J-1 Visa Explained (Exchange Visitor Visa)

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If you are planning on coming to the United States for an extended period of time, then there are multiple options, in terms of visas, for you to take full advantage of. Depending on your situation, and if you are planning to work long term, or study long term, you will be able to find a suitable visa.

For those who wish to obtain an appropriate visa based on what was listed above, a J-1 visa is a great option. Because all foreign individuals must obtain a visa prior to entering the United States, it’s important to have some basic knowledge about your options. Luckily, we know all there is to know about the J-1 visa and have created this article to help you.

For more information and any answers to common questions, you may have, read this article.

The J-1 Visa & Its Purpose

The J-1 visa, also known as the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program or the J Student visa, is a program that gives non-U.S. citizens the opportunity to work, learn, consult, and do research in the United States. The sole purpose of this exchange is to promote the exchange of skills and knowledge throughout various fields and enhance other cultures in the United States.

Generally, this visa focuses on the arts and will enable private and public entities to invite individuals abroad to participate in skills exchange programs.

Eligibility & Requirements for a J-1 Visa

The eligibility for the J-1 exchange visitor visa is important and will be listed below.

  • For starters, English proficiency must be clearly demonstrated
  • You must have the funds to cover your expenses while in the United States
  • Obtain a valid J-1 visa health insurance plan
  • Meet the home residency requirements, which means you must return to your home country upon completion of the program

These are the only two blanket requirements that you must meet to apply for the J-1 visa. But, more requirements must be met depending on the category of J-1 visa you are applying for. These requirements will be gone over in more detail in the following sections.

Who Can Sponsor a J-1 Visa?

Because these visas are solely intended for students or visitor exchanges, they can be sponsored only by specific entities. For example, the following organizations are allowed to be visa sponsors:

  • Government agencies
  • Educational institutions
  • Academic based organizations
  • Organizations that specialize in cultural studies
  • Non-profit organizations
  • for-profit organizations

Sometimes, the host of your visa doesn’t have to be your sponsor. There are cases where your host and sponsor are different. Generally, this happens for big universities that utilize these visa programs commonly and other organizations that have countless J-1 visa holders.

Usually, sponsoring agencies can be third parties. And, this does happen for the organizations listed above, that don’t have the ability to handle numerous sponsorships. But, that’s alright, because as long as you have a proper sponsor, you will be able to obtain this type of visa legally, as long you meet the above criteria.

Benefits of a J-1 Visa

For J-1 visa holders, there are a few benefits that come with obtaining this visa. We will go over the many benefits the J-1 visa has below:

  1. The dependents you bring abroad will be able to apply for permission to work as well if they can prove the money made isn’t for supporting the J-1 visa applicant
  2. You may legally work in the country, if your program requires it or if your sponsor will allow it
  3. You are able to travel in and out of the country easily until your program has been completed
  4. In some cases, after completing the program and moving back to your home country for two years, you may be able to apply for a green card

However, the largest benefit you can experience as a J-1 visa holder, is that you may have your spouse or dependent children accompany you to the United States as long as they meet the criteria. This is actually the only nonimmigrant visa that will allow dependents or spouses to work legally in the country.

Still, they are not allowed to work if their income is used to support you and your J-1 visa.

Categories of the J-1 Visa

In terms of the J-1 visa, there are numerous categories that you can apply for. These categories include:

  • Au Pair or camp counselor
  • College and University Student
  • Secondary School Student
  • Government or international Visitor
  • Physician
  • Professor
  • Research Scholar
  • Short-Term Scholar
  • Specialist
  • Summer Work Traveler
  • Teacher
  • Trainee
  • Intern

More requirements for specific eligibility will be given by your sponsor when you are applying for your visa. However, as long as you meet the basic requirements listed in the section above and remain a full-time program applicant, you will be solid with your requirements.

