J-1 (Exchange Visitor Visa)

More than 350,000 J-1 visa visitors come to the United States each year, including high school and university students, researchers, physicians, and summer work travelers.  The J-1 exchange visitor program covers a broad range of work and study options, and is designed to promote the exchange of ideas and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences. Current J-1 categories include:

  • College Student
  • Teacher
  • Professor and Research scholar
  • Trainees obtaining on-the-job training
  • Interns
  • Trainees in the medical fields
  • Specialists
  • International visitors coming for the purpose of traveling, observing, consulting, conducting research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills
  • Government visitors
  • Camp counselors
  • Au Pairs

An employer wishing to host a J-1 exchange visitor can work with a sponsoring program approved by the Department of State.  A list of approved program sponsors can be found at the State Department's J-1 Exchange Visitor website.  

Potential J-1 applicants can also look on the website for sponsoring programs that will help place them.  A J-1 applicant contacts the program sponsor to determine whether the applicant is eligible for the program.  If accepted into a program, the program sponsor will issue a form that the applicant will use to apply for a J-1 visa abroad. To obtain the J-1 visa abroad, the applicant must show sufficient funds to cover living and expenses, or receive a scholarship or stipend through the program.

Many J-1 participants will be subject to a two-year home residencey requirement before they can change their status to the H or L category, or become a permanent resident. This means that upon the completion of their J-1 program, the participant will need to return to his home country (or last country of permanent residence) for a total of two years before returning to the U.S. in H or L status, or as a permanent resident. Whether a J-1 participant will be subject to the two-year home residency requirement will be determined on their program funding, their skills, and their country of nationality. Under certain circumstances, a J-1 participant can obtain a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement.

Spouses of J-1 participants can obtain a J-2 visa. A J-2 visa permits employment.