J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

J-1 status is granted to individuals accepted to participate in exchange visitor programs approved by the U.S. Department of State for the purpose of gaining experience, studying, or doing research in their respective fields. Examples of exchange visitors include, but are not limited to:

  • Professors or scholars
  • Research assistants
  • Students
  • Trainees
  • Teachers
  • Specialists
  • Nannies/Au pairs
  • Camp counselors

Duration of Stay

The permissible period of stay for an exchange visitor on a J-1 visa varies, depending on the exchange visitor category in which the visitor is admitted.

Students Secondary school students may be admitted for one year;

For university students, the permissible stay is for the anticipated period of their academic program

Short-term Scholars Six months, with no extensions
Trainees/Interns Typically, for an 18 month period in most occupations

Trainees may return to the United States for another 18-month period of training after being absent from the U.S. for at least two years after completion of the program

Teachers Three years
College & University Professors & Research Scholars Five years, measured from the program begin date (or initial program begin date for continuing exchange visitors) as documented in SEVIS and ending five calendar years later

During this time, the participant has an unlimited number of departures and reentries from and to the US as long as he or she maintains good standing. Furthermore, there is no recapture of time spent outside the US

Foreign Medical Graduates Those participating in US internships and residencies may be admitted for the length of their program, with a usual maximum of seven years. Based on some rules, additional time may be possible
Au Pairs One year, with a one time extension for six, nine or twelve months

Certificate of Eligibility

The United States sponsor has to apply through an exchange visitor program approved by the U.S. Department of State (DOS). Once the beneficiary is accepted, the sponsor is authorized to issue a Certificate of Eligibility, which the exchange visitor must use in applying for a J-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate.

Eligibility for an Exchange Visitor Visa

In order to be eligible for a J-1 visa, the sponsor must meet specific requirements under immigration law, including the following:

  • Applicant plans to remain in the US for a temporary, specific and limited time period;
  • The applicant must present evidence of sufficient funds to be able to cover expenses in the US;
  • Evidence of compelling social, economic or other ties abroad which ensure that the applicant will return abroad after completion of his or her program.

Required Documentation

  • DS 2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status provided by the program sponsor;
  • A Training/Internship Placement Plan, Form DS-7002;
  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160;
  • A passport with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the U.S;
  • Passport size photograph;
  • Any other applicable documentation required by the U.S. Consulate located in your area.

Two-Year Foreign Residence Requirement and Waivers

Some categories of J-1 exchange visitors are subject to the two year foreign residence requirement, meaning that they are not eligible for permanent residence or nonimmigrant visas in the H or L category until they spend two years in their home country, or country of last residence, after the completion of the program.

The foreign residence requirement is applicable to the following three categories:

  • The exchange visitor entered the US to receive graduate medical education or training;
  • Government funded exchange programs, that is, exchange visitors whose training is financed, either in whole or in part, by an agency of the US Government or by the government of the alien’s home country;
  • Exchange visitors who have skills that are in short supply in their own countries.

Five Different Grounds for Waiver

A waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement may be obtained under the following conditions:

  1. No Objection Statement – A “no-objection” letter issued by the exchange visitor’s government to the DOS, stating that there is no objection to the alien remaining in the US.
  2. Exceptional Hardship – If compliance with the foreign residence requirement will result in exceptional hardship to the exchange visitors U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child.
  3. Persecution – if the exchange visitor can demonstrate a well-founded fear or persecution based on race, religion, political association, nationality or membership in a particular social group, then he or she may be eligible for a waiver
  4. Conrad 30 Program – under the Conrad 30 Waiver program, up to 30 J-1 medical doctors per year can apply for a waiver for the 2-year residence requirement upon completion of their program. This program is meant to address the shortage of qualified doctors in medically underserved areas.
  5. Interested Government Agency – A waiver can be sought by an interested US government agency on behalf of the exchange visitor.