J-1 Exchange Visitors And Waiver Program

J-1 (Exchange Visitors) Visa and Waiver Program

What is the J-1 visa?

The J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa awarded to those who plan to take part in an approved program in order to teach, study, conduct research, receive training, do consulting, or receive a graduate-level medical education.

What are the requirements for a J-1 visa?

  • You must be sponsored by an exchange program that is designated as such by the U.S. State Department.
  • The approved program must be designed to promote the exchange of knowledge and skills in the education, science, and the arts.
  • You must be proficient enough in English to take part in your program.

What strategic considerations should I keep in mind?

  • Examples of J-1 visa holders include professors, researchers, students, trainees, specialists, nannies, and camp counselors.
  • As a J-1 visa holder, you may work, but only under the terms of your exchange program.
  • Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age are entitled to J-2 classification.
  • Your spouse and children may work with proper authorization, but they cannot use their income to support you.

J-1 is an exchange visitor visa granted to individuals participating in a broad spectrum of fields. It can be availed of by a professor or research scholar, bona fide trainee or intern, college or university student, teacher, secondary school student, non-academic specialist, foreign physician, international visitor, government visitor, camp counselor, au pair, or summer student in a travel/work program. Applicants are required to maintain a foreign residence.

How do I qualify for the visa?

All applicants must demonstrate that they properly meet specific requirements, which include the following:

  • Intention to return to the home country after completion of the exchange program.
    Fluency in English.
  • Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the U.S. including sufficient medical insurance for accident and illness.
  • Evidence of social and economic ties to compel return abroad at the end of the exchange program.
How long can I stay in the US on this visa?
  • Post-Secondary student – time needed to complete the degree with additional 18 months of practical (academic) training.
  • Post Doctoral Degree – time needed to complete the degree plus up to 36 months academic training, graduated for a period of 18 months at a time.
  • Business/industrial trainees – 18 months except for trainees of hospitality and tourism or agriculture, who are granted 12 months (some exceptions apply).
  • Internships – 12 months maximum.
  • Professors and Scholars – limit of 5 years except if the applicant received a J-1 visa for 6 to 12 months prior to the start of the program. Applicants cannot participate in another professor/scholar program in two years at the end of a 5-year program. However, a five-year maximum extension is granted to professors/scholars involved in research projects sponsored by a federally funded national research and development center or a U.S. federal laboratory.
  • Short-term Scholars – 6 months
  • Flight School Trainees – 24 months
  • Summer Work/Travel – 4 months
Can I apply for a Green Card while on this visa?

Depending on the program attended, certain J-1 visa holders are required to return to their home country or last country of residence upon completion of their training in the U.S. before they are eligible to apply for an immigrant visa or change to H or L visa. In certain instances, J visa holders must apply for a waiver of their two-year foreign residence requirement before they are allowed to change to status in the U.S.