J-1 Visa

J-1 Visa for Exchange Visitors

J-1 Exchange Visitor visas are nonimmigrant visas for individuals approved to participate in Exchange Vistor Programs in the United States.

J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Categories:

  • Au pair and EduCare
  • Short-term Scholar
  • Camp Counselor
  • Specialist
  • Government Visitor
  • Student, college/university
  • Intern
  • Student, secondary
  • International Visitor (Dept. of State use)
  • Summer Work Travel
  • Physician
  • Teacher
  • Professor and Research Scholar
  • Trainee

J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Pilot Programs:

  • Summer work/travel: Australia
  • Summer work/travel: New Zealand
  • Intern work/travel: Ireland
  • Work/English Study/Travel: South Korea

Travel While Participating in J-1 Visa Exchange Program

J-1 Visa Exchange visitors who are citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) participating countries are not permitted to travel without a visa on the VWP, if their purpose of travel is to participate in an exchange visitor program. For more information on the VWP, see Visa Waiver Program.

J-1 Visa Exchange visitors are not permitted to travel on business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas if their purpose is to participate in an exchange visitor program. All exchange visitors must travel to the United States with exchange visitor (J-1) visas.

Acceptance in a J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program

Before you can apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a J-1 visa, you must first apply for and be accepted into an exchange visitor program through a designated sponsoring organization. Visit the Department of State J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program website to learn about program requirements, regulations, and more.

When you are accepted into the exchange visitor program you plan to participate in, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Most J-1 Visa Exchange Visitors must pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee. Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) website to learn more about SEVIS and the SEVIS I-901 Fee.

Applying for a J-1 Visa

There are several steps to apply for a J-1 Visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Please consult the instructions available on the U.S. Embassy website where you will apply.

Two Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement

Certain J-1 visa exchange visitors are subject to a two year home country physical presence requirement which requires you to return to your home country for at least two years at the end of your exchange visitor program. This is also known as the foreign residence requirement under U.S. law, Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212(e). If you are unable to return to your home country to fulfill the two-year requirement, you must obtain a waiver approved by the Department of Homeland Security prior to changing status in the United States or being issued a visa in certain categories for travel to the United States.

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

  • Government funded exchange program – The program in which the exchange visitor was participating was financed in whole or in part directly or indirectly by the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitor’s nationality or last residence;
  • Graduate medical education or training – The exchange visitor entered the United States to receive graduate medical education or training;
  • Specialized knowledge or skill: Skills List – 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, as shown on the Exchange Visitor Skills List. Review the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Skills List.
Restrictions – When you, as a J-1 visa exchange visitor are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement, you must return to your home country for a cumulative total period of at least two years before you can do any of the following:
  • Change status while in the United Staes to the nonimmigrant categories of temporary worker (H) or intracompany transferee (L);
  • Adjust status while in the United States to immigrant visa/lawful permanent resident status (LPR);
  • Receive an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate; or
  • Receive a temporary worker (H), intracompany transferee (L), or fiancé (K) visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Waiver of Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement for J-1 Visa Holders

If you are not able to fulfill the home country presence requirement, you may be able to apply for a waiver. Select Waiver of the Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement  to learn more about this requirement.

If you are in the U.S. on a J-1 visa and have questions about whether you are subject to the Two Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement or whether you are eligible to apply for a waiver, the experienced immigration lawyers at Allen & Pinnix, P.A., can evaluate your particular situation and advise you of options for which you may be eligible. Schedule a confidential consultation here or call our office:  919.755.0505.

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