According to the U.S Department of State, there were over 30,000 participants of the Exchange Visitor Program in 2011. These are people who come to the United States to either work, study or teach. The program can also provide international candidates the opportunity to come into the United States with the hopes of conducting research or even receiving work-related training. According to the official J-1 visa website, the purpose of this visa is to “foster global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges.” This is thus a temporary visa that allows for an enriching experience for the visa holder.
For those who are interested in visiting the U.S. with a J-1 visa, they must contact a designated sponsor organization. This list can be viewed by clicking here. After you have contacted a sponsor, depending on the purpose of your visit, they will screen you to determine whether you qualify and fit what they are looking for. In some cases, you may be required to schedule an interview with your sponsor. There are, however, a few things that must be met by all participants seeking a J-1 visa, including the ability to demonstrate proficiency in English, as well as medical insurance with minimum benefits.
If you have been accepted into the program by your sponsor, you will be issued a DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status which you must fill out and file at either a U.S. Embassy or consulate. You will also be required to fill out a SEVIS I-901 fee; if your sponsor pays this for you, they will need to give you the receipt so that you can show proof that it has been taken care of. Following this, you will need to pay the nonimmigrant visa application processing fee, as well as the visa issuance fee.
The following documents must be submitted during application:
In some cases, the J-1 visa is not best suited, but a visitor visa (such as B-1 or B-2 visa) would be better suited. In cases where you are coming to the United States for a short recreational study, it is likely that you are more suited toward gaining access through a visitor visa. If, however, you are receiving vocational training or are participating in any form of education where you will earn a credit or certification, you will not be eligible for a visitor visa and instead should look into applying for a J-1.
All foreign citizens who participate in an Exchange Visitor Program that meets certain criteria will be subject to requirements for foreign residence, specifically the two year home country physical presence requirement. As established under Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, this requirement means that when an exchange program concludes, foreign nationals will be required to return to their home country for two years. The following conditions must be met for the two year home country physical presence requirement to apply:
When subject to the two year home country physical presence requirement, foreign nationals must return to their home country for a total of at least two years before they can engage in certain U.S. immigration actions. These actions may include change of status, adjustment of status, applying for an immigration visor or applying for other specific visas at a U.S. embassy or consulate. In some cases, foreign nationals may be able to apply for a waiver of the two year home country presence requirement if they are not able to return or remain in their home country. Our legal can help you better understand this requirement and how it impacts your personal situation.
The J-1 exchange visitor program that is offered to visitors of the U.S. can extend beyond the length of time allotted to a non-resident who is currently using a J-1 visa to remain in the country. When this is the case, you should speak to an attorney immediately. Depending on your circumstances, you may or may not be required to take additional steps to ensure your time in the U.S. For example, if you have no intention of travelling outside of the U.S. after your visa has expired, you will not need to renew the visa. If, however, you are planning to travel outside of the country during the current term of your visitor program and your J-1 visa has already expired, you will be expected to apply for a new J-1 visa. Application for a new visa must be made in your home country if you wish to re-enter the United States in order to continue with your program.
While you are taking advantage of the exchange visitor program, it will be your sponsor’s responsibility to provide assistance and guidance regarding any and all matters related to your J-1 program. That being said, you should be able to seek advice from your sponsor if you have any questions pertaining to the status of your visitor visa or the time constraints you are under when residing in the U.S. for these purposes. In essence, it is the responsibility of your sponsor to ensure that your J-1 non-immigrant documents remain valid at all times. If they fail to live up to these duties, then we highly encourage you to seek legal representation as quickly as possible. With a New York immigration attorney from our firm on your side, you can take the legal actions necessary to effectively attend to an issue of this nature.
Whether an exchange visitor is coming to the United States for summer work, to teach, to perform research, or for any other valid reason, they will have the opportunity to bring their spouse and children. U.S. immigration policy values the importance of family unity, and as exchange visitors contribute a great deal to our country, there are pathways that enable them to bring their families during their visit and for the duration of their exchange program. In much the same way that student visa holders can bring their families using a separate visa, J-1 exchange visa holders will be able to have their family members apply for J-2 visas.
If you are currently a J-1 visa holder or if you are seeking to apply for an exchange visitor visa, the J-2 visa will allow your spouse and unmarried, minor children to accompany you when you enter the United State. You also have the flexibility to have them join you in the country at a later date while you settle into your particular exchange program. In order for your family members to obtain a J-2 visa, your sponsor must provide them with separate DS-1209 Forms. These forms, a copy of your J-1 visa, and proof of relationship (birth and marriage certificates), will be needed when they apply. Additionally, your minor children will be able to attend school while in the United State during your exchange visit and do not need to obtain a student F visa.
If you are looking to visit the U.S. through the Exchange Visitor Program, it is in your best interests to get the involvement of an experienced immigration attorney. At Pozo Goldstein, LLP, we know how confusing immigration law can be and we are here to simplify it as much as possible. Should you get the involvement of our firm, you will be able to rest assured knowing that you will have an experienced lawyer on your side who is prepared to go above and beyond in their efforts to help you. By helping you find and contact a sponsor and fill out and file all of the necessary paperwork, we can give you the best possible chance of success.