J-1 Visa Step-by-Step Application Process

In order to apply for a J-1 visa, you must follow the necessary steps. Here is a detailed overview of the steps you need to follow for the J-1 visa process:

  1. Fill out your visa J1 visa application form: First and foremost, you must complete the necessary J-1 visa application forms and supporting documents. When completing your application, it’s important to print out the confirmation page and save it for your visa interview, and updating a valid passport-style photo is recommended.
  2. Setting up an interview with the consulate closest to you: Once you have completed your J-1 visa forms, you can schedule a visa appointment. Depending on the country you currently reside in, the appointment slots and timeline will also vary. All you must do is apply for an appointment at your earliest convenience.
  3. Pay the application fee: In some countries, you will be required to pay the fees prior to your visa interview, and in other countries, you can pay after your visa interview. Checking the specifics of your visa and your country will be beneficial.
  4. Gather all necessary documents for your interview: Before attending your interview, gather your valid passport, a valid passport photo, your visa fee receipt, DS-7002, DS-2019, J-1 visa health insurance, and your nonimmigrant visa application form. These documents will be needed for your visa interview.
  5. Attend your visa interview appointment: When the day arrives, it’s important that you bring all the documents listed above and attend your interview.
  6. If approved, you can enter the United States: If your visa has been approved, you will be able to schedule your trip to the United States finally. But, upon arrival, you can be denied entry. This is why it’s important to submit your passport, visa, and DS-2019 forms at the border.

Cost to Apply for a J-1 Visa

The fees for this type of visa will vary based on the sponsoring individual or entity, what category you fall under, and the duration of your stay. Generally, it’s important to speak with your sponsor ahead of time about the various costs associated with this type of visa.

Your sponsor will need to complete some information of their own. First, they will need to add your name to the SEVIS, which is known as the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. This system will track and monitor your exchange and confirm if your selected program fits you.

In some cases, you may be asked to pay a fee of $120 for submitting the SEVIS. Additionally, you will need to pay $160 for the nonimmigrant application processing fee if you haven’t already gotten it waived.

Just to be prepared and safe, it is important that you speak with your sponsor about any additional fees you might be asked to pay. As we have said, the cost breakdown for this type of visa will vary depending on the above factors.

J-1 Visa Timeline

The general timeline for the J-1 visa is entirely up to your home country. This is because you will need to apply for these visas from your local U.S. embassy or consulate and have varying appointment times. For instance, some countries in South America have a wait time of around 20 days, whereas Asian countries might only have a two-day waiting period.

If we had to give you a rough estimate of a timeline for this type of visa, we would say the processing times can range anywhere from eight weeks to 13 weeks. However, different waiting times are associated with different stages of the J-1 visa process.

Here is a rough breakdown of the timeline for a J-1 visa application:

  1. Finding a sponsor: Timelines will vary for this task, depending on the specific learning type you are applying for. But, as we have previously mentioned, you can use third parties to do so, or your host program can sponsor you if they meet the criteria.
  2. SEVIS processing and DS-2019 processing: This can take anywhere from two weeks to three weeks, depending on the country you are applying from.
  3. Form DS-160 processing and scheduling your visa interview: Sometimes, this process can take anywhere from two weeks to four weeks.
  4. Attending your Visa interview: Typically, this can take a while to schedule and complete, so the timeframes may vary.
  5. Receiving your visa upon approval: If you have been approved following your visa interview, it will take about seven working days to receive your visa.

J-1 Visa Extension

Consistently, the J-1 visa has a maximum regulatory duration of five years. But, this maximum stay is really only available for scholars and professors. At the discretion of the Department of State, extensions may be allowed beyond the maximum duration.

However, in order to have this extended, you must have exceptional circumstances as to why this needs to be done. As we stated earlier, you will have to submit a request to the Department of State and provide sufficient amounts of evidence to prove that you must stay longer.

Submitting proof and other supporting documents for your case is expected. Additionally, you need to pay a non-refundable fee for this request.

Obtaining a Green Card

When you have applied for a J-1 visa you need to make it clear that you would move back to your home country, obtaining a green card from this visa is difficult. However, it’s not unheard of. First, you will need to ensure you are eligible for a green card.

Sometimes, J-1 applicants don’t meet the criteria for a green card, so they will be unable to apply. But, before we get ahead of ourselves, you must first complete the two-year residency requirement. This means that you will need to go back to your home country for two years after completion of your J-1 visa program.

However, there are waivers that can be completed so that you don’t need to move away. If this can be obtained, then you will have three different options to apply for your green card. These three options will be listed below including this waiver:

  • Submitting your waiver and proof that you did not originally wish to become a permanent resident of the United States
  • Submitting your waiver and then submitting an immigrant petition upon waiver approval
  • Submitting your waiver then waiting until it’s approved to then submit your J-1 waiver

The last option is done to change their visa status to a nonimmigrant visa, such as an H-1B visa so that no terms are violated. This way, it’s easier to obtain a green card. Once you have done one of these three opinions listed above, you can then begin to apply for a green card.

