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Frequently Asked Questions

J1 VIS Questions

The J1 Visa for Exchange Visitors and Its Requirements

The Immigration and Nationality Act provides J1 Nonimmigrant visa category for persons to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States. The exchange visitor program is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences, designated by the U.S. Department of State.

1. What is a J-1 visa?
The J-1 visa, also known as an Exchange Visitor Visa, permits legal internship by recognizing the recipient as part of an exchange program. It is issued by the U.S. government to all J-1 internship program applicants.

2. How long does it take to obtain a J-1 Visa?
The total time frame required to process a J-1 visa application depends on how fast the intern and host company can provide WACE with all the necessary information. When WACE sponsorship has been secured for the intern, the intern must apply for the J-1 Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in his/her home country. The process could take anywhere from one week to four or more weeks depending on the embassy or consulate where he/she applies. The intern can depart for the U.S. as soon as the J-1 visa is granted.

3. Can the internship duration be extended?
If the host company and the intern reach an agreement, the duration of the internship can be extended up to a total of 18 months. Contact us regarding the fee and the necessary application for extending the duration.

4. Where does the intern stay during the internship?
If assistance is requested by the intern, WACE will make recommendations although information regarding accommodations may also be provided by the host company.

Must an intern have accident & medical insurance?

For a J-1 visa to be issued, minimum accident & medical insurance coverage is a pre-requisite for the entire duration of the internship. Having insurance coverage, will allow for swift action in an emergency.

5. What is the two-year Foreign Residency Requirement for J visa holders?
This rule requires some J visa holders to reside in their home country for at least two years before they may obtain an H, L or other immigrant visa to enter the U.S. or adjust their status within the U.S. If you are subject to the 2 year home country residency requirement and wish to obtain an H-1B visa or a U.S. Green Card, you could either comply with the requirement by living in your home country for two years, or you could seek a waiver of the 2 year home country residency requirement.

6. How to Waive the Two –year Home Country Residency Requirement?
There are a variety of options for J-1 waiver. The simplest procedure is through a letter of “no-objection” from your government. Other waivers can be issued through interested U.S. government agencies – any U.S. federal government agency which is willing to take up your case. Also, waivers can be granted based on Exceptional Hardship or Fear of Persecution claims.

7. What is a J-2 Visa? A J-2 visa is issued to a child (under age 21) or spouse of a J-1 principal. Once the minor child reaches his/her 21st birthday, he/she, no longer qualifies for a J-2 visa or J-2 status. Also, if the J-2 spouse divorces the J-1 status holder, he/she, no longer qualifies for J-2 status.

8. How long can a J-1 program last?
The J program’s duration depends on the program category and the J program sponsor. The J program sponsor has full discretion to extend the period within the maximum program’s duration period.

9. When my J status expires, do I have a grace period to legally stay in the US?
Yes, 30 days.

10 Where do I apply for J-1 Visa?
In the U.S. Consulate of your residence abroad.

11. Do I need to have a program sponsor before I can apply for the J-1 visa?
Yes. Before you are allowed to apply for a J-1 visa, you are required to have a program sponsor and be accepted in an Exchange Visitor Program.

12. What other requirements do I have to meet in order to obtain a J-1 visa?

In addition to have a program sponsor, the J-1 visa applicant must show the consular officer that he/she plans to stay in the U.S. for only a limited period of time, has enough funds to cover all expenses in the U.S., and that there are significant, binding social and economic ties to the applicant’s country of residence.

13. What documents are needed to apply for a J-1 visa?
You need to provide the following documents to apply for a J-1 Visa: a completed Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility) issued by your program sponsor, your passport, completed Form DS-156 (Nonimmigrant Visa Application), Form DS- 157 (Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application), and documents. In addition, you are required to pay the relevant processing fee for each application.

14. How do I determine my current legal status in the U.S. as a J-1 Status Holder?
To determine your U.S. status, you should refer to Forms IAP-66 and I-94. When you entered the U.S., the immigration officer would have marked “D/S” on your Form I-94. “D/S” means “Duration of Status” and indicates that your legal stay is for a certain limited period of time. The Exchange Program Period that is marked on your IAP-66 determines the length of your legal stay within the U.S.

15. Is a J-1 Visa holder allowed to work?
A J-1 holder is allowed to work for the J-1 program sponsor. A J-1 holder may not work for another employer without special authorization.

16. How can an entity apply to become a J-1 program sponsor?
Educational Institutions, Private Companies, Research Institutions and Governmental Agencies are all examples of organizations that may qualify as J-1 program sponsors, BUT, the entity needs to be pre-approved by the Department of State.

