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.