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Frequently Asked Questions for J-1 Visa And J-1 Waiver Application 

J-1 Waiver Questions graphicQ: What is a J-1 Visa?

A: J-1 visas are for people who want to participate in an exchange visitor program in the US. The J-1 visa is intended for students needing practical training that is not available in their home country to complete their academic program. The training must be directly related to the academic program. The J-1 visa obligates the student to return to their home country for a minimum of two years after the end of their studies in the US.

A J-1 Visa is issued for an exchange visitor who is participating in an established J exchange program pre-approved by the U.S. Department of State. Exchange visitors under J-1 visas include secondary school and college students, business trainees, primary and secondary school teachers, college professors, research scholars, medical residents or interns receiving medical training in the U.S., specialists, international visitors, and government visitors.

Q: Who is Eligible for the J-1 visa?

A: The J-1 visa is applicable to the following people:

  • Students at all academic levels;

  • Au-pairs and nannies;

  • Trainees obtaining on-the-job training with firms, institutions, and agencies;

  • Teachers of primary, secondary, and specialized schools;

  • Professors coming to teach or do research at institutions of higher learning;

  • Research scholars;

  • Professional trainees in medical and allied fields;

  • Business and industrial trainees;

  • International visitors coming for the purpose of travel, observation, consultation, research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills;

  • Anyone who takes part in an exchange program approved by the U.S. Department of State .

Q: What is the Exchange Visitor Program?

A: The Exchange Visitor Program promotes mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by educational and cultural exchanges, under the provisions of U.S. law. Exchange Programs provide an extremely valuable opportunity to experience the U.S. and its way of life, thereby developing lasting and meaningful relationships. 

The first step for a prospective nonimmigrant exchange visitor is to be accepted in an established exchange visitor program that is Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified. At the conclusion of their program, Exchange Visitor program participants are expected to return to their home countries to utilize the experience and skills they have acquired while in the U.S.

In carrying out the responsibilities of the Exchange Visitor Program, the Department of State (DOS) designates public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors. Designated sponsoring organizations facilitate the entry of foreign nationals into the U.S. as exchange visitors to complete objectives of one of the wide variety of exchange visitor program categories.

Q: What are the requirements for J1 program sponsors?

A: To ensure that the exchange visitor program is suitable to the participant's background, needs, and experience, sponsors screen and select their program participants according to the eligibility criteria for each program category. Some categories require that a personal interview be part of the screening/selection process. 

In addition to program-specific criteria, all participants must satisfy English language proficiency and insurance requirements. In addition, sponsors are to provide participants with pre-arrival information prior to their departure from their home countries and with an appropriate orientation. Sponsors are also required to monitor the progress and welfare of the participants in their programs.

Q: What is the English language requirement for exchange visitors?

A: Participants must possess sufficient proficiency in the English language to participate in their programs. Exchange visitor program sponsors are required to ensure that their participants are sufficiently proficient in the English language to participate in their exchange programs before they enter the United States.

Q: What is the insurance requirement for exchange visitors?

A: Participants and any J-2 dependents (spouses and minor children -- children under the age 21) accompanying them are required to carry medical insurance at the minimum benefit levels stated in the program regulations. Program sponsors are required to ensure that all participants have the appropriate medical insurance. They will verify that the participant's medical insurance meets the regulatory requirements, and will facilitate the purchase of coverage to participants who do not have their own insurance, or whose coverage does not meet the requirements. 

Participants interested in obtaining appropriate medical insurance should contact the responsible officer of the organization sponsoring their program. Willful failure on the part of the participant and/or any J-2 dependents to maintain active insurance coverage is grounds for termination from the program. 

Q: What is the exchange visitor visa?

A: The exchange visitor (J) nonimmigrant visa category is provided for persons who are approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the U.S., under provisions of U.S. immigration law. This means that before you can apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a J visa, you must first apply, meet the requirements, and be accepted for one of the Exchange Visitor Program categories through a designated sponsoring organization. If you are accepted as a participant in an exchange program, the sponsor will provide you with information and documents necessary to apply for the J visa to enter the U.S. 

Q: When can a visitor visa be used instead of an exchange visitor visa?

A: In certain circumstances, some activities that are done on exchange visitor visas are also permitted on business (B-1) or tourist (B-2) visas. Short periods of study, or study which is recreational, and not vocational, and incidental to the trip, is permitted on a visitor visa. The determining factor is the traveler's primary purpose in coming to the U.S. 

Any kind of study that would earn credit or certification is not permitted on a visitor visa. As an example, if you are taking a vacation to the U.S., and during this vacation you would like to take a two-day cooking class for your enjoyment, and there is no credit earned, then this would be permitted on a visitor visa. A consular officer will determine the visa category you will need based on the purpose of your travel, and your supporting documentation. 

Q: Can exchange visitors travel on the visa waiver program?

A: Citizens from a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) who want to enter the U.S. temporarily as exchange visitors, must first obtain a an exchange visitor visa. Exchange visitor program participants cannot travel on the VWP, nor can they travel on a visitor (B) visa. Those travelers coming on the VWP to participate in an exchange program may be denied admission to the U.S. by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. immigration inspector at the port of entry. 

Sponsors are required to monitor the progress and welfare of their participants. Sponsors are to ensure that the participants' activities are consistent with the program category identified on the participants' Form DS-2019. Sponsors are also to require their participants to provide current contact (address and telephone number) information and to maintain this information in their files.
All program categories require that sponsors provide emergency, 24-hour contact information to their participants. Participants should not hesitate to contact the responsible officer if they need assistance. For additional information, please refer to the regulations.

