The J-1 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.
Participants must be entering the U.S. to take part in an exchange visitor program that has been designated by the U.S. Department of State (DOS). Designed sponsors supervise the application process and remain the main point of contact throughout the exchange program process.
Three important requirements apply to all J-1 applicants:
- Fluency in English,
- Sufficient funds for the duration of the applicant’s stay, and
- Adequate medical insurance.
The applicant needs to obtain a certificate of eligibility for exchange visitor (Form DS-2019), from the program sponsor. On admission to the United States at the point of entry the applicant will receive an I-94 that is marked for duration of status (D/S). The program sponsor has the responsibility to ensure the J-1 visa holder maintains a valid Form DS-2019.
J-1 Program Categories
There are several different J-1 program categories:
- Secondary School Students
- College and University Students
- Summer Work Travel
- Camp Counselors
- Au Pairs
- Short-term Scholars (1 day to 6 months visit to train, consult, observe or lecture)
- Professors and Research Scholars (temporary non-tenure track appointments)
- Physicians (must have passed a qualifying medical examination and have documented need for physicians in home country)
- Interns (currently enrolled in a foreign post-secondary academic institute outside the U.S. or have graduated no more than 12 months prior to program start)
- Trainees (must hold degree or certificate from foreign post-secondary institute and 1 year prior related work experience or with 5 years of work experience in field in which training will take place)
- Specialist (a recognized expert in a field of specialized knowledge or skill traveling to the U.S. to observe, consult or demonstrate said knowledge or skills – limited to 3 weeks – 12 months)
For additional details on eligibility requirements for each program, please refer to this chart provided by the Department of State.
2 Year Foreign Residency Requirement
Some J-1 participants and their dependents, who were admitted to the U.S. or who adjusted their visa status to J after admission, must return home for a minimum of two years after completing their educational or cultural exchange program before they can apply for permanent residence in the United States. This requirement applies to those whose:
- Exchange program was financed to some extent by the U.S. Government or their home country’s government and whose skill appears in the Exchange Visitor Skills List as identified by their home country government; or
- If the purpose in coming to the United States was to receive graduate medical education or training
It is possible to obtain a waiver of the J-1 foreign residency requirement in some circumstances.