What is USA J1 Visa, Requirements, Application Process & more

The USA J1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued to those who intend to participate in exchange visitor programs. The Exchange Visitor program helps to strengthen global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges. So, all participants must return to their country after the end of the program to share their experiences. Everyone who wants to participate in these programs must obtain a J1 visa, even those who live in the Visa Waiver Program countries.

In this article, we try to answer the questions that are often asked about this visa. For example, how can you apply for this visa? What are the requirements and interview questions for this visa? And how to extend a J1 visa?

 

What is the USA J1 visa?

This visa allows a range of people to participate in cultural and educational exchange programs as part of a sponsorship program. People in the following categories can travel to the United States under the US J1 visa:

  • Au Pairs
  • Camp Counselors
  • Government visitors
  • Interns
  • International visitors
  • Physicians
  • Professors and Research Scholars
  • Short-term Scholars
  • Specialists in different areas
  • University Students
  • Secondary School Students
  • Teachers
  • Trainees
  • Work and Travel Participants

There is no annual cap to issue this visa. Everyone who wants to participate in cultural and educational exchange programs, even nationals of countries listed in the Visa Waiver Program, will need this visa.

 

What are the documents and conditions to obtain this visa?

Applicants will need a sponsor in the J1 visa application process. Sponsors select eligible participants for each category based on the program-specific criteria. Additionally, applicants must be fluent in English and have insurance. Program information is provided to participants by sponsors. Sponsors will also assess participants’ progress during the program.

If the sponsor fails to answer your questions or concerns, you can contact the US Department of State directly by phone or email below:

The US J1 visa requirements are:

  • A valid passport
  • Complete the DS-160 form and receive the confirmation barcode
  • Receipt of visa application fee
  • Two photos of the applicant
  • Form DS-2019 given by sponsors via the SEVIS system (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System)
  • Form DS-7002 for interns or trainees (Training/Internship Placement Plan)

 

How to apply for this visa?

The steps of the US J1 visa application are:

  1. Applicants for this visa need a sponsor. If you want to participate in J-1 visa programs, you must first contact a designated sponsor. On the official website of the US Department of State, you can find the sponsors’ addresses and locations. Sponsors have various tasks. In the following, we will explain their responsibilities in different categories.
  2. The Form DS-2019:  This form (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status) provides a brief description of the designated sponsor, the exchange visitor, the start and end dates of the program, and the exchange category. The sponsor issues this form to the participant who screened and selected him. The sponsor must complete the information in the form.
  3. The DS-160 form must be completed.
  4. $ 160 must be paid as a visa application fee. If your sponsor is a US agency, you will be exempt from paying this fee.
  5. $ 180 must be paid as the SEVIS I-901 fee.
  6. Schedule the visa interview appointment
  7. Tender the needed documents for J-1 Visa

Au pair

The program matches au pairs from different countries with host families. Au pairs take care of the kids and engage in academic programs.

Participant Requirements

Sponsor Requirements

Employer Requirements

  • Age range: 18 to 26 years
  • English proficiency
  • The applicant must have graduated at least secondary school.
  • Pass a background and personality tests
  • Take part in a 6 to 12 semester hours post-secondary academic program while in the US
  • Match host families and au pair applicants
  • Make sure au pairs have sufficient experience with children and child growth
  • Provide monitor the au pair while they are in the host family
  • The au pair should work less than 10 hours per day or 45 hours per week
  • Make sure au pairs are financially remunerated according to the law
  • Be US citizens
  • Pay the au pair’s salary every month.
  • The employer is responsible for providing housing and meals.
  • $ 500 should be donated to the au pair’s academic activity.
  • Give two weeks of paid vacation per year and one weekend off every month.

Au Pair Benefits

Au Pair Restrictions

  • Fulfill child care instruction
  • Be with a host family for 12 months, with extension opportunities of 6, 9, or 12 months.
  • Enroll in academic programs
  • Get compensated for child care and obtain academic stipends.
  • They cannot stay at home with an infant less than three months unless the adult is at home.
  • They cannot stay at home with a child under two years old unless the person has at least 200 hours of childcare experience.
  • The au pair cannot be with a child with special needs unless he/she has received special training.

Camp Counselors

Camp counselors work with children in US youth camps and aim to share their culture.