Q: What is SEVIS and SEVP? what should you know about it?

A: Sponsors are required to monitor the progress and welfare of their participants. Sponsors are to ensure that the participants' activities are consistent with the program category identified on the participants' Form DS-2019. Sponsors are also to require their participants to provide current contact (address and telephone number) information and to maintain this information in their files.

All program categories require that sponsors provide emergency, 24-hour contact information to their participants. Participants should not hesitate to contact the responsible officer if they need assistance. The SEVP monitors school and exchange programs and F, M and J category visitors. The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on nonimmigrant students (F and M visa), exchange visitors (J visa), and their dependents (F-2, M-2, and J-2). 

SEVIS enables schools and program sponsors to transmit mandatory information and event notifications via the Internet, to the DHS and DOS throughout a student or exchange visitor's stay in the U.S. 

All exchange visitor applicants must have a SEVIS generated DS-2019 issued by a DOS designated sponsor, which they submit when they are applying for their exchange visitor visa. The consular officer verifies the DS-2019 record electronically through the SEVIS system in order to process your exchange visitor visa application to conclusion. Unless otherwise exempt, exchange visitor applicants must pay a SEVIS I-901 Fee to DHS for each individual program. 

Q: How to qualify for an exchange visitor visa?

A: Exchange visitor applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for an exchange visitor (J) visa under immigration law. The consular officer will determine whether you qualify for the visa. Additionally, applicants must demonstrate that they properly meet requirements, including the following: 

  • That they plan to remain in the U.S. for a temporary, specific, limited period;

  • Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the U.S.;

  • Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.

Q: How to apply for an exchange visitor visa

A: Visa applicants should apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, generally in their country of permanent residence. As part of the visa application process, an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by the embassy or consulate. 

The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available on our website at Visa Wait Times, and on most embassy websites. 

If you are authorized by your sponsor to be accompanied by your spouse (husband or wife) and children, they will also be given a Form DS-2019 and they can apply at the same time. During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview by a Consular Officer.

Q: What are the required documentation for J visa application?

A: When applying, each visa applicant must submit to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate these forms and documentation, as explained below:

  • DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status. A SEVIS-generated Form, DS-2019, is provided to you by your program sponsor, after the sponsor enters your information in the SEVIS system. All exchange visitors, including their spouses and dependents must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

  • A Training/Internship Placement Plan, Form DS-7002. All exchange visitor (J visa) trainee or intern visa applicants must also present Training/Internship Placement Plan, Form DS-7002 when applying for a visa. 

  • An application, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-156, completed and signed. At certain U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad, nonimmigrant visa applicants are now required to apply visa using the new DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, instead of the nonimmigrant application forms DS-156, 157, 158, and other related forms. 

  • A Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-157 provides additional information about your travel plans. Submission of this completed form is required for all male applicants between 16-45 years of age. It is also required for all applicants from state sponsors of terrorism age 16 and over, irrespective of gender, without exception. You should know that a consular officer may require any nonimmigrant visa applicant to complete this form.

  • A Contact Information and Work History, Form DS-158, completed. 

  • A passport valid for travel to the U.S. and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the U.S. If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must complete an application.

  • One (1) 2x2 photograph.

Q: Is there any additional requirement for J1 visa application?

A: Applicants must demonstrate to the consular officer that they have binding ties to a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they are coming to the U.S. for a temporary period. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since applicants' circumstances vary greatly. 

Q: My J1 visa has been issued, when can I travel to the U.S.?

A: DHS regulation requires that all beginning J exchange visitors, and J-2 spouse and dependents enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the applicant's program start date as shown on the Form DS-2019. The 30-day limitation does not apply to current exchange participants who are returning to continue with their exchange program. 

If you want an earlier entry in the U.S. (more than 30 days prior to the course start date), you must qualify for and obtain a visitor visa. However, this is strongly discouraged. 

Q: How to apply for J2 visa for spouses and children?

A: Spouses and/or children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal exchange visitor J1 visa holder in the U.S. for the duration of his/her stay require J2 exchange visitor visas. The application procedure is the same as that for a primary visa applicant. The sponsor must approve the accompaniment of the spouse and/or children and who will each be issued their own Form DS-2019. This form is used to obtain the required visa and the spouse and dependents can enter the U.S. at the same time as the principal exchange visitor or at a later date.

Spouses and/or children who do not intend to reside in the U.S. with the principal visa holder, but visit for vacations only, may be eligible to apply for visitor (B-2) visas, or if qualified, travel without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program.

Q: Can spouse and/or children work in U.S. with J2 visa? 

A: The spouse and/or children of an exchange visitor in the U.S. may not work in J2 status, unless they have filed Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved permission to work. 

Q: Can spouse and/or children study in U.S. with J2 visa? 

A: The spouse and/or children of an exchange visitor visa holder who are in the U.S. on an exchange visitor visa may study in the U.S. without also being required to apply for a student (F-1) visa or change to F-1 status. 

Q: For family members, how to follow to join the exchange visitor?

A: The spouse and children can also apply for visas after the principal applicant has already traveled. In general, they must present the following: 

  • Form DS 2019, SEVIS generated, and approved by the sponsor;

  • Proof that the principal applicant (the person who received the DS-2019) is maintaining his/her J visa status;

  • Copy of the J1's (principal applicant's) visa; 

  • Proof of relationship to the principal applicant; 

  • Proof of sufficient money to cover all expenses in the U.S.

