The J-1 visa is a non-immigrant US visa that permits people to visit the United States to exchange skills, experience, or knowledge in various areas.
The visa allows you unlimited travel in and out of the US and in many circumstances will allow you to be employed in the country.
How to Apply for a J-1 Visa
First you will need a sponsoring company to apply to. The U.S. State Department provides an online tool to help you find the right sponsor for you.
The sponsoring organization will take you through the steps you need to see if you qualify. If they are willing to sponsor you for the visa, you will then need to complete form DS-2019 (“Certificate of Eligibility for Exchanger Visitor [J-1] Status”). After completing the two-page form and submitting it along with the relevant fees (if required), the next step is to attend an interview with your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Foreign Residency Requirement & Waiver
It is worth noting that some J-1 visas are subject to a two-year residency requirement (212[g]) which mandates that you must return to your home country for a minimum of two years after your J-1 visa expires before you may return to the U.S. on any other visa. There are some exceptions to this.
If it is your intention — or you think you may be likely — to wish to stay on in the United States after the end of your visit, you may be advised to consider other options. In some situations, it may be possible to get a waiver to the two-year foreign residency requirement. Speak to one of our immigration attorneys to understand your options.
The list provides plenty of scope for flexibility. J-1 visas are also quite easy to get approved.
The length of stay depends on the type of activity. Those pursuing academic study may get a visa for up to three years, while camp counselors will typically only get a 3-month stay.
Extensions are also variable, depending on the category of visa. We will be happy to advise on any of these questions.
Unlike some other visas, the J-1 can allow 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.
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 may accompany a J-1 visa holder to the U.S. under a J-2 (dependents’) visa. They are permitted to study, to travel in and out of the country, and they may work after securing a relevant work permit.
Attorney Tips for J1 Visa
Alternative Options to J-1?
- If you will be receiving training in the U.S., you could consider the H3 training visa (18-month to 2-year terms available).
- J-1 visa holder cannot typically apply directly for green Cards while in the US. They can either transfer to a different visa or apply for GC from out of the country. Typical green Cards tend to be the Labor Certification Process visas (EB2/EB3).
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