Participant Requirements

Sponsor Requirements

Employer Requirements

  • Age range: at least 18 years old
  • English proficiency
  • The applicant must be students, youth workers, people with special skills, or teachers
  • Make sure that the camp counselors have enough information about their duties.
  • Make sure they have health insurance.
  • Make sure that they are qualified enough in this regard.
  • You need to maintain SEVIS records.
  • You must monitor their participation during their stay.
  • Camp counselors should be rewarded as much as their American counterparts.
  • The employer must ensure that the camp counselors do not serve in another position in the camp.

Government Visitors

Prominent members of other countries go to the US via the US government agency’s invitation to reinforce the communication between the two countries.

Participant Requirements

Sponsor Requirements

  • Participants must be selected by one of the following organizations:
  • US federal
  • State or local government agency
  • The participants must be an influential or prominent person
  • Participants can take part in the following activities:
  • Observation tours
  • Discussions
  • Consultations
  • Professional meetings
  •  Conferences
  • Workshops
  • Travel
  • The sponsor must ensure that the participant and his or her dependents receive adequate health insurance.
  • Before the program starts, the sponsor must provide the following:
  • The duration of the program
  • Summary of the important components of the program
  • A written statement that clearly states the amount to be paid to the government visitor, if any.

Interns

University students or graduates from other countries travel to the US to gain experience through internships and become familiar with American culture.

Participant Requirements

Sponsor Requirements

Employer Requirements

  • Enrollment in the studies program in their home country or
  • Graduation certificate (no more than 12 months have elapsed since graduation)
  • Accepted disciplines:
  • Agriculture / Forestry / Fishing
  • Arts / Culture
  • Construction
  • Education and Social Science
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Communication
  • Business and Finance
  • Public Administration and Law
  • Science fields
  • Organizations must have less than 25 employees and earn less than $ 3 million.
  • It is important to have enough information about employees.
  • At the end of 6 months, participants must be evaluated. If the internship period is more than six months, the evaluation can be done later.
  • The DS-700 form must be signed.
  • You need to make sure the applicant has enough skills to do the job.
  • Talk to sponsors about the trainee’s performance.
  • Follow American law and sponsorship rules.
  • Monitor the trainee’s performance and training.

The advantage of this position is that the trainee can gain excellent practical experience. But the trainee is not allowed to work in the following areas:

  • Unskilled job opportunities
  • Medical Care
  • Child care
  • Any job that requires more than 20 percent of office support work

International Visitors

International visitors are professionals from other countries who travel to the US to exchange their experiences with this country.

Participant Requirements

Sponsor Requirements

Employer Requirements

  • The US Department of State must select the applicant.
  • The applicant must participate in other special skills activities.
  • The applicant must be recognized as a professional in his or her home country.
  • The sponsor must provide information about the programs to the participants.
N/A

Participants in these programs will have a better understanding of US culture through their activities. However, applicants must not have resided in the United States for more than one year.

Physicians

Foreign physicians from other countries can enter US medical schools under this visa and take training courses.

Participant Requirements

Sponsor Requirements

Employer Requirements

  • The applicants must have received sufficient training.
  • Before taking the program, the applicants must take some tests to qualify for this program.
  • Applicants must have a written statement from their home country, indicating that they will return to their home country at the end of the program and that their country will need their skills.

Non-clinical applicants:

  • Go to the U.S to train, consult, observe, or research.
  • Be managed by a US medical practitioner.
  • Adhere to US medical practices and laws
  • The only sponsor of this program is ECFMG (the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates) 
  • Sponsors issue Form DS-2019 to the applicants and help with getting a J-2 visa for their spouse or other dependents.  
  • Medical institutions must provide a clear clinical training program to applicants. 

By taking this course, physicians can get the right training and credibility.

Professors and Research Scholar

Using this program, researchers can travel to the US to strengthen research links between the US and other countries.

Participant Requirements

Sponsor Requirements

Employer Requirements

  • The applicant must not have completed a similar program during the last 24 months.
  • The applicant must not have received a J-1 visa within the last 12 months.
  • Allowed if they participated as a short-term scholar with a J-1 visa for less than 6 months. 
  • Fluency in English is required.
  • The sponsor must select and monitor the participants.
  • The sponsor must ensure that participants are exposed to US culture.
    N/A

By participating in these programs, researchers can strengthen educational cooperation between cultures and countries.

