J1 Visa

If you are looking to participate in a work or study based exchange program in the US, you will need a J1 visa.

A J1 visa is a nonimmigrant US visa for individuals approved to participate in what’s known as the Exchange Visitor Program in the US. As such, the J1 visa permits non-US citizens to visit the United States to exchange skills, experience or knowledge in various different areas of work or study.

The Exchange Visitor Program is primarily designed to provide participants with the opportunity to engage with Americans, share their culture, strengthen their English language abilities, and either learn new skills or build on existing skills that will help them in their future careers.

More than 300,000 participants from countries around the world come to the United States under a J1 visa through the Exchange Visitor Program every year.

NNU Immigration are here to help!

NNU Immigration are specialists across all classes of US visa.

The rules surrounding the J1 visa require careful interpretation and application.

With exceptional knowledge and insight into the visa application processes, we advise non-US nationals on available US visa and immigration options, including the J1 visa, providing full support submitting applications to the relevant US authorities.

US immigration policy is undergoing a period of considerable upheaval; we can advise on the prevailing impact of any changes in US visa rules that may impact the entry routes available to you.

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J1 Visa FAQs

Are there different categories under a J1 visa?

There are multiple different categories of participants under the Exchange Visitor Program, most of which are privately funded. These various different programs are designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge and skills in the fields of education, arts and science.

Under the various different categories J1 visas holders can study, teach, undertake research, share their specialised skills or receive on-the-job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years.

How long does a J1 visa last?

The length of stay under a J1 visa will depend on the type of activity for which you are authorised to be in the United States. Those pursuing academic study may get a visa for up to three years, while camp counsellors will typically only be granted a three-month stay.

All exchange visitors are expected to return to their home country upon completion of their program in order to share their exchange experiences, although in some cases you may be eligible to apply for an extension.

The J1 visa can also allow for a change of status, meaning that you may apply for a different visa type from within the United States without having to return to your home country first.

That said, some J1 visas are subject to a two-year home residency requirement, for example, participants of a government-funded exchange program. This means that you must return to your home country for a minimum of two years after your J1 visa expires before you may return to the US on any other visa, unless you are eligible for a waiver of this requirement.

Can I work under a J1 visa?

A J1 visa holder is only allowed to perform the activity listed on his/her Form DS-2019 and as stated in the regulations for that category of exchange.

Accordingly, some J1 visa holders will enter the United States specifically to work, while others will not. In the latter case, employment will not be authorised for J1 nonimmigrants under the terms of their exchange program.

You should check with your sponsoring agency for more information on any restrictions that may apply to you in relation to working in the United States.

How do I apply for a J1 visa?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is designed to help the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State monitor school and exchange programs, including J visa category visitors. Exchange visitor and student information is maintained on what’s known as the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

Having identified a US sponsor for a J1 visa, you will need to complete Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchanger Visitor Status. All J1 visa applicants must have a SEVIS generated DS-2019 issued by a Department of State designated sponsor, which you will need to submit when applying for your visa.

After completing this form and submitting it with the relevant fees, you can apply for your J1 visa with your local US Embassy or Consulate using online Form DS-160. For applicants aged between 14 and 79 years old, typically you will then be required to attend an interview.

Your eligibility for a J1 visa will be determined with reference to your particular J1 category and the documentation required under that category. However, in most cases, you will also be required to demonstrate the following:

  • That you only plan to remain in the US for a specific, limited period
  • You can show evidence of funds to cover your expenses in the US
  • You can show evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad that will ensure your return abroad at the end of your visit.

How long does it take to obtain a J1 visa?

The waiting time for an interview appointment for a J1 visa, as well as the processing time, can vary from country to country. It can also be based on your individual circumstances, so submitting your J1 visa application as soon as possible is strongly recommended.

However, any exchange visitors due to commence a new program under a J1 visa may not enter the United States more than 30 days before their start date.

Do I need a sponsor for a J1 visa?

The Department of State designates US government, academic and private sector bodies to conduct the educational and cultural exchange programs. To participate in the Exchange Visitor Program, foreign nationals must be sponsored by one of these Department of State designated sponsors.

The program sponsors are then responsible for screening and selecting eligible foreign nationals for participation in their designated program, as well as supporting and monitoring exchange visitors during their stay in the US.

Which categories of J1 visa are publicly funded?

In addition to the multiple private sector exchange categories, the Exchange Visitor Program also includes two categories that are publicly funded: International Visitors and Government Visitors.

The J1 visa category for international visitors is reserved for State Department-sponsored and funded exchange participants, whilst the category for government visitors is to allow distinguished international visitors to develop and strengthen professional and personal relationships with their American counterparts in US federal, state or local government agencies.

Which categories of J1 visa are privately funded?

J1 visa holders on private sector programs include the following categories:

  • Au pairs: where a young adult lives with a host family and experiences US culture while providing childcare and taking courses at an accredited US post-secondary institution.
  • Camp counsellors: where post-secondary students, youth workers, teachers or others with specialised skills can interact with and supervise young Americans at US summer youth camps.
  • Interns: where college and university students, or recent graduates, gain exposure to US culture as they experience business practices in the United States in their chosen occupational field.
  • Foreign nationals: where non-US nationals are able to work on achieving further academic qualifications or practical training in specific areas of knowledge.
  • Medical graduates: where foreign medical graduates want to follow an accredited course in medical education or training at a US accredited school of medicine or scientific institution, or pursue programs involving observation, consultation, teaching or research.
  • Professors & Research Scholars: where individuals promote the exchange of ideas between research and academic institutions in the United States and foreign countries.
  • Short-term scholars: where professors, scholars and other accomplished individuals wish to travel to the US short-term to lecture, observe, consult, train or demonstrate special skills at US research and academic institutions, museums, and libraries.
  • Specialists: where experts in a field of specialised knowledge observe methods of practice in US institutions and share their knowledge with their US colleagues.
  • Trainees: where professionals with a degree, professional qualification or relevant work experience gain exposure to US culture and receive training in US business practices through a structured and guided work-based program.
  • College and university students: where students study at a post-secondary accredited academic institution in the United States, participating in a degree, non-degree or student internship program.
  • Teachers: where educators teach fulltime at a US accredited primary or secondary school or on an accredited pre-kindergarten program.
  • Secondary School Students: where secondary school students study at an accredited public or private high school and live with an American host family or at an accredited boarding school.
  • Summer Work Travel Program: where college and university students at foreign universities gain first-hand experience as they work in seasonal or temporary jobs in the United States during their summer vacation.

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