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J1 Student Visa (Exchange Visitor Program)

The J1 Student Visa, also known as the Exchange Visitor Visa, allows eligible applicants to study, teach or receive professional training in the United States under the Exchange Visitor Program.

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What is a J-1 Student Visa?

The J-1 Visa is a student permit that allows young foreign nationals to teach, study, receive training, or demonstrate special skills in the United States through an exchange and visitor program that is not available to them in their home country. These programs must be sponsored by an educational or non-profit institution that has been accredited by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

J-1 visa holders can participate in a cultural exchange program, obtain medical or business training, or build new skills while enhancing their knowledge of English in the United States.

Each eligible applicant will need a program sponsor in order to obtain a visa. Applicants can be sponsored by either a profit, non-profit, education, private, or government sector entity.

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What is the Exchange Visitor Program?

The Exchange Visitor Program is designed to offer participants the opportunity to engage with the American culture, enhance their English language abilities and learn new valuable skills.

There are many different categories of exchange programs available for J1 Visa applicants, which include thousands of profit, non-profit and local government entities who are involved in this project. However, the majority of these programs are funded privately.

J1 Exchange Program participants can study, teach, do research and receive on-the-job training in the U.S. for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years.

Who is suitable for a J1 Visa?

Foreign nationals can reside temporarily in the U.S. to teach, study, receive training or even provide childcare under the J-1 nonimmigrant visa. This visa is open to those who are enrolled in one of the several international educational institutions.

The J-1 Student Visa is designed in particular for those who need access to educational services or practical training that are not available in their home country. This training must be directly related to their academic program.

If, however, you wish to seek practical or medical training, applying for an H3 training Visa may be the most appropriate immigration path for you.

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What are the main categories of the J-1 Visa Program?

The J-1 Visa program involves several educational plans. Therefore, the eligibility criteria and applicant requirements will be dependent on specific educational exchange programs. Individuals who would like to bring their family to the U.S with them will need to apply for a J2 Dependent Visa. Exchange Visitor categories include the following:

  • Au pair and EduCare
  • Camp Counselor
  • Government Visitor
  • Intern
  • International Visitor (Dept. of State use)
  • Physician
  • Professor and Research Scholar
  • Short-term Scholar
  • Specialist
  • Student, college/university
  • Student, secondary
  • Summer Work Travel
  • Teacher
  • Trainee
exchange student

Au Pair Visa

The Au Pair Visa allows for child-care providers between the ages of 18 and 26 to work as childcare providers in exchange for accommodation, food, and a stipend.

As a J1 Au Pair Visa holder, you can work for no more than 10 hours a day, for a total of 45 hours per week. You must also be enrolled in any course at a U.S. post-secondary educational institution where you must complete at least six hours of academic credit at a U.S. post-secondary educational institution.

Your responsibilities may include helping children with their homework and cooking their meals. The host family is required to provide you a compensation of up to $500 for the required academic coursework, a private room with meals, and compensation (in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act) for childcare work.

To be eligible for a J1 visa au pair program, the applicant must:

  • Have received a job offer from a host family
  • Have previous childcare experience
  • Be proficient in spoken English
  • Be physically capable of carrying out their duties
  • Be between the ages of 18-26 years old
  • Have a secondary school education or equivalent
  • Provide a police clearance report
  • Have not previously lived in the U.S. as an au pair

The au pair candidate will also need to pass a background check that will include school verification, personal character reference checks, a criminal background check, and a personality profile. The au pair will be interviewed by a representative of the organization they are applying to who will prepare the interview into a report that will be given to the host family.

Au pair sponsors are expected to provide the applicant with at least 32 hours of childcare training before placing them with a family. If your application is successful, you can stay in the U.S. for a period of up to 12 months.

Secondary School Student Programs

The Secondary School Student Program allows international students to study at accredited public or private high schools in the United States where they can take part in school-sponsored extra-curricular activities.

