J-1 Visa (Exchange Visitors)

The U.S. government provides an unlimited number of non-immigrant visas, called J-1 visas, for students, scholars, researchers, business trainees and those involved in international cultural exchanges enrolled in a U.S. State Department-approved exchange visitor program.

Quota: None
Length of Visa:
up to the length of the exchange visitor program, plus 18 months of U.S. based practical training employment related to the field of study pursued in the program
Visa Extensions: normally only for the extra time needed to complete the program
Length of Application Process: A J-1 visa can be approved in one day, if all necessary documents are presented at the time of application
More Visa Requirements Info: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1267.html

In order to qualify for a J-1 visa you must:

(1) Show proof you have already been accepted into a State Department-approved exchange visitor program by presenting a Certificate of Eligibility (Form IAP-66) obtained from the exchange program officer.

(2) Show proof of adequate financial support (an "affidavit of support" [Form I-134] or financial documents) during the period of the exchange program, if the program does not involve paid employment.

(3) Show proof of sufficient knowledge of English to participate in the program

(4) Show intent to return home upon completion of the program


  • Longer Employment Period: The allowed length of practical training employment is longer for a J-1 visa (18 mos.) compared with that for an F-1 visa (12 mos.) or an M-1 visa (6 mos.).


  • Limited Applicability: Normally limited only to the specific exchange program through which one originally received the J-1 visa. Unlike F-1 or an M-1 visa holders, who may apply to new programs without having to apply for another visa or status, a J-1 visa holder may not transfer to another program without applying for a new visa.
  • Two-year Residency requirement: Many J-1 visas, especially those for medical trainees, carry a two-year residency requirement. After one's visa has expired, a J-1 visa holder must return to his home country and remain there for at least two years before applying for a green card or change of status to another type of non-immigrant visa like an H-1B or L-1 visa. A waiver of the two-year residency requirement requires:
    (1) a No-Objection Letter from your government, plus
    (2) in the case of foreign medical graduates, proof of hardship to a U.S. citizen or green-card holder, persecution on return to one's home country, or the specific request of a federal or state government agency.

The Application Process: J-1 visa applications are a one-step process, requiring:

1. A Certification of Eligibility (Form IAP-66) showing you have been accepted into a State Department-approved exchange program.(see the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for more info on approved programs: http://exchanges.state.gov/)

2. An OF form for a U.S. consulate filing abroad OR an I-539 form if applying for J-1 status at anBCIS (formerly INS) office INSide the U.S.

3. Documents showing proof of adequate financial support (an "affidavit of support" [Form I-134] or financial documents) during the period of the exchange program

4. Passport and one passport photo

5. Transcripts and diplomas if currently a student

6. Documents showing proof of property ownership in your home country

7. Documents showing the existence of close relatives in your home country

8. Foreign medical graduates must have passed Parts I and II of the U.S. National board of Medical Examiners examination or its equivalent. (See the ECFMG website for more information: http://www.ecfmg.org/).

Apply for J-1 Visa

Note: Accompanying relatives (spouse and children) of J-1 visa holders are eligible to apply for J-2 visas. They may stay in the U.S. but not work there.



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