J-1: Exchange Visitor Visa

What is a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa and who qualifies?

A J-1 is a non-immigrant visa for those participating in an exchange program. Applicants must be able to prove they: 1) are going to work, teach, study, train, or consult in an approved exchange program; 2) have been accepted into the exchange program; 3) have the financial ability to cover expenses while in the U.S.; and 4) have sufficient English proficiency.  Since J-1 is a non-immigrant visa that is not dual intent, it is necessary for the applicant to show they intend to return to their home country at the conclusion of their program.

Specific exchange programs are approved by the Department of State through the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. Examples of eligible J-1 categories include: students, teachers, interns, au pairs, and medical school graduates.

Unless the applicant is from a country where English is an official language, they must demonstrate sufficient proficiency by passing the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or an approved equivalent.

Required Documents

Evidence that the applicant meets all the requirements for a J-1 visa includes but is not limited to:

  • Degrees and transcripts
  • Training/Internship placement plan
  • TOEFL/IELTS exam scores or evidence of English proficiency through interview

Documents supporting the applicant’s financial ability to cover expenses includes but is not limited to:

  • Bank statements
  • Tax returns
  • Pay stubs
  • Employment letters
  • Scholarship or organizational funding letters

To prove a non-immigrant intent, an application may include the following:

  • Evidence of property or other community ties in home country
  • Proof of local bank account
  • Documents proving familial relationships and residence

Interesting Facts

J-1 visas have a 2-year home residency requirement meaning that the J-1 status holder must return to their home country for two years before they can apply for readmission to the U.S. or a green card.  It is possible to apply for a waiver to the 2-year home residency requirement. Some waiver methods include: a “no objection” letter from applicant’s home country government; waiver request by a U.S. Interested Government Agency (IGA) that supports the applicant’s program financially; fear of persecution in home country; hardship to a U.S. citizen spouse and/or child; state health agency requests waiver for doctors with a full-time position in an area suffering a shortage of medical professionals.

Attorney Role

An attorney is generally not necessary when applying for a J visa. Should the applicant wish to return to their home country, change status, or seek a waiver, then a knowledgeable immigration attorney will be able to ensure the application is properly documented and presented to USCIS.

Contact Us

To discuss J-1 visas and other types of similar petitions with an experienced immigration attorney from the American Visa Law Group, feel free click the contact us tab and fill out the inquiry form or call us at 510-500-1155.