J-1 Visa, Exchange Visitor Visa

J-1 visa

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Last updated: April 9, 2024.

What is a J-1 visa?

The J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category that is primarily designed for educational and cultural exchange programs in the United States. It allows foreign nationals to come to the U.S. temporarily to participate in various exchange activities, such as studying, teaching, conducting research, receiving training, or participating in cultural exchange programs. The J-1 visa program aims to promote mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and people from other countries.

The J-1 visa program covers a wide range of exchange categories, including but not limited to:

Au Pair: Participants live with a host family, provide childcare, and experience American culture.

Intern: Individuals gain practical experience in their chosen field of study or profession.

Trainee: Similar to an intern, but often for more experienced professionals looking for training opportunities in the U.S.

Teacher: Foreign teachers come to the U.S. to teach in primary and secondary schools, enhancing cross-cultural understanding.

Research Scholar: Researchers and scholars engage in academic research and collaboration at U.S. institutions.

Student: Students from other countries come to the U.S. to pursue academic studies at various educational levels.

Summer Work Travel: College and university students work and travel in the U.S. during their summer breaks.

It’s important to note that the J-1 visa is subject to specific rules and regulations, and participants are expected to return to their home country upon the completion of their exchange program in order to share the knowledge and experience they gained in the U.S.

The J-1 visa program is overseen by the U.S. Department of State and is administered by designated sponsoring organizations. These sponsors ensure that participants meet the program’s requirements and monitor their progress during their stay in the U.S.

J-1 visa requirements

The specific requirements for a J-1 visa can vary depending on the category of the exchange program you are applying for. However, there are some general eligibility criteria that applicants for a J-1 visa must typically meet:

Sponsorship: You need to have been accepted into an exchange program that is sponsored by a U.S. Department of State-designated exchange visitor program sponsor. The sponsor will provide you with a Form DS-2019, which is the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.

Intent to Return: You must have a residence in your home country that you do not intend to abandon. The J-1 visa is intended for temporary stays, and you are expected to return to your home country after the completion of the exchange program.

Financial Support: You must demonstrate that you have the financial means to cover your living expenses during your stay in the U.S. This could include personal funds or funding provided by the exchange program.

English Proficiency: Depending on the nature of the program, you might need to demonstrate English language proficiency through standardized tests like TOEFL or IELTS.

Health Insurance: You are required to have health insurance coverage for the duration of your J-1 program. This is to ensure that you have access to medical care while you are in the U.S.

No Objection Statement: If you are funded by your home government or an international organization, you might need to provide a “no objection” statement indicating that your home country doesn’t object to your participation in the program.

Home Country Ties: You need to prove strong ties to your home country, such as family, job, or property, to demonstrate your intent to return after the program.

Specific Program Requirements: Each category of J-1 program might have additional requirements related to qualifications, experience, or academic standing. For instance, student exchange programs may require you to be enrolled in a degree program at a foreign institution.

It’s important to note that the application process for a J-1 visa involves several steps, including submitting the DS-160 visa application form, paying the application fee, scheduling an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate, attending the interview, and providing any necessary supporting documents.

J-1 visa types

The J-1 visa program offers a variety of exchange visitor categories, each designed for specific types of cultural and educational exchange activities. Here are some of the common J-1 visa types:

Au Pair: Participants live with a U.S. host family, provide childcare, and experience American culture.

Intern: Individuals gain practical experience in their chosen field of study or profession. This category is suitable for students and recent graduates.

Trainee: Similar to an intern, but often for more experienced professionals looking for training opportunities in the U.S.

Teacher: Foreign teachers come to the U.S. to teach in primary and secondary schools, enhancing cross-cultural understanding.

Research Scholar: Researchers and scholars engage in academic research and collaboration at U.S. institutions.

Student: Students from other countries come to the U.S. to pursue academic studies at various educational levels, including high school, college, and graduate school.

Summer Work Travel (“Work & Travel”): College and university students work and travel in the U.S. during their summer breaks to experience American culture and earn money.

Camp Counselor: Participants work as counselors at U.S. summer camps, typically engaging in activities like sports, arts, and outdoor education.

Specialist: Individuals with specialized skills or expertise come to the U.S. to share their knowledge with American colleagues.

Physician: Foreign medical graduates participate in clinical training or research in approved medical institutions.

International Visitor: Professionals, experts, and leaders from various fields visit the U.S. to engage in professional development, cultural exchange, and collaboration.

