request by a Designated State Health Agency: If the J-1 visa holder is a medical practitioner working as a full-time doctor in a hospital, he or she is then eligible for the two-year foreign residency requirement. This can be completed upon the request by the Designated State Health Agency. The person will qualify for the waiver if he accepts work for 40 hours per week, for a period of 3 years. The person must also begin work within 90 days after the approval of the waiver.

Upon a recommendation from the DOS, the USCIS can waive the requirement. Obtaining a recommendation from the DOS involves a four-step process.

  • A data sheet must be submitted to the DOS waiver review division. Two stamped, self-addressed envelopes and the appropriate fee have to be submitted along with the data sheet.
  • The DOS then sends the case number and the instruction sheet, depending on the type of waiver indicated on the data sheet.
  • Form I-612 must be filed with the USCIS for persecution and hardship waivers. If granted by the U.S., the information is then transmitted to the DOS. For other categories, the application must be sent to the agency or the foreign government.
  • The application will be reviewed by DOS and the recommendation will be forwarded to the USCIS. A copy of the recommendation will be sent to the applicant and the J-1 sponsor. The USCIS grants the persecution or hardship waiver and forwards it to the DOS. The waiver review division of the DOS reviews the program, foreign relation aspects, and the policies of the case.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: What is the duration and extension period for a J-1 visa?

A: The duration of stay for J-1 visa holders depends on the visitor exchange program. There are maximum duration limits for each J-1 category. The categories and the duration of stay are as follows:

  • College professors: 36 months
  • Research scholars: 36 months
  • Teachers (primary and secondary schools): 36 months
  • Flight aviation program trainees: 24 months
  • Business trainees: 18 months
  • Students: College and university students are provided 18 months of training period in case of baccalaureate/masters degree and post-doctoral students are provided a period of 36 months.
  • Government and international visitors: 12 months
  • Au pair: 12 months
  • Summer work: 4 months

The J-1 visa can be extended by the original J-1 sponsor who issued the Form IAP-66. A new IAP-66 has to be completed in order to extend the duration of stay in the U.S. In this case, the sponsor must notify the DOS regarding the extension. There is no need to notify the USCIS. Extension is possible only if the duration falls within the maximum duration of stay for that particular category.

For professors and researchers, a special extension is applicable for a duration of 6 months, even after completing the three years of maximum duration. If the sponsor requires the professor or the researcher to stay in the U.S. for an additional period, they can do so upon their own discretion. This does not require approval from the DOS or USCIS. Professors and researchers can also apply for an extension period through the DOS. This must be done 90 days prior to the expiration of the three-year period of stay.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: Can a J-1 visa holder work for a non-sponsor employer?

A: As per the USCIS regulations, the J1-visa holder can work only for the sponsor employer. However, in some cases, if the individual meets the eligibility criteria for the category for which they are applying, then they are allowed to work for a non-sponsor employer.

Research scholars in the J-1 category can work for non-sponsor employers in a closely related research program. This can be done for a period of six months and requires a written approval from the original sponsor. When this is done, the J-1 holder can lecture and consult at institutions that are not listed in the IAP-66.

J-1 students, when they meet the following conditions, are eligible for employment:

  • On-campus employment is available for students who have pursued scholarship, fellowship or assistantship.
  • Off-campus employment is allowed for students as a part of summer work/travel exchange program.
  • Work will also be allotted at times when there is a serious economic situation during the J-1 status.
  • Only students with good academic standing are eligible for employment. These students must continue in a full course of study and must be approved by a school officer.
  • 20 hours of employment must not be exceeded, during school breaks and vacation.

College students or graduate students are eligible for a practical training program. This extends up to 18 months for master’s and bachelor’s students and 36 months for doctoral students. There is no need for approval from the DOS or the USCIS for a practical training program. Students who are applying for a practical training program must submit an approval letter from an exchange program officer, passport, completed IAP-66, and I-94 forms.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: What is the criteria and process for obtaining a J-1 visa?

