J-1 Exchange Visitor Visas

More Information About the Process of J-1 Visa

If you qualify, you could spend time in the United States participating in work and study-based exchange visitor programs to further your academic and professional development. If you are foreign national seeking to either further your education or receive practical experience in a specific occupational field in the United States (US), then you may be interested in and qualify for a J-1 visa.

The J-1 can be used by foreign students to attend college or university in the US, although most foreign students prefer the F-1 (information about which can be found here). The difference between the two is that the J-1 is often used by post-doctoral students to further their research, or by foreign educated doctors seeking to participate in US graduate medical education programs.

Most frequently, however, the J-1 is used by foreign nationals to obtain experience in their industry. If you are interested in this type of visa, there are two types that you should know about:

  • The Intern J-1 visa is available to foreign students still enrolled in a post-secondary program abroad, or to those who graduated no more than a year prior to seeking the J-1. The total time allowed for an intern J-1 is 12 months (1 year), and the experience sought in the US must be directly related to the degree; or
  • The Trainee J-1 visa is available to foreign nationals who graduated more than a year ago from a foreign post-secondary academic institution and who have at least one year of prior related work experience in their occupational field; or who have five years of work experience outside the US in the occupational field in which they are seeking training. The Trainee J-1 can be issued for up to 18 months.

Either type of J-1 visa is granted by a sponsor institution or company that is specifically authorized by the Department of State to approve intern or trainee J-1s. The sponsor will issue the DS-2019 (the document that allows you to apply for the J-1 visa) to the student, intern, or trainee for a specific time period and for a specific program. The institution or company will work with the student, intern, or trainee to register in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) in the US, and provide instructions on obtaining the actual J-1 visa, if needed.

Frequently asked questions about J-1 Visa

The Department of State maintains a specific page for the J-1 Visa that contains all eligible J-1 sponsors DOS Page.

Only if you have five years of occupational specific experience received outside the US. In this case, you could qualify for the trainee visa.

Generally, yes, but each sponsor has their own requirements as to the length of time that must pass between J-1 programs.

As this is a cultural exchange program, it has been determined that there are certain skills that are in high demand in some countries. If the J-1 program is on the skills list and the foreign national is from a certain country, they must return to their home country from two years before the can apply for any other type of US immigration benefit. This requirement can be waived in certain circumstances. The two year return requirement also applies if a government funded the training program, or if the program was for graduate medical education/training.

Yes, qualified dependents (spouse and children) are eligible for a J-2 visa.

Why should you hire Mamann, Sandaluk & Kingwell to represent you?

The J-1 can be tricky to navigate, particularly when preparing the intern or training plan. It is helpful to consult with a qualified and experienced lawyer with a history of preparing these types of applications, so that they can help you anticipate and address any potential concerns that the officer reviewing your application may have.