Short-term Scholars

Under this program, scholars can travel to the US for consultations, pieces of training, lectures, etc., in US institutions.

Participant Requirements

Sponsor Requirements

Employer Requirements

  • Applicants must be professionals in their field.
  • The sponsor must select and monitor the participants.
  • The sponsor must ensure that participants are exposed to American culture.
  • SEVIS records must be maintained.
  • Participants and their families must have received health insurance.
  • The sponsor must ensure the financial status of the participants. 
N/A

Researchers who come to the US on this visa should not stay for more than six months. It is also not allowed to renew or change the status of this category.

Specialists in various fields

Experts in various fields can share their ideas and knowledge with other experts in the United States.

Participant Requirements

Sponsor Requirements

Employer Requirements

  • The applicant must be professional in their fields.
  • They are not allowed to find full-time employment in the US.
  • They must be prepared to exchange their skill and knowledge. 
  • The sponsor must ensure that participants have adequate qualifications.
  • The sponsor must provide sufficient information about the program.
  • If there is a wage, information on it should be provided to the participants.
N/A

Applicants in this category cannot participate in programs longer than one year old.

University students

Students can complete a US degree and can complete their internships.

Participant Requirements

Sponsor Requirements

Employer Requirements

  • Have funding from the US government, the government of their country, or other international organizations
  • Be a participant in an agreement between the US and an organization to exchange the students.
  • The sponsor must select and monitor the participants.
  • The sponsor must ensure that participants have adequate qualifications to be admitted at a US institution
N/A

If you intend to enroll in a non-degree program, the duration of the program should not exceed two years.

Secondary school students

Students can complete their high school year in the US and live with an American family.

Participant Requirements

Sponsor Requirements

Employer Requirements

  • Applicants must be between 15 and 18 years old.
  • They must have less than 11 years of education. 
  • Students must not have previously participated in a similar program
  • The sponsor must provide the participant and host families with complete information about each other.
  • Sponsor must have references to the host family 
  • The sponsor must ensure that the host families have the financial means to support the student and do not participate in illegal activities.
  • The sponsor must monitor the participants. 
  • More than two students cannot be accommodated in a host family. 
  • The host family must provide the following to the participant:
  • Housing
  • Clothing
  • Transportation
  •  Meals 

Students can complete high school and participate in extracurricular activities. Students are not allowed to do part-time and full-time work except for yard work or babysitting.

Teachers

Foreign teachers can travel to the US to teach in primary and secondary schools.

Participant Requirements

Sponsor Requirements

Employer Requirements

  • Participants must be qualified to teach and have such a job in their own country.
  • They must have the required qualifications and at least two years of teaching experience.
  • Fluency in English is a must.
  • The sponsor must select, screen, and monitor the participants.
  • The sponsor must provide information about the teachers’ program, workplace, and compensation.
  • The sponsor must ensure that teachers organize cultural programs to strengthen their culture at school.
  • Host schools should monitor teachers’ performance and involve them in cultural activities.

Teachers can stay in the program for two years and extend their stay for another two years. They must submit their documents and reasons to the State Department three months before the extension period begins.

Trainee

Foreign nationals can travel to the US to take various programs and learn about American culture.

Participant Requirements

Sponsor Requirements

Employer Requirements

  • Applicants must have a post-secondary degree, one year of experience in their field or
  • They must have had 5 years of experience in their field

Areas of training include:

  • Agriculture / Forestry / Fishing
  • Arts / Culture
  • Construction
  • Education and Social Science
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Communication
  • Business and Finance
  • Public Administration and Law
  • Science fields
  • Sponsors must find organizations that have less than 25 employees with less than $3 million in revenue.
  • The sponsor must have detailed information about the training organization.
  • Participants must be evaluated at the end of 6 months.
  • Applicants must provide a full-time training program for participants (more than 32 hours per week)
  • Form DS-7002 must be signed. 
  •  US laws and sponsor rules must be followed. 
  • The training organization must monitor the training and evaluate the participant.
  • The organization must access adequate resources to provide training. 

