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J1 Visa Options

June 21, 2016

J1 Visa Options

Author: US Visa Immigration attorney Alena Shautsova

J1 or foreign exchange visa program was first implemented in the US in 1961. Contrary to common belief that a J1 visa is used for “foreign kids” for “summer jobs”, the actual regulation provides 14 different categories of programs with variety of purposes and time limits. A visa applicant needs a DS2019 form in order to apply for the visa. The DS form itself is provided by Department of State to a “sponsor”.  Different categories determine the maximum length the J1 visa holder may remain in the US.  For example, “work and travel” J1 visas are typically issued for 4 months.  However, somebody who is a “trainee” and holds a J1 status can be admitted for 18 months. J1 visas are given without a specific date limitation, but rather for “duration of status.” This “D/S” designation is important because it helps to avoid unlawful presence bar if a J1 visa holder’s plans would change.

Some J1 visas come with a two year residency requirement, but not all of them. This condition depends on a J1 category.

These categories include:

Au pairs: students who live with a host family for 12 months and experience (1)U.S. culture while providing child care and taking courses at an accredited U.S. post-secondary institution.
(2) Camp counselors: Post-secondary students, youth workers, or teachers interact with and supervise youth at U.S. camps.

(3) College and university students: Foreign students enrolled in degree programs overseas study at American academic institutions or participate in an internship program facilitated by an academic institution.
(4) Government visitors: Influential and distinguished foreign nationals are selected by U.S. federal, state, or local government agencies to participate in observation tours, discussions, consultations, professional meetings, conferences, workshops, and travel in order to strengthen professional and personal ties between key foreign nationals and Americans and American institutions.
(5) Interns: College and university students or recent graduates gain exposure to U.S. culture by participating in an internship program in their specific academic fields.

(6) International visitors: Foreign leaders are selected by the Department of State to participate in programs designed to enable the international visitors to better understand American culture and society and enhance American knowledge of foreign cultures.
(7) Physicians: Foreign doctors participate in U.S. graduate medical education programs or training at accredited U.S. schools of medicine.
(8) Professors and research scholars: These two programs promote the exchange of ideas, research, and linkages between research and academic institutions in the U.S. and abroad.
(9) Secondary school students: Foreign high school students study at an accredited public or private high school and live with an American host family or at an accredited boarding school.
(10) Short-term scholars: Professors, scholars, and other accomplished individuals travel on a short-term visit to lecture, observe, consult, train, or demonstrate special skills at research and academic institutions, museums, and libraries across the U.S.
(11) Specialists: Experts in a field exchange ideas with their American counterparts.
(12) Summer work travel program: University and college students work and travel in the United States during the summer.
(13) Teachers: Foreign educators teach full-time at a primary or secondary school in K-12 classrooms in the US.
(14)  Trainees: Foreign professionals with a degree, professional certificate, or relevant work experience gain exposure to U.S. culture and receive training in U.S. business practices through a structured and guided work-based program.

Within recent years, the J1 program regulations and requirements became stricter, with a a greater control over the applicants’ placements and conditions of work or training. J1 status can be changed to a different non-immigrant status or immigrant status (if the 2 year requirement does not apply).