J-1 Visa : Exchange Visitor Visa

The United States government issues J-1 Visas to individuals who take part in a wide range of exchange visitor programs sponsored by schools, businesses, and a variety of organizations and institutions. These programs are envisioned for business and industrial trainees, scholars, students, international visitors, teachers, research assistants, and those on cultural missions. In addition, there are several exchange visitor programs for young people, including summer employment programs, internship programs for university students and au-pair programs.

Activities Covered by the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Programs Include:

  • Au-pair and nanny
  • Summer camp counselors and staff
  • Post-graduate students
  • Government visitors
  • Medical students coming to the United States as residents or interns
  • Foreign scholars sponsored by universities as temporary faculty
  • Business and Industrial trainees
  • Activities that are part of an exchange program approved by the U.S. Department of State

Two Years Home Country Physical Presence Requirement

The 2-year home country physical presence requirement is one of the most important special characteristics of J-1 status and should be thoroughly understood by the exchange visitor. The determination as to whether an exchange visitor is subject to the 2-year home country physical presence requirement by virtue of the need for his or her specialized knowledge or skills in the home country is made by reference to the Exchange Visitor Skills List, an official list of fields of specialized knowledge and skills needed in each country, as determined by the governments of those countries.

The exchange visitor is subject to the 2-year home country physical presence requirement only if participation in an exchange program began after his or her field of study appeared on the skills list. The 2-year home country physical presence requirement may be waived. The Office of International Programs has handouts on procedures for the waiver application.

Change of Status and Waivers of Requirement

Such waivers may be requested and if approved, obtained under these five separate bases:

  1. No Objection Statement;
  2. Exceptional Hardship;
  3. Persecution;
  4. Conrad Program, or
  5. Interested Government Agency.

J-1 Limitation of Stay and Grace Period

The length of time an exchange visitor may remain in the United States in J-1 status is determined by the general limitations for the category and the length of time needed to complete the exchange objective (see category breakdown below). After the J-1 program is completed, the USCIS allows exchange visitors an additional grace period of 30 days to prepare for departure from the United States. It is important for the exchange visitor to be aware that the exchange activity and any related employment are permitted only until the ending date on the Form DS-2019. The additional 30 days is a status very much like that of a tourist in that one may remain to travel in the United States, but may not undertake activities usually impermissible to a tourist.

J-2 Visa for Dependents

Work – The spouse and/or children of an exchange visitor in the U.S. may not work in J-2 status. If employment is desired, the dependent must make an application to DHS, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and be approved for permission to work.

Study – The spouse and/or children of an exchange visitor visa holder who are in the U.S. on an exchange visitor visa may study in the U.S. without also being required to apply for a student (F-1) visa or change to F-1 status.