Authority for the Exchange Visitor Program derives from the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (Public Law 87-256) as amended, 22 U.S.C. 2451, et. seq. (1988), also known as the Fulbright-Hays Act (or, as simply the Act). The purpose of the Act is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through educational and cultural exchanges. Activities specified in the Act are facilitated, in part, through the designation of public and private entities as designated Department of State sponsors of the Exchange Visitor Program.
The J-1 Exchange Visitor
Through the Exchange Visitor Program, foreign nationals may visit the United States temporarily to teach, lecture, study, observe, conduct research, consult, train, or demonstrate special skills. Designated sponsoring organizations facilitate the entry of foreign nationals into the United States to complete the objectives of any one of 13 program categories. At the conclusion of their program, participants are expected to return to their home countries. Thus, a J-1 visa applicant’s non-immigrant intent is carefully scrutinized by the government (please read the section below regarding J-2 dependents).
The 13 program categories are divided into two categories:
- Government and Academic Programs
- Government Visitor
- International Visitor
- Professor and Research Scholar
- Short-Term Scholar
- Student, College/University
- Private Sector Programs
- Alien Physician
- Au Pair
- Camp Counselor
- Student, Secondary School
- Summer Work/Travel
J-1 Visa Holder Must Return to their Home Country Following Completion of the Exchange Visitor Program or Obtain a Waiver (see below on Waivers)
Waivers – 22 CFR 41.63
J-1 visa holders may be subject to a two-year foreign (home country) residency requirement which precludes their obtaining permanent residence, or an H or L visa to work in the U.S. after completion of the J-1 program, until they have satisfied this requirement. However, waivers of this requirement are available to most participants from economically developed countries.
The waiver may be requested for five statutory bases:
- a claim of Exceptional Hardship to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse or child of an exchange visitor if the exchange visitor is required to return to the country of residence;
- a claim that the participant will be persecuted due to race, religion, or political opinions if he/she returns to the country of residence;
- a request from an interested US Government Agency on the participant’s behalf;
- a No Objection Statement from your government; and
- a request by a designated State Health Department or its equivalent.
Information about waivers may also be obtained from the Department of State’s Visa Office. The public inquiry line for waivers is (202) 663-1225.
Business Trainees Can Obtain J-1 Visa Status
J-1 visas may be used for business trainees coming to the U.S. for a period of up to 18 months. Employers utilizing a large number of foreign trainees, who meet certain stringent guidelines, may obtain approval of their own J-1 programs from the Department of State. Other employers must apply for J-1 status for individual trainees through agencies which already have received approval from the Department of State to serve as J-1 sponsors. J-1 business trainees are also subject to the two-year foreign residency requirement.
There are many organizations that serve as intermediaries between a chosen “Host Company” and the J-1 trainee. There are also corporations who hire so many J-1 trainees that they have obtained their own J-1 sponsor status.
One recommended intermediary organization is the American Immigration Law Foundation. They will assist both the host company and the J-1 candidate through the J-1 application process with AILF serving as the Department of State designated sponsor. For their services, they charge $1,350 (they have obligations to the government as the sponsor including ongoing program monitoring and annual reporting).
Can a J-1 Visa Holder Bring a Spouse and Child/ren?
Yes. There is an additional fee for dependents, however when the J-1 visa application is filed ($300). J-2 visa holders can go to school full-time or part-time, as a degree seeking or non-degree seeking student and are permitted to work after obtaining USCIS permission.
In order to bring dependents to the U.S., the J-1 trainee must show evidence of financial resources sufficient to support their spouse and/or children. As a rule, J-1 visa applicants must show a bank account with about USD $5,000 for a spouse and USD$3500 for each child who will come to the U.S.
It should be noted that unless a J-1 trainee can show other substantial home country ties, the application for J-2 dependents may lessen the ability of the J-1 trainee applicant’s ability to show non-immigrant intent (i.e., that they all plan to return to their home country following completion of the program).
- About $1,000-$3,000 to the sponsor organization that submits the application on the J-1 visa applicant’s behalf.