Government Visitor: Individuals in various government positions visit the U.S. to learn about American governance and public administration.

Short-Term Scholar: Scholars and researchers participate in short-term academic activities, such as giving lectures, collaborating on research projects, or attending conferences.

Secondary School Student: High school students participate in an exchange program at a U.S. high school to experience American education and culture.

Flight Training: Individuals pursuing flight training come to the U.S. to enhance their aviation skills.

These are just a few examples of the many J-1 visa categories available. Each category has specific requirements and program objectives. It’s important to choose the category that aligns with your intended exchange activities and goals.

When considering a J-1 visa, it’s advisable to consult the official website of the U.S. Department of State or the specific program sponsor for detailed information about the eligibility criteria, application process, and program requirements for the particular J-1 visa category you’re interested in.

How to apply for a J-1 visa?

Applying for a J-1 visa involves several steps, including completing the necessary forms, attending an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate, and providing supporting documents. Here’s a general overview of the process:

Step 1. Find a Designated Sponsor: Identify a U.S. Department of State-designated exchange program sponsor that offers the type of J-1 program you’re interested in. This sponsor will provide you with a Form DS-2019, which is a Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.

Step 2. Complete the Online DS-160 Form: Go to the U.S. Department of State’s Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website and fill out the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-160. You will receive a DS-160 confirmation page with a barcode after completing the form. Keep this page as you’ll need it for your visa interview.

Step 3. Pay the Visa Application Fee: Pay the non-refundable visa application fee as required by the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will apply. Keep the receipt as you’ll need it to schedule your visa interview.

Step 4. Schedule a Visa Interview: Visit the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country where you plan to apply for the J-1 visa. Follow the instructions to schedule a visa interview. You’ll typically need the DS-160 confirmation page and the payment receipt for the visa application fee.

Step 5. Collect Required Documents: Gather the following documents for your visa interview:

    • Passport valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in the U.S.
    • Form DS-2019 provided by your designated sponsor.
    • Visa application fee payment receipt.
    • DS-160 confirmation page with barcode.
    • Passport-sized photos that meet the U.S. visa photo requirements.
    • Proof of financial support or funding for your stay in the U.S.
    • Proof of ties to your home country, such as family, job, or property, to demonstrate your intent to return.
    • Any additional documents required by the U.S. embassy or consulate, specific to your J-1 program category.

Step 6. Attend the Visa Interview: On the day of your interview, arrive at the U.S. embassy or consulate on time. Bring all your required documents, including the DS-160 confirmation page and payment receipt. The consular officer will interview you about your plans in the U.S. and your ties to your home country.

Step 7. Wait for Visa Processing: After the interview, the consular officer will determine whether you are eligible for a J-1 visa. If approved, they will place a visa sticker in your passport. Processing times may vary.

Step 8. Travel to the U.S.: Once you receive your J-1 visa, you can make travel arrangements to the U.S. Make sure to have all your documents with you when you arrive at the U.S. port of entry.

Remember that visa application processes and requirements can vary by country and consulate, so it’s important to check the specific guidelines of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you plan to apply. Additionally, it’s recommended to start the application process well in advance of your intended travel dates to allow for any processing delays.

How much does it cost to apply for a J-1 visa?

The cost of applying for a J-1 visa can vary depending on factors such as your home country, the specific U.S. embassy or consulate where you apply, and the type of J-1 program you’re participating in. Here are some typical fees associated with the J-1 visa application process:

J-1 Visa Application Fee:

  • $185 (general category)
  • $0 (applicants participating in official U.S. Government-sponsored educational and cultural exchanges: Exchange Visitor Visas)

SEVIS Fee: The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee is paid to the U.S. government to cover the costs of maintaining the SEVIS database, which tracks exchange visitors. The fee amount depends on the specific J-1 program category:

  • $220: I-901 SEVIS Fee J visa applicants (full payment)
  • $35: I-901 SEVIS Fee special J-visa categories (subsidized payment)

Remember to keep all your payment receipts as you may need them for your visa interview and for reference when making your travel plans.

How long does it take to obtain a J-1 visa?

The processing time for obtaining a J-1 visa can vary depending on several factors, including the U.S. embassy or consulate where you’re applying, the time of year, the specific J-1 program category, and your individual circumstances. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:

Visa Appointment Availability: The first step in the process is scheduling a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. The availability of visa interview slots can vary. During busy travel seasons, appointment slots might fill up quickly, leading to longer wait times. You can find estimated wait times for visa appointments and processing times on the US Department of State website.

