Temporary Visas

J-1 Visas for Scholars, Interns & Trainees

There are two types of Exchange Visitors: J-1 scholars in graduate programs or post-graduate research fellowships, and J-1 trainees / interns in professional training programs based at a U.S. employer. In a marked departure from past policy, new regulations (beginning in July 2007) restricted J-1 eligibility to individuals who have completed a college degree outside the U.S. and have at least one year of related work experience, or individuals with at least five years of relevant work experience outside the U.S. This effectively ends the use of the J-1 program by anyone who has completed their higher education at U.S. institutions.

The authorizing institution must issue a Form DS-2019 to the Exchange Visitor, who must then register for inclusion in the SEVIS database before a J-1 visa can be issued. J-2 visas are available for dependents, and J-2 spouses are eligible for employment authorization. The initial period of admission allowed will be indicated on Form DS-2019. The maximum stay for J-1 scholars is 5 years, but the maximum for trainees is 18 months, and for interns it is 12 months. The new regulations prohibit switching to a different J-1 program or admission to a second J-1 program after completion of a first. J-1 exchange visitors have a grace period of 30 days in which to depart after completion of a program.

Many J-1 exchange visitors are subject to a requirement to return to their home country for two years upon completion of their program, and may not seek permanent residence, or H or L work visas until they have satisfied that requirement or obtained a waiver. The two year foreign residence requirement of INA Section 212(e) applies to:

  1. Foreign physicians who complete graduate medical training in the US under J-1 status;
  2. J-1  exchange visitors whose program was at least partially funded by the US, by their home country, or by an international organization of which one or both countries is a member;
  3. J-1 exchange visitors whose program area is or was on the Exchange Visitor Skills List for their country of nationality.

INA 212e does not apply to participants in the Au Pair program, per the Foreign Affairs Manual at 9 FAM 402.5-6(L)(1)(b).

If you have more questions about obtaining your J-1 or J-2 visa, contact Karin Wolman today.

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