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J1 Student Visa


The J-1 visa in the United States is for people who wish to take part in work-and-study-based exchange and visitor programs in the U.S. These programs are sponsored by an educational or other nonprofit institution, which must be accredited through the Exchange Visitor Program designated by the U.S. State Department. J-1 exchange visitors come to the United States to teach, study, receive training, or demonstrate special skills. The J1 visa is meant for students who need practical training that is not available to them in their home country, and the training must be directly related to their academic program.

J-1 Visa Program Requirements

Each program available under the J-1 visa has specific requirements and regulations. Please choose the program below that you are interested in learning more about:

Au Pair

The Au Pair category of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program allows for childcare providers between the ages of 18 and 26 to work caring for a family’s children in exchange for room, board, and a stipend. The main priority of an au pair is to care for his or her charge(s), but he or she will also have free time to enjoy life in the US.

In order be eligible for a J-1 visa as an au pair, a potential applicant must first have received a job offer from a family. Other prerequisites include:

  • 18-26 years of age
  • Good health
  • Previous childcare experience
  • Speak and understand English
  • Secondary school education
  • Non-smoker (if required by the family)
  • Police clearance report
  • International driver’s license and a minimum of 50 hours’ driving experience
  • Willing to live 12 months away from home
  • Cannot have previously lived in the US as an au pair

Applicants may need to interview in their home country by the sponsoring organization, and they may need to conduct a number of telephone interviews with potential host families. The sponsor must also provide the participant with a minimum of 32 hours of childcare training before placing them with a host family.

While working in the US, the au pair must provide no more than 10 hours of childcare services a day, with a maximum of 45 hours per week. He or she must also complete at least six hours of academic credit at a US post-secondary educational institution. The au pair’s responsibilities may include bringing the children to and from school and other activities, helping them with homework, helping to keep children’s rooms clean, and cooking light meals for the children.

The host family is required to pay up to $500 towards the au pair’s required academic coursework. The host family is also expected to provide the au pair with private room and board (three meals a day) and compensation for childcare work. This compensation must be in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Camp Counselor

Through the Camp Counselor program, foreign post-secondary students and youth workers are able to work at American summer camps. In order to be eligible for these positions, applicants must:

  • Speak and understand English
  • Be proficient in dealing with children
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a foreign post-secondary student, youth worker, teacher, or individual with specialized skills

As a camp counselor, participants will be provided with housing and meals by the camps for which they are working, at no cost to themselves. They will receive pay and benefits proportionate to those offered to their American counterparts. Although they will occasionally be asked to perform non-counseling duties, they cannot serve as staff. This means that they cannot act as office workers, cooks, or menial laborers such as dishwashers or janitors. Participants can work as counselors for up to four months, and extensions are not allowed.

College and University Student Program

This program allows foreign students to study at American colleges and universities. Students who participate in this program must pursue a full-time course of study and must maintain good academic standing. They might also participate in a student internship program that fulfills educational objectives of their degree programs in their home countries.

Students in this program must be financed by funding from any source other than personal or family, such as directly or indirectly by the US government, their home country government, or an international organization of which the US is a member.

The program must be carried out according to an agreement between the US government and the student’s home government, of according to a written agreement between American and foreign educational institutions, an American educational institution and a foreign government, or a state or local government in the US and a foreign government.

Secondary School Student Program

Under this program, high school students are able to travel to the US and study at a public or private high school while staying with a host family or at a boarding school.

In order to be eligible, participants must be between the ages of 15 and 18.5 by the first day of school. They must not have completed more than 11 years of primary and secondary school (excluding kindergarten), and they must not have previously participated in a secondary school exchange program in the US.

In this program, students are allowed to take part in all school activities, though the school district and the state office in charge of deciding athletic eligibility must approve the student’s participation. Students in this program are not allowed to work part-time or full-time jobs, though they may work the occasional job such as babysitting or yard work. They are not permitted to live with relatives, and they must not stay in the US longer than one academic school year.

Government Visitor Program

Through this program, distinguished international visitors selected by a US federal, state, or local government agency visit the US to develop and strengthen professional and personal relationships with their American counterparts. They are engages in observation tours, discussions, consultations, professional meetings, conferences, workshops, travel, and training.