Administrative Processing: After the visa interview, the consular officer may need to conduct additional administrative processing, especially if there are specific security or background checks required for your case. This can add extra time to the process.

SEVIS Fee Payment: Before attending the visa interview, you need to pay the SEVIS fee. The payment process usually happens immediately, but it’s recommended to complete it as soon as possible after receiving your Form DS-2019.

Visa Processing Times: Once you have completed your visa interview and all necessary administrative processing, the time it takes to process your visa application can vary. In some cases, visas can be approved within a few days, while in other cases, it might take several weeks.

Time of Year: Processing times can be influenced by the time of year. Certain periods, such as holiday seasons, can experience higher application volumes and longer processing times.

Program Category: Some J-1 program categories might have additional requirements or screening processes that could impact the processing time. For example, if your program involves sensitive areas like research or aviation training, additional checks might be needed.

Individual Circumstances: Any individual circumstances, such as the completeness of your application, the accuracy of your documentation, and the complexity of your case, can affect how long it takes to process your visa.

Given these variables, it’s important to start the J-1 visa application process well in advance of your intended travel date. Applying several months before your planned departure is recommended to account for potential delays and ensure you have ample time for the visa to be processed and any administrative matters to be resolved.

Can I work in the US with a J-1 visa?

Yes, you can work in the United States under certain conditions with a J-1 visa. However, the ability to work on a J-1 visa depends on the specific category of your J-1 program and the terms set by your designated sponsor. Here are some key points to consider:

Work Authorization: J-1 visa holders are generally allowed to work only as part of their approved J-1 program. Unauthorized employment outside the scope of your program is not permitted.

J-1 Program Categories: Some J-1 program categories explicitly include work or training components, allowing participants to gain practical experience in their chosen field. Examples include the “Intern” and “Trainee” categories. These categories are specifically designed to provide work experience as part of the cultural exchange.

Academic Programs: Students on J-1 visas in academic programs are generally allowed to work on-campus during the academic year and might have limited off-campus work opportunities, depending on the program and sponsor guidelines.

Work Authorization Limits: The work authorization granted through the J-1 program is usually limited to the duration of the program as specified on your Form DS-2019. Additionally, there may be specific restrictions on the type and amount of work you can engage in.

Employment Approval: Before starting any work as part of your J-1 program, you need to obtain authorization from your program sponsor. This could involve getting approval from your sponsor for any job you intend to take, ensuring that it aligns with the terms of your program.

Two-Year Home Residency Requirement: Some J-1 visa holders may be subject to a “two-year home residency requirement,” which means they are required to return to their home country for two years after completing their J-1 program before they can apply for certain U.S. visas (such as H, L, or permanent residency). This requirement can limit certain employment opportunities in the U.S.

J-1 Scholars and Researchers: J-1 scholars and researchers are typically allowed to engage in research and teaching activities as part of their program. They might also have some flexibility to engage in limited employment related to their field of expertise.

It’s crucial to understand the terms and conditions of your specific J-1 program category and the guidelines set by your program sponsor regarding work authorization. If you’re considering working in the U.S. while on a J-1 visa, consult your program sponsor to ensure that any employment you’re considering is in compliance with the rules and regulations governing your particular J-1 program.

J-1 visa duration

The duration of a J-1 visa can vary based on the specific category of the J-1 program you are participating in and the terms set by your designated sponsor. Here are some general guidelines regarding the duration of J-1 visas:

Short-Term Programs: Some J-1 programs, such as the Summer Work Travel program or certain short-term cultural exchange programs, might have durations of a few weeks to a few months. These programs are designed for temporary stays and cultural exchange experiences.

Intern and Trainee Programs: J-1 visa holders participating in intern or trainee programs often have durations ranging from a few months to 18 months. The specific duration will depend on the program category and the training objectives.

Student Programs: J-1 student visa holders pursuing academic studies in the U.S. will generally receive a visa duration that matches the length of their program of study. This could range from a few months for English language courses to several years for degree programs.

Research and Scholar Programs: J-1 scholars and researchers participating in academic and research programs might have visa durations that align with the length of their research project or appointment at the hosting institution.

Teacher Programs: J-1 teachers participating in exchange programs in U.S. primary or secondary schools often have durations of up to three years.