Spouses and children of exchange visitors may not enter the U.S. before the primary exchange visitor enters for the first time.

Q: What is the two-year home-country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement?

A: When you agree to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program and your program falls under the certain conditions, you will be subject to the two-year home-country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement. This means you will be required to return to your home country for two years at the end of your exchange visitor program. This requirement under immigration law is based on Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, and Title 22 Part 40 and Part 41 in the Code of Federal Regulations. 

An exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home country physical presence requirement if the following conditions exist:

  • Government funded exchange program - The program in which the exchange visitor was participating was financed in whole or in part directly or indirectly by the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitor's nationality or last residence;

  • Graduate medical education or training - The exchange visitor entered the U.S. to receive graduate medical education or training; 

  • Specialized knowledge or skill: Skills List - The exchange visitor is a national or permanent resident of a country which has deemed the field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of the country, as shown on the Exchange Visitor Skills List 2009.

Q: What is the change of status and J1 waivers requirement? 

A: If the exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home-country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement, he or she cannot change his/her status to that of H, L, K, or immigrant lawful permanent resident (LPR) until he or she has returned to his/her home country for at least two-years or received a waiver of that requirement. 

Such J1 waivers may be requested and if approved, obtained under these five separate bases: 

  • No Objection Statement; 

  • Exceptional Hardship; 

  • Persecution; 

  • Conrad Program, or 

  • Interested Government Agency.

Q: Can I Enter on a Visitor Visa (B visa) and Change Status to an Exchange Visitor Program (J visa)?

A: If you want an earlier entry in the U.S. (more than 30 days prior to the course start date), you must qualify for, and obtain a visitor visa; however, this is strongly discouraged. If you travel to the U.S. on a visitor visa, before beginning an exchange program, you must obtain a change of visa classification from the B status to that of J. 

You must file Form I-539, Application for Change of Nonimmigrant Status, with application fee, and also submit the required Form DS-2019 to the DHS office where the application is made. 

Please be aware that you cannot start your exchange visitor program until the change of status is approved, and therefore in view of the processing time to your change status in the U.S., you may be in danger of missing your entire exchange program waiting approval of change of status. 

Q: What is a "Q" International Cultural Exchange Visitor?

A: There are two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons to participate in exchange visitor programs in the U.S. under immigration law. The "J" exchange visitor visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs designated by the DOS, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and is discussed here. The "Q1" visa is for certain international cultural exchange programs designed to provide practical training and employment, and sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of participants home country in the U.S.. The training/employment must be approved in advance by USCIS on the basis of a petition, Form I-129, filed by the U.S. sponsor. 

Q: What I should know for entering the U.S. at the port of entry?

A: The J visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the U.S. port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S. The DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the U.S. 

Exchange visitors must have their Form DS-2019 in their possession each time they enter the U.S. If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the CBP official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay in the U.S., it is very important to keep inside your passport. In advance of travel, prospective travelers should review important information about Admissions/Entry requirements, as well as information related to restrictions about bringing food, agricultural products or other restricted/prohibited goods explained on the DHS, CBP website. 

Upon arrival at an international airport, seaport or land border crossing, you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program. In addition, some travelers will also need to register their entry into and their departure from the U.S. with the Special Registration program. 

Q: What will happen if I stay beyond the authorized stay in the U.S. and being out of status?

A: It is important that you depart the U.S. on or before the last day you are authorized to be in the U.S. on any given trip, based on the specified end date on your Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94. Failure to departure the U.S. will cause you to be out-of-status. Staying beyond the period of time authorized, by the DHS, and out-of-status in the U.S., is a violation of U.S. immigration laws, and may cause you to be ineligible for a visa in the future for return travel to the U.S. 

Staying unlawfully in the U.S., beyond the date CBP officials have authorized, even by one day results in your visa being automatically voided, in accordance with to INA 222(g). Under this provision of immigration law, if you overstay on your nonimmigrant authorized stay in the U.S. your visa will be automatically voided. In this situation, you are required to reapply for a new nonimmigrant visa, generally in your country of nationality. 

Q: How long am I permitted to stay in the U.S. after my program has ended?

A: The initial admission of an exchange visitor, spouse and children may not exceed the period specified on Form DS-2019, plus a period of 30 days only for domestic travel and/or to prepare for and depart from the U.S.

Q: What is the "Grace Period" to before leaving U.S.?

A: Following the completion of the J1 program, the period defined on the Form DS-2019, 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. Program participants may no longer continue and/or complete exchange activities, nor may they work. Although participants may travel in the United States, it is recommended that they do not travel beyond the borders of the United States as they may not be permitted reentry.

Q: How to extend my stay in J1 visa?

A: The responsible officer has the discretion to extend a J1 participant's program to its maximum regulatory duration, that is, to the limit imposed by the regulations specific to a program category or to a program sponsor's designation. 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 Department of State. To obtain approval for such extensions, the responsible officer must submit a written request that justifies the petition and provides supporting documentation to the Department of State on behalf of the participant. A nonrefundable fee of $246 is payable to the U.S. Department of State.

Q: How to make a change of category for my J1 program?

A: Any change of category must be clearly consistent with and closely related to the participant's original exchange objective, and necessary due to unusual or exceptional circumstances. Participants should address all inquiries regarding change of category to the responsible officer of their programs. The responsible officer submits a written request with supporting justification for the change to the Department of State on behalf of the participant. A nonrefundable fee of $246 is payable to the U.S. Department of State.

