J-1 Visa: Extending and Changing Status

stokpic. Pixabay

stokpic. Pixabay

Can I Extend my J-1 Visa? What is the Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement? Can I get a waiver for the Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement?
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is for applicants who are sponsored by an exchange program designated by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) for teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training. This post discusses J-1 visa extensions, the two-year home-country physical presence requirement and the waiver for this requirement. 

Click here for the list of approved programs on the first part of this blog post, What is the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa? For more information on eligibility and other requirements, please follow the link to our blog post, J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa: Eligibility and Other Requirements. 
Can I extend my J-1 Visa?
Yes. The responsible officer within the sponsoring organization has the discretion to extend a participant's program. A new Form DS-2019 reflecting the extension is issued to the participant. Extensions beyond the maximum program duration are allowed in some program categories for exceptional or unusual circumstances, with approval from the DOS. To obtain approval for such extensions, the responsible officer must submit an electronic request that justifies the petition and provides supporting documentation to the DOS on behalf of the participant. A nonrefundable fee of $367 is payable to the DOS.
Is there a grace period to wrap up affairs after the completion of the program?
Yes. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows participants a 30-day travel period commonly referred to as the "Grace Period." During this 30-day grace period, participants are no longer in J-visa status, and are under the jurisdiction of the USCIS. The USCIS grants this period to allow participants to settle their affairs and to prepare to return to their home countries. They may no longer continue and/or complete exchange activities, nor may they work. Although participants may travel in the United States to wrap up their affairs, it is recommended that they do not travel beyond the borders of the United States as they may not be permitted reentry.
Who are subject to the Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement?
The following are subjected to the Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement:

  • Government-funded Exchange Program Participant
  • Someone who participated in an exchange program involving an area of study or field of Specialized Knowledge designated as necessary to further development of home country or Skill appears on the Exchange Visitor Skills List for your home country.
  • Graduate Medical Education/Training Participant 

These J-1 visa holders must return to their home country for a cumulative total period of at least two years before you can do any of the following:

  • Change status while in the United States to the nonimmigrant categories of temporary worker (H) or intracompany transferee (L);
  • Adjust status while in the United States to immigrant visa/lawful permanent resident status (LPR);
  • Receive an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate; or
  • Receive a temporary worker (H), intracompany transferee (L), or fiancé (K) visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 

Is there a waiver of the Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement?
Yes. Program participants who are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement must apply for a waiver of that requirement if they seek to remain in the United States beyond the end date of their programs or if they seek to apply to the USCIS for a change in visa status. Participants must file an application to receive a recommendation for a waiver with the Department of State. Follow the link for more information about the Waiver of the Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement.
The visa process can be time-consuming and document intensive. Please contact us to find out how we can assist you. We are here to help!

Rasoulpour Torregoza is the law firm for immigrants, by immigrants. We are founded on the motto of LegalEase: we do away with the legal jargon and make law easy to understand, so you can focus on what’s important to you – going for your American Dream.
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