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The J1 visa was introduced by the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. It allows certain qualified individuals to come and work or study in the United States for a limited timeframe.
The idea behind introducing the visa was to encourage the international exchange of people, knowledge, skills, and culture. But some exchange visitors, upon getting to the US, decide to adjust their status and apply for a green card. Consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced J1 visa attorney in the US will be helpful if you fall into this category.
The J1 visa is also referred to as the exchange visitor visa. It is generally granted to visitors or students who want to participate in an approved exchange program in the United States. The US Department of State typically designates exchange sponsors for these approved programs.
Approved exchange programs are usually for work or scholarly endeavors. Examples of such J1 visa holders could be college or university students, research scholars, professors, trainees, foreign medical graduates, international and government visitors, and so on. The exchange visitor program enables people in these categories to get short-term visas that will allow them to enter the US as nonimmigrants.
The first step in applying for a J1 visa is to be accepted into an exchange visitor program. You can learn more about eligible categories and potential program sponsors from the State Department’s website. You will need to contact them directly, apply, and get accepted. If accepted, you will be enrolled and provided with Form DS-2019 which you have to fill out. This form enables you to apply for a J1 visa through the US embassy or consulate in your country. Your sponsoring organization may help guide you through the process.
The next step is to complete Form DS-160, the online nonimmigrant visa application, and print out the confirmation page. Then you can apply for a visa at your nearby embassy, after which you will be scheduled for an interview. It is advisable to apply early as wait times for appointment scheduling differ.
You’ll need to ensure that you attend the interview with the following documentation:
The consular officer may request additional information at the interview before approving or denying your visa. They may also determine that your application needs further investigation from third parties to prove your eligibility. This is what is known as administrative processing. After the interview, the consular officer is at the discretion to grant or deny the application. If your visa is approved, you may only travel thirty days before the start of your program.
On getting to the US for the exchange visitor program, your plans may change, e.g., where you get married to a citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse. In that case, you may want to adjust your status and become a permanent resident. It is a good idea to consult a trained immigration lawyer for guidance in such cases.
There is a requirement for certain groups of J1 visa holders to return to their home country for a period of two years upon completing their program. This requirement is based on Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. These groups include:
If you are subject to the two-year residency requirement but cannot go home for some reason, you may apply for a waiver on five grounds:
J1 visa holders can also bring their dependents at the time of their application or after entering the United States. Dependents of J1 holders are classified as J2 visa holders. These include spouses and unmarried children under 21 years. They also have to apply for nonimmigrant visas, and sponsoring organizations would issue a separate Form DS-2019 for each dependent to present at the embassy.
People on the J1 visa may be allowed to work in the US based on the specifics of their program. However, their dependents are only allowed to work if they file and receive approval for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. If the work permits are approved, they can work but are not allowed to support the J1 applicant with their income.
A trained immigration lawyer can advise you on the J1 visa category you are most eligible for, provide you with support throughout your visa application, and guide you through the interview stage. Furthermore, if you have had a J1 visa application rejected before, consulting a J1 visa lawyer would be beneficial.
Lastly, if you are already in the US on a J1 visa but want to apply for an adjustment of status or are looking for an extension of your stay, a knowledgeable J1 visa attorney can help. If you require a dedicated and reliable immigration law office, feel free to consult Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, for a free initial consultation.
The duration J-1 visa holders are allowed to stay in the US depends on their category. Generally, they are allowed to stay throughout their intended programs, but each category has a maximum permitted duration. You can find the specific duration for each category on the US Department of State website.
If you hire an attorney to help with your application, attorney fees will apply. However, those are variable. Fixed costs include the $220 I-901 SEVIS fee, which you will be required to pay if accepted for an exchange visitor program, and the online nonimmigrant visa application fee, which is generally $160. Depending on where you are from, you may also have to pay a visa issuance fee.