- $200 SEVIS fee (to the government)
- Fee for dependents (to sponsor as part of their program application)
- Expedite fee (optional)
The Host Company’s Responsibilities (under AILF Sponsorship)
- The Host Company has been in business at least 24 months;
- The Host Company has at least ten (10) employees and has sufficient annual revenues to support a trainee program;
- The Host Company currently has less than 10% of its total staff members, regardless of whether trainees, interns or permanent staff and regardless of how compensated (stipend, grant, or directly company payroll), in a J-1 Exchange Visitor Training Program;
- The Host Company has established a bona-fide training program;
The proposed training is in one of the following four (4) categories:
- Information media and communications;
- Management, business, commerce and finance;
- Science, engineering, architecture, mathematics and industrial occupations; or
- Public administration and law
The Host Company has qualified personnel to provide the proposed training;
- The Host Company has the appropriate facility and equipment to provide the proposed training;
- The J-1 Exchange Visitor trainee will not be engaging in ordinary employment;
- The Host Company will adequately renumerate the J-1 Exchange Visitor Trainee.
The Trainee’s Eligibility: J-1 Trainees must show the following
- Prior education or experience (or a combination of both) of not less than two years that directly relates to the proposed training program;
- This will be the applicant’s first J-1 Exchange Visitor Training Program and s/he is not currently receiving training in the U.S. in an F-1, J-1 or H-3 visa status;
- Proposed J-1 training does not duplicate their previously completed work or training;
- Sufficient English-speaking skills so as to be able to fully benefit from the training and cultural opportunities in the U.S.;
- At least 21 years of age;
- Can demonstrate how the training will be used upon return to the home country;
- Can demonstrate the intent to return to the home country;
- Will apply for the J-1 visa in the home country.
Waivers for J-1 Exchange Visitors
A J-1 exchange visitor may be subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement of Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), for one or more of the following reasons:
Participation in an exchange program was funded by the United States Government, J-1 Exchange Visitor’s own government, or an international organization.
- The education, training, or skill the J-1 Exchange Visitor is pursuing in an exchange program appears on the Exchange Visitor Skills List (1997 Amendement) for J-1 Exchange Visitor’s country.
- The J-1 Exchange Visitor acquired J-1 status on or after January 10, 1977, for the purpose of receiving graduate medical education or training.
If you are subject, what does that mean?
If you are subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement, you may not change your status to that of H, L, or K, or to immigrant or legal permanent status until you have fulfilled the two-year foreign residence requirement by going back to your home country or receiving a waiver of this requirement.
If you are not sure whether the INA 212(e) two-year foreign residence applies to you, you may request in writing an advisory opinion on applicability of INA 212(e) to your situation. The advisory opinion request should include all copies of DS-2019/IAP-66 issued to you, along with a self-addressed envelope, and should be sent to:
INA 212(e) Advisory Opinion Request
The Waiver Review Division, CA/VO/L/W
U.S. State Department
2401 E Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20522-0106
If you are subject to the INA 212(e) and want a waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement, there are FIVE GROUNDS FOR WAIVERS.
If a J-1 exchange visitor who is subject to but does not wish to comply with the two-year foreign residence requirement may apply for a waiver of that requirement under any one of the five applicable grounds for a waiver set forth in the INA 212(e). Choose the one that you qualify for or applies to you situation.
1. No Objection Statement (NOS):
The J-1 Exchange Visitor’s home country government issue a No Objection Statement (NOS), either through its Embassy in Washington, DC or its designated Ministry, directly to the Waiver Review Division that it has no objection to the J-1 Exchange Visitor not returning to the home country to satisfy the INA 212(e) two-year foreign residence requirement and does not object to the possibility of the J-1 Exchange Visitor becoming a resident of the U.S. The J-1 Exchange Visitor has the responsibility for obtaining a no objection statement from his/her home government.
Note: The law precludes the use of this option by foreign medical physicians, who acquired J-1 status on or after January 10, 1977, for the purpose of receiving graduate medical education or training.
2. Request by an interested government agency (IGA):
If an exchange visitor is working on a project for or of interest to a U.S. Federal Government agency, and that agency has deteremined that the visitor’s departure for two years to fulfill the INA 212(e) requirement will be detrimental to its interest, that agency may request an interested government agency waiver on behalf of the J-1 Exchange Visitor for sake of public interest. The IGA request must be signed by the head of the agency or its designee and submitted directly to the Waiver Review Division. The J-1 Exchange Visitor has the responsibility for obtaining an IGA request from a U.S. Federal Government agency.
Note: For IGA applications on behalf of foreign physicians, who agree to serve in medically underserved areas, please refer to Federal Register Volume 62, No. 102 of May 28, 1997.