International Visitor Program

This category is for people-to-people programs meant to develop and strengthen professional and personal relationships between key foreign nationals and Americans and American institutions. Participants must be a recognized or potential leader in a field of specialized knowledge or skill. They are selected by the US Department of States.

Physician Program

This program allows foreign physicians to participate in US graduate medical education programs or training at US medical schools.

In order to qualify for clinical exchange programs, foreign national physicians must have adequate prior education and training for the program in which they are enrolling; they must be competent in speaking and writing English; they must have passed either Parts I and II of the National Board of Medical Examiners Examination, the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination, Step I and II, or the Visa Qualifying Examination (VQE) prepared by the National Board of Medical Examiners. They must also provide a statement of need from their home government that states that there is a need for persons with the skills the applicant wishes to acquire in their home country. Also necessary is an agreement or contract from the US medical school, affiliated hospital, or scientific institution at which the participant plans to study, signed by the physician and the official responsible for the training.

Non-clinical exchange programs allow foreign national physicians to come to the US for observation, consultation, teaching, or research purposes. These may be sponsored by a US university or medical center than has been designated by the US Department of State to conduct an exchange visitor program. The sponsor must sign and append to the Form DS-2019 a certificate that states, “This certifies that the program in which [name] is to be engaged is solely for the purpose of observation, consultation, teaching, or research and that no element of patient care is involved,” or the dean of the medical school in question (or his designee) must certify the following five points:

  • The program is predominantly observation, consultation, teaching, or research-based.
  • Any patient contact will be under the supervision of a US citizen or resident alien physician licensed to practice medicine in the state in which the activity is taking place.
  • The physician in question will not be given final responsibility for the diagnosing and treatment of patients.
  • And activities will comply with the State licensing requirements and regulations for medical and health care professionals.
  • The experience gained will not be creditable towards clinical requirements for medical board certification.

Professor and Research Scholar Program

This program allows participants the opportunity to engage in research, teaching, and lecturing at American schools. The program encourages the exchange of ideas, mutual enrichment, and linkages between research and educational institutions in the US and foreign countries. The maximum duration of these programs is five years.

Participants in these programs are subject to several conditions. They must not be a candidate for a tenure track position; they cannon have completed a professor or research scholar program within the last 24 months preceding the beginning of the program; they cannot have participated in a J-visa program for any part of the 12-month period preceding the professor or research scholar program. There are three exceptions to this condition:

  • The participant is transferring to another institution in the US to continue his or her current J-1 program.
  • The participant’s prior stay in the US on a J-1 visa was less than six months long.
  • The prior participation was as a short-term scholar.

The participant must have the education and credentials necessary to carry out the activity for which they are coming to the US, and must have sufficient English skills to function in an English-speaking environment.

These programs fall into two categories: professor and research scholar. The professor category is for participants who wish to teach, lecture, observe, or consult at a post-secondary school, museum, library, or similar institution in the US. The research scholar category is for participants who wish to conduct research, observe, or consult in connection with a research project at research institutions, corporate research facilities, museums, libraries, post-secondary schools, or similar institutions in the US.

Short-Term Scholar Program

This program allows professors, research scholar, or people with similar education or accomplishments to lecture, observe, consult, train, or demonstrate special skills at research institutions, museums, libraries, post-secondary schools, or similar institutions in the US.

The maximum duration of this program is six months, with no extensions, and no possibility of changing category. The minimum program duration (3 weeks) is waived for participants in this program. Exchange visitors who have recently participated in a professor or research scholar exchange program in the US are not permitted to reenter the US as a short-term scholar to rejoin the original sponsor. Participants are allowed to return to the US for another short-term scholarly stay, after a substantial break between visits, and may return using the J-1 Research Scholar/Professor category without being subject to the 12 and 24 month bars.

Specialist Program

This program allows experts in a field of specialized knowledge or skills to travel to the US for the interchanging of knowledge and skills among foreign and American specialists.

The duration of this type of program is one year. While in the US on this type of program, specialists may not fill a permanent or long-term position of employment. Categories covered under this program include international education exchange, labor law, environmental science, mass media communication, museum exhibitions, public administration, and library science.