A: Prior acceptance to an Exchange Visitor Program and a sponsoring organization is essential in order to obtain a J-1 visa. If a non-immigrant wishes to take advantage of the J-1 program, the alien must satisfy the following criteria:

  • The non-immigrant must fall under one or more of the J-1 categories
  • They must have sufficient funds for the trip to the U.S.
  • They must be fluent in English
  • They must have a residence abroad and they must not possess any intention for abandoning it
  • They must have sufficient medical insurance

To get a J-1 visa, the individual has to apply for it at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. Once they receive the visa, they can enter U.S. up to 30 days before the program date. Here are the steps to obtain a J-1 visa:

  • The sponsor will provide a DS-2019 form, which is a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The Form DS-2019 is the certificate of eligibility and it has to be submitted to the U.S. consulate or embassy.
  • The Form DS-156, which is the non-immigrant visa application, has to be submitted.
  • Male applicants and applicants from countries like Iran, Cuba, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and North Korea have to submit the Form-157, which is the supplemental non-immigrant visa application. It provides details of your travel plans.
  • DS-158 which contains the details of work history and contact information has to be submitted.
  • A valid passport, a 2x2 photograph, and a non-refundable fee of $160 USD per visa application have to be submitted along with the above documents.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: How can my organization apply to become designated as an Exchange Visitor Program sponsor and what is required for the program?

A: Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) sponsors are comprised of U.S. government, academic, research, and private sector organizations. They are designated by the State Department’s Office of Private Sector Exchange in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as EVP sponsors.

To be eligible to be an EVP sponsor, an organization must demonstrate its ability to comply with all regulations such as previous experience in the field of international exchanges, meet its financial obligations, and file Form DS-3036 EVP application. Program sponsors who are not federal agencies must have a minimum of five exchange visitor participants on an annual basis in order to remain eligible for designation as a sponsor.

Sponsors are required to comply with all local, state, federal, and professional requirements and obtain the proper accreditation and licenses. Sponsors should hire adequate staff, officers, and support services to administer the program. Sponsors will also have to devise a method and criteria for selecting participants and those participants must have medical insurance coverage. Sponsors must provide pre-arrival information to the participants. Sponsors must monitor their participants and will also be required to submit an annual report on their program to the State Department.

The State Department does not rate or recommend any designated sponsor. Once designated as a sponsor by the State Department, the sponsor is known to have complied with all applicable regulations for the designation and to be in good standing.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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Q: Is a J-1 visa holder eligible for a green card?

A: Yes, a J-1 visa holder is eligible for a green card. To obtain a green card, the alien must first file a petition I-140 with the USCIS. After this, it is essential to apply for an Adjustment of Status (AOS) or for an immigrant visa. If the alien resides in the U.S., they should use an AOS application. If the alien lives in a foreign country, they need to apply for an immigrant visa.

In-order to apply for immigrant status, you can consider any one of the following options:

  • Family based immigration: A petition can be filed by your relatives who are U.S citizens or permanent residents of the U.S.
  • Employment based immigration: In this case, you must find an employer who will file a labor certificate at the DOL for you.
  • EB-1: Based on the classification of EB-1A “alien of extraordinary ability” or EB-1B “outstanding professor or researcher,” you can file an immigrat petition.
  • National interest waiver: There are certain waivers available to individuals who can prove themselves as “aliens of extraordinary ability.” Waivers are also available to individuals seeking opportunities to work in the U.S. These waivers are called national interest waivers. Filing an immigration petition through the national interest waiver can help you obtain immigrant status.

Petitions for green cards can be filed at any time, even if the individual is subject to the requirement to reside outside of the U.S. for a period of two years. The individual must satisfy the two-year foreign residency requirement after the petition has been approved. A waiver can be obtained for the foreign residency requirement, in which case the individual need not move to the home country.

Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer to learn more about your options and to begin the visa application process.

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