If an exchange visitor believes that he or she will be persecuted based on his/her race, religion, or political opinion if he/she were to return to his/her home country, the J-1 Exchange Visitor may apply for a persecution waiver. This waiver basis requires that the J-1 Exchange Visitor submit Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement of Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, directly to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), within Department of Homeland Security. Only if CIS makes a finding of persecution will the Waiver Review Division proceed with the waiver case under this basis. Once CIS makes a decision, it will forward directly to the Waiver Review Division its decision on Form I-613.
4. Exceptional hardship to a United States citizen (or legal permanent resident) spouse or child of an exchange visitor:
If an exchange visitor can demonstrate that his or her departure from the United States would cause exceptional hardship to his or her U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse or child, he or she may apply for an exceptional hardship waiver. (Please note that mere separation from family is not considered to be sufficient to establish exceptional hardship.) This waiver basis requires that the J-1 Exchange Visitor submit Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement of Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, directly to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), within the Department of Homeland Security.
Only if CIS makes a finding of exceptional hardship will the Waiver Review Division proceed with the waiver case under this basis. CIS will forward its decision directly to the Waiver Review Division on Form I-613.
5. Request by a designated State Department of Public Health or its equivalent, CONRAD:
Pursuant to the requirements of Public Law 103-416, a foreign medical graduate who has an offer of full-time employment at a health care facility in a designated health care professional shortage area or at a health care facility which serves patients from such a designated area, and agrees to begin employment at that facility within 90 days of receiving such a waiver, and who signs a contract to continue to work at that health care facility for a total of 40 hours per week and for not less than three years, may apply for a waiver under this basis.
The J-1 Exchange Visitor must first apply with a state public health department which is allowed to request 30 such waivers per federal fiscal year. Five of the thirty requests may be for J-1 Exchange Visitor physicians who will serve at a facility which may not be located within a designated area but serves patients who live within a designated health care professional shortage area. The state public health department will forward the Conrad requests directly to the Waiver Review Division if agrees to sponsor the J-1 Exchange Visitor for such a waiver.
Note: Only foreign medical doctors who received their J-1 status to pursue graduate medical education or training may apply for a waiver under this basis.
How to Apply for a Waiver
Use J Visa Waiver Online to complete the Department of State Form DS-3035, J-1 Visa Waiver Recommendation Application. Upon completing the form online, your information will be downloaded into a barcode and you will be issued immediately a waiver case number and further instructions. Submit the barcode sheet and other required documents as instructed.
Please Note: THE PROCESSING FEE IS NON-REFUNDABLE.
It is your responsibility to submit all requested documents and ensure that required documents are sent on your behalf by third parties. The Waiver Review Division will NOT follow up on documents that have not been received. Rather, it will be your responsibility to ensure that your file is complete. Once you have your waiver case number, you should check on the status of your application by visiting the J Visa Waiver Status Check website.
Some documents (such as “No Objection” statement from J-1 Exchange Visitor’s home government, an IGA request from an Interested Federal Government agency, a Conrad request letter from a state public health department, or CIS’ finding of exceptional hardship or persecution (on Form I-613) will be submitted directly to the Waiver Review Division by the responsible third party. However, you, the waiver applicant, must initiate the process by requesting such documents directly from the responsible third party or by applying directly with these other agencies. And, if the third party agrees, your other required documents, such as your DS-2019 or IAP-66, may be forwarded to the Waiver Review Division through the third party.
At the conclusion of the review process, the Waiver Review Division will forward its recommendation directly to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the Department of Homeland Security. You will receive a copy of that recommendation at the address you listed on your Form DS-3035 or the most current address we have for you if you reported a change of address.
USCIS has the responsibility for making the final determination on your waiver request. USCIS will notify you directly, whether your waiver application is denied or approved.
For those changing to J status, such as F-1/OPT to J-1 Research Scholar, it is important to note that sufficient time must be allowed for the change of status to be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A DS-2019 form does not confer immigration status, only the I-94 as issued by USCIS or a U.S. Port of Entry gives one their immigration status. If there is a gap in approved status, the employee must be taken off payroll during that time, should not be working, and may not be paid retroactively for any work done during the gap in status. Change of Status normally takes 2-4 months. This is important to note with post-docs nearing the end of their OPT period.