The “J” exchange visitor program is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences. A J-1 visa can be issued for students, scholars, experts, medical interns and residents, and business trainees, who come to the U.S. pursuant to government approved programs for the purpose of gaining experience, doing research or studying in their specific fields. All exchange visitors are expected to return to their home country upon completion of their program in order to share their exchange experiences.
The U.S. sponsor must proceed through an exchange visitor program designated by the U.S. Department of State. An accredited sponsor of an exchange visitor program is authorized by the U.S. Department of State to issue each potential visitor a certificate of eligibility (the DS-2019) which must be submitted at a U.S. Consulate at the time of applying for a J-1 visa by a potential visitor.
The designated sponsors list is available at: https://j1visa.state.gov/participants/how-to-apply/sponsor-search/.
The major disadvantage of the J visa is the so called “two-year foreign residency requirement.” Some categories of exchange visitors are permitted to enter the U.S. only on the condition that they exit this country for a minimum of two years after their program is completed. The foreign residency requirement bars the alien, for a period of two years, from obtaining H or L nonimmigrant status or permanent residence status in the U.S. Even if the foreign national has married a U.S. citizen during the course of his or her stay in the United States, he/she must apply for a waiver (exception to this two-year requirement) in order to seek permanent resident status.
In general, three types of J-1 programs contain the requirement of a two year foreign residency:
• Aliens who obtain J status in order to receive graduate medical education or training in the U.S.;
• Persons whose J programs are financed by the U.S. government or by their government; or
• Persons whose occupations or courses of study appear on the Exchange-Visitor Skills List published by the U.S. Department of State which administers all J programs. Foreign countries in need of certain skills place them on the list, thereby subjecting exchange visitors who participate in a program involving designated skills to the foreign residency requirement.
There are five methods by which a participant of J-1 program may obtain a waiver of the two-year residency requirement:
1- No objection statement from J-1 visa holder’s government (this option is not available for medical graduates);
2- If the exchange visitor has a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or child, he/she can seek a waiver of the above mentioned requirement if he/she can prove exceptional hardship to a spouse or child if the exchange visitor is required to return to the country of residence;
3- A claim that the participant will be persecuted due to race, religion, or political opinions if he/she returns to the country of residence;
4- A request from an interested U.S. government agency on the participant’s behalf if he/she is engaged in a project of official interest to the agency and
5- A request by a designated State Health Department, or its equivalent (available only for foreign medical graduates).
Contact our immigration office in Virginia for advice on obtaining J-1 and/or J-1 waiver
We, at Partovi Law LLC, can assist you in obtaining a J-1 visa and/or J-1 waiver. Please call us at 703-752- 6148 to schedule an appointment.