Everything You Need to Know About the J-1 Visa for Exchange Visitors

Manji Law, P.C. can help you navigate the J-1 visa application process. Contact us today for assistance.

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Atlanta Immigration Attorney Jameel Manji

Author: Jameel Manji, Founder, Manji Law, P.C.

Mr. Manji founded Manji Law in 2016 to follow his passion of helping people navigate the complicated immigration system. Mr. Manji graduated from Georgia State University College of Law and received Master of Taxation from the Georgia State’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business. Published on: November 30, 2023.

Manji Law is your complete immigration solution. If you are seeking assistance with the Atlanta Immigration Court, please give us a call. Manji Law can provide valuable insight, assistance, and a guiding hand to help you achieve your goals.

An Overview of the J-1 Visa Program

The J1 visa (exchange visitor visa) allows eligible foreign nationals to participate in a work and study-related exchange visitor program. The program is sponsored by educational and non-profit institutions specially designated by the United States (U.S.) Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). 

Foreign nationals can obtain practical training through the J-1 visa that isn’t available in their countries of origin. It seeks to promote the international exchange of knowledge and skills between foreign and American students.

There are different exchange visa categories under the J-1 visa program, each with different requirements and conditions. As a foreign national who plans to study or work in the U.S. through the J-1 visa program, it is essential to understand the exchange visitor program in detail before applying.

Understanding the Eligibility Criteria

Categories of J-1 Visa Holders

There are various types of J-1 exchange visitor programs. Some of them include:

    1. Au Pair: To become an Au Pair, you must be between 18 and 26 years old, receive a job offer from a family, be proficient in the English Language, and have previous childcare experience.
    2. Camp Counselor Program: You must be 18 years old, proficient in English, and in dealing with children.
    3. College and University Student Program: To qualify, you must be enrolled as a full-time student. Additionally, the program must be funded by your home country or through a U.S. government program.
    4. Government Visitor Program: For this category, you must be selected by a U.S. federal, state, or local government agency to strengthen your professional relationship with America.
    5. International Visitor Program: You must be selected by the U.S. Department of State and be a leader in specialized skills or knowledge.
    6. Physician program: To get into this category, you must have graduate medical training and a signed agreement demonstrating why you need to participate in the program.

    General Eligibility Requirements

    Regardless of the J-1 visa category you are applying for, you must demonstrate a sufficient understanding of the English language. You must have a specific level of health coverage as determined by the program regulations. You must also show evidence of sufficient funding and an appropriate background for the program. Additionally, you must have an intention to return to your home country at the end of your program.

    The Application Process

    Steps to Apply for the J-1 Visa

    J-1 visa application procedures may differ depending on which U.S. embassy or consulate you apply to. However, the general process involves the following steps:

    • Complete the online visa application, Form DS-160.

    • Schedule an interview appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country (unless you are eligible for an interview waiver).

    • Prepare for your interview.

    • Gather and prepare the required documents to take to your interview.

    • Pay the non-refundable visa application fee.

    • Attend your visa interview.

    • Pay the visa issuance fee (if applicable).

    Types of Documents Required for the J-1 Visa

    When applying for a J visa, the following documents will be required:

    • A valid passport (expiring at least six months beyond the period of stay)

    • Confirmation page for Form DS-160, nonimmigrant visa application

    • Application fee payment receipt (if you are required to pay before your interview)

    • J-1 visa health insurance coverage

    • Photograph (according to the photograph requirements)

    • Form DS-7002 (J-1 trainee and intern applicants only)

    • Certificate of eligibility for exchange visitor status, Form DS-2019, generated by SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System).

    Rights, Obligations, and Restrictions

    Benefits of the J-1 Visa

    J-1 visas provide several benefits to foreign nationals. Firstly, it enables them to gain experience and skills from studying and working in different fields. They can also learn about American culture and improve their English language. 

    Secondly, certain categories of J-1 visa holders can bring their dependent spouse and children with them to the US on a J-2 visa. It is important to note that J-2 visa holders can work in the U.S. after obtaining an Employment Authorization Document.

    Some J-1 visas have certain conditions, including the two-year home residency requirement. If you are subject to the two-year home residency requirement, you will need to return to your home country to live there for two years at the end of your program. You will be subject to the two-year home residency requirement if you fall into the following categories:

    • You are on a government-funded exchange program.

    • You came to the U.S. to receive graduate medical education or training.

    • Your home country deems the field to be of specialized knowledge and skill necessary for the development of the country.

    • You are a J-2 dependent of an Exchange Visitor who has to comply with this requirement.

    You may qualify to apply for a 2-year home residency requirement waiver under specific circumstances.

    Staying in Compliance

    You can request an extension of your J-1 visa if you require additional time to complete the objectives of your program. However, you will need the consent of your program sponsor. The extension application may also require the payment of additional fees. If your request is successful, you will receive a new Form DS-2019 stating the extension period.

    Transitioning After J-1 Visa Expires

    Changing to Another Nonimmigrant or Immigrant Status

    After coming to the U.S. for the J-1 visa program, your plans may change. For instance, you get married to a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident during your stay. If that happens, you might want to adjust your status so you can live with your spouse in America.

    In cases where the two-year residence requirement applies, you cannot adjust your status until the two-year period has passed. It is, however, not necessary to wait for the 2 years if you qualify for a waiver.

    If you are not subject to the home residency requirement, you may change your status if:

    • You were lawfully admitted into the U.S.
    • You apply for a change of status before the date on your I-94 (arrival/departure record) expires
    • You have a valid passport for your period of stay under the new classification
    • You have not committed acts that make you ineligible

    Contact Our Law Office Today To Begin Your J-1 Visa Journey

    If you or a loved one are planning to travel to the U.S. for the J-1 visa program, it is essential to get in touch with an experienced immigration lawyer. At Manji Law P.C., our attorneys can guide you through each step of the application process. 

    We understand the J-1 immigration process and can help you maximize your chances for approval. Our law firm is dedicated to assisting clients with their J-1 application and can offer the following personalized services:

    • Confirm your eligibility for your chosen J-1 visa category

    • Ensure that all your application forms are properly filed

    • Help you gather the necessary supporting documentation

    • Prepare you for your J-1 visa interview

    If you would like to get started on your J-1 visa application, contact Manji Law P.C. today. We look forward to hearing from you.