It’s important to note that the duration of the J-1 visa typically matches the duration specified on your Form DS-2019, which is the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status. The Form DS-2019 is issued by your program sponsor and outlines the program start and end dates, as well as other program-specific details.

Additionally, if you have a two-year home residency requirement as part of your J-1 program, you may be required to return to your home country for two years after completing the program before you can apply for certain U.S. visas or permanent residency.

Before applying for a J-1 visa, it’s recommended to thoroughly review the program details provided by your sponsor to understand the specific duration and requirements of your chosen J-1 program category.

How to apply for a J-1 visa extension?

Applying for a J-1 visa extension involves several steps and requires coordination with your program sponsor. If you wish to extend your stay in the U.S. under the same J-1 program category, here’s a general overview of the process:

Step 1. Contact Your Program Sponsor: Reach out to your designated program sponsor as early as possible to discuss your intention to extend your J-1 program. Your sponsor will provide you with guidance and information about the extension process.

Step 2. Eligibility Check: Your sponsor will assess your eligibility for an extension based on the program category and the specific guidelines of your J-1 program.

Step 3. Submit Request for Extension: Your sponsor will provide you with the necessary forms and instructions for requesting an extension. This could involve submitting a request letter, updated Form DS-2019, and any required supporting documents.

Step 4. Financial Documentation: You may need to provide updated proof of funding to demonstrate that you have the financial means to support your extended stay in the U.S.

Step 5. Program Justification: In your extension request, you might need to provide a clear and valid justification for the extension, explaining why you need more time in the U.S. and how it aligns with the goals of your J-1 program.

Step 6. Approval from Sponsor: Your sponsor will review your extension request and supporting documents. If they approve your request, they will issue you a new Form DS-2019 with the extended program dates.

Step 7. SEVIS Fee Payment: If your Form DS-2019 is extended, you may need to pay the SEVIS fee again to cover the extended duration.

Step 8. Visa Status: If your J-1 visa has not expired, you can continue to use it for re-entry into the U.S. If your J-1 visa has expired, you will need to apply for a new J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad if you plan to travel outside the U.S. and return.

Step 9. Departure Confirmation: If you have a two-year home residency requirement, your sponsor might require confirmation of your intention to fulfill this requirement after your extended stay.

It’s important to note that the J-1 visa extension process can vary depending on the specific J-1 program category, your sponsor’s policies, and other factors. The extension process can also take time, so it’s recommended to initiate the process well in advance of your current J-1 program end date to ensure a smooth transition and avoid any legal issues related to overstaying your visa.

What is the two-year home residency requirement?

The two-year home residency requirement, often referred to simply as the “two-year rule,” is a regulatory requirement associated with certain J-1 visa holders who come to the United States for exchange programs. This requirement is outlined in Section 212(e) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act. The two-year home residency requirement states that certain J-1 visa holders must return to their home country or country of last legal permanent residence for a period of two years after completing their J-1 program before they are eligible to:

  • Apply for an immigrant visa (permanent residency) in the United States.
  • Change their nonimmigrant status to H, L, or K visa categories.
  • Receive H-1B temporary worker status.

This requirement is intended to fulfill the exchange program’s objective of promoting cultural exchange and knowledge transfer between the United States and other countries. It encourages participants to return to their home countries to share the experiences and skills they gained during their time in the U.S.

Who Is Subject to the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?

Not all J-1 visa holders are subject to the two-year rule. It applies to J-1 visa holders if one or more of the following conditions are met:

Funded by U.S. Government or Home Country: If your J-1 program was funded in whole or in part by the U.S. government, your home country’s government, or an international organization, you are likely subject to the two-year requirement.

Skills in Short Supply: If your J-1 program involved fields that are considered to be in short supply in your home country, you might be subject to the requirement.

Graduate Medical Training: If you came to the U.S. for graduate medical education or training, you are usually subject to the requirement.

How to Fulfill the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?

If you are subject to the two-year rule, you must return to your home country or country of last legal permanent residence and remain physically present there for two years before you can pursue certain immigration benefits in the United States. However, there are three possible ways to fulfill or waive this requirement:

Returning Home: You can fulfill the requirement by returning to your home country and spending two years there.

Obtaining a No Objection Statement: Your home country’s government can issue a “no objection” statement, indicating that they have no objection to you not fulfilling the requirement. This allows you to pursue certain immigration benefits.

