U.S. Visas: J-1
A J-1 visa is issued to applicants who have been accepted to participate in exchange visitor programs, designated by the United States Information Agency (“USIA”). This may include the following: students; scholars; trainees; interns; teachers; professors; specialists; foreign medical graduates; international visitors; government visitors; camp counselors; au pairs; and, participants in summer travel/work programs.
What are the Requirements for a J-1 Visa?
CHANGE OF STATUS IN THE U.S.:
If the applicant is presently in the United States, in valid status, VISANOW can file an application for a change of status to J-1 with the USCIS.
J-1 APPLICATION AT A U.S. CONSULATE:
If the applicant is residing outside of the United States, the applicant will submit Form DS-156, DS-158, DS-2019, and possibly the DS-157 to the Consular office in the country where he/she resides. VISANOW can prepare this application on your behalf. An interview at the local U.S. embassy is required for almost all applicants for J-1 visas. The waiting times for the interviews will vary. If the J-1 visa is approved, the embassy will issue a visa stamp in the applicant’s passport within a week of the interview. The officer may request that some applicants provide additional information.
An applicant for a J-1 Visa need only to have been accepted into a designated exchange program as, evidenced by Form IAP-66 issued by the program sponsor. The J-1 visa applicant will use this form to apply for the visa at a U.S. consulate abroad.
What are the Various Categories of the J-1 Visa?
College and University Students:
A J-1 student must be pursuing a full course of study leading to a degree from an accredited post-secondary educational institution or be engaged full time in a non-degree prescribed course of study of up to 24 months duration at an accredited post-secondary educational institution.
- Foreign college and university students are eligible for J-1 status if they or their programs are financed directly or indirectly by the U.S. government, the government of the student’s home country, or an international organization of which the United States is a member
- Alternatively, a student is eligible if his or her educational program is based on an agreement between the U.S. government and a foreign government; a U.S. educational institution and a foreign institution; a US educational institution and a foreign government; or, a state or local government in the United States and a foreign government
J-1 students may engage in two types of employment:
- Academic training related to their course of study
- Other employment related to academic funding, on-campus work or economic necessity
Professors and Research Scholars:
Professors and research scholars may be sponsored as J-1 exchange visitors to engage in research, teaching, lecturing, observing, or consulting at research facilities, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited educational institutions, or similar institutions.
- A professor is defined as an individual primarily teaching, lecturing, observing, or consulting at post-secondary accredited educational institutions, museums, libraries, or similar types of institutions.
- A research scholar is defined as an individual primarily conducting research, observing, or consulting in connection with a research project at research institutions, corporate research facilities, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited institutions, or similar types of institutions. Research scholars may also teach and lecture, unless disallowed by the sponsor.
A short term scholar is defined as a professor, research scholar, or person with similar education or accomplishments who comes to the United States on a short visit for the purpose of lecturing, observing, consulting, training, or demonstrating special skills at research institutions, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited educational institutions, or similar types of institutions. The purpose of this category is to provide foreign scholars the opportunity to exchange ideas with their American colleagues, participate in educational and professional programs, confer on common problems and projects, and promote professional relationships and communications.
A trainee is defined as an individual participating in a structured program conducted by the selecting sponsor. The main purpose of this category is to enhance the exchange visitor’s skills in his or her specialty or non-specialty occupation through participation in a structured training program to improve the participant’s knowledge of American techniques, methodologies, or expertise.
To be eligible for classification as a trainee, the foreign national must have:
- A degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution outside the US and at least one year of prior related work experience in his or her occupational field outside the United States; or
- Five years of work experience in his or her occupational field outside the US.
The intern category was created to differentiate the learning experiences of current post-secondary students and recent graduates from those of professionals. Like the trainee program, the intern program must directly relate to the participant’s career field or field of study.
To be eligible for classification as a trainee, the foreign national must:
- Be currently enrolled in and pursuing studies at a foreign degree- or certificate-granting post-secondary academic institution outside the United States; or
- Have graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to his or her exchange visitor program start date.
A specialist is defined as an individual who is an expert in a field of specialized knowledge or skill coming to the United States for observing, consulting, or demonstrating special skills. This does not include professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or alien physicians. The main purpose of the specialist category is to promote the exchange of knowledge and skills among foreign and U.S. specialists by providing foreign specialists the opportunity to observe American institutions and methods of practice and to share their specialized knowledge with their American colleagues.
Foreign Medical Graduates:
A foreign medical graduate is defined as any alien who graduated from medical school either in or outside the United States. Foreign medical graduates may come to the United States as exchange visitors for the purposes of observation, consultation, teaching, or research.
To be eligible foreign medical graduates must meet the following requirements:
- The school that is offering the medical education or training must be accredited by a body, or bodies, approved for this purpose by the Secretary of Education and must agree in writing to assume responsibility for the alien’s education or training. Any participating hospital must join in the agreement. Before making this agreement, the school must be satisfied that the alien is a graduate of a school of medicine that is accredited by a body or bodies approved for this purpose by the Secretary of Education or that the alien has passed Parts I and II of the National Board of Medical Examiners examination, is competent in oral and written English, is adaptable to the educational and cultural environment at the place of study or training, and has adequate education and training.