17. I am a J-1 student. How long can I participate in Practical Training upon completion of my degree program?
You may be eligible to participate in a Practical Training Program upon graduation. The length of time varies depending on the degree awarded. If you have received your baccalaureate/master’s degree you may enter a training program for a maximum period of eighteen (18) months, while post-doctoral individuals can receive practical training for a maximum period of thirty-sex (36) months.

18. What is the relationship between a J-1 Visa and an O-1 Visa?
There is no direct relationship between a J-1 Visa and an O-1 Visa. If a J-1 holder is not able to obtain a J-1 Waiver before his/her maximum term expires, an employer may apply for an O-1 Visa on behalf of the J-1 holder and he/she may go abroad to obtain an O-1 Visa via the Third Country Visa process.

19. How do I get a J-2 visa for my spouse/child?
In order for your spouse to be eligible for a J-2 visa, your program sponsor must approve the accompaniment of your spouse/child and they will be issued their own DS-2019. The application procedure for a J-2 visa is the same as that for the J-1Visa. The spouse/child can apply for a J-2 visa while the J-1 applicant is applying for his/her visa.

20. Can the spouse/child apply for a J-2 visa after the J-1 principal has already traveled?
Yes. The spouse/child my complete SEVIS generated Form DS 2019 (approved by the sponsor), show proof that the principal applicant is maintaining his/her J visa status, copy of the J-1’s (principal applicant’s) visa, proof of relationship to the principal applicant, and proof of sufficient money to cover all expenses in the United States.

21. Can the J-2 visa holder work? Yes. A J-2 visa holder is permitted to work only after he/she files Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with the USCIS. After approval of this application, the J-2 visa holder is permitted to work.

22. Is the J-2 visa holder allowed to study in the U.S. without being required to change to F-1 status?
Yes, a J-2 visa holder can study in the U.S. without changing to F-1 status.

23. Is the Doctor Subject to the Two-Year Return Requirement?

A foreign doctor is only subject to a two-year home country return requirement if he or she was admitted in or changed status to J-1; and

  • received government financing from the U.S. government or the home country government; or
  • is on the skills list of the country of nationality or last residence; or
  • received “graduate medical education or training” in the United States.“
  • Graduate medical education or training” does not include a program of observation, consultation, teaching or research, even if that program includes “incidental patient care.”
  • Incidental patient care may be more than a minimal percentage as long as it is incidental to the primary purpose of observation, consultation, teaching or research.
  • "Medical” excludes dentistry and other nonmedical fields.
  • Not all ECFMG-sponsored doctors fall in the definition; e.g., research fellowships.

If Subject to the Two-Year Return Requirement, Does the Doctor Need a Waiver?

The two-year return requirement only prevents the doctor from obtaining an H or L visa, changing status from J-1 to another status in the U.S. or obtaining permanent resident status. The doctor can obtain visas other than H or L at a U.S. Consulate outside of the U.S., or other benefits, including:

  1. E-2 treaty investor visa
  2. J-2 visa (if spouse is J-1)
  3. F-1 student visa (if the doctor is admitted to the United States in F-1 status, he or she could change status to H-1B even though he or she could not obtain a H-1B visa)
  4. Asylum
  5. TN-1 for Canadian or Mexican nationals
  6. O-1 visa for doctor of extraordinary ability

If a Waiver of the Two-Year Return Requirement Is Needed, What Types of Waivers Are Possible?

  1. No objection statement waiver is not available for a doctor who is subject based on graduate medical education or training.
  2. Persecution waiver may be available if doctor would be subject to persecution in home country.
  3. Exceptional Hardship Waiver
  • Must prove exceptional hardship to U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or children both if the spouse or children remain in the U.S. and if the spouse or children return to the home country with the J-1 doctor.

Focus is on the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child and not on the J-1 doctor.

Chances improve if the children are older; if the country of nationality or last residence is a third-world country or a country that is not favorably disposed to U.S. citizens or to people of the religion, ethnicity or other characteristics of the spouse or child.

* Evidence may include psychological reports, proof of unavailability of prescription medications, Travel Advisories and State Department health reports. If waiver is approved, doctor does not need to work in any particular geographical area or change status to H-1B for any particular period of time.

  1. Interested Government Agency Waiver

The information contained on this site is offered only for general informational and educational propose and does not constitute a legal advice or opinion. All efforts are being made to keep this information current, but it may not be guaranteed that it applies to your specific case, and should not be relied upon or acted without seeking the advice of qualified attorney.