Obtaining a Waiver: In some cases, you may be eligible to apply for a waiver of the two-year requirement based on exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child, or a fear of persecution in your home country.

The two-year home residency requirement is a complex aspect of the J-1 visa program, and its application can vary based on individual circumstances. If you are subject to this requirement, it’s recommended to consult with an immigration attorney or your J-1 program sponsor for guidance on how to proceed.

How to apply for a waiver request of the two-year residency?

Applying for a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement associated with a J-1 visa involves a formal process and specific eligibility criteria. There are several categories under which you can request a waiver. Here’s an overview of the process:

Step 1. Determine Eligibility: Before applying for a waiver, review the eligibility criteria for the available waiver categories. Common waiver categories include:

    • No Objection Statement from Home Country: Your home country’s government must issue a “no objection” statement indicating that they have no objection to you not fulfilling the two-year requirement.
    • Exceptional Hardship: You must demonstrate that returning to your home country would cause exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child.
    • Persecution: You must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution in your home country.
    • Interested U.S. Government Agency: A U.S. government agency or department can request a waiver on your behalf if they consider your work to be in the public interest.

Step 2. Gather Documentation: Depending on the waiver category you’re applying under, you will need to gather specific documentation to support your waiver request. This could include letters, statements, evidence of hardship, or supporting documents from your home country or U.S. government agencies.

Step 3. Submit Form DS-3035: To begin the waiver process, you need to submit Form DS-3035, the J-1 Visa Waiver Recommendation Application, through the U.S. Department of State’s Online Visa Waiver Recommendation Application (OVWRA) system. This form collects your personal information and details about your J-1 program.

Step 4. Pay Fee and Obtain Case Number: After submitting Form DS-3035, you’ll need to pay a processing fee. Once the fee is processed, you’ll receive a case number that you’ll need for the next steps.

Step 5. Obtain a Waiver Review Statement: Depending on the waiver category, you might need to obtain a waiver review statement from a designated entity. For example, for a no objection statement, you’ll need to request this from your home country’s government.

Step 6. Submit Supporting Documents: Upload supporting documents and information related to your waiver category through the OVWRA system.

Step 7. Submit Case to Waiver Review Division: Once all necessary information is submitted, your case will be forwarded to the Waiver Review Division for review.

Step 8. Decision Notification: You will receive a decision on your waiver request from the U.S. Department of State. If the waiver is approved, you’ll receive instructions on how to proceed.

It’s important to note that the waiver process can be complex and may require legal guidance. Consult an immigration attorney or seek advice from your J-1 program sponsor for assistance throughout the waiver application process. Additionally, the processing time for waivers can vary, so it’s recommended to start the process well in advance of any deadlines or plans you have for your immigration status in the U.S.

Can I bring my dependents on a J-1 visa?

Yes, in most cases, J-1 visa holders are allowed to bring their dependents to the United States on J-2 visas. J-2 visas are issued to the spouses and unmarried children (under the age of 21) of J-1 visa holders, allowing them to accompany or join the J-1 visa holder in the U.S. during their exchange program. Here are some key points to consider:

Dependent Eligibility: Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible for J-2 visas. Other family members, such as parents or siblings, are not eligible for J-2 visas.

Form DS-2019 for Dependents: To bring your dependents to the U.S., your program sponsor will need to issue separate Form DS-2019s for each dependent. These forms will indicate that your dependents are eligible to apply for J-2 visas.

Visa Application Process: Your dependents will need to apply for J-2 visas at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. They will need to provide the DS-2019, proof of the relationship to the J-1 visa holder, and other required documentation.

Work Authorization for J-2 Dependents: J-2 visa holders can apply for work authorization in the U.S. However, they must by filing Form I-765 before they can legally work. Work authorization is not automatic and is subject to certain conditions.

Study for J-2 Dependents: J-2 visa holders are allowed to study in the U.S. without needing to obtain separate student visas. They can enroll in academic programs, including primary and secondary school, college, and university.

Health Insurance for Dependents: J-2 visa holders are required to have health insurance coverage during their stay in the U.S. This is to ensure that they have access to medical care while they are in the country.

Two-Year Home Residency Requirement: If you are subject to the two-year home residency requirement, it also applies to your J-2 dependents. This means that your J-2 dependents cannot change to certain nonimmigrant statuses or apply for immigrant visas until you have fulfilled the requirement.