This program increases the knowledge of trainees. It should be noted that trainees cannot work in the following areas:

  • Unskilled labor positions
  • Child, elderly or patient care
  • Jobs requiring more than 20% of office work

Work and travel participants

Students who have completed their degree in their home country can come to the US temporarily to work and travel.

Participant Requirements

Sponsor Requirements

Employer Requirements

  • The participants must be students in post-secondary degree, outside the US
  • The participants must be students with a post-secondary degree, outside the US.
  • The applicants must have a job offer in the US. They who are members of the Visa Waiver Program are exempt from this requirement.
  • Fluency in English is a must.
  • The sponsor must provide safe employment for the participants.
  • Emergency contacts must be provided. 
  • Participants must be aware of their duties and responsibilities.
  • The Visa Waiver Program participants must be provided with information on how to find a job in the US.
  • They must provide participants with paid employment as agreed in the contract. 
  • Any overtime work must be paid. 
  • The employer must keep in contact with sponsors on the performance and in case of emergencies. 

The participants are not allowed to do the following tasks:

  • Sales
  • Domestic work or vehicle operators
  • Patient or medical care
  • Gambling and betting
  • Adult entertainment or commission work
  • Chemicals and warehousing
  • Night jobs and dangerous jobs
  • Occupations related to human trafficking

 

What are the US J1 visa interview questions?

As part of the pre-visa process, applicants must attend an interview at the US Consulate or Embassy in their home country. The waiting time for the interview is different for each applicant. Therefore, an early visa application is strongly encouraged.

On the day of the interview, first, note that you have all the necessary documents. Then, know that you have to honestly answer the consular officer’s questions and emphasize that you will return to your country after the end of the program. Some common interview questions for a US J1 visa are:

  • Why do you intend to come to the US?
  • What are your documents?
  • What program have you applied for?
  • When did you apply for your program?
  • How are your travel expenses covered?
  • What will you do in the US?
  • Have you ever been to the US?
  • What is your placement fee?
  • Do you have relatives in the United States?
  • Are you traveling with your friends or family members?
  • What are your plans after completing the J-1 program?

If your answers fail to prove your eligibility for the consular officer, your visa application will be rejected. Never emphasize your employment because this may portray that you intend to reside permanently in the United States.

 

How much does it cost to obtain a USA J1 visa?

The application fee for a US J1 visa, like other non-US immigrant visas, is $ 160. If your sponsor is a US government agency, you will be exempt from paying this fee. When you are selected in the exchange visitor program, the sponsor will issue a DS-2019 form. In that case, you must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee to the Department of Homeland Security. Your sponsor can provide you with details on all payments. You must bring all the payment receipts with you on the day of the interview.

 

How long does it take to assess documents and issue a US J1 visa?

The waiting time of the interview and processing time for an Exchange Visitor Visa visa varies depending on the country of applicants and the individual circumstances. Therefore, it is recommended that you take action as soon as possible to prevent problems.

 

How long is a US J1 visa valid?

When applicants receive their visas, the validity period is written in the DS-2019 form. In general, the validity of a J1 visa varies for different categories. Whenever a visa expires, people cannot stay in the US for longer. When the US J1 visa expires, the US government gives the visa holder 30 days to return home. If people want to return to the US under this visa, they must stay in their home country for at least two years and then apply again. This is a Two-Year Home Residency.

How can the USA J1 visa be extended?

Holders of a US J1 visa can extend their stay in the US. Sponsors decide whether the applicant can stay longer than the allowable date for the category. Participants can also request for more than the allowed period for their category. The sponsor must apply to the US Department of State and pay $ 367. This fee is non-refundable. This fee is non-refundable. The sponsor must explain why the participant wants to extend their stay in the US.

How long before the program starts, participants can enter the US? How long can they stay in this country after the end of the program?

You cannot go to the US more than 30 days before the start of the program. After the program, you will have 30 days to leave the country. The start and end dates of your exchange visitor program are shown in the DS-2019 form.

Can the holders of the USA J1 visa change their visa category?

Yes. J-1 visa holders can change their visa category. For this purpose, they must first find an appropriate sponsor in that category. The new sponsor must then submit a request to the US Department of State. If the US Department of State approves the application, a new DS-2019 form will be issued. Holders of this visa can transfer it to another program within the same category. If they can find a sponsor, the officer will have to issue a new DS-2019 form.

