Applying for a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

Rhoda Baer.  Wikimedia Commons

Rhoda Baer. Wikimedia Commons

What is the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa? How do I apply? Can I work? Can I bring my family?

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. This visa is for those who intend to participate in a U.S. Department of State (DOS) approved program for teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training.

The Exchange Visitor Program fosters global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges.  All exchange visitors are expected to return to their home country upon completion of their program in order to share their exchange experiences.

The J-1 Visa provides countless opportunities for international candidates looking to travel and gain experience in the United States. The multifaceted programs enable foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to teach, study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills or receive on the job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years:

How do I apply?

  1. Obtain the DS-2019: The first step in obtaining a J-1 visa is to obtain a Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (formerly known as an IAP-66) provided by your sponsoring agency. You should work closely with the officials at your sponsoring agency who will be assisting you through this process. 
  2. Undergo Consular Processing: Apply for a J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so submitting your visa application as early as possible is strongly encouraged (though you may not enter the United States in J-1 status more than 30 days before your program begins).
  3. Enter the United States on your J-1 Visa: Present your J-1 visa at the port-of-entry. A non-citizen entering the U.S. is generally required to present a passport and valid visa issued by a U.S. Consular Official, unless they are a citizen of a country eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, or are a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. or a citizen of Canada. Follow the link for more information regarding entering the U.S.

Can I work on a J-1 visa?
Some J-1 visa holders enter the U.S. specifically to work (as a researcher, nanny, etc.) while others do not. Employment is authorized for J-1 visa holders only under the terms of the exchange program. Please check with your sponsoring agency for more information on any restrictions that may apply to you working in the U.S.   

Can I bring my family?
In certain cases, your spouse and children may apply for J-2 visa to accompany you in the U.S. Your spouse and children are entitled to work authorization; however, their income may not be used to support you.

What else do I need to know?
The J-1 Visa has several fees and requirements. This includes the Two-year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement briefly mentioned above. Click here for Part II of this blog post: J-1 Visa Eligibility and Fees. The visa application process can be time-consuming and complicated. Contact us to see how we can help you!

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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