Exchange Visitor Status : J-1
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States. The "J" visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs designated by the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, and the "Q" visa is for international cultural exchange programs designated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
The "J" exchange visitor is a bona fide student, scholar, trainee, teacher, professor, research assistant, specialist, or leader in a field of specialized knowledge or skill, or other person of similar description, who is coming temporarily to the United States as a participant in a program designated by the Director of the United States Information Agency, for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, or receiving training and who, if he is coming to the United States to participate in a program under which he will receive graduate medical education or training, also meets the requirements of section 212(j), and the alien spouse and minor children.
To qualify for J status the visitor must meet the following qualifications:
- must have sufficient funds to cover all expenses, or funds must be provided by the sponsoring organization in the form of a scholarship or other stipend;
- must have sufficient scholastic preparation to participate in the designated program, including knowledge of the English language, or the exchange program must be designed to accommodate non-English speaking participants;
- must be coming under the "J" program for graduate medical education or training must meet certain special requirements. These requirements include passing the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in Medical Sciences, demonstrating competency in English, being automatically subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement (after completion of their program), and being subject to time limits on the duration of their program. Physicians coming to the United States on exchange visitor programs for the purpose of observation, consultation, teaching, or conducting research in which there is little or no patient care are not subject to the above requirements; and
- must present a Form IAP-66 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status prepared by a designated sponsoring organization.
Student and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP)
Also see Sec. 641 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 (Pub. L. 104-208). Section 641 of IIRIRA is one of the catalysts behind a new interagency initiative, the Student and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP). SEVP is designed to improve processes for foreign students and exchange visitors holding F, J and M visas, and schools, colleges and other organizations sponsoring programs for these visa holders.
SEVP will facilitate and automate several processes affecting exchange visitors, such as:
- Visa issuance
- admissions to the U.S.;
- benefit requests; and
- information reporting
Exchange Visitors in J-1 Status
An exchange visitor alien must be sponsored by a designated exchange visitor program. An exchange visitor program wishing to sponsor an alien issues that alien a Form DS-2019. Form DS-2019 is a three copy, color-coded form. Upon admission, the alien is given the pink copy noting admission. This copy may be used for subsequent admissions to the United States within the period the Form DS-2019 remains valid.
Types of J-1
- Professors and research scholars
- Short term scholars
- College and university students
- Secondary school students
- Specialists: Persons with special skills coming to observe, consult or demonstrate
- Alien Physicians
- International visitors
- Government visitors
- Summer travel/work programs (discussed in more detail below)
- Camp counselors:
- Au Pairs (discussed in more detail below)
Regulations pertaining specifically to the Summer Work/Travel category are found at 22 CFR 62.32. Through this category foreign post-secondary students may enter the United States to work and travel for a maximum of four months during their summer vacations. While most participants enter the United States with prearranged employment, sponsors are required to place only 50 percent of their participants each year. Sponsors must ensure that participants entering the United States without prearranged employment have sufficient financial resources to support themselves during their search for employment. In addition, sponsors must provide such participants with information on how to seek employment and secure lodging in the United States before they depart their home countries, and with a job directory that includes at least as many job listings as the number of participants in their program who are entering the United States without prearranged employment. Finally, sponsors must undertake reasonable efforts to secure suitable employment for participants unable to find jobs on their own after one week.
Sponsors are to advise program participants about Federal Minimum Wage requirements, and are to ensure that participants receive the same pay and benefits as received by their American counterparts in the same or similar positions.
Program regulations permit participants to repeat the program more than once. However, sponsors are required to limit the number of repeating participants to no more than 10 percent of the number of their previous year's participants.
Department regulations prohibit the placement of program participants as domestic help in U.S. households or in positions requiring them to invest their own money for inventory, such as door-to-door sales. Most participants typically work in non-skilled service positions at resorts, hotels, restaurants, and amusement parks. Summer internships in US businesses and other organizations (i.e., architecture, science research, graphic art/publishing and other media communication, advertising, computer software and electronics, and legal offices, etc.) are allowed. However, the term of the internship may not exceed the four-month program duration, and must be completed during the student's summer vacation. Please refer to the regulations for details.
Through the Au Pair program foreign nationals between 18 and 26 years of age participate directly in the home life of a host family by providing limited childcare services for up to 12 months. Childcare is limited to no more than 10 hours per day, and to a maximum of 45 hours per week.
Participants in the Au Pair program must be proficient in spoken English, and are required to complete at least six hours of academic credit or its equivalent at an accredited US post-secondary educational institution. Host families are required to pay up to $500 toward the cost of the au pair's required academic course work.
Extension of J-1 Status
Responsible officers may extend an exchange visitor’s participation up to the limit of the permissible period. The responsible officer seeking a program extension on behalf of an exchange visitor, in excess of that authorized, must adequately document the reasons justifying such extension and secure the prior written approval of the DOS.
United States Department of State
Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation
ECA/EC/ECD - SA-44, Room 734
301 4th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20547
Change of Status
J-1 visitors may apply for a change of status. The most frequents changes include: change to F-1/student status; B-1/B-2 visitor status; H-1B working visa. If the J-1 visitor fears to go back to his or her country due to persecution based on nationality, political opinion, membership in a social group, race or religion he/she may apply for political asylum in the United States .