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What is a J-1 Visa?

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program visa is type of employment-based immigration visa granted to individuals who intend to participate in an approved work-and-study exchange program. The J-1 visa program is managed in coordination with the Department of State which designates public and private entities that can serve as J-1 visa sponsors. The J-1 visa programs help facilitate the exchange of people, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, the arts, and science across nations.

Typical exchange visitor programs include, but are not limited to:

  • Professors or scholars
  • Research assistants
  • Students
  • Trainees
  • Teachers
  • Specialists
  • Au Pairs
  • Camp Counselors

How Do I Obtain a J-1 Visa

The Department of State is the primary administrator of the J-1 program. Sponsoring agencies provide potential J-1 visa applicants with a Form DS-2019 and the sponsor and sponsored should work closely together to complete the form and provide the necessary documentation prior to submitting it to the Department of State. For those that are in the J-1 Trainee and Intern category, they must also complete the DS-7002, Training/Internship Placement Plan. After completing and submitting the DS-2019 to the Department of State, the individual will then apply for a J-1 visa at a local U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

How Long Does a J-1 Visa Last?

Generally, the length of a J-1 visa will vary based on the program sponsor and the nature of the exchange program. For example, trainee programs are generally limited to 18 months except in instances of agriculture, hotel, and tourism programs which typically have a 12 month maximum with limited exceptions. Similarly, college and university student/internship programs are for 18 months or the period of a full course of study, whichever is shorter. STEM and post-doctoral students may enroll for 36 months. Au pairs are limited to 12 months, but the Department of State can approve a one-time extension of up to 12 months. The teacher exchange program is limited to 3 years, but may receive an additional extension of up to two years.

What are the other J-1 Requirements?

There are certain requirements that are unique to J-1 visas. First, the J-1 applicant must be fluent in English, and this must be verified through a recognized English language test, signed documentation from an academic institution, or through interviews conducted by the sponsor. Additionally, J-1 applicants must maintain medical insurance for them and any family members in amount of $100,000 per accident or illness as well as other regulatory insurance requirements.

It is worth noting that each type of J-1 program (au, pair, internship, teacher, etc.) has specific program requirements that must be considered when hosting a J-1 visa holder. 

One of the most unique requirements for the J-1 visa is the two-year foreign residence requirement. J-1 visa holders must return to their home country upon completion of the J-1 visa program before applying for any green card or another nonimmigrant visa benefit. Generally, the visa stamp, or the J-1 visa documents provided by the Department of State will note whether an individual is subject to the two-year residency requirement.

However, Individuals are subject to the two-year requirement if they are individuals:

  • Whose participation “was financed in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by an agency of the government of the U.S. or by the government of his nationality or last residence”;
  • Who was engaged in a field on the Department of State Exchange Visitor Skill List
  • Who came to the U.S. or received J status after January 10, 1977 to receive graduate medical education or training

USCIS is authorized to grant a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement based upon a favorable recommendation by the Department of State. The general grounds of J-1 waivers can be found here:

Can J-1 Exchange Visitors Bring Dependents?

The spouse of a J-1 visa holder and unmarried children under 21 years of age are entitled to J-2 visa classification.  Additionally, the spouse and child are entitled to employment authorization by filing an I-765, however, their income cannot be used as the basis for the J-1 holder’s financial support during the J-1 application process.

Securing a J-1 visa can be a complex and challenging process, but with the right guidance and support, it can be a smooth and successful experience. Our Houston-based immigration attorneys have extensive experience and knowledge in J-1 visas and are committed to providing reliable and efficient solutions to help you achieve your goals. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can assist you with your J-1 visa application.

If you are in need of a US work visa or permanent residency, speak with one of our immigration lawyers. Please contact us online, call our Houston business immigration attorney office directly at 713-953-7787, or schedule a consultation.