J-1 Fact Sheet: Exchange Visitors

The "J" nonimmigrant visa category is for persons wishing to participate in educational and/or cultural exchange visitor programs in the United States. These programs are designated by the Department of State.

The "J" exchange visitor program is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the field of education, arts, and sciences. Participants include students at all academic levels; trainees obtaining on-the-job training with firms, institutions, and agencies; teachers of primary, secondary, and specialized schools; professors coming to teach or do research at institutions of higher learning; research scholars; professional trainees in the medical and allied fields; and international visitors coming for the purpose of travel, observation, consultation, research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs.

Background Requirements 

Financial Resources:

Participants in the "J" exchange visitor program must have sufficient funds to cover all expenses, or funds must be provided by the sponsoring organization in the form of a scholarship or other stipend.

Scholastic Preparation:

"J" exchange visitors must have sufficient scholastic preparation to participate in the designated program, including knowledge of the English language, or the exchange program must be designed to accommodate non- English speaking participants

Medical Education and Training:

Exchange visitors coming under the "J" program for graduate medical education or training must meet certain special requirements. They include having passed the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in Medical Sciences, demonstrating competency in English, being automatically subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement (below), and being subject to time limits on the duration of their program. Physicians coming to the United States on exchange visitor programs for the purpose of observation, consultation, teaching, or research in which there is little or no patient care are not subject to the above requirements.

Forms/Petitions:

Participants in the "J" program must present a Form IAP-66 prepared by a designated sponsoring organization.

Applying For An Exchange Visitor Visa

Applicants for exchange visitor visas should generally apply at the American Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence.

Required Documentation

  1. (1)  An application Form OF-156, completed and signed. Blank forms are available without charge at all U.S. consular offices;

  2. (2)  A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least 6 months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States. If more that one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application;

  3. (3)  One photograph 1 and 1/2 inches square (37x37mm) for each applicant aged 17 and older, showing full face, without head covering, against light background; and

  4. (4)  For the "J" applicant, a completed Form IAP-66.
     

Other Documentation:

"J" applicants must demonstrate to the consular officer that they have binding ties a residence in a foreign country, which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they are coming to the United States for a temporary period. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since applicants' circumstances vary greatly.

Additional Information 

Employment:

Employment while in "J" exchange visitor status depends upon the terms of the program. Participants in programs that provide for on-the-job training, teaching, research, or other activities that involve paid employment may accept such employment. Participants in programs that do not involve work may not accept outside employment

Foreign Residency Requirement:

Certain "J" exchange visitors who participate in programs which were financed in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by an agency of the United States Government or by the exchange visitor's government, or who are nationals or residents of a country which have been designated by the Department of State as requiring the skills of the exchange visitor, must return to their country of nationality or last residence after completing their program in the United States, and reside there physically for two years before they may become eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, or most categories of nonimmigrant visas.

Family Members:

The spouse and minor children of participants in "J" exchange programs may apply for derivative "J-2" visas to accompany or follow to join the principal J-1 by presenting a copy of the principal's Form IAP-66. They must demonstrate that they will have sufficient financial resources to cover all expenses while in the United States. Dependents may in some circumstances apply to the INS for authorization to accept employment in the U.S.

Immigration Procedures At Point Of Entry

Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The INS has authority to deny admission. Also, the period for which the bearer of an exchange visitor visa is authorized to remain in the U.S. is determined by the INS, not the consular officer. At the port of entry, an INS official validates Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, which notes the length of stay permitted. Those exchange visitors who wish to stay beyond the time indicated on their Form I-94 must contact the INS to request Form I- 539, Application to Extend Status. The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay is made solely by the INS. 

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