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J1 Exchange Visitors

J visa category is reserved for people participating in the Exchange Visitor Program managed by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the State Department. Since 1960's, many research scholars, professors, university students and other visitors have enjoyed the convenience of J visas to experience and bring cultural diversity to the United States.

Before applying for a J1 visa, a person must be accepted by a designated sponsoring organization. Upon completion of the exchange program, he or she must return to their home country unless a residency waiver is obtained. Spouse and dependents of a J1 visitor may come to the United States under j2 status.

How can I apply for a J1 visa?

  • Apply to one of the DOS designated sponsors;
  • If accepted, you will receive a SEVIS generated DS-2019 form;
  • Complete all forms and prepare supporting documents;
  • Make a visa appointment with a US embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over your residence;
  • Go to the visa interview, and also have your fingerprints taken for security checks;
  • If your interview goes well and your background check is cleared, your passport will be stamped with your J-1 visa;
  • You may travel to the U.S. no more than 30 days before the program start date (very important), and before your visa's expiration date.

Note: People who qualify for the Visa Waiver Program must still apply for a J visa in order to participate in an exchange visitor program.

What documents are needed for a J1 visa?

  • SEVIS generated DS-2019 form;
  • DS-7002 for trainee or intern applicants only;
  • Visa application form DS-156;
  • Contact and work information, form DS-158;
  • Supplemental visa form DS-157 for certain applicants;
  • Visa application and processing fees;
  • A valid passport.
  • Evidence of sufficient financial support during intended stay;
  • Evidence that indicate you have no intention to abandon your foreign residency, and you will depart the U.S. once the exchange program is finished. Generally speaking, this may include strong family ties, social attachment, real estate properties, a business, a job, etc.
  • Any documents required by specific consulates.

What is the two-year foreign residency requirement and waiver?

Most exchange visitors must return to their home countries for at least two years following the completion of their programs, and are not allowed to change to H, L or K status, or apply for permanent residency (green card). However, you may apply for a waiver of this requirement if any of the following situations apply to you:

  • Your home country government issues a No Objection Statement indicating that your return is not mandated;
  • A U.S. government agency requests a waiver of your 2-year foreign residency requirement for the benefit of public interest;
  • You can prove that you may face persecution by your home country upon returning, due to race, religion or political reasons;
  • You can demonstrate that your departure from the U.S. for two years will cause exceptional hardship to your spouse or children who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents;
  • You are a medical doctor and a state department of health, or CONRAD, requests a waiver on your behalf;

How to apply for a J-1 waiver of foreign residency?

You must submit Form DS-3035, J-1 Visa Waiver Recommendation Application, to the State Department to apply for the waiver. You may file the form online or via postal mail. You are responsible to submit all supporting documents and have all third parties, including your home country government, send necessary paperwork to the DOS Waiver Review Division. The Waiver Review Division will forward its recommendation to the USCIS, which in turn makes a decision regarding your application.

You may contact the Public Inquiries Division at 202-663-1225 regarding your waiver application.

What is SEVIS?

SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, and is used by the Department of Homeland Security to better manage F, M, and J visa holders. SEVIS allows schools and exchange programs to transmit mandatory data through the internet, in order to maintain current information and records of students and visitors.

Can my spouse and dependent children come with me?

Yes, but they must be approved by the sponsoring organization as well and must apply for their own J-2 visas.

Can J-2 visa holders go to school in the U.S.?

Yes. Spouses and children in J2 status may study without the need to change to F1 status.

Can J-2 visa holders work in the U.S.?

No, unless they obtain employment authorization documents (EAD) from USCIS.

What is a Q visa?

Q visa is another nonimmigrant visa for exchange visitors. The "Q" exchange programs must be designated by USCIS, not DOS. These programs are intended to offer practical training, employment, and cultural exchanges between the U.S. and a foreign country.

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