If the Department grants the request, the responsible officer issues a new Form DS-2019 that reflects the change. If the request is denied, the participant is expected to return home no later than 30 days from the date of the Department's notice or the program's end date indicated on the Form DS-2019, whichever is later.

Q: How to transfer me to another J1 program?

A: The transfer of a participant from one program (sponsor) to another may be allowed at the discretion of the responsible officers and must be within the same category. The responsible officer of the program to which the participant seeks to transfer is required to verify the participant's visa status and eligibility, to issue a new Form DS-2019 reflecting the transfer, and to obtain the release of the participant from the current responsible officer, who indicates approval of the transfer by completing and signing block 8 of the new Form DS-2019. 

Transfers are not permitted in all categories, and a transfer does not extend the maximum duration of the program. Participants should address all inquiries regarding change of category to the responsible officer of their programs.

Q: What are the grounds for a J1 program termination?

A: Participants are subject to the Department of State's Exchange Visitor Program regulations, and to the rules specified by their sponsors. Participants found to be in violation of program regulations and/or sponsors' rules may be terminated from the program. Other grounds for termination include, but are not limited to:

1) failure to pursue the exchange activities for which the participant was admitted to the United States; 
2) inability to continue the program; 
3) willful failure to maintain insurance coverage as required; and 
4) unauthorized employment.

Participants who withdraw or are terminated from their exchange programs are expected to leave the United States immediately,.

Q: What is the "reinstatement"?

A: Reinstatement to valid program status becomes necessary when 

1) an exchange visitor's participation in his or her program has somehow interrupted or ended; or 
2) the participant remains in the United States beyond the program end date indicated on the current Form DS-2019. 

Regulatory violations requiring reinstatement of the visitor's status are classified as: minor or technical infractions, which are considered to be a "correction of the record," and which the responsible officer may adjust without prior authorization of the Department of State; substantive, which require the authorization of the Department of State prior to adjustment; and non-reinstatable.

Q: What is the "minor or technical infractions"?

A: These include, but are not limited to failure to:

1) extend a participant's program before the end date on the Form DS-2019; 
2) process a program transfer prior to the end date on the Form DS-2019; or 
3) receive approval and an amended Form DS-2019 prior to accepting an honorarium or other type of payment for an allowable activity.

The responsible officer may correct the participant's record within 120 days of the stated end date of the participant's program by issuing a new Form DS-2019 that 1) shows continued authorized stay without interruption; 2) indicates the appropriate purpose code and the additional notation "correct the record"; and 3) is dated as of the date the adjusted Form DS-2019 is executed.

Q: What is the "substantive infractions"?

A: The substantive infractions are: 

1) failure to maintain valid program status for more than 120 calendar days after the program end date indicated on the Form DS-2019; and, if the participant is a student,

2) failure to maintain a full course of study without prior consultation with (and approval of) the responsible officer or the alternate responsible officer of the sponsor and with the student's academic advisor.

The responsible officer must apply to the Department of State for reinstatement on behalf of the participant. The petition should include:

1) all copies of the participant's Forms DS-2019 issued to date;

2) a new, completed Form DS-2019, showing in Block 3 the new program end date; a copy of the receipt showing that the Public Law 104-208 fee has been paid;

3) a written statement with supporting documentation justifying the request. The statement should a) declare that the exchange visitor is pursuing at all times the activity for which he or she entered the United States; and show that b) the participant's failure to maintain valid program status was due to circumstances beyond his or her control or to administrative delay or oversight; and c) it would be an unusual hardship to the participant if the Department of State does not grant the reinstatement to valid program status. 

Q: What are the "non-reinstatable Infractions"?

A: The following infractions preclude reinstatement. Applications for reinstatement submitted to the Department of State showing any of these infractions will be denied:

1) willful and knowing failure to comply with program insurance requirements; 

2) unauthorized employment; 

3) involuntary suspension or termination from the most recent exchange visitor program; 

4) failure to maintain valid program status for more than 270 calendar days; 

5) receipt of a favorable recommendation from the Department of State on an application for waiver of section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act; and 

6) failure to pay the Public Law 104-208 fee.

Q: What is the two-year Home Residency Requirement for J visa holders?

A: There are basically two types of J-1 visas:

1) J-1 visas that do not have a two-year "Home Residency Requirement" (HRR); 

2) J-1 visas that have the HRR restriction. 

The J-1 regulation requires some J visa holders to reside in their home country for at least two years before they may obtain an H, L or other immigrant visa to enter the U.S. or adjust their status within the U.S. The two-year Home Residence Restriction requires J-1 exchange visitors to return to their home countries and physically stay there for at least two years after the end of their J-1 visit.

Q: Can the spouse and children of a J-1 visa holder come to the U.S.?  

A: The spouse and children of a J-1 status holder may be admitted to come to the U.S. under a J-2 visa. The spouse or child cannot stay in the U.S. for a period longer than the principal J-1 exchange visitor.

A J-2 visa is issued to a child under age 21, or spouse of a J-1 principal. Once the minor child reaches the 21st birthday, the child is no longer qualified for a J-2 visa or J-2 status. Also, if the J-2 spouse divorces the J-1 status holder, he/she is no longer qualified for J-2 status.

Q: Can a J-2 Visa holder get into college or work?

A: J-2 holder may enroll in a college or university during the length of stay. Also, a J-2 holder may apply for Employment Authorization and work for anyone, once the Employment Authorization is obtained from the USCIS throughout the J-2 status period.

