Common J-1 Visa Questions
What is a J-1 Visa?
The J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa granted to participants in the United States Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program, which is administered by the Office of Private Sector Programs at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).
The purpose of the visa is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges.
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is comprised of categories for various types of programs, such as the following: internships, training programs, au pairs, visiting teachers, scholars and physicians, students, and summer work/travel and camp counselor programs for foreign university students.
Each category of exchange has its own specific requirements and program duration. Regardless of the category, or the duration of the exchange experience, all J-1 visas are nonimmigrant visas, and participants of the programs are to return to their native countries upon completion.
Do I qualify for a J-1 Visa?
Although the best way to answer this question is via an evaluation with an attorney, there are some general requirements that must be met. Since the most common cateogories are for interns and trainees, we will expand on the requirements for these categories in more detail.
If you are applying in the J-1 trainee program, you must have a degree from a foreign, post-secondary accredited academic institution and one year or more of foreign professional work experience related to the proposed training.
If you do not hold a degree then you must have five or more years of foreign professional work experience related to the proposed training. In addition, all trainees must possess advanced spoken and written English language proficiency.
If you are applying in the J-1 Intern program, you must be a currently enrolled student pursuing a degree at a foreign postsecondary accredited academic institution, or a recent graduate (you cannot have graduated more than 12 months prior to program start date) from such an institution. Your degree must be in an academic field related to the proposed internship. In addition, all interns must possess advanced spoken and written English language proficiency.
What are the acceptable occupational categories for J-1 visas as an intern or trainee?
Common occupational categories for J-1 trainee and intern visas are as follows:
- Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics, the Sciences and Industrial occupations
- Business, Finance, Commerce and Management
- Communications and Information Media
- Public Administration and Law
- Hospitality and Tourism
- Arts and Culture
- Social Services, Social Sciences, Library Science, Education, and Counseling
- Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
- Construction and Building trades
- Health related occupations
How long can a J-1 program last?
Training programs have a maximum duration of 18 months and intern programs have a maximum duration of 12 months. The J-1 duration for other programs vary.
For example, short term scholars are given 6 months and post-doctoral students are given the time it takes to complete their degree plus up to 36 months. The J program’s duration depends on the program category and the J program sponsor.
In some instances, an extension may be possible.
When my J status expires, do I have a grace period to legally stay in the US?
Yes, you have a 30 day grace period to legally stay in the United States. It is essential to confirm the dates of your grace period with your legal representative, host company, and/or program sponsor.
What is Section 212(e) and the two-year Foreign Residency Requirement for J visa holders all about?
Some J-1 holders may be subject to the Two Year Foreign Residency Requirement, or section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and cannot change status or apply for permanent residency until they have returned to their home country for at least two years or received a waiver of that requirement.
Participants are subject to INA 212(e) if the following conditions exist:
- The participant’s program was financed by the United States government or the government of the participant’s nationality or last residence;
- The participant is a national or resident of a country designated as requiring the services of persons engaged in the field of specialized knowledge or skills in which the participant was engaged for the duration of their program; and/or
- The participant entered the United States to receive graduate medical education or training.
Do I need to have a program sponsor before I can apply for the J-1 visa?
Yes. Before you are allowed to apply for a J-1 visa, you are required to have a program sponsor and be accepted in an Exchange Visitor Program. Just like the vast majority of all other nonimmigrant visas, like the L-1 visa, the H1B visa, the TN visa, or the O-1 visa, it is ultimately the employer/sponsor who is submitting the application on your behalf.
Is there a minimum or maximum age requirement for the J-1 visa?
Usually there is a minimum age requirement of 18 years of age and no maximum age requirement.
Where do I apply for a J-1 Visa after being accepted in an Exchange Visitor Program?
You will apply for a J-1 visa at United States Consulate office located abroad after you have been accepted in an Exchange Visitor Program.
Is an interview required for the visa process abroad?
Yes. Applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 are required to complete an interview at the consular embassy section. Canadian citizens are exempt from the visa stamping and consular interview process.
What type of information and documents do you need from me and the sponsoring organization to prepare the J-1 Visa application?
A wide variety of info is needed for a successful J-1 visa application. As each case is different the infor and documents will also generally be different, but generally speaking the following are usually required:
- copy of degrees and transcripts of intern/trainee
- resume or CV of intern or trainee
- copy of intern/trainee’s passport
- detailed information pertaining to the host company
- detailed training/intern plan
- financial support information
- insurance support information
- host company tax returns
What is a J-2 Visa?
A J-2 visa is issued to a child (under age 21) or spouse of a J-1 principal. Once the minor child reaches his/her 21st birthday, he/she no longer qualifies for a J-2 visa or J-2 status.
How do I get a J-2 visa for my spouse/child?
In order for your spouse to be eligible for a J-2 visa, your program sponsor must approve the accompaniment of your spouse/child and they will be issued their own DS-2019. The spouse/child can apply for a J-2 visa during or after the J-1 applicant is applying for his/her visa.
Can a J-2 visa holder enter the United States before the J-1 principal?
No. The spouse/child of the J-1 principal is not allowed to enter the United States before the J-1 principal does.
Can the J-2 visa holder work?
Yes. Unlike the dependent status related to many other work visas, like the H-1B visa, the O-1 visa, or the TN visa, a J-2 visa holder is permitted to work after he/she files and receives an approval of Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with the USCIS.
Is the J-2 visa holder allowed to study in the United States without being required to change to F-1 status?
Yes, a J-2 visa holder can study in the United States without changing to F-1 status.
What if I don’t live in New York City?
Don’t live in New York City? No problem! We take great pride in offering the same stellar level of service to individuals whether they are located across the street, across the country, or across the globe. Whether we meet in person, over the phone, or using the internet, our strong communication will be an asset to your case.
How long does it take to obtain a J-1 Visa?
The J-1 visa process is a multi-step process, consisting of preparing the application, submitting it to an Exchange Visitor Program for review and approval, and scheduling the visa stamping interview abroad. Generally speaking, the preparation of the application and its review by the Exchange Visitor Program can take approximately 4-6 weeks. The timeframe for scheduling a visa processing appointment abroad varies from country to country.
How much will a J-1 Visa application cost?
Give us a call and we will be happy to discuss our fees with you. Rest easy, Lightman Law Firm takes great pride in offering the highest level of service at an affordable FLAT rate, and we will never pressure you to work with us.
Put our J-1 Visa Attorney experience to work for you.