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J1 Visa: Exchange Visitor Visa

Learn more about the requirements and process of getting the J1 Visa for the Exchange Visitor Program.

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    What is a J1 Visa?

    The J1 Visa allows foreign nationals to study, receive training, or teach in the United States. It’s the first preference of the Exchange Visitor visa.

    Your stay in the U.S. is temporary with the J1 Visa as it is a nonimmigrant visa that can be for a few weeks or several years.

    This United States government offers its exchange visitor visa program through certain accredited educational institutions in the U.S.

    It also targets young people who can’t access the quality educational services that their home countries need for development and growth.

    As well as this, it also aims to encourage skill-building among young people and promote cultural exchange. Another goal of the J1 Visa is to help foreigners improve their knowledge of English.

    Who is eligible for the J1 Visa?

    There are different categories of the J1 Visa. Each category has its set of requirements. Some of the major categories include:

    Au Pair Visa

    You can work as a childcare provider in the U.S. with the Au Pair J1 visa. This implies that you’ll mainly be working for families. In exchange, you get food and accommodation expenses. You must meet the below requirements to be eligible for the Au Pair Visa:

    • You must be between 18 and 26 years.
    • You must have a job offer from a U.S. based family
    • You must have some experience as a childcare provider.
    • You must be able to write and speak English
    • You must provide a police clearance report
    • You have no previous history in the U.S. under the A.U. Pair Visa

    Student Programs

    This comprises the Secondary School Student visa, College and University visa.

    The Secondary School Student category lets you study in a school in the United States. You must meet these requirements below to be eligible for this category of the J1 visa:

    • You must be between 15 and 18 years
    • You must have accommodation from your school or a host family.

    The College and University category lets you study a full-time course in any U.S. university. You must meet these requirements below to be eligible for the College and University J1 visa:

    • You must provide a written agreement between your local institution and the institution in the U.S. you’ll be studying in
    • You should not be receiving financial support from anywhere and are fully able to support yourself.

    Teachers Program

    This J1 visa category allows you to work in the U.S. as a teacher. You can also receive professional training during your stay. You can teach in an accredited primary school, secondary school, or kindergarten. You must meet the below requirements to be eligible for the J1 Teachers program:

    • You must have the necessary teaching qualifications in your home country.
    • You must already be working as a teacher prior to your application. Otherwise, you must have at least 2 years of teaching experience in the past 8 years and also have acquired an advanced degree in the past 12 months.
    • You must have at least a B.Sc. in your field or in education in general
    • You must have at least 2 years of teaching experience or experience in a related profession.
    • You must be proficient in the English Language
    • You must be of good character and reputation.

    Trainee Program

    The J1 Trainee program allows you to receive training in the U.S. and gain exposure. This could be in any given field. You must meet the below requirements to be eligible for the Trainee Program visa:

    • You must be aged at least 20 years old
    • You must have a degree or professional certificate from a tertiary institution in your home country. Otherwise, you must have up to 5 years of working experience in your field.
    • You must have at least 1-year work experience in your field.

    What is the application process for the J1 Visa?

    The first thing to do is to get a program sponsor. You can check the list of designated sponsors on the official J1 visa website. From the list, you can sort the sponsors according to your visa category. Each of the sponsors has different screening methods.

    If a sponsor approves your application, you can then apply for the Visa. You’ll be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Your sponsor can help you with the visa application as well. You mainly have to fill and submit Form DS-160 – the U.S. online nonimmigrant visa application form for your application.

    Simply provide all necessary details and upload your passport photograph to complete the form. The form will provide all the details about your sponsor and program that you should know. Notably, it’ll include the program’s start & end date and how much you’ll pay for it.

    Trainee program applicants have to submit Form DS-7002. The form describes all you have to do in your training or internship. Form DS-7002 is also an online form. Print the confirmation page after submitting your forms. Next, you have to pay your fees.

    J1 Visa Application Fees

    The U.S. Department will not process your J1 visa application unless you pay your fees. The fees you have to pay usually include:

    • SEVIS Fee: $180
    • Form DS-160 Fee: $160

    You could also pay a visa issuance fee if the U.S. Embassy approves your Visa. This depends on your country of residence. Sometimes, your sponsor can pay the SEVIS fee on your behalf. It’s important you confirm from them, so you don’t make the payment twice. If they have, you should request the payment receipt.

    You won’t pay the J1 visa application fee if you’re partaking in a U.S. Government, Department of State or U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded program. Also, you won’t pay any issuance fees.

    Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to learn how to apply for a J1 Visa

    Documents You’ll Need

    The following documents are what you will need to present at your J1 visa interview:

    • International valid passport for at least six months beyond your period of stay.
    • Form DS-160 confirmation page
    • Form DS-160 payment receipt
    • Passport photographs if you fail to upload one during your Form DS-160 application.
    • SEVIS eligibility certificate
    • Form DS-7002 confirmation page for Trainee applicants
    • Proof of financial capability. This implies evidence that you or someone else can handle your financial expenses in the U.S.
    • Proof that you’ll leave the U.S. after your program expires. This could be family ties, investments, or property you can’t abandon in your home country.
    • Evidence of your purpose of travel
    • Evidence of previous employment if applicable

    In some cases, the consulate officer may request additional documents. It’s important that you check with the U.S. Embassy to know all necessary documents for your application.

    J1 Visa Interview

    You can attend your visa interview once you have all the necessary documents. The interview is at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country. You’ll be told when to come for your interview after you schedule it.

    At your interview, a consulate officer will ask you questions about your J1 visa program, your intent, plans, and more. Most of this information is already in your submitted forms. Hence, you have to provide answers that correspond with those in your forms.

    During your interview, you will have to submit your biometrics if applicable to your application. The consulate officer will determine if you’ll get your J1 Visa.

    In some cases, your application may require administrative processing. This is mainly if your application needs information from other sources. Your circumstance will determine how long the administrative processing will take.

    If the consulate approves your Visa, you can proceed to pay the visa issuance fee if required. Furthermore, you’ll go for medical examination and vaccination if necessary.

    How long does J1 Visa processing take?

    The processing time of your J1 Visa depends on different factors. Some of them include your country of residence, visa category, and season.

    Processing can take between 14 days to a year for most European and African countries.

    For applicants from Asian countries, it could take 2 to 7 days but these wait times change very frequently.

    The workload and staffing in an embassy also affect the wait time. Generally, the earlier you apply for your J1 Visa, the better.

    Furthermore, it’s ideal that you schedule with an embassy in a major city in your home country.

    In special cases, you can request expedited application processing.

    Special cases include urgent situations such as school or program start dates. For this, you have to provide proof.

    J1 Two-year home-country Physical Presence Requirement

    Some J1 visa categories fall under the two-year home-country physical presence condition. This includes:

    • Graduate medical education or training category
    • Specialized knowledge or skill category
    • Government-funded exchange program category

    This condition mandates you to visit your home country for at least two years. Until you have completed this requirement, you may not be able to change your status to another nonimmigrant work visa, such as H-1B and L-1 visas. You will not also be allowed to adjust to permanent resident status.

    It is not mandatory for the two years to visit period to be consecutive; it can be cumulative. In other words, you can visit your home country in separate months totalling 24 months (2 years).

    However, the two-year home visit requirements may be waived in certain situations. You can apply for the visa waiver program if you can prove that you have an ongoing project in the U.S. that may be affected if you leave for your home country. The Department of Homeland Security will lift your restrictions if they approve your waiver.

    The home residence requirement can be waived under any of the following conditions.

    • A no-objection statement from the government of your home country, stating you have been granted permission to remain in the U.S.
    • If you can demonstrate that your presence in the U.S. is required to provide for your dependent, who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.
    • If you can prove that you would be persecuted in your home country for ethnicity or religious beliefs cases.

    Extending Your Stay

    You can extend your J1 Visa after expiration, depending on your category. For this, you have to fill and submit a new Form DS-190. This new application attracts a $367 fee. Furthermore, you must also provide evidence why the extension is necessary.

    If your J1 Visa expires, you can still stay in the U.S. for 30 days before exiting. This is known as the grace period. You can no longer engage in the program you came for during this period as you are no longer in J1 visa status. The grace period is to give you time to organize and settle necessary affairs before departing.

    How can IAS help?

    Our immigration lawyers can advise you on whether you are eligible for a J1 Visa. One of our lawyers will check all of the eligibility criteria and assess if you meet the requirements.

    Get in touch now on 0333 363 8577 or make an enquiry online and one of our immigration lawyers will be able to provide you with more information before beginning your application.

    If you wish to find out how you can work in the USA, our team is happy to assist.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    You can work in the U.S. as a J1 visa holder if your program allows you to work. Each J1 exchange program category has its own criteria, and you can only engage in the activities permitted under the program.

    You can stay for as long as your visa permits, which varies from one program to another. Some J1 holders may also apply for an extension after the expiration of their initial status. After the maximum period allowed, you will only have a 30-day grace period to leave the U.S. Failure to depart within the given period will lead to an out-of-status stay, which may cause deportation and affect your chances of future benefits from the U.S. immigration system.

    Yes, your dependent family members are eligible for the derivative category of the Exchange Visitor Visa, known as the J2 Visa. This includes spouses and unmarried children under 21.

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