Q: How long can a J-1 program last?

A: The J-1 program's duration depends on the program category and the J-1 program sponsor. The J-1 program sponsor has full discretion to extend the period within the maximum program's duration period.

Q: Where do I apply for J-1 visas?

A: You need to apply for a J-1 visa at U.S. Consulate offices located abroad.

Q: What are the requirements for J-1 applicants? and what documents are needed to apply for a J-1 visa?

A: J-1 applicants must demonstrate that they:

  • plan to remain in the U.S. for a temporary, specific, limited period;

  • have evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States; and

  • have evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad, and other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit. 

As an applicant, you need to provide the following documents to apply for a J-1 Visa: 

  • a completed SEVIS DS-2019 Form issued by your program sponsor, 

  • your passport, 

  • completed Form OF-156 (Visitor Visa Application), 

  • a photograph, 

  • and other supporting documents. 

Q: How do I determine my current legal status in the U.S. as a J-1 holder?

A: To determine your status in U.S., please refer to your DS-2019 Form and I-94. When you entered the U.S., the USCIS inspection officer will have marked "D/S" on your Form I-94. "D/S" means "Duration of Status" and indicates that your legal stay is for a certain limited period of time. The Exchange Program Period that is marked on your DS-2019 Form determines the length of your legal stay within the U.S.

Q: How to get an Advisory Opinion from U.S. Department of State (DOS) to make sure if I am subject to the two-year home residency requirement?

A: Sometimes it can be a complex matter to determine whether or not one is subject to the two-year home residency requirement. DOS has a procedure for issuing an opinion in a given case on this issue. Please note that the DOS does not charge a fee for such advisory opinions, and does not plan to do so. In some instances, it could prove worthwhile to request an Advisory Opinion on the issue from the U.S. Department of State. 

To get an Advisory Opinion, write to the United States Department of State. The DOS is responsible for the administration of the Exchange Visitor program and the two-year foreign residence requirement. Address your letter to:

The Waiver Review Division, CA/VO/L/W
SA-1, L-603
U.S. State Department
2401 E Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20522-0106 

The Advisory Opinion from DOS is FREE without any charge or fee. Enclose all of your DS-2019 forms and old IAP-66 forms (if applicable), and in a cover letter explain why you are uncertain whether you are subject or not to the two-year foreign residence requirement, and ask for a U.S. Department of State's advisory opinion.

Q: What is my J-1 visa valid period? when does a J-1 visa holder have to leave the U.S.?

A: The valid period of your J-1 visa is the period during which you may enter the U.S. This indicates your length of stay within the U.S. This differs from the maximum duration of stay for your J-1 program which defines the longest length of stay for anyone participating under the particular J-1 program.

A J-1 visa holder is eligible to stay in the U.S. for the amount of time listed on the DS-2019 plus 30 days to depart.

Q: Is a J-1 visa holder allowed to work? can the dependents of J-1 holders work or study on a J-2 Visa?

A: A J-1 holder is allowed to work for the J-1 program sponsor. A J-1 holder may not work for another employer without special authorization.

The dependents of J-1 holders may work in the US. The accompanying spouse and minor children of a J-1 exchange visitor may accept employment only with authorization from USCIS. J-2 employment may be authorized for the duration of the J-1 Principal holder's authorized stay as indicated on Form I-94, and J-2 dependents can apply for an extension of stay and a renewal of employment authorization with USCIS.

The dependents of J-1 can study on J visa and do not need to apply for a separate student visa.

Q: How can a J-1 holder work for an employer other than the program sponsor?

A: A J-1 holder may work for institutions or companies within his/her specialty field, provided the J-1 program sponsor gives its written consent.

Q: How can an entity apply to become a J-1 program sponsor?

A: The entity needs to be pre-approved by the Department of State. Educational institutions, private companies, research institutions and governmental agencies are all examples of organizations that may qualify as J-1 program sponsors.

Q: I am a J-1 student. How long can I participate in Practical Training upon completion of my degree program?

A: You may be eligible to participate in a Practical Training Program upon graduation. The length of time depends on the degree awarded. If you have received your baccalaureate or master degree, you may enter a training program for a maximum period of eighteen (18) months, while post-doctoral individuals can receive practical training for a maximum period of thirty-six (36) months.

Q: I am a J-1 researcher. May I change my status to a J-1 student?

A: It depends. Some program sponsors require you to go abroad and apply for another J-1 visa under the new program before allowing you to adjust your status.

Q: What is the relationship between a J-1 visa and an O-1 visa?

A: There is no direct relationship between a J-1 visa and an O-1 visa. If a J-1 holder is not able to obtain a J-1 waiver before his/her maximum term expires, an employer may apply for an O-1 visa on behalf of the J-1 holder and he/she may go abroad to obtain an O-1 visa.

Q: How could I obtain a waiver on my two-year residency requirement?

A: A J-1 visa holder can apply for an HRR waiver from the U.S. Department of State as long as the J-1 visa has more than 6 months validity time and the J-1 visa status has been kept for more than one year. J-1 visa holders can apply for the waiver based on the following circumstances:

  • A "no-objection" letter process;
  • An Interested Government Agency Waiver;
  • A waiver application based on Exceptional Hardship;
  • A waiver application based on Fear of Persecution; and
  • A waiver application for a physician employed in a Designated Health Care Shortage Area.

Q: Can I change my J-1 to another nonimmigrant visa while in the U.S.?

