J-1 Exchange Visitor

The J-1 Exchange Visitor visa is used for a variety of purposes such as for professors or research scholars, short-term scholars, trainees or interns, college or university students, nonacademic specialists, foreign physicians, camp counselors or summer travel/work programs. The J-1 Exchange Visitor visa, which allows professionals to train and foreign students to complete an internship in their particular field, are discussed below.

J-1 Internship Program Criteria

A student may participate in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Internship Program if he or she is being sponsored by a US host organization. The student must be enrolled in a degree granting post-secondary institution outside the US or is a graduate of such an institution within the last 12 months prior to the date of the internship. The student must have sufficient English language skills to function on a day-to-day basis during the US internship.

J-1 Trainee Program Criteria

The J-1 Trainee visa requires that a US employer sponsor a foreign trainee to train with the company for a period up to 18 months. The Trainee must be a person who has the minimum of a bachelor’s degree and at least one year of prior related work experience in their occupational field outside the USA or five years of work experience outside the US in their occupational field. The process to apply for this visa involves applying initially with a J-1 sponsor setting out a detailed training plan. Once the J-1 document is issued the foreign trainee may apply for a J-1 visa at a local US Embassy or Consulate.

Occupational Categories

Both the J-1 Exchange Visitor Internship and Trainee programs are limited to specific occupational categories, including:

    • Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
    • Arts and culture;
    • Aviation;
    • Construction and building trades;
    • Education, social sciences, library science, counselling and social services;
    • Health related occupations;
    • Hospitality and tourism;
    • Information media and communications;
    • Management, business, commerce and finance;
    • Public administration and law; and
    • The sciences, engineering, architecture, mathematics and industrial occupations

Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement

Certain exchange visitors are required to return to their home country or country of last residence upon completion of their J-1 Exchange Visitor program before they may qualify for another US nonimmigrant visa. J visa holders are subject to this two-year foreign residence requirement if:

    • 1) The J-1 Exchange Visitor participation was funded in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by an agency of the US government or by the J-1 Exchange Visitor visa holder’s country of nationality.
    • 2) The J-1 Exchange Visitor at the time of entering the US on the J-1 visa was engaged in a field that was on the Department of State Exchange Visitor Skills List.
    • 3) The J-1 Exchange Visitor entered the US on the J-1 visa after January 10, 1977 to receive graduate medical education training.

There is a process to request a waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services can grant the waiver upon favorable recommendation by the US Department of State. The basis for the waiver may be based on possible persecution in the J-1 visa holder’s home country on account of race, religion or political opinion, if the departure from the US would result in exceptional hardship on a US citizen or permanent resident spouse or child, a “no-objection” waiver requiring a statement from the J-1 holder’s home country indicating it does not object to the J-1 visa holders decision not to return home or a request by a US federal executive agency.