J-1 (Training and Exchange Visa)
The J-1 visa is given to those who will be entering the U.S. to participate in an approved educational, training or cultural program. The J-1 visa is available to those who want to come to the U.S. to teach, instruct, lecture, study, observe, conduct research, consult, demonstrate special skills, or receive training. Typical jobs that are appropriate for J-1 classification include college and university students, secondary school students, short-term scholars, trainees, teachers, professors, researchers, specialists, physicians, international and government visitors, camp counselors, au pairs and special education exchange visitors. The J-1 program requires that each applicant be sponsored by an organization designated by the State Department to sponsor J-1 exchange visitors.
What are the limitations and requirements of the J-1 program?
- University Students: The J-1 student visa category is for those students who are pursuing a full-time course of study at an accredited college or university, or who are receiving English language training at an accredited educational institution. J-1 students may be employed in an area related to the academic course of study as long as the school officer asserts that the employment is related. Alternatively, J-1 students may be employed in part time on-campus employment (no more than 20 hours a week), or if the employment is part of a scholarship or fellowship. This employment authorization is valid until the course of study is over, or 12 months, whichever is less. Following the completion of studies, J-1 students may obtain an additional period of up to 18 months of practical training and post-doctoral students can obtain up to 36 months of post graduate practical training.
- Secondary School Students: Foreign students can attend secondary schools in the U.S. for a minimum of one and up to two semesters on a J-1 visa. The program sponsor must find a school willing to host the student and a host family with whom the student will stay. Such students are not authorized to work.
- Short-Term Scholars: Professors, scholars and researchers can obtain a J-1 visa to come to the U.S. to lecture, observe, consult or participate in workshops, seminars, and conferences. The maximum period of entry for short-term scholars is six months, and no extensions are authorized.
- Trainees: Trainees can obtain J-1 visas to come to the U.S. to train in skilled worker positions. Typical positions include: arts and culture, media, communications, education, social sciences, library science, counseling, management, business, finance, health-related occupations, aviation, science, engineering, architecture, mathematics, industrial occupations, construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, government, public administration, and law.
- Teachers: Teachers can obtain J-1 visas to teach full-time in a primary or secondary school. To be eligible for a J-1 teachers visa the applicant must have three years of teaching experience, be qualified to teach primary or secondary school in his/her home country, be licensed in the state or have the qualifications necessary under state law to teach, and be a person of good moral character.
- Professors and Researchers: Professors who are coming to the U.S. to teach, lecture, observe or consult at post-secondary educational institutions can obtain a J-1 visa. Research scholars may also obtain J-1 visas to conduct research, observe or consult at research institutions, educational institutions and similar organizations. J-1 professors and research scholars may enter for up to three-year periods, and the program sponsor may approve a six-month extension. After this extension, the person’s stay can be extended another three years, with the approval of the State Department.
- Specialists: Specialists are experts in a field of specialized knowledge or skill. Specialists may obtain a J-1 visa to observe, consult or demonstrate special skills. The category does not include short-term scholars, professors, researchers, or foreign medical graduates. The maximum authorized stay in the U.S. is one year.
- Foreign Physicians: Graduates of foreign medical schools may enter the U.S. to pursue graduate medical training or education. Under most circumstances, the foreign medical graduate is sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Other programs can sponsor foreign medical graduates, but only if there will be minimal patient contact. The foreign medical graduate may remain in the U.S. for the duration of the program up to seven years. Individuals who enter in this category are subject to the two year foreign residency requirement and must return home for two years.
- International and Government Visitors: Government agencies may sponsor J-1 visa applicants who are coming to the U.S. for consultation, observation, training or demonstration of special skills. The maximum period of stay for international visitors is 12 months, and for government visitors it is 18 months.
- Camp Counselors: Individuals who are at least 18 years old may obtain a J-1 visa to come to the U.S. to work as a youth worker, student, or teacher. This category is limited to a four-month stay.
- Au Pairs: Individuals between the ages of 18 to 26 may come to the U.S. to provide childcare services to a U.S. host family. The au pair must be proficient in English, and must have graduated from high school. The au pair undergoes a background screening including a background investigation, criminal check, physical and psychological exams. The host family must pay the au pair at least the minimum wage, and may not require the au pair to provide more than 45 hours of childcare a week. The au pair must be provided a private bedroom.
- Special Education Exchange Visitors: This category is limited to fifty individuals per year and permits an individual to enter the U.S. for up to 18 months to obtain practical training and experience in the education of children with physical, mental or emotional disabilities.
What is the two-year foreign residency requirement?
Many individuals who enter in J-1 status may be subject to a two-year foreign residency requirement. Although there are some ways to waive this requirement, individuals who do not have a waiver are not eligible for permanent residence or for an H or L non-immigrant visa until he or she has returned to his/her home country for the requisite two year period. This two-year period must be spent in the individual’s home country, or the country in which they last permanently resided before coming to the U.S. Generally, an individual is subject to the foreign residency requirement if: (1) The individual’s program in the U.S. was financed by the U.S. government or the government of the country of his or her last residence; (2) If at the time of admission, the J-1 visa holder was coming to the U.S. to train in skills that are in short supply in the home country; or (3) The individual came to the U.S. to receive graduate medical education or training.