Summer Work Travel Program

Under this program, post-secondary students are allowed to travel to the US to work and travel over the summer.

In order to be eligible for this type of program, participants must have sufficient English skills to interact in an English-speaking environment; they must be post-secondary students who are enrolled in a full-time course of study at a post-secondary educational institution outside the US; they must have completed at least one semester of post-secondary study; and they must have a job offer in the US, unless the participant is from a visa waiver country.

The length of this program may not exceed 4 months, and must be completed during the participant’s summer vacation. Participants in this program mostly work in positions at resorts, hotels, restaurant, and amusement parks, but may also work for organizations such as architectural firms, legal offices, scientific research organizations, advertising agencies, graphic art/publishing and other media communication businesses, computer software and electronics firms. Participants who do not have prearranged employment must have sufficient financial resources to support themselves during a search for employment.

Teacher Program

Through this program, foreign teachers can come to the US to teach in primary and secondary schools for up to three years.

In order to be eligible for this program, a teacher must meet the qualifications for teaching in primary or secondary schools in his or her home country, have a minimum of three years of teach or related profession experience, satisfy the teaching standards of the US state in which he or she intends to teach, and possess the English skills necessary to participate in the program.

Participants in this program will learn US teaching methods while bringing international perspectives to US classrooms. They will need to submit references from both colleagues and current or former employers attesting to their good reputation, character, and teaching skills. After a participant receives and accepts a written offer for a teaching position at a US institution, the designated sponsor will issue a completed Form DS-2019; the location of the institution will be indicated on that form. Participants may only teach at that institution.

Trainee Program

These programs allow foreign professionals to gain exposure to receive training in US business practices in their chosen occupational field.

In order to be eligible, a trainee must be a foreign national with either a degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution and at least one year’s work experience in his or her occupational field, or five years of work experience in the occupational field in which he or she is seeking training. Participants must have their English skills evaluated or verified by a recognized English language test, by signed documentation from an academic institution or English language school, or through an in-person interview conducted by the sponsor, or by video conference or webcam. They must be at least 20 years old.

Participants might find work in a number of fields, including:

  • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
  • Arts and Culture
  • Construction and Building Trades
  • Education, Social Sciences, Library Science, Counseling and Social Services
  • Health Related Occupations
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Information Media and Communications
  • Management, Business, Commerce, and Finance
  • Public Administration and Law
  • Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics, and Industrial Occupations

Intern Program

These programs allow foreign professionals to receive training in their occupational field in the US.

Interns must be foreign nationals who are currently enrolled in a foreign degree or certificate granting post-secondary institution outside the US or who graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months before his/her program’s start date. Participants must be at least 18 years old, and must have their English skills evaluated or verified by a recognized English language test, by signed documentation from an academic institution or English language school, or through an in-person interview conducted by the sponsor, or by video conference or webcam.

Working Outside the Program

Generally, J-1 visa holders are required to work only for their program sponsors. However, in some cases J-1 holders may work for non-sponsor employers if they meet certain eligibility requirements. The requirements vary depending on the program. J-1 students are eligible for on-campus employment if it is pursuant to scholarship, fellowship or assistantship, or off-campus employment if it is a summer work/travel exchange program, or if it is necessary because of serious, urgent, and unforeseen economic circumstances that have arisen since acquiring J-1 status. Students must have good academic standing, and may not exceed 20 hours of labor per week except during holidays and vacations.

J-2 Visa

The J-2 visa is intended for non-immigrant spouses or children of J-1 exchange visitor who accompany or later join their spouse or parent in the United States. J-2 eligibility depends on the specific program in which the J-1 exchange visitor is enrolled. For example, the exchange categories of au pair, camp counselor, secondary work student, and summer work travel do not allow for J-2 eligibility. In addition, some specific programs within categories that generally permit J-2 visas do not.

The application procedure for J-2 visas is the same as the application process for J-1 visas. The sponsor of the program must approve the accompaniment of the spouse or child, who will be issued their own Form DS-2019. The J-2 visa holder can accompany their J-1 spouse or parent into the United States, or they may choose to join them later.

In most cases, a J-2 visa holder can work in the United States. In order to do this, he or she must obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Money earned by a J-2 visa holder cannot be used to support the J-1 visa holder.

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