J-1 students can stay either with a host family or at a boarding school but they cannot live with their family members. To be eligible, international students must be between the ages of 15- 18 by the first day of school. Once in the United States, students are not allowed to work and must leave the country at the end of the academic year. Students must not have completed more than 11 years of primary and secondary education (excluding kindergarten) and not previously attended school as an F-1 or J-1 student visa holder.

If you are an international university pupil, you can apply for the College and University J1 Visa Student Program. This will let you pursue a full-time course of study in the U.S.

To be eligible, you have the financial support you need to complete the student program. Students are not allowed to work part-time or full-time jobs but can accept occasional work like babysitting. In addition, you will need a written agreement between both your local and American institutions.

College and University Student Program

International students can use the College and University Student Program to study at an American degree-granting post-secondary academic institution or participate in a student internship program in order to fulfill the educational objectives needed for their degree program in their home country.

In order to join this program, the international student must be able to meet the following requirements:

  • The student must have financial support from a source other than personal or family funds. This program is typically a government-funded educational program where the student is either directly or indirectly financed by the U.S. government, the government of their home country, or an international organization (where the U.S. is a member by treaty or statute).
  • The study or internship program must be done according to the agreement made between the U.S. government and the foreign government where the student has been studying
  • If the student pursues a non-degree program, he or she must be enrolled full-time in a course of study. Including academic training, the student can stay up to 24 months in the United States if pursuing a non-degree program.

International students may work part-time in the United States under certain conditions and only if they are in good academic standing. This includes paid or non-page academic training.

Teacher Program

International teachers or those who wish to work in education can receive professional training or teach at primary or secondary schools in the United States.

To be eligible for a J1 Teacher program, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • The applicant is able to meet the qualifications for teaching in primary or secondary schools in their country of nationality or last legal residence
  • The applicant has either been working as a teacher in the home country or country of legal residence at the time of application or has completed an advanced degree within the past 12 months in addition to having two years of full-time teaching experience within the past eight years
  • The applicant has a Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) in either education or in the academic subject to which they intend to teach
  • The applicant has a minimum of two years of teaching or any other related professional experience
  • The applicant is able to satisfy the standards of the U.S. state where they will teach
  • The applicant has a good reputation and character
  • The applicant is proficient in English

All applicants must enter the United States with the intention of teaching full-time at an accredited primary or secondary school. Those who teach pre-kindergarten (early childhood) must teach full-time only at accredited language immersion schools.

Camp Counselor Program

The J1 Camp Counselor Visa allows foreign post-secondary students, youth workers, and teachers to work at summer camps in the U.S.

Participants are provided with housing and meals in addition to receiving fair pay. The permit can only last for up to four months and no J1 Visa extension is allowed.

The J1 Camp Counselor Visa requirements are:

  • Be proficient enough in English to supervise and interact with young campers
  • Be experienced in dealing with children
  • Be a post-secondary student, youth worker, or teacher
  • Have specialized skills
  • Be at least 18 years old

In exchange for their service, camp counselors will receive pay and benefits equivalent to American camp counselors.

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J1 Visa Internship or Trainee Program

If you are a foreign student or have graduated no more than 12 months before your chosen program starts, you can apply for a J1 Internship Visa. You will need evidence of your English language proficiency.

If you hold a J1 Trainee Visa, you can receive training in the U.S. in your occupational field. To be eligible, exchange visitor trainees or intern visa applicants must have either a degree or one year’s work experience in their area. In addition, exchange visitors for this program must be at least 20 years old and hold an English proficiency accredited qualification.

Summer Work Travel Program

This program offers a first-hand experience to international college and university students who wish to work in seasonal or temporary jobs in the United States and travel in their off-time.

In order to be eligible for the Summer Work Travel Program, students must be able to meet the following requirements:

  • Be proficient enough in English to interact in an English-speaking environment
  • Be a student who is actively enrolled and pursuing a degree or other full-time course of study from an accredited post-secondary educational institution
  • Have successfully completed a least one semester (or equivalent) of post-secondary study
  • Have already been placed in a job before entering the U.S. (unless the student is from a visa waiver country)

Can you get a J-1 Visa Extension?