A: As a J-1 visa holder, you may apply for a non-immigrant visa such as an O, E or F visa from a U. S. Consulate located in a foreign country. However, you may not obtain an H or L visa until you have received either a J-1 Waiver or until you have fulfilled the two-year foreign residency requirement.

A J-1 holder subject to the 2 year home residency restriction rule may change to F-1 status, but not to an H-1 work visa or other non-immigrant visa unless he or she has obtained a waiver of the residency requirement.

Q: What U.S. government agency handles J-1 waivers?

A: All J-1 waivers are now under the jurisdiction of the U.S. State Department, Waiver Review Division.

Q: If I have been denied an NIW (National Interest Waiver) petition, will I be able to obtain a J-1 waiver?

A: The NIW and the J-1 waiver application process are determined independently of one another. One petition does not affect the other.

Q: May I self-petition for a J-1 waiver?

A: Yes. You are eligible to self-petition for either an "Exceptional Hardship" or a "Fear of Persecution" waiver. A "No-Objection" letter waiver request should be made by your home country or country of last permanent residence. Additionally, an IGA waiver request should be made on your behalf by an interested U.S. government agency.

Q: When may I start the No-Objection waiver process?

A: Each home country has a different policy regarding when to initiate the No-Objection waiver process. For example, the Chinese Consulates requires that the individual be in a J-1 program for a minimum of one year before requesting a waiver form.

Q: How long does the No-Objection waiver process take?

A: The length of the No-objection waiver process depends on your particular home country. Some countries process the letter quickly and provide you with a response in a few months, other require up to six months for a No-Objection determination.

Q: What is an IGA waiver?

A: An IGA waiver is obtained through sponsorship of an Interested Government Agency (IGA). Generally, the potential sponsoring IGA is a U.S. government agency that financially supports your program or has a strong interest in your area of research or study. An effective way to identify an IGA is to trace your program funding.

Q: When is a good time to begin an IGA waiver?

A: Timing is very important for IGA waivers. Usually, an IGA waiver is initiated towards the latter stage of the individual's program. For example, a J-1 visiting researcher or professor program may be extended for three or more years. In this example, the IGA waiver should be initiated at the end of the second year.

Q: Why should I wait until the latter stages of the program?

A: You should wait until the latter stages of the program's duration for three reasons. 

  • First, the basis for your IGA is your claim that you are an important part of the research program and your anticipated absence, due to the limited duration of the J-1 program, will jeopardize the research project. If there is more than one year remaining in your J-1 program, this point is hard to argue because the research project may be completed within the year. 

  • Second, some time is necessary for you to publish articles which is necessary supporting evidence for your J-1 waiver application. 

  • Third, you may need time to become acquainted with your project colleagues who will be writing recommendation letters on your behalf.

Q: How long does an IGA waiver take?

A: You must first obtain a case number from DOS which can take about a month. The amount of time required to obtain the IGA recommendations depends on each particular IGA. After the IGA recommendations are received, the State Department then reviews the case (4 - 5 months). The State Department then forwards its recommendation to the appropriate USCIS Service Center. Different USCIS Service Centers have different review processing times.

Q: Can I apply for both an IGA and a No-Objection letter simultaneously?

A: Yes.

Q: My time to process an IGA waiver or No-Objection letter has run out. What should I do?

A: First, you should request that your program sponsor extend your program to the maximum program duration. If you are about to reach the maximum duration period, you should consider an F-1 program and obtain Form I-20.

Q: May a J-2 holder file a waiver petition independently of the J-1 principal?

A: In most situations, a J-2 holder is not allowed to file an independent waiver petition. If a J-2 holder obtains a divorce from the J-1 principal, however, an independent waiver petition may be possible. 

Q: For someone who was once on J-1 without a waiver, and later managed to change to F-1 visa or even H-1B visa, can he apply for Green Card now?

A: One can always apply for Green Card and obtain an approval if he/she fulfills the relevant requirement. But one cannot, however, adjust the status to U.S. Permanent Resident if he/she still has not solved the two-year home service problem.

Q: I am qualified either Extraordinary Ability or NIW, but the problem is my J-1 two-year home service requirement. What can I do?

A: First, make sure you are truly subject to the two-year home service requirement. Even if you are, you can always apply for Green Card approval and later deal with the two-year home service requirement. The Green Card approval is good for life, which gives you plenty of time to handle the two-year requirement.

Q: I am doing post-doc on J-1 visa with the two-year requirement waived. Do I need H-1B visa in order to be eligible to apply for U.S. Permanent Resident under NIW?

A: No. A post-doc position is sufficient to apply for U.S. Permanent Resident under NIW.

Q: Can J-1 holders avoid the two-year home residence requirement by becoming a Canadian resident or staying in Canada for two years?

A: No. The law requires J-1 holders, absent a waiver, to reside in his place of original residence for two years before becoming eligible for U.S. permanent residence.

Q. How do I acquire an extension beyond the maximum limitation of stay of my exchange visitor program?

A. You will need to contact the responsible officer/alternate responsible officer at your institution concerning an extension.

Q: What is the Conrad State 30 Program? 

A: The Conrad State 30 program was initiated in 1994 and was designed to provide each of the 50 U.S. states up to 30 J-1 waivers for physicians each federal fiscal year. Each state has been given some flexibility to implement its own guidelines, but there are some basic requirements that are common to all State 30 programs. 

For physicians who qualify, the State 30 program is an excellent method of obtaining a waiver. Each Conrad 30 state typically has their own application materials that are separate from the DOS application for waiver. Interested parties should contact the program in their state of intended employment for more information. 

