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Immigration Law

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visas

The J-1 Visa can be used by a wide variety of individuals to come to the United States to participate in cultural and educational programs. Foreign nationals who may use the J-1 include students, scholars, interns, trainees, teachers, professors, foreign medical graduates, international visitors, camp counselors and summer sports directors, au pairs, and summer work/travel students.

The Department of State (DOS) administers the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program and approves companies and organizations as J-1 Program Sponsors. Only those designated programs may sponsor J-1 Visas. While many companies may not have a J-1 program in place, the DOS authorizes other select programs to process the paperwork on behalf of a willing US employer.

A foreign national in J-1 status may be authorized for as little as a few months and as long as 7 years, depending on the purpose of his/her trip to the United States. However, a foreign national receiving specialized training in the United States is generally allowed no more than 18 months. A foreign national in J-1 status may remain in the United States for an additional 30 days after the end of his/her program to visit or tour the United States. Foreign nationals should be very careful if applying for a US green card if in J status.

Home Residence Requirement
Certain J-1 Visa holders may be subject to a two-year home residence requirement. This requires the foreign national to return to his/her country of residence for two years before being eligible to return to the United States in another Visa category. Foreign nationals are usually prohibited from changing their immigration status to H-1B or L-1 Visas, or adjusting status to a green card (even if married to a US citizen) until the condition is met, or until a waiver of the two-year home residence requirement is issued.

Typically, individuals are subject to the two-year home residence requirement if:

  1. The J-1 is a participant in a program financed in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by an agency of the government of the United States or by the government of the J-1’s home country.
  2. The J-1 is engaged in a field that is on the Department of State skills list.
  3. The J-1 came to the United States or acquired J-1 Status after January 10, 1977, to receive graduate medical education or training sponsored by the Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

Family Members
The J-2 Visa is available to immediate family members (spouses and children under the age of 21) who are accompanying the J-1 to the United States. The J-2 Visa is generally granted for the same period as the J-1 Visa, and must be extended accordingly. A J-2 Visa holder may apply for employment authorization in the United States and can work for any employer of his/her choosing, in any field, as long as the funds are not used to support the J-1. Each J-2 Visa holder must be issued his/her own SEVIS 2019 by exchange visitor program.