J-1 Visa – Overview of the Exchange Visitor Visa

Department of State and the Bureau of Consular Affairs designates the J-1 visa, temporary exchange visitor visa, in order to promote exchange of persons, knowledge and skills in fields involving arts, education and sciences. Creating successful exchange between US citizens and foreign citizens through sponsored programs is its principle idea. Sponsored programs complying to the Exchange Visitor Program regulations helps achieve this goal.

Classification of Visitors

Eligible participants are classified by DOS as students at all academic levels, on the job trainees with institutions, firms and agencies as well as medical fields. Also as professors coming to either teach or conduct research at higher learning institutes, research scholars and also as teachers of primary, secondary and specialized schools. International visitors are eligible to enter the US if they travel with the purpose of consulting, observing, researching, training, sharing, traveling, demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills or participating in organized people-to-people programs.

People those who want to bring a nanny to the US as an au pair, foreign physicians, camp counselors, summer work/travel, trainee or flight training personnel can also use J-1 visa.

Note: ‘Q’ visa for International and Cultural Exchange Program designated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should be applied for by applicants requiring practical training and employment or the sharing of history, culture, and traditions of their home country in the United States.

Eligibility Criteria for J-1 Visa

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) establish the eligibility based on the following criteria:

Financial Resources: Sufficient funds availability must be ensured by the program participants to adequately cover their expenses. These funds can be obtained as stipend or scholarship from the sponsoring organization.

Scholastic Preparation: Sufficient scholastic preparations are a must for participants to take part in the exchange program. Unless the program is designed for non-English speaking participants, adequate knowledge of the English language is an additional requirement.

Medical Education and Training: Successful completion of the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in Medical Science is a must for participants in addition to proficiency in English. Depending on the duration of their program and successful completion, applicants automatically need to complete the two-year foreign residence requirement. For physicians coming to the US on J-1 visa for teaching, consulting, observing or conducting research purposes, where little or no patient care is involved, have exception from this two-year foreign residence requirement.

Exchange Visitor Program

Sponsors from both the public and private sectors are designated for exchange visitor program. So foreign nationals’ entry as exchange visitors into the United States is facilitated with “completion of objectives of one of the categories in the exchange visitor program” as the goal.

Specific requirements and regulations constitute each category of exchange:

Private Sector Programs includes au pair, camp counselor, trainee, summer work/travel, alien physician.

Public Sector or Government Programs includes professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, specialist, college/university student, secondary student, government visitor, international visitor, (reserved for U.S. Department of State use) and teacher.

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