J-1 Visas to the US: Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas

The J-1 visa is used by international visitors to enter the United States (U.S.) temporarily for educational or cultural exchange purposes as by the Exchange Visitor Program defined by the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act.

Exchange Visitor program participants are expected to return to their respective home countries to utilize the skills that they acquire while in the U.S.

The following is a list of the main Exchange Visitor Program categories:

  1. Trainees and interns in medicine, business, and other fields;
  2. Secondary, college, and university students;
  3. Teachers at all academic levels
  4. Professors employed to teach and/or perform research at post-secondary institutions
  5. Au pairs
  6. Government Visitors; and
  7. Research Scholars.Each category has specific requirements and regulations.

J-1 Visa Requirements

In order to apply for a J-1 visa, applicants must be sponsored by an American organization to come to the U.S. as a visitor in a recognized exchange category. Also, applicants are required to obtain a Form DS- 2019 from their sponsor before applying for a J-1 visa.

J-1 visitors must have the requisite academic background to participate in the Exchange Visitor Program, including knowledge of the English language (unless the program does not require such knowledge). In addition, applicants must demonstrate that they plan to depart the U.S. at the conclusion of their exchange program, that they have compelling social and economic ties abroad which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they have sufficient funds to cover living expenses incurred while in the U.S.

Exchange visitors coming to the U.S. for medical education or training must have passed the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination.

J-1 Visa Employment Authorization

J-1 visa holders may be authorized to work in the U.S. as part of their exchange program. Participants in programs which do not involve work may not engage in outside employment.

J-1 Visa Foreign Residency Requirements

An exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home country physical presence requirement if the following conditions exist:

  1. The program in which the exchange visitor is participating is directly or indirectly financed in whole or in part by the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitor;
  2. The exchange visitor entered the United States to receive graduate medical education or training; Or
  3. The exchange visitor is a national or permanent resident of a country which has deemed the field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of the country.

If the exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home country foreign residence requirement, he or she cannot change his/her status to that of H Visa, L Visa, K Visa, or lawful US permanent resident until he or she has returned to his/her home country for at least two years or received a waiver of that requirement.

Waivers of Foreign Residency for J1 Visa Holders

A waiver of the physical presence requirement may be granted in any one of the following situations:

  1. “No Objection” Statement from the visitor’s home government is obtained;
  2. The visitor claims that she or he will be persecuted if returned home;
  3. A U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child claims that exceptional hardship will result if the visitor returns home;
  4. A request is made on behalf of the visitor by an interested U.S. government agency; or
  5. A request is made on behalf of the visitor by a designated health agency or its equivalent.

Spouses and Children that Accompany J-1 Visa Holders

Spouses and/or children (under the age of 21) who wish to accompany the principal J-1 visa applicant to the U.S. require derivative J visas. The application procedure is the same as that for a primary visa applicant.

More info about the J1 Visa from our website.

Michael Niren

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more

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