J-1 Visa – Exchange Visitors

Exchange visitor (J) visas are non-immigrant visas for individuals approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States.

Exchange Visitor Categories Include:

  • Au pair and EduCare
  • Camp Counsellor
  • 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 Visitors cannot travel on the Visa Waiver Program or with Visitor Visas – An exchange visitor visa (J) is required to participate in an exchange visitor program in the United States.  Foreign nationals may not study after entering on a visitor (B) visa or through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

Acceptance in Exchange Visitor Program – The first step is to apply for and be accepted into an exchange visitor program through a designated sponsoring organization in the United States. After the exchange visitor program accepts your participation, you will be registered for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee (except in certain cases – consult your exchange visitor program sponsor).

It is important to note that J visa holders are typically subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement. This means that after completing their program, they are required to return to their home country for a minimum of two years before they can apply for certain other U.S. immigration benefits, like changing to certain employment-based or family-based visa statuses.

Family of J-1 Visa Holders:

J-1 visa holder’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age, regardless of nationality, are entitled to J-2 classification. His/her spouse and children are entitled to employment authorization; however, their income may not be used to support you. To apply for employment authorization as a J-2 non-immigrant, the spouse or child would have to file an Application for Employment Authorization with the USCIS.

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