J-1 Visas

The J-1 visa category is used by foreign students, scholars, experts, medical interns and residents, “international visitors,” and industrial and business trainees to enter the US through US government-approved Exchange Visitor Programs.

The purpose of an exchange visitor’s stay in the US is to gain experience, study, or perform research in the individual’s respective field and to take her newly gained skills back to her home country. The exchange visitor may be authorized to work for either her program sponsor or host institution, and only for employment that is within the guidelines of the program as approved by the Department of State. (If an employer did not participate in the sponsorship of the exchange visitor for her J visa, the employer may not sponsor the exchange visitor without taking steps to change the exchange visitor’s status (e.g., to H-1B).) Exceptions to this rule may be available for: (1) exchange visitors who are research scholars; (2) exchange visitors who are in practical training; and (3) exchange visitors who demonstrate economic necessity.

Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement

It is important to know that J-1 exchange visitors may be subject to a two-year home country return requirement. Any exchange visitor who is subject to this requirement will be ineligible for Permanent Residence or nonimmigrant visas in the H or L category until she spends two years – after completing her J-1 program – in her home country or country of last residence. A waiver of this requirement may be available in some cases.

We can help J-1 visa holders assess whether the two-year foreign residency requirement applies to them. Although their DS-2019 and their J-1 visa are some indications of whether they are subject to the rule, they are not definitive and seeking guidance can avoid costly mistakes in applying for a visa or status that you are not eligible for or that you might need a waiver for. Contact to learn more.

PLEASE NOTE: Immigration law and regulations change frequently. In order to protect yourself, you should make sure that you understand the laws and how they apply to you. If you have questions about your status, you should consult an expert. If you would like help, please contact us to learn more.

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