What Is A J-1 Visa?

The J-1 Visa is an exchange visitor Visa program granted to foreign nationals who are interested in traveling to the United States for a temporary program oriented towards specialized work, academic study, research, teaching, and other related activities.  J-1 visa applicants are diverse, and each may face entirely different challenges with regard to immigration — for example, an international student and a teacher may each qualify for a J-1 visa, though their long-term immigration plans and requirements are likely to differ quite significantly.

There are a variety of J-1 visa programs that eligible candidates may engage with, and each have different requirements.  These programs involve professional and academic paths that include, but are not necessarily limited, to:

  • Au Pair
  • Camp Counselors
  • College and University Student
  • Government Visitor
  • Intern
  • International Visitor
  • Physician
  • Professor and Research Scholar
  • Secondary School Student
  • Short Term Scholar
  • Specialist
  • Summer Work Travel
  • Teacher
  • Trainee

The length of these programs vary considerably.  For example, a J-1 physician may remain in the United States for the entire duration of their residency program, to a maximum of seven years.  By contrast, a short term scholar program may last for a maximum period of six months.

The Home Residency Requirement

J-1 visas feature a number of unique requirements, depending on the program with which the foreign national is engaged.  Some J-1 visa programs feature a two-year home residency requirement which requires that the foreign national return to their home country (and establish permanent residency for a period of two years) before getting a work or family-based visa in the United States, or otherwise changing their immigration status.

The home residency requirement can create significant barriers for foreign nationals who may have long-term career or family arrangements linked to the United States.  Fortunately, there may be waivers (and other options) available to qualified foreign nationals.  For example, J-1 teachers that are not able to waive the home residency requirement may repeat the J-1 program after the two-year home residency period has elapsed.

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