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J visas

The "J" exchange visitor program is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences. J-1 Visas require a sponsor that is accredited through the Exchange Visitor Program designated by the U.S. State Department. The J-1 exchange visitor must be fluent in English and must have sufficient funds. J-1 visa status is available for:

  • Secondary school and college students, including students working towards a graduate degree;
  • Business trainees;
  • Trainees in flight aviation programs;
  • Primary and secondary school teachers;
  • College professors;
  • Research scholars;
  • Medical residents or interns receiving medical training within the U.S.;
  • Specialists;
  • International visitors for the purpose of travel, observation, consultation, research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs;
  • Au pair programs (foreign youth placed with U.S. families to provide child care); and,
  • Camp counselors.
Period of Stay There are different periods of stay granted for different fields.
  • A student is allowed to stay after completion of his/her degree for a period of 18 months so as to enable him/her to undergo practical training.
  • A business or industrial trainee is granted a period of 18 months.
  • Teachers and research scholars are allowed to stay longer, up to a maximum of 3 years.
The disadvantage with the J-1 visa is that once the training or work is over, the J-1 visa holder must leave the United States and may not apply for adjustment of status, or any immigrant visa, or a nonimmigrant visa which has work authorization, for a period of two years, during which the alien must return to his/her country of nationality or last residence. The two-year foreign residence requirement may not be met by residing in a third country.

This restriction is applicable to those J visa holders
  • whose participation in the program was financed in whole or in part by an agency of the Government of the United States or by the government of the country of his/her nationality or his/her last residence.
  • whose home country has a shortage of people with skills that the individual has (you can check whether your country lists your occupation on the State Department's Skills List ).
  • who came to the U.S. or acquired J status to receive graduate medical education or training.
The above three classes of J visa holders may receive a waiver under § 212(e) of the INA , from the two year foreign residency requirement upon the favorable recommendation of the USIA. This may be given if certain conditions apply.

Spouse and Children

The spouse and dependant children of the principal J-1 visa holder are granted J-2 visas. The spouse may be granted an authorization for employment only if he/she can show that it is not for the support of the principal J-1 visa holder. The employment request may be made by filing Form I-765 and if granted will be for the length of the J-1's stay or 4 years, whichever is shorter. J-2 visa holders are also subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement. However, if the J-1 spouse has fulfilled the two-year foreign residence requirement, then the J-2 spouse and children are not subject to it. Where a waiver is granted to the J-1 holder, the J-2 spouse and children also automatically get it.