J-1 visa extensions can be granted depending on the program category and circumstance. If you would like to apply for a J-1 visa extension, you will need to submit a new Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status) along with the £367 fee and any evidence that supports your rationale to remain in the United States longer.

The Department of State can grant extensions beyond the maximum program duration in some program categories if the applicant is found to be in an exceptional or unusual circumstance.

After the conclusion of your program, you can still benefit from the so-called “Grace Period”. This means that you can remain in the U.S. for 30 days before going back to your home country.

However, if you remain in the country during this time, you are no longer allowed to take part in any exchange activity or work. If you travel outside the U.S. during this period, you will not be permitted to re-enter.

What is the “mandatory home residence” requirement?

Under the mandatory two-year home residency requirement, a J-1 Visa holder can change to another non-immigrant status (such as an H-1B Visa) or apply for a Green Card, provided that they first spend at least two years in their home country.

If an applicant can meet the 2-years home country physical presence requirement, then eligible applicants can re-enter the U.S. under a dual intent visa. In addition, the two-year stay can be served in several intervals.

The home residence requirement can be waived under the following conditions:

  • A no-objection statement is issued by the government of the home country of the applicant
  • If the visa holder can demonstrate that their presence in the U.S. is required to provide for their U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident dependents
  • If the applicant can prove that he or she would be persecuted in his or her home country

What is the difference between an F-1 Student Visa and a J-1 student visa?

There are many differences between the J-1 and F-1 student visas. However, the primary difference between the two is that F-1 Students are meant for international students pursuing an undergraduate degree in the United States whereas J-1 visas are generally used for students in specific educational exchange programs such as the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP), Fulbright, LASPAU, etc.

In addition, certain student visas have different benefits and protocols designated to each visa category. For example, J-1 visa holders need a work permit and approval from their sponsor for both on and off-campus employment whereas F-1 students only need a work permit for off-campus employment if it can be approved by immigration. Additionally, J-1 visa holders can go to their program sponsor for help and support during their exchange program. F-1 students, however, will be assigned a designated school official (DSO) to who they can go for support during their post-secondary studies.

How much does the J-1 Visa cost?

First of all, you should check with your sponsor to confirm whether you need to pay for your own Visa application. If your institution is going to pay on your behalf, you need to ask for a receipt to confirm the payment.

Your J-1 Visa total cost covers:

  • The SEVIS 1-901 fee (payable to the Department of Homeland Security): $180
  • The Nonimmigrant Visa Application Processing Fee: $160
  • Visa issuance fee (if applicable): costs will vary
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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. Only accredited U.S. government, academic and private sector entities are allowed to be J-1 visa program sponsors. Your sponsor will be responsible for screening and selecting eligible candidates, as well as supporting them and monitoring their progress during their stay in the U.S.

Normally, Exchange Visitor Program participants are only allowed to perform the activities listed on their Form DS-2019, meaning that they may only work for their designated sponsor. However, certain J-1 visa holders may work outside their program sponsors if they are able to meet specific eligibility criteria. For example, J-1 students pursue on-campus employment if it is a part of their scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship program. Summer Work Travel participants can pursue off-campus employment as well.

Again, employment authorization under a J-1 visa status will depend on the type of program category in which the visa holder is a participant in along with individual circumstances.

Your current J1 Visa is only applicable for your current exchange program. Upon completion of your activities, you are expected to leave the United States.

If you wish to participate in another exchange program, you must submit a new application under a different category and with a different sponsor.

At IAS, we can help you prepare the perfect portfolio to support your application. It is essential to know what you need to do in each step of your application process. Your IAS immigration lawyer can offer you the best guidance to maximize your chances to get your J-1 Visa.

Our service includes:

  • Check if you meet the J1 Visa requirements for your chosen program
  • Ensure that all your application forms have been accurately filed
  • Liaise between both your local and the U.S. educational institutions

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