J visa - Exchange Visitors:

Anyone wishing to take up prearranged employment, training or research in the United States under an officially approved program sponsored by an educational or other nonprofit institution requires an exchange visitor (J-1) visa. Persons covered by these programs include post graduate students, foreign medical graduates seeking to pursue graduate medical education or training, foreign scholars sponsored by universities as temporary faculty, and some business trainees. In addition, there are several exchange visitor programs for young people, including summer employment programs, intern programs for university students, and au-pair programs.

Important Notice:


A former exchange visitor may not be issued an immigrant, fiancÚ(e), temporary worker or intracompany transferee visa until he/she has resided and been physically present in the country of his/her nationality or last residence for at least two years following the termination of exchange visitor status if one or more of the following conditions applies:


  • The program was financed in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by an agency of the United States government or by the country of exchange visitor's nationality or last residence;
  • The exchange visitor was a national or resident of a country which the Secretary of State has designated as clearly requiring the services of persons engaged in the field of specialized knowledge or skills in which the alien was engaged during the exchange visitor program; or  
  • The exchange visitor was a physician who entered the United States to receive medical education or training (except those who participated in a program involving exclusively teaching research or consultation).

A waiver of this two years foreign residence requirement may be available depending on the circumstances - the possibility of which would need to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

Entry and Length of Stay:

The holder of an exchange visitor J-1 visa, may enter the United States up to 30 days before the designated start date on the DS-2019. The 30 day limitation does not apply to those returning to continue with the program. He or she may remain for up to 30 days after the completion date on the DS-2019.

Spouses and Children:

Spouses and/or children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal visa holder in the United States for the duration of his/her stay require derivative J-2 visas. Spouses and/or children who do not intend to reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but seek to visit for vacations only, may be eligible to apply for visitor (B-2) visas, or if qualified, they may travel without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

J-2 versus F-1:

There is no requirement that the spouse and/or children of a J-1 visa holder apply for a student (F-1) visa if they wish to study in the U.S.; they may study on a J-2 visa. However if they are qualified, they may apply for the F-1 visa.

Working on a J-2 visa:

The spouse of an exchange visitor may not work in the United States on a derivative J-2 visa unless permission has been obtained in advance from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. An application for permission to work can only be made after the J-2 visa holder's arrival in the United States and will be considered in light of policies in effect.



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