It’s important to note that bringing dependents on a J-2 visa can have legal, financial, and practical implications. Before bringing your dependents to the U.S., it’s recommended to consult with your program sponsor and consider seeking legal advice to fully understand the process and the rights and responsibilities of J-2 visa holders.

Can I change my category under a J-1 visa?

Yes, in some cases, it is possible to change your category under a J-1 visa, but it requires careful planning and coordination with your program sponsor. Changing your J-1 visa category typically involves obtaining a new Form DS-2019 for the new program category, as well as ensuring that the new category aligns with your program goals and objectives. Here’s what you need to know:

Consult Your Program Sponsor: If you are interested in changing your J-1 program category, the first step is to discuss your intentions with your program sponsor. Your sponsor can provide guidance on whether a category change is possible and what steps you need to take.

Program Eligibility: Changing your J-1 category often requires meeting the eligibility criteria for the new category. Different categories have specific requirements and objectives, so it’s important to ensure that you are eligible for the new program.

Application Process: The process for changing your J-1 category typically involves the following steps:

    • Communicate with your current program sponsor about your intention to change categories.
    • Obtain acceptance into a new program that falls under the desired category. This might involve applying to a new program and getting approved by the new sponsor.
    • If accepted, your new program sponsor will issue a new Form DS-2019 indicating the change in category.

SEVIS Update: Your new sponsor will need to update the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) with the new program information. This update is important for maintaining accurate records of your immigration status.

Travel and Visa Status: If your J-1 visa is still valid and you have obtained a new Form DS-2019 for the new category, you can generally use your existing visa to enter the U.S. However, if your J-1 visa has expired or if the new category significantly differs from the previous one, you might need to apply for a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Two-Year Home Residency Requirement: If you are subject to the two-year home residency requirement, it also applies to changes of category. You would need to fulfill the requirement before you can apply for certain immigration benefits related to the new category.

Program Duration: Keep in mind that the duration of the new program category might be different from your original program, and you will need to adhere to the terms and end date specified on your new Form DS-2019.

It’s important to work closely with both your current program sponsor and the potential new program sponsor to ensure a smooth transition and to understand all the implications of changing your J-1 category. 

Can I change my exchange program?

Yes, it is possible to change your exchange program while on a J-1 visa, but there are certain steps you need to follow to ensure that you remain in compliance with U.S. immigration regulations. Changing your exchange program involves coordination with your current program sponsor, finding a new program, and obtaining a new Form DS-2019 for the new program. Here’s what you should know:

Discuss with Current Sponsor: If you are considering changing your exchange program, the first step is to discuss your intentions with your current program sponsor. They can provide guidance on the process and any potential implications.

Research New Programs: Identify a new exchange program that aligns with your goals and interests. This could involve searching for programs through different sponsors, universities, or institutions.

Obtain Acceptance: Apply to the new exchange program and follow their application process. If you are accepted into the new program, they will issue you an acceptance letter or other documentation.

Contact New Sponsor: Inform the new program sponsor about your J-1 visa status and your intention to transfer to their program. They will guide you through their specific transfer process and requirements.

SEVIS Transfer: If the new program sponsor agrees to accept you, they will initiate a SEVIS transfer process. This involves transferring your SEVIS record and generating a new Form DS-2019 for the new program.

Maintain Legal Status: It’s important to maintain legal status throughout the process. Your SEVIS record should be transferred and the new Form DS-2019 should be issued before you start the new program.

Travel and Visa: If you are changing to a new program with a different program category or if your J-1 visa has expired, you might need to apply for a new J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate before entering the U.S. for the new program.

Two-Year Home Residency Requirement: If you are subject to the two-year home residency requirement, changing programs could impact your eligibility for certain immigration benefits. The requirement applies to changes of program as well, and you would need to fulfill it before applying for certain visas or permanent residency.

Program Duration: The duration of the new exchange program might differ from your original program, so be sure to adhere to the terms specified on your new Form DS-2019.

Remember that each program sponsor may have their own policies and procedures for accepting transfer students, so it’s important to communicate openly with both your current and new program sponsors. 

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

The J-1 and F-1 student visas are both nonimmigrant visa categories that allow individuals to come to the United States for educational purposes. However, there are several key differences between these two visa categories in terms of their eligibility criteria, program objectives, and requirements. Here’s a comparison:

J-1 Student Visa:

Exchange Visitor Program: The J-1 visa is part of the Exchange Visitor Program, which includes various categories such as students, researchers, teachers, interns, and more. The program’s primary purpose is to promote international exchange and cultural understanding.