Q: What is the requirements for Conrad State 30 Program?

A: While the exact requirements vary from State to State, the following is generally required:

  • A full-time offer of employment (40 hours per week) as a primary care physician in a health professional shortage area or medically underserved area in a particular State;

  • A letter of support from the particular State Director of Health supporting the physician's state 30 request;

  • A 'no-objection' letter from the foreign physician's home country, if needed; and

  • A three-year employment contract. 

This program is an important source of qualified physicians for underserved rural areas. The enacted legislation contains the following provisions. 

Q: What is the "underserved rural areas" and what is the regulation reauirements?

A: The State 30 program is an important source of qualified physicians for underserved rural areas. The enacted legislation contains the following provisions. 

  • United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will maintain authority to designate Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). 

  • A nationwide pilot program (open to all states) to allow states the flexibility to place up to five of their 30 state J-1 physicians in an area not designated as a HPSA, provided the facility serves individuals residing in a HPSA. 

  • The federal (HHS) J-1 waiver program will be exempted from the H1-B visa cap. 

  • The federal (HHS) J-1 waiver program will be applied to specialists as well as primary care physicians. In order to receive a waiver for a specialist, a sponsoring agency must determine the area to be served has a shortage of that particular specialty. 

Q. How do I request a "no objection" statement and where do I send it?

A. You may contact the consular section of your embassy in Washington, D.C., and request a "no objection" statement to be forwarded to the Department of State on your behalf. The Embassy must forward the "no objection" statement directly to the Waiver Review Division at the Department of State.

Q. When should I request a "no objection" statement from my embassy in Washington, D.C.?

A. You may request a "no objection" statement only after you have submitted your data sheet and fee, and received an information packet from the Waiver Review Division of the Department of State.

Q. What if I cannot get a "no objection" statement from my former country of residence?

A. You may apply for a waiver in any of the remaining statutory bases. If none of the other bases applies to your situation, you must return home to fulfill the foreign residence requirement.

Q. Can anyone apply for a waiver based upon "no objection" from the home country?

A. No. Foreign medical graduates sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) to do their clinical training cannot apply for a waiver based on a "no objection" statement.

Q. Why are foreign medical graduates ineligible to apply for a waiver based on a "no objection" statement from their government?

A. In accordance with Public Law 94-484, exchange visitor physicians who are admitted to the U.S. in exchange visitor status, or who acquire such status after admission on or after January 10, 1977, for the purpose of receiving graduate medical education or training are subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement of Section 212(e). 

Before their medical training under the sponsorship of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), their country must provide a letter of need attesting to that country's requirement for trained physicians. Therefore, the exchange visitor physicians are not eligible to apply based on "no objection" statements.

Q. How can I be sure that I have received the "no objection" statement from my embassy in Washington, D.C.? 

A. You can ask the embassy from which you requested the "no objection" statement if it has been sent to the Waiver Review Division of the Department of State. The Waiver Review Division unfortunately does not notify each applicant when a "no objection" letter has been received on his/her behalf.

Q. My "no objection" statement application was denied by Department of State. Can I ask for reconsideration?

A. No. J-1 waiver applications are exhaustively considered, and it is the policy of the Waiver Review Division not to reconsider "no objection" statement applications once a final determination has been made. You may, however, reapply using another statutory basis for waiver should another one apply to your situation.

Q: I am in U.S. with J1 visa, and need to meet the 2 year home country service requirement. I want to to apply for my Green Card in the EB2 National Interest Waiver category. Can I file my EB1 Extraordinary Ability (EB-1A) application now? and try to get my J1 waiver later?

A: As a J1 visa holder, you can I file the EB1 Extraordinary Ability (EB-1A) petition now, and then get the J1 waiver later. Since you are subject to the 2 year home country service requirement, you need to receive the J1 waiver before you file Form I-485 to get your Green Card to become U.S. permanent resident.

Before filing the Form I-140 based on the EB1 Extraordinary Ability, you do not have to get the J1 waiver approval. Your J1 visa 2 year home country service requirement will prevent you from adjustment status with the USCIS Form I-485 in the United States, but it will not prevent you from filing the EB-1A petition.

After you receive an I-140 approval from USCIS before you get the a J-1 waiver, you should wait for the J-1 waiver approval to submit the I-485 application for adjustment of status.

Q. What is required for a waiver based on an Interested U.S. Government Agency (IGA) application?

A. 1) A letter from the designated official of the interested U.S. Government agency, explaining why granting such a waiver is in the public interest of the U.S. and why it would be detrimental to the agency if the exchange visitor returns to the home country to fulfill the two-year requirement; 2) all SEVIS DS-2019 Forms (or IAP-66 forms); 3) the application form; 4) two self-addressed stamped envelopes.

Q. How do I apply for a waiver based on my fear of persecution if I were to return to my home country?

A. Apply to the USCIS using Form I-612. If your waiver is granted, USCIS will notify you directly. Please note you will need to apply to both USCIS and the Department of State. Apply directly to the USCIS on Form I-612 for a finding of probable persecution. You must also complete Form 3035, available on DOS website, and pay the $215 Department of State processing fee.

Q. When do I submit my DS-3035 and processing fee to the Department of State, Waiver Review Division, for a waiver based on my fear of persecution?

A. You may submit the Form 3035 application and processing fee prior to submitting I-612 to USCIS or after USCIS has acted favorably on your I-612. However, the Waiver Review Division cannot act on your case until you submit your completed DS 3035 form and pay the $215 processing fee.

