The United States government issues J-1 Visas to individuals who take part in a wide range of exchange visitor programs sponsored by schools, businesses, and a variety of organizations and institutions. These programs are envisioned for business and industrial trainees, scholars, students, international visitors, teachers, research assistants, and those on cultural missions. In addition, there are several exchange visitor programs for young people, including summer employment programs, internship programs for university students and au-pair programs.
Activities Covered by the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Programs Include:
Two Years Home Country Physical Presence Requirement
The 2-year home country physical presence requirement is one of the most important special characteristics of J-1 status and should be thoroughly understood by the exchange visitor. The determination as to whether an exchange visitor is subject to the 2-year home country physical presence requirement by virtue of the need for his or her specialized knowledge or skills in the home country is made by reference to the Exchange Visitor Skills List, an official list of fields of specialized knowledge and skills needed in each country, as determined by the governments of those countries.
The exchange visitor is subject to the 2-year home country physical presence requirement only if participation in an exchange program began after his or her field of study appeared on the skills list. The 2-year home country physical presence requirement may be waived. The Office of International Programs has handouts on procedures for the waiver application.
Change of Status and Waivers of Requirement
Such waivers may be requested and if approved, obtained under these five separate bases:
J-1 Limitation of Stay and Grace Period
The length of time an exchange visitor may remain in the United States in J-1 status is determined by the general limitations for the category and the length of time needed to complete the exchange objective (see category breakdown below). After the J-1 program is completed, the USCIS allows exchange visitors an additional grace period of 30 days to prepare for departure from the United States. It is important for the exchange visitor to be aware that the exchange activity and any related employment are permitted only until the ending date on the Form DS-2019. The additional 30 days is a status very much like that of a tourist in that one may remain to travel in the United States, but may not undertake activities usually impermissible to a tourist.