Sponsored Programs: J-1 visa holders must participate in programs sponsored by U.S. government-approved organizations, educational institutions, or agencies. These sponsors facilitate the exchange and oversee the program’s compliance.

Program Requirements: J-1 students must meet the specific requirements of their exchange program category. They are expected to return to their home country for at least two years after completing their program, unless they receive a waiver.

Employment: J-1 students may have limited employment opportunities, such as on-campus employment and work authorization related to their program.

Dependents: J-1 visa holders can bring their dependents to the U.S. on J-2 visas, allowing them to study and, in some cases, work.

F-1 Student Visa:

  • Full-Time Study: The F-1 visa is specifically for individuals pursuing full-time academic studies at accredited U.S. institutions, such as colleges, universities, and English language schools.
  • Educational Institutions: F-1 students are admitted to the U.S. for the purpose of pursuing a degree or academic program. The educational institution they attend serves as their primary sponsor.
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT): F-1 students may be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows them to work in their field of study for up to 12 months (or longer for certain STEM fields) after completing their program.
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT): F-1 students may also engage in Curricular Practical Training (CPT), which is temporary employment that is an integral part of their curriculum.
  • Dependents: F-1 visa holders can bring their dependents to the U.S. on F-2 visas, but F-2 dependents are generally not allowed to work or engage in full-time study.
  • Two-Year Home Residency Requirement: The two-year home residency requirement (Section 212(e)) associated with J-1 visas does not apply to F-1 students, unless they were subject to it in a previous J-1 program.

Both the J-1 and F-1 visa categories have specific rules and regulations that individuals must adhere to during their stay in the U.S. It’s important to carefully review the requirements and objectives of each visa category and consult with your chosen educational institution or program sponsor to ensure that you choose the right visa category for your educational goals and plans.

How can I change my status from J-1 to green card?

Changing your status from a J-1 visa to a green card (lawful permanent residency) in the United States is a complex and multi-step process. The path to obtaining a green card involves meeting certain eligibility criteria, following specific procedures, and potentially navigating various immigration regulations. Here’s an overview of the general process:

Step 1. Understand Eligibility: Determine if you are eligible for a green card based on your circumstances. Common pathways for J-1 visa holders to obtain green cards include family-sponsored, employment-based, or asylum/refugee categories.

Step 2. Eligibility for Adjustment of Status: If you are eligible to apply for a green card from within the U.S., you may consider adjusting your status by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Your eligibility to adjust status depends on factors such as your current visa status, your relationship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and your employment-based sponsorship.

Step 3. Immigrant Visa Petition: In many cases, you will need an immigrant visa petition filed on your behalf by a qualified sponsor. For example, if you are sponsored by a family member, they would typically file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. If you are sponsored by an employer, they would file Form I-140, Petition for Alien Workers.

Step 4. Priority Dates: Employment-based and family-sponsored green card applications are subject to numerical limits (visa quotas). Your priority date (the date the immigrant visa petition is filed) becomes important for tracking your place in line for a visa number to become available.

Waiting for Visa Numbers: Depending on the category and country of origin, there may be waiting periods for visa numbers to become available. You’ll need to monitor the Visa Bulletin, published monthly by the U.S. Department of State, to check the availability of visa numbers for your category.

Step 5. Filing Adjustment of Status: Once your priority date is current and visa numbers are available, you can file Form I-485 to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident. You will need to provide detailed documentation, undergo medical examinations, and attend biometrics appointments.

Step 6. Green Card Interview: For most cases, you and any family members applying with you will be required to attend an interview at a USCIS office. During the interview, you’ll be asked about your background, intentions, and other relevant matters.

Step 7. Adjudication: After your interview, USCIS will review your case and make a decision on your green card application.

Step 8. Obtaining a Green Card: If your application is approved, you will receive your green card, which grants you lawful permanent residency in the U.S.

It’s important to note that the process and requirements for obtaining a green card can vary based on individual circumstances and the specific green card category you are applying under. The assistance of an experienced immigration attorney can be invaluable in navigating the complexities of changing your status to a green card. Additionally, be aware that certain restrictions, such as the two-year home residency requirement for some J-1 visa holders, might impact your eligibility for a green card.

Related Links:

J-2 Visa, Dependent of J-1

Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application

Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status

Two-Year Home Residency Requirement

Waiving the J-1 Two-Year Home Residency Requirement