Q. Do I need to send anything in addition if USCIS makes a determination of probable persecution, on form I-613, and forwards it directly to the Waiver Review Division?

A. No, but if other documents are needed, the Waiver Review Division will contact you directly.

Q. My application based on persecution was denied by USCIS. Can I ask for reconsideration?

A. Requests to reopen persecution applications are made through the USCIS.

Q. Can I apply for a waiver based both on my fear of persecution and the exceptional hardship that my returning to my home country would cause my family?

A. No. Persecution claims should never be intertwined with claims of exceptional hardship.

Q. How do I apply for a waiver based on exceptional hardship to my American citizen or permanent resident spouse or child?

A. Please note you will need to apply to both USCIS and the Department of State. Apply directly to the USCIS on Form I-612 for a finding of exceptional hardship to an American citizen or legal permanent resident spouse or child of an exchange visitor. You must also complete Form 3035 on this website and pay the $215 processing fee to the Department of State St. Louis address.

Q. When do I submit my DS-3035 and processing fee to the Department of State, Waiver Review Division, for a waiver based on exceptional hardship?

A. You may submit your application and processing fee prior to submitting I-612 to USCIS or after USCIS has acted favorably on your I-612.

Q. Do I need to send anything, in addition to USCIS submission to the Waiver Review Division?

A. No, if you have paid your $215 processing fee and submitted your completed DS 3035 form, unless the Waiver Review Division makes a specific request directly to you. Once CIS makes a finding of exceptional hardship, on I-613 form, it forwards the whole hardship file to the Waiver Review Division for our consideration.

Q. How can I check on the status of my exceptional hardship application?

A. You may check the status of your case on-line using your waiver case number on this website. If you feel there's been an error with your case, you can contact the Public Inquiries Division 202 663-1225. Your concerns regarding processing of I-612 application should be directed to the Citizenship and Immigration Services 1-800-375-5283. The Waiver Review Division can only take action on your case when all the required documents have been received and your case file is complete for review.

Q. My exceptional hardship application was denied by USCIS. Can I ask for reconsideration?

A. Requests to reopen an exceptional hardship application are made through the USCIS.

Q: I am a J-1 visa holder and want to obtain an “agency request“ J-1 waiver. Do I have to be employed in a U.S. government agency to file the agency request J-1 waiver? and what are the other J-1 waiver options?

A: If a U.S. government agency believe that the J- visa exchange visitor's departure would be detrimental to a program or activity of interest to the U.S. government agency, it may request a J-1 waiver on behalf of the alien visitor. The J-1 exchange visitor can be employed by either a private employer or a U.S. government agency. An J-1 visa holder object to the 2-year foreign residence requirement can file an J-1 waiver application on the following bases.

1) A J-1 waiver may be requested by a U.S. governmental agency on behalf of the J-1 visitor. It should be beneficial to the U.S. security interests, or to that of the public good.

2) A J-1 waiver may be obtained when the 2-year foreign residence requirement would result in exceptional hardship to the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child.

3) If the J-1 visitor can show that he or she would be subject to persecution in the home country on the basis of race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or membership.

4) The J-1 visitor's home government issues a letter of “no objection “ to the exchange visitor's remaining in the United States. But a foreign medical graduates are not eligible for the “no objection“ J-1 waiver. 

Q: I am a J-1 visa holder and subjected to the two-year home country residency requirement. Can I apply for National Interest Waiver (NIW) based From I-140 petition now, and get my J-1 waiver thereafter?

A: For a J-1 visa holder subjected to the two-year home country residency requirement, you can file the NIW based Form I-140 petition now for your immigrant visa, and get your J-1 waiver later. You do not need to have a J-1 waiver before file an Form I-140 petition. The two-year home country residency requirement does not allow you to adjust the status from J-1 to U.S. permanent residency. 

After your NIW based Form I-140 approval, you are still subject to the two-year home country residency requirement, and you need to get the J-1 waiver before you can file Form I-485 to adjust your status to U.S. permanent resident. 

To help you get your J-1 waiver easily and quickly, we provide a high quality and case-proven Complete Do-It-Yourself Package for J-1 Waiver Application, based on our extensive and practical experience. As added value in the Complete Do-It-Yourself Package for J-1 Waiver Application, we provide comprehensive instructions on J-1 waiver application requirements and processing, and we also let you know the required application documents, evidence, procedures, samples of recommendation letter and J-1 program sponsor letter, samples of required forms, and detailed explanation of the J-1 waiver application related forms and issues for different J-1 waiver options.

Q: After finishing my J1 program, I did not service the 2-year home country residence in by home country, but transferred to Canada and got a permanent residence at Canada. Now, in which countries could I satisfy the J1 two-year foreign residence requirement, if I want to work in U.S. and then get U.S. Green Card?

A: The two year foreign residence requirement for J1 visa holders may only be satisfied in the country of nationality or last permanent residence as indicated on SEVIS DS-2019 Form. If you are a citizen of one country and a permanent resident of a second country, you must satisfy the home residence requirement in the country of last permanent residence indicated on SEVIS DS-2019 Form. 

The country should be listed on the SEVIS DS-2019 Form. If there is an error on the form, the State Department takes the position that the USCIS, not the State Department, must correct the error, if the program sponsor will not correct the error. 

In many instances, the two-year foreign residency requirement for J1 visa holders may be waived by submitting the J1 waiver application to U.S. Department of State. 

 


 


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