A J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States to exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange, especially to obtain medical or business training within the U.S. All applicants must meet eligibility criteria and be sponsored either by a private sector or government program.

Duration of status

J-1 visitors may remain in the United States until the end of their exchange program, as specified on form DS-2019. Once a J-1 visitor's program ends, he or she may remain in the United States for an additional 30 days, often referred to as a "grace period", in order to prepare for departure from the country.[1]

  • The actual J-1 visa certificate does not specifically document this 30-day post-study/exam "grace period", and consequently some airline counter staff have refused to issue a boarding pass to an embarking student. In particular, when the student's return ticket is departing after the J-1 visa has expired. For example: the return date is the next day after the students last exam.
  • If the visitor leaves the United States during these 30 days, the visitor may not re-enter with the J-1 visa.

The minimal and maximal duration of stay are determined by the specific J-1 category under which an exchange visitor is admitted into the United States.[1]

As with other non-immigrant visas, a J-1 visa holder and his or her dependents are required to leave the United States at the end of the duration of stay.

Mandatory home residence requirement

Many persons in the United States on J-1 visa are subject to the two-year home residency requirement found in Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under the Section 212(e), before a person on a J-1 visa with the two-year home residency requirement can change to nonimmigrant status (H-1B or L1, for example), or adjust to U.S. permanent resident status, the J-1 person must either return to the country of last residence for two years or obtain a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement.

Upon their departure from the United States, many J-1 visa holders are required to complete a mandatory two-year home-country physical presence prior to re-entry into the United States under dual intent visas, such as H1-B.[1] This applies for those whose exchange program was funded by either their government or the U.S. government, involves specialized knowledge or skills deemed necessary by their home country or if they received graduate medical training.[2] The two-year stay can be served in several intervals.[3] This mandatory two-year home-country stay can be waived under the following conditions:[4]

  • No objection statement (NOS) issued by the government of the home country of the J visa holders.
  • Exceptional hardship: If a J-1 holder can demonstrate that his departure would cause exceptional hardship to his U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident dependents.
  • Persecution: If a J-1 holder can demonstrate that he can be persecuted in his home country.
  • Interested government agency: A waiver issued for a J-1 holder by a U.S. Federal Government agency that has determined that such person is working on a project for or of its interest and the person's departure will be detrimental to its interest.
  • Conrad program: A waiver issued for a foreign medical graduate who has an offer of full-time employment at a health care facility in a designated health care professional shortage area or at a health care facility which serves patients from such a designated area.

For the No Objection Statement J1 waiver, the exchange visitor's home country government should issue a No Objection Statement (NOS) through its Embassy in Washington, DC directly to the Waiver Review Division that it has no objection to the exchange visitor not returning to the home country to satisfy the INA 212(e) two-year foreign residence requirement, and does not object to the possibility of the exchange visitor becoming a resident of the United States.

Reporting requirements

J-1 visa sponsors are required to monitor the progress and welfare of their participants. The J-1 visa sponsors should ensure that the participants' activities are consistent with the program category identified on the participants' Form DS-2019. Sponsors are also to require their participants to provide current contact (address and telephone number) information and to maintain this information in their files.

All exchange visitor applicants must have a SEVIS generated DS-2019 issued by a DOS designated sponsor, which they submit when they are applying for their exchange visitor visa. The consular officer verifies the DS-2019 record electronically through the SEVIS system in order to process your exchange visitor visa application to conclusion. Unless otherwise exempt, exchange visitor applicants must pay a SEVIS I-901 Fee to DHS for each individual program.

Electronic records on J-1 visitors and their dependents are maintained in Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program by their program sponsor. J-1 visitors must report certain information, such as a change in legal name or a change of address, within 10 days. Failure is considered a violation of the J-1 visitor's immigration status and may result in the termination of the visitor's exchange program.

J-1 categories

Different categories exist within the J-1 program, each defining the purpose or type of exchange. While most J-1 categories are explicitly named in the federal regulations governing the J-1 program, others have been inferred from the regulatory language.[1]

Private sector programs:[5]

  • Alien Physician
  • Au pair and EduCare
  • Camp Counselor (summer camp)
  • Intern
  • Student, Secondary School
  • Work/Travel
  • Teacher
  • Trainee
  • Flight Training (J-1 privileges terminated effective June 1, 2010)[6]

Government and academic programs:

  • Government Visitor
  • International Visitor
  • Professor and Research Scholar
  • Short-Term Scholar
  • Specialist
  • Student, College/University