J-1 Visa

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

The J-1 visa permits foreign nationals from any country to come to the United States in an exchange program designated by the U.S. Department of State. The foreign national must be coming to the United States for the purpose of teaching, instructing, lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills or receiving training. In order to receive a J-1 visa, the foreign national must apply for and be accepted by an exchange visitor program designated by the U.S. Department of State. Upon acceptance, the foreign national must apply directly to a US Consulate or Embassy for the J-1 visa stamp. The foreign national must have a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning. Finally, the foreign national must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of English to participate in the program and possession of sufficient funds to cover expenses.

An exchange visitor may be admitted for various periods of time, depending on the exchange visitor category in which s/he is admitted. A J-1 visa holder may enter the United States as a student, scholar, trainee, intern, teacher, professor, research scholar, specialist or leader in a field of specialized knowledge or skill, foreign medical graduate, summer student work/travel program participant, physician, international visitor, government visitor, camp counselor, or au pair. A J-1 Exchange Visitor must be coming to the United States for the purpose of instruction, observation, research, consulting, demonstrating specialized skills, or receiving training.

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program was designed to facilitate international exchange. The primary purpose is to expose foreign visitors to American methodologies, expertise, and culture, and subsequently have those visitors return to their countries to share that learning with others. To help ensure that visitors will return to their home countries, exchange visitors must prove that they have a residence abroad they have no intention of abandoning. In addition, some exchange visitors will be subject to a two-year home residency requirement (212e). If subject to that requirement, the exchange visitor will not be able to change to another status while in the United States, nor will s/he be able to apply for an H or L visa, or for status as a Permanent Resident, until s/he returns to his/her home country (or country of last residence) and physically resides there for two years. While it is possible to waive this requirement in some cases, exchange visitors with a home residence requirement should be prepared to return to their home country after completion of their J-1 program.

The amount of time an Exchange Visitor is permitted to stay in the United States can vary widely, and depends on the rules governing the specific category of Exchange Visitor program. For most Trainees (the category most commonly used by the private sector) the duration of the program is dependent upon the training plan, up to a maximum duration of eighteen (18) months. The maximum duration for an Intern program is twelve (12) months. Research Scholars can stay in the United States up to five (5) years. It is very difficult to obtain an extension beyond the maximum duration of the program, and repeat participation in most Exchange Visitor categories is prevented by a mandatory waiting period.

J-1 Trainee Visa

While the J-1 visa allows participants to come and pursue a variety of activities, the category most applicable to the private sector is that of “Trainee”. The law requires that the Trainee participant possesses a foreign degree or in the alternative possess five (5) years of work experience abroad prior to participation.

A J-1 Trainee must be coming for training activities, which can include but are not limited to: guided special projects or other specific activities; supervised research; consulting, which can include interviewing or shadowing experts; participating in seminars or conferences; and learning specialized skills (which can include on-the-job training). Training activities can be demonstrated by maintaining learning journals, by establishing training goals with structured and periodic evaluations, and by rotation through departments.

To be eligible for a J-1 Trainee Visa, foreign nationals must:

  • Possess a foreign degree or certificate from a post-secondary academic institution and one year of experience in their field acquired outside of the U.S.; OR
  • Possess five (5) years of work experience in their field acquired outside of the U.S.;
  • Possess English language skills verified by either a recognized English language test, certification from an academic institution, or through an interview with the sponsor conducted in-person or by video or web-camera conference;
  • Provide a detailed training programs (by employer) and provide a statement of motivation (by the trainee) as well as a Department of State Form DS 7002 signed by the trainee, the employer and the sponsor prior to submission; and
  • Not have participated in a J-1 Trainee or Intern program in the past two (2) years.

J-1 Summer Work Visa

The purpose of the Summer Work category is to provide foreign post-secondary students an opportunity to become directly involved in the daily life of the people of the United States through travel and temporary work for a period up to four (4) months during their summer vacation. Repeat participation is allowed as long as s/he maintains their student status abroad

To be eligible for a J-1 Summer Work Visa, foreign nationals must:

  • Be currently enrolled in a foreign post-secondary academic institution and provide proof of returning to that institution following the summer work program;
  • Show evidence that their English skills are sufficient for them to participate in the U.S. program; and
  • Provide a recommendation letter in English.

J-1 Intern Visa

The purpose of the Intern category, as is to provide the opportunity to enhance skills in a chosen career field through participation in a structured training program and to build on knowledge of American culture, techniques, methodologies, or expertise within the field of endeavor. The program may not exceed twelve (12) months although repeat participation is allowed as long as the Intern maintains his/her student status abroad.

To be eligible for a J-1 Intern Visa, foreign nationals must:

  • Be currently enrolled in a foreign post-secondary academic institution; or
  • Have graduated from a foreign post-secondary academic institution within twelve (12) months of beginning the J-1 Intern program;
  • Possess English skills verified by either a recognized English language test, certification from an academic institution, or through an interview with the sponsor conducted in-person or by video or web-camera conference; and
  • Provide a detailed internship program (by employer) and provide a statement of motivation (by student) as well as a Department of State Form DS 7002 signed by the intern, the employer and the sponsor prior to submission.

All J-1 applicants must have health insurance which meets U.S. Department of State minimum requirements. J-1′s must also be paid commensurate to others in similar occupations. They are also required to go to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in their home countries to obtain the visa.