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J-1 Visas For Other Exchange Visitors

The J-1 visitor visa category allows people in many different positions to visit the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa status. Our immigration attorneys at Wilson Law Group in Minneapolis can help you better understand if you qualify for a non-immigrant J-1 visa.

What Is A J-1 Exchange Visitor?

A J-1 exchange visitor is defined as someone who lives abroad and is not abandoning his or her foreign residence, but who is coming to the United States to participate in a program designated by the U.S. Department of State for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training.

J-1 Exchange Visitors Must Have A Sponsor

Every J exchange visitor must have a sponsor. The sponsor of a J-1 visa program is a legal entity designated by the U.S. Department of State. The law permits the following to sponsor a J-1 exchange visa:

  • U.S. local, state, or federal government agencies
  • International organizations operating in the U.S. and which the U.S. is a member
  • Highly regarded organizations that are U.S. citizens (legal corporations for example)

Similar to an F-1 student visa, a J-1 applicant must establish to the satisfaction of the issuing consular officer and inspecting Department of Homeland Security officer that he or she possesses nonimmigrant intent.

How Does A Group Become A Sponsor?

A group or entity must submit an application to the U.S. Department of State and comply with the mandates of relevant federal regulations. A qualifying J program is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge and skills in the fields of education, art and science.

What Is The General Procedure For All J-1 Exchange Visitors?

The sponsoring organization issues the foreign national a Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (formerly known as an IAP-66). This form confirms the program information for the US Department of State at the consulate or for a change of status in the United States. Although Form DS-2019 is often sufficient, the reviewing authority may require additional documentation to prove that the person has the required “substantial” support from someone other than the sponsor.

What Are The Requirements For J-1 Students?

J-1 students may come to attend secondary schools and colleges. The distinction between an F-1 college student and a J-1 student is that the J-1 visa holder must receive financial support from someone other than the person’s family, such as a third party.

J-1 Short-Term Scholars

The law considers educators and research scholars traveling to the U.S. to lecture, observe, or participate in seminars that are less than six months in duration short-term scholars. There are no permissible extensions for J-1 short-term visas.

What Are The Requirements For J-1 Trainees?

This category is for those individuals seeking to travel to the U.S. to enhance his or her skills in his or her occupation. The person must participate in a structured training program that the sponsor is hosting. The purpose of the training must be to either gain insight into U.S. methodologies or additional expertise.

What Are The Requirements For J-1 Teachers And Professors?

A qualified J-1 exchange visitor may teach full-time in primary and secondary schools. This includes schools offering specialized instruction.

Individuals who qualify as a professor may enter for a three-year period initially, and the program sponsor may approve a six-month extension. In addition, the USDOS is authorized to extend an individual’s stay up to 36 months beyond the initial three years. If a foreign or U.S. government is sponsoring the research, the sponsor may seek advance permission from the Department of State to conduct a program for greater than three but less than six years.

What Are The Requirements For J-1 Specialists?

This is a narrow category for those individuals with specialized knowledge who do not meet the requirements to be considered a short-term scholar, professor, physician or trainee. A J-1 visa specialist enters the country to observe or demonstrate special skills for up to one year, plus 30 additional days for departure time.

What Are The Requirements Of Alien Physicians?

The J-1 visa’s coverage includes graduates of foreign medical schools who are pursuing graduate medical education or training at U.S.-accredited schools of medicine or scientific institutions for medical professionals and physicians. The American Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) must accredit the training program. The law treats the two types of training differently, however. The law limits clinical trainees to the time required to complete the program of training necessary for specialty board certification, with a maximum of seven years plus 30 days within which to depart. The law, however, does allow for extensions if the trainee demonstrates an “exceptional” need for additional training.

Why Aren’t J-1 Visas As Popular As Other Visas?

Unlike other categories, the J visa has a unique exchange requirement. If the applicant is already residing in the U.S., the requirements of the visa require most foreign nationals to leave the U.S. for a period of two years and reside in his or her home country before re-entering the U.S. on a J-1 visa. It is possible to apply for a waiver of the two-year requirement, although USDOS may not acquiesce easily.

Common Misconceptions About The J-Visa

The primary area of confusion lies with who is actually subject to the two-year foreign residency requirement. Not all J programs subject the foreign national to the two-year requirement. The two-year foreign residency requirement applies for:

  • Those who obtain J status in order to receive graduate medical education or training in the U.S
  • Those for whom the U.S. government finances their J programs, those who receive financial sponsorship from his or her home country
  • Those persons whose occupations or courses of study appear on the U.S. Information Agency’s Exchange-Visitor Skills List

The USDOS’ “Skills List” consists of certain skills that foreign countries include on the list because the foreign country needs these people with these skills.

The other misconception is when, if it all, a person can return to the U.S. during the two-year foreign country residency period. A person is not completely barred from entering the United States. Instead, the J visa prevents recipients from switching to an H or L visa prior to fulfilling the residency requirement. The J visa also blocks a person from adjusting their status to that of a permanent resident even if the person marries a U.S. citizen while in the U.S. A person subject to the J visa’s requirements can return to his or her country and re-enter the U.S. in visitor (B-2), student (F-1) or other status.

It is important to note that any time spent in the U.S. or a third country does not count toward the two-year foreign country residency requirement. Thus, moving to a third country does not eliminate the 2-year foreign country residency requirement.

J-2 Spouses And Dependents

The foreign country residency requirement attaches not only to the principal J-1 holder but also to the spouse and children who are present in the U.S. in dependent J-2 status, unless the requirement is waived for the J-1.

Process To Waive The Foreign Country Residency Requirement

USCIS can grant a waiver upon favorable recommendation by DOS. The process can be complicated and has various requirements. Our immigration attorneys have extensive experience with J-1 waivers and J visas in general. They can assess whether you may be eligible for a waiver of the two-year residency requirement and help you apply for such a waiver if you qualify.

Contact An Immigration Lawyer

Please contact our office to schedule a consultation to discuss your particular legal matter. Our firm offers free initial consultations. You can schedule your free appointment by calling our office at 612-430-8022 or by sending us an email through our website.