Who Qualifies for a J-1 Visa to the U.S?

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is designed to encourage educational and cultural exchanges between the U.S. and other countries around the globe. This specific visa is essentially available to people who have signed up with an approved program that focuses on teaching, getting training or conducting research. The J-1 visa is also used by U.S. employers that want to hire workers to either receive on-the-job training or take part in an internship. (These laws and regulations can be found in the Immigration and Nationality Act at I.N.A. § 101(a)(15)(J), and in the Code of Federal Regulations, at 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(j).). Pertaining to college and university students living outside the U.S., the J-1 summer work/travel programs are available, allowing you to spend a summer working in the U.S., typically at low-skill, seasonal jobs. The most time allotted by the J-1 visa is around four months. The immigration law places no limits on the number of people who can receive J-1 visas each year.

Criteria for a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

To be able to qualify for a J-1 exchange visitor visa, the applicant will need to be coming to the U.S. as a student, scholar, trainee, intern, au pair, teacher, professor, research assistant, medical graduate, or international visitor. Additionally, the foreigner must be participating in a program of studies, training, research or cultural advancement that has been designed by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), via its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (BECA). Part of the application process is that before applying for a J-1 visa, the foreigner must apply to and get accepted by one of the following programs:

  • The Fulbright Scholarship program
  • Specialized training programs for medical graduates and
  • Programs for foreign university professors who will be teaching or performing research within the U.S

Every applicant must prove that there is sufficient financial funds to cover expenses while in the U.S., as an exchange student. Those funds may not come from personal resources or one’s own, nor from family members but from the one’s home country’s government, the U.S. government, an international organization, or some other source outside one’s own family (at least, originally, once the J-1 student enters the U.S., he or she may continue to be documented as a J-1 student even if his or her funding source is being depleted so long as he or she can come up with some legal source of funding).

If a J-1 visa is based on work activities, the salary that is being received may be counted as a means of support. Additionally, a scholarship may also be counted as funds for the J-1 student.

Another requirement is that the J-1 Visa student speaks, reads and writes English really well so that he or she is able to effectively communicate and participate in the exchange program he or she is enrolled in.

Key Components of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

Below are essential elements one must know about what rights and the responsibilities that come with a J-1 exchange visitor visa:

  • The main visa holder’s spouse and children will receive J-2 visas to be able to enter the U.S.
  • Every J-1 visa holder may be able to work legally in the U.S. granted that the work being done is part of the approved program or authorization to work has been given by the official program sponsor.
  • Spouses and children on J-2 visas may apply with USCIS for permission to work. Ask an Immigration Attorney for more information when applying for a work permit.
  • J-1 Visa beneficiaries may be able to travel in and out of the U.S. or remain in the country until the exchange visitor program has been completed.
  • Participants in particular types of programs may be required to return to their country of origin for a minimum of two years before applying for a green card, or change to another nonimmigrant status or obtain an approval for an L or H visa petition.

Do I need the help of an Immigration Attorney?

While the school or exchange visitor organization provides advice and assistance with the J-1 visa application process it is recommendable to talk with an immigration lawyer before you apply for a J-1 visa. An Immigration Attorney can provide valuable services especially if in the past a visa application was rejected or an applicant overstayed his or her time in the U.S. Call the Gambacorta Law Office today at (847) 443-9303 for a consultation.