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Who Qualifies for J-1 Visitor Exchange Visas?

We live in a global world, and people from other countries can bring new talents, skills, and perspectives to our organizations and communities. To better facilitate ongoing cultural exchange, the United States offers the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program to allow people from other countries to live, work, and study temporarily in the U.S.

What is the J-1 visitor exchange visa?

The visitor exchange program is an opportunity for individuals from other countries to come to the U.S. to work, study, and share their talent and knowledge with American organizations and employers. This temporary exchange program helps visa holders learn about and experience American culture while they are traveling. The visa program can also allow American companies to temporarily hire foreign nationals or learn from talented individuals from other countries.

Who qualifies, and under what conditions?

Although sometimes called the J-1 student visa, this visa is not limited to students. American sponsors are able to set up programs to allow a number of professionals, skilled and unskilled workers, and other individuals into the U.S. on a J-1 visa across several categories.

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What activities are allowed with a J-1 visa?

The J-1 visa allows individuals to live, travel, train, teach, study, or work in the United States. The exact activities which are permitted are outlined in each specific program by the sponsor, and participants are generally limited to the activities which are described in the program. If an individual is coming to the United States on a J-1 visa to study, for example, they will not be allowed to work in the U.S.
The J-1 visa is a temporary visa. It does not provide a path to citizenship and J-1 visa holders who wish to apply for other non-immigrant visas or to become U.S. permanent residents will usually need to return to their home country for two years before applying, although there are a few exceptions.

What’s the process like for securing a J-1 visa?

Sponsors who host exchange programs have to meet strict requirements with the U.S. Department of State and most organizations offering these programs have extensive experience, so they are poised to help if applicants have any questions. Since the process is involved and can require paying multiple fees, it is important to choose a program you are qualified for and where you have a strong chance for success.

Are there any caps or restrictions to be aware of?

There is no cap on the number of J-1 visas. However, there are restrictions within each program and some sponsors are very competitive, meaning that only a small percentage of applicants are admitted to the program. Since sponsors are responsible for screening applicants, selecting them, and monitoring them once they are in the U.S., most sponsors will not accept more applicants once their program is filled.

In addition, the U.S. Department of State earmarks a specific number of Form DS-2019 (Certificates of Eligibility) to eligible sponsors. These forms are mandatory to allow for consulate interviews, so there cannot be more J-1 holders than there are certificates. In past years, there have been up to 500,000 such certificates issued.

How long can someone stay on this visa?

The length of stay on a J-1 visa varies depending on a few factors. There are limits on the amount of time each type of visitor can remain in the U.S. For example, trainees can remain for up to 18 months and interns can stay for a maximum of 12 months. However, sponsors can also choose to set a shorter limit. A sponsoring organization may choose to create a 15-month exchange program for trainees, in which case visas issued for that program would be issued for 15 months. Extensions may be possible if an applicant cannot complete the work they are intended to do by their sponsor in the time available.

How can Farmer Law help?

An exchange program can be life changing and career-altering, but these programs can be competitive and applying can take months. If you have been previously found inadmissible to the U.S. or are having trouble securing entry into the United States, consult with Farmer Law PC to explore the options available to you.
Farmer Law can also help organizations interested in becoming hosts or employers of J-1 visitors. While most companies use third-party sponsors to choose and screen exchange visitors, it is possible to apply to the U.S. Department of State to become a sponsor. While the process is complex and requires a very detailed program description, evidence of financial ability to support a program, and proof of experience with international programs, organizations who are successful may benefit from having yearly international interns, trainees, students, or workers to help grow their organizations.
If you are ready to attract international talent to your business and need an experienced legal team for assistance with the immigration requirements, contact Farmer Law today for a consultation. Our immigration attorneys are experienced in helping companies hire and attract international candidates and we also support individuals interested in coming to the United States.

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