The J-1 visa category allows foreign nationals to live in the United States temporarily under certain sponsored “exchange visitor” programs. The J-1 visa allows the foreign individual the opportunity to be, for example, an intern or trainee in either an academic or government program or a private sector program.
How to sponsor an immigrant using a J-1 visa
First, the sponsor must become designated by the U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) by meeting certain specific requirements and submitting Form DS-3036, Exchange Visitor Program Application to DOS. The prospective program sponsor should hire a J-1 immigration lawyer to submit all documentation on behalf of the prospective program sponsor in order to ensure all eligibility requirements have been met. Once DOS approves the application for program sponsor designation, the program sponsor may begin recruiting program participants.
How does a foreign national become a J-1 exchange visitor?
First, a J-1 program sponsor must approve the internship or training program for the prospective participant. Once the program has been approved, the sponsor will issue a “certificate of eligibility” (Form DS-2019), which the prospective participant will use to apply for a J-1 visa or status. The prospective participant must prove his/her “nonimmigrant intent” when applying for a J-1 visa or status.
For how long is J-1 status valid?
An exchange visitor may be on J-1 status for an initial period of 12 months for interns, or 18 months for trainees. Extensions may be granted in certain limited circumstances.
Are dependents of J-1 exchange visitors admissible to the U.S.?
Yes. Spouses and children of J-1 exchange visitors may be granted J-2 status and may also apply for work authorization.
What is an “intern”?
The term “intern” has a specific meaning within the J-1 context. An intern is a foreign national who is either (1) a student at a post-secondary academic institution outside the U.S., or (2) a graduate of such an institution no more than 12 months prior to beginning the J-1 exchange program, and who enters the U.S. to participate in a structured and guided internship in his/her specific academic field.
What is a “trainee”?
The term “trainee” also has a specific meaning within the J-1 context. A trainee is a foreign national who has either (1) a degree from a foreign postsecondary academic institution and at least one year of related work experience in his/her specific field, or (2) at least five years of related work experience in his/her specific field, and who enters the U.S. to participate in a structured and guided training program in his/her specific field of employment.
Can a J-1 exchange visitor remain in the U.S. after his/her exchange program has expired?
Sometimes. Certain exchange visitors are subject to a “two-year foreign residence requirement.” This requirement, also called the “two-year rule,” simply means that a J-1 exchange visitor must return to his/her home country and remain there for two years after completing the exchange program. This two-year rule does not prohibit, for example, a U.S. citizen spouse from petitioning for his/her J-1 spouse (the J-1 spouse would still have to wait for the immigrant petition to become current before being able to consular process to the United States).
The J-1 exchange visitor program is a useful way for certain individuals to visit the U.S. and gain valuable professional, educational, and cultural experience. The administrative and procedural steps in order to gain J-1 status, however, are numerous. Genesis Law Firm is familiar with the process and can guide prospective sponsors and/or prospective exchange participants along the way.