 

What Is a Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?

This requirement means that holders of a J1 visa must stay in their home country for two years. After this period, they can apply for this visa again. Visitor exchange visa holders cannot obtain US permanent residency, immigrant visas, and temporary work visas unless they have completed the two-year period.

The holder of a J1 visa must be physically residing in their home country for two years. This period can be in sequence or incremental. This means that a person can return to his country and stay there for two years. Or the person returns to his home country and stays there for a year, then travels elsewhere and returns home for another year. These conditions depend on the contract concluded between the visa holder and the exchange institution. The two-year requirement is subjected to the following individuals: 

  • If the US government, your government, an institution in the US or your country funds your program.
  • If you have obtained a skill or specialization in the US, that is important in your home country.
  • If you have completed a medical training course in the US.

Dependents of J1 visa holders who have a J2 visa must also return to their home country once the primary visa holder returns.  

 

Can a two-year Home Residency requirement be waived?

Under the following conditions, individuals are not required to comply with the two-year Home Residency requirement:

  • If the person submits a No Objections statement:

This statement is sent by your country to the US Embassy or Consulate and shows that they have no complaints if you are not returning to your country.

  • If the US Federal Agency applies for the waiver: 

Many J1 visa holders work on important projects in the US that have significant benefits for the US Federal Agency. If a J1 visa holder is required to complete the project, the Federal Agency will send the waiver directly to the Waiver Review Division.

  • If you provide a persecution waiver:

You may show that you will be persecuted religiously, politically, or racially when you return to your home country. In this case, you need to apply for a persecution waiver. To do this, you must first send Form I-612 to US Citizenship and Immigration Services. They will refer your request to the Waiver Review Division.

  • If you have a spouse or child who is a US citizen:

If the J1 visa holders have a spouse or child who is a US citizen, they must prove that their move back to their home country will cause too much hardship for their families. You must first send Form I-612 to the USCIS, then they will refer your request to the Waiver Review Division. 

  • If the Designated State Public Health Department requests a waiver:

Medical graduates who enter the US under the Exchange Visitor Program can apply for the waiver under the following conditions:

  • Have a full-time job offer in centers that face shortages for your profession.
  • If you have signed a work contract that shows you will start working 90 days after receiving the waiver. You will also work 40 hours per week for at least three years.

 

How to Apply for a Waiver request? 

The steps to waive the Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement are:

  • You must complete the Form DS-3035 available on the J Visa Waiver Online. This application form must be completed online. Print the barcode with the DS-3035 form. 
  • You must send these items to one of the following addresses:
  • The print of online application form and barcode
  • Copies of Form DS-2019 / IAP-66 issued to you
  • Two self-addressed, stamped legal-size envelopes
  • The application fee is $ 120, which you must pay and send the receipt.

Postal Service

Department of State J-1 Waiver

P.O. Box 979037

St. Louis, MO 63197-9000

Courier Service

Department of State J-1 Waiver

P.O. Box 979037

1005 Convention Plaza

St. Louis, MO 63101-1200

  • Third-party must submit the supporting documents: You need to make sure that the third party has sent the additional documents mentioned in the previous section.
Additional documents Third-party 
No  objection statement Your home country’s government
Request  from the US Federal Agency US federal government agency
Persecution  USCIS 
Exceptional Hardship to a US Citizen (spouse or child) USCIS
Designated State Public Health Department Designated State Public Health Department

The third-party must send the documents to the following address:

Waiver Review Division

U.S. Department of State

CA/VO/DO/W

SA-17, Floor 11

Washington, DC 20522-1711 

 

Can a USA J1 visa holder bring their dependents to the US?

Spouses and single children under 21 years old can come to the United States by obtaining a J-2 visa.

 

Can J-1 visa holders apply directly for a US Green Card?

No. J-1 visa holders cannot apply for a Green Card directly within the US. They will either have to change their visa status to another visa or apply for a Green Card outside the country

 

Let’s sup up …

In this article, we discussed important issues such as the USA J1 visa application process, its requirements, different categories, and the visa extension process. On the Visa Library website, you can learn about other US visas as well as ways to immigrate to other countries. In case you have some experience, please write it down in the comment section. Your comments let the readers choose better and avoid mistakes. Conveying your experiences in comments is a great help for applicants.