Processing Times

The processing times will vary for your green card depending on what visa you have previously and the class of green card that you are seeking. And, along with the various processing times, comes the varying prices. There are fees that you should be well aware of when it comes to applying for a green card from your J-1 visa.

If you adjust your status by consular crossing, you, or your sponsor and employer must pay for Form I-140 and Form I-485’s filing fees and a biometrics appointment. This comes to cost anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500.

Of course, transitioning from this type of visa to permanent residency is a lot of work and requires a lot of time and money. But, this can be a great option for those who wish to stay in the U.S. with no previous intention of doing so. And, there are countless options that you can take to adjust your status and numerous options for payments if needed.

J-1 Visa FAQs

When it comes to getting a visa for another country, there are always common questions that are asked. So, because of this, we have compiled a list of questions and their answers, to better assist you in the process of obtaining a visa.

1. What Is the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?

This requirement is a promise that applicants must make to return to their home country for at least two years after their program and visa have ended. For you to follow this, one of the following statements must have occurred:

  1. Your home country has at least partially funded the program you have traveled to the United States for
  2. Your skills have been determined, by your home country, to be pivotal to the advancement of the United State’s interests
  3. You used the program solely for graduate medical training

If any of these three statements are accurate, then you must return back to your home country after two years of being in the country on this type of visa.

2. Can I Travel on a J-1 Visa?

Travel with this visa is made easy. But, you are only allowed to travel outside of the United States for no longer than 30 days. Any travel that exceeds this amount of time could be considered an abandonment of status.

However, if you travel outside of the United States for the program you are abroad for, then there will be exceptions. As long as you and your visa sponsor are in agreement with the terms listed in DS-2019, and the document is travel endorsed.

If your visa is about to expire before you are traveling outside of the United States, or if it expires while you’re traveling, then you must

3. How Do I Waive the Two-Year Physical Presence Requirement?

However, someone the question listed above can be waived. If you satisfy certain requirements, you may be able to stay in the country for longer than two years without returning to your home country and review a J-1 visa waiver.

  1. If your home country can send a “no objection statement” to Washington, DC, stating that you are not needed back in the country following your two-year program
  2. You are working with a federal government agency that believes your leaving the country could hurt the United States in any way
  3. If you will be prosecuted upon arrival to your home country, then you will be able to waive the two-year requirement
  4. If your departure from the United States will cause extreme hardship
  5. If you happen to be a State Public Health graduate and were requested to remain in the United States

4. Can I Bring My Dependents on a J-1 Visa?

As we stated previously, yes, if you are married and have a spouse or any children who are under the age of 21 and dependent on you, then they can come to the United States. However, they will need to enter under J-2 status.

Furthermore, if spouses or dependent children wish to join you in the United States, they will need to file Form DS-2019 and attend a visa interview.

5. Can I Change My Category Under a J-1 Visa?

No, you are typically not able to change your category. When you apply for a J-1 visa, you must claim “research scholar” status and stick with this. However, sometimes, the U.S. The Department of State will allow you to change your category, but this is not under their discretion and not often.

6. Can I Change My Exchange Program?

Sure, you will be allowed to change your exchange program or change jobs, while in the United States on your J-1 visa. But, you must undergo this change within the same practice area or field.

7. How Do I Qualify for a Conrad State 30 Waiver?

The Conrad State 30 waiver is a waiver program that will allow J-1 medical visa holders to apply for a new waiver two years after completing their initial visa. In order to be eligible for the Conrad State 30 waiver, you must have been residing in your home country for at least two years following the completion of your program.

Additionally, you will be approved for this waiver if there is a shortage of medical professionals in your specialized field. After completing all the necessary forms, you must first obtain a valid sponsorship from a state department and then complete the Conrad State waiver.

8. Can I Enter the Country Before My Visa Begins?

Yes, so if you have applied for the J-1 visa and been approved, you are able to enter the United States 30 days before the visa’s starting date. This ensures that you will have no issues traveling and entering the country.

Apply for Your J-1 Visa Today!

We understand that applying for U.S. visas is expensive and time-consuming. And, we understand that sometimes it helps to have a skilled team by your side to do so. This way, no mistakes are made, and you have the best possible chance of getting your visa approved.

If you are wishing to get a J-1 visa, but don’t know where to start, contact us today. We offer state-of-the-art immigration software and immigration solutions to make the visa process straightforward. Don’t waste any more time; get started with ImmigrationDirect today!

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