- The alien must have made a commitment to return to his or her home country upon completion of his or her exchange visitor graduate medical education or training, and that country must have provided a written assurance in precise language that there is a need in that country for persons with the skill acquired by the alien through education or training in the United States.
- The alien must furnish the Attorney General each year with an affidavit that the alien is in good standing in the graduate program and will return to his or her home country when it is completed.
An international visitor is a recognized or potential leader selected by the United States Information Agency (USIA) for consultation, observation, research, training, or demonstration of special skills in the United States. These individuals are selected by the USIA to participate in observation tours, discussions, consultations, professional meetings, conferences, workshops, and travel, in order to enable the visitor a better understanding of American culture and society and contribute to enhance American knowledge of foreign cultures.
A government visitor is an individual who is an influential or distinguished person, selected by a U.S. federal, state, or local government for consultation, observation, training, or demonstration of special skills in the United States. These exchange visitors are eligible to participate in observation tours, discussions, consultations, professional meetings, conferences, workshops, and travel. This category is appropriate for editors, business and professional persons, government officials, and labor leaders.
Teachers may be sponsored as exchange visitors to teach full time at accredited primary or secondary educational institutions. The exchange of teachers is designed to promote the interchange of American and foreign teachers to teach in the United States, participate in cross-cultural activities, and return home to share their experiences.
To qualify the applicant must:
- Be qualified to teach primary or secondary school in his or her country of nationality or last legal residence, and the U.S. state in which he or she will teach;
- Be of good reputation and character;
- Seek to come to teach full-time at a U.S. accredited primary or secondary educational institution; and
- Have at least three years of teaching or related professional experience.
Secondary School Students:
Secondary school students may come to the U.S. as exchange visitors to study at a U.S. public or private secondary school, while living with a U.S. host family or at an accredited U.S. boarding school. The students must participate in a full course of study at an accredited educational institution for at least one and not more than two academic semesters. Students must be bona-fide secondary school students, demonstrate good character and scholastic aptitude, and have not previously participated in a student exchange program in the United States.
A camp counselor is an individual selected to be a counselor in a summer camp in the U.S. who imparts skill to American campers and information about his or her country or culture. Camp counselors must be at least 18 years old and must be bona-fide youth workers, students, teachers, or individuals with special skills. The purpose of this category is to promote international understanding by improving American knowledge of foreign cultures while enabling foreign participants to increase their knowledge of American culture.
An au pair is permitted to enter the United States under the exchange program to live with a U.S. host family and participate directly in the home life of the family while providing limited child care services and attending a U.S. post-secondary educational institution. Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 26, high school graduates, and proficient in English.
Summer Student Travel/Work Programs:
This category authorizes foreign university students to travel and work in the U.S. during their summer vacations to involve the students directly in daily life in this country through temporary employment opportunities. The student’s employment must be of a commercial and industrial nature.
How Does a Program Become “Designated” by the USIA?
The sponsor of the foreign exchange program must satisfy the following general criteria when applying to the United States:
- The program must be a bona fide educational and cultural exchange program;
- The program must provide at least five exchange visitors per year;
- The program must provide cross-cultural activities for the exchange visitors;
- The sponsor must demonstrate a bona fide effort to arrange for “reciprocity” i.e. the participation of U.S. citizens in educational and cultural programs in foreign countries;
- The program must allow for a minimum stay of three weeks;
- The sponsor must have U.S. citizenship;
- The sponsor must demonstrate that they have the financial ability to maintain the program;
- The sponsor must attest that the purpose of the program is not to fill staff vacancies and that the program will not adversely affect the U.S. labor market;
- The sponsor must demonstrate that every exchange visitor and accompanying dependents will be adequately covered by insurance which must be at a minimum of $50,000 per accident or illness;
- The sponsor must detail the selection, placement, orientation, evaluation, and supervision of all exchange visitors; and,
- The sponsor must designate an employer or other responsible person as the “responsible officer for administering the program”.
How Long is the J-1 Visa Valid?
The validity of the J-1 visa depends on the exchange program that the applicant participates in. Generally the J-1 visa is issued for the duration of the exchange program.
The maximum allowable periods of stay for each category are:
- College and University Students: Duration of course of study for those in a degree program; limit of 24 month for those in a non-degree program. 18 months of academic training are also allowed (36 months for those in post-doctoral programs).
- Professors and Research Scholars: 3 years.
- Trainees: 18 months except for certain field restrictions: agriculture fields 12 month limit; hospitality fields 12 month limit and any programs longer than 6 months must have at least three departmental rotations
- Intern: 12 months.
- Short-term scholars: 4 months.
- Specialists: 1 year.
- Foreign medical graduates: length of program, up to a maximum of 7 years.
- International visitors: 1 year.
- Government visitors: 18 months.
- Teachers: 3 years.
- Secondary school students: 1 year.
- Camp counselor: 4 months.
- Au pairs: 1 year.
Extensions of stay are allowable only up to the maximum allowable period of stay for each category.