A J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States to exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange, especially to obtain medical or business training within the U.S. All applicants must meet eligibility criteria and be sponsored either by a private sector or government program.
Duration of Status
J-1 visitors may remain in the United States until the end of their exchange program, as specified on form DS-2019. Once a J-1 visitor’s program ends, he may remain in the United States for an additional 30 days, often referred to as a “grace period,” in order to prepare for departure from the country. If the visitor leaves the United States during these 30 days, the visitor may not re-enter with the J-1 visa.
The minimum and maximum duration of stay are determined by the specific J-1 category under which an exchange visitor is admitted into the United States. As with other non-immigrant visas, a J-1 visa holder and his or her dependents are required to leave the United States at the end of the duration of stay.
Mandatory home residence requirement
Many persons in the United States on J-1 visa are subject to the two-year home residency requirement found in Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under the Section 212(e), before a person on a J-1 visa with the two-year home residency requirement can change to nonimmigrant status (H-1B or L1, for example), or adjust to U.S. permanent resident status, the J-1 person must either return to the country of last residence for two years or obtain a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement. The waiver may be granted under the following conditions:
- No objection statement (NOS) issued by the government of the home country of the J visa holders.
- Exceptional Hardship: If a J-1 holder can demonstrate that his departure would cause exceptional hardship to his U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident dependents.
- Persecution: If a J-1 holder can demonstrate that he can be persecuted in his home country.
- Interested Government Agency: A waiver issued for a J-1 holder by a U.S. Federal Government agency that has determined that such person is working on a project for or of its interest and the person’s departure will be detrimental to its interest.
- Conrad Program: A waiver issued for a foreign medical graduate who has an offer of full-time employment at a health care facility in a designated health care professional shortage area or at a health care facility which serves patients from such a designated area.