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Exchange visitors coming to the United States need a J-1 visa. This non-immigrant visa offers multiple benefits to its holders in terms of studies and employment in the country. 

The J-1 visa was created by Congress, according to the Cultural Exchange and Mutual Education Act of 1961. Its objective is to promote international relations, through the exchange and promotion of knowledge and skills of foreign participants. 

This visa favors cultural exchange programs, mainly in the area of ​​business training. To obtain the J-1 visa you must meet the eligibility criteria and have a US sponsor. It may be a private company, a university, or a government agency.

Do you need to get a J-1 visa for the United States? Then call us right now and get a private consultation. We will offer you all the answers you are looking for. Our immigration lawyers in Los Angeles are experts in all types of visas. 

What is the J-1 visa?

It is one of the most important types visas for the United States, specially designed for teachers, researchers, students and apprentices. The J-1 (work and travel) visa allows working in the company or educational institution for up to 18 months. 

Likewise, the spouse of a J-1 visa holder can also enter the US and work. The only condition is that the spouse does not necessarily have to work to maintain the visa holder.

Through the J-1 Visa Program, it is possible to develop a series of training and job training activities. For example, internships in companies, certified agencies and government institutions. 

It is also used to participate in teaching and research programs and other professional training activities. As in academic exchange programs and university student employment and Au Pairs in summer.

J-1 visa program categories

These are the most requested categories of exchange programs for the United States: 

University students

It is aimed at foreign students who participate in academic programs financed by the government of their country. This visitor program for studies or internships includes those students who obtain scholarships from the federal government or international organizations.

University teachers

Exchange teachers hired by American universities. Academics who have had a J-1 visa in the past 12 months prior are not eligible for this program. Exceptions apply.

Short-term teachers and researchers

This academic program allows research professors and students to travel to the United States to teach at universities. As well as direct research in universities for up to 6 months maximum without extension.

Au Pair Program

This program for youth ages 18-26 allows them to live with an American family. The J-1 Au Pair visa (nannies) lasts up to two years. 

During this period they can study at an American educational institution. In exchange, foreign students must help care for children in the family where they live.

Work and study

The J-1 student visa benefits foreigners pursuing full-time study at universities in the United States. While studying they can work and travel in seasons or seasons (winter, spring and summer).

High school or middle school

High school students who study in preparatory or secondary schools (public or private accredited). Students live in a boarding school or residence with an American host family.

International visitor

Includes people directly elected by the US government for their leadership or potential. 

Camp Counselor

People 18 years old or older who work as supervisors or teachers in youth summer camps in the US 

Government visitors

The program is designed for foreign government officials chosen to interact with representatives of the US government. Includes federal, state, or local government agencies.

Professional internships

Foreign students who are still studying in their country and need to do internships or recent graduates participate. The beneficiaries receive practical training in the selected professional area.

Physicians Program

It is intended for foreign physicians who wish to train or train in American medical institutions. 


The Research Scholar program is intended for qualified foreign researchers. Professionals benefiting from J-1 visas in the previous 12 months cannot participate in it. 

Expert visitor

Different professionals with a specialty in their area of ​​knowledge qualify. The program does not allow the visa holder to hold a fixed position during his stay in the United States. The maximum length of stay is one year. 


The Trainee Program requires a college degree and 1 year of work experience. But they can also apply to those who have 5 years of experience in the work area where they want to do the internship.


It is a special program for primary or secondary teachers who want to travel and work in the United States. They must have no less than 24 months of experience in the teaching area prior to the application. In addition to having an equivalent degree in Education in the area of ​​study where you want to apply

J1 visa for teachers

J-1 visa requirements

The eligibility criteria for obtaining a J-1 visa vary according to the category of the chosen program. It also depends on the sponsoring organization of the visa. So the program sponsor should be contacted for these details.

Applicants for a J-1 visa must prove proficiency in English language. In addition, they need health insurance that meets the appropriate standards. 

How to obtain a J-1 visa?

The steps to process a J-1 visa are the following:

  1. Get a sponsor that is approved by the United States Department of State. Then be accepted into the exchange program that is being promoted. 
  2. Obtain and complete the Application Form DS-2019 to request the interview at the embassy or consulate. In this form it is necessary to briefly describe the chosen exchange program. Without forgetting the start and end dates of the program, the estimated cost and the exchange category. 
  3. Pay the ‘Sevis I-901’ application fee on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  4. Present the applicant’s identification documents: 
  • Passport valid for up to six months after the stay in the US expires.
  • Passport type photograph, according to the system specifications. 
  1. Attend the scheduled interview with the consular officer at the local embassy or consulate. Applicants over 80 or under 13 do not need to attend the interview.
  2. Dependents (spouse and children under 21 unmarried) who accompany the owner, must make their own application. They receive a J-2 visa and go through the same process.

Restrictions for J visa holders

J-1 visa recipients must meet certain requirements after completing their exchange programs in some cases. They must return to their country of origin and meet the physical presence requirement for two years.

This applies in the following cases:

  • It is an exchange program funded in whole or in part by the US government or the applicant state. 
  • The exchange visitor participated in a graduate medical education and / or training program.
  • The country from which the exchange visitor originates considers such knowledge or specialization strategic for its development. According to the State Department’s 2009 Exchange Visitor Skills List.

In such cases, the exchange visitor must return to their country of origin. After accumulating two years of physical presence, you can:

  • Apply for adjustment of status to the nonimmigrant category as a temporary worker (H visa) or transferred executive (L visa);
  • Adjust your status to obtain the Green Card and be a legal permanent resident (LPR)
  • Process and receive an immigrant visa at a US embassy. 
  • Receive an H2-a visa for temporary worker or the L-1 visa for executive transfer. The same applies for the K-1 fiancé visa.

With the help of an experienced immigration attorney in some cases you can request a waiver for this requirement. Contact any of our Los Angeles attorneys and we can help you with this visa or any other immigration matter. 

What is the cost of the J-1 visa?

To apply for a J-1 visa it is essential to pay the so-called SEVIS I-901 fee . Its cost also depends on the chosen program:

  • For exchange visitors, the J-1 visa is priced at $ 180.
  • For spouses and dependent children with J-2, F-2 or M-2 visas, no fee is charged.
  • For students with F-1, F-3, M-1 or M-3 visas, the fee is $ 350.

However, fees for exchange visitor programs sponsored by the federal government are lower. For example, the G-1, G-2, G-3 or G-7 visa programs have a cost of only $ 35. 

What is the SEVIS visa?

After being accepted into the selected exchange visitor program, the applicant is registered with SEVIS. The Exchange Student and Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is administered by ICE.

SEVIS is paid by people who want to study in the US with a visa (J-1, F-1, F-3 and M-1). It is paid through the Form I-901 form.

For how long does the J-1 visa last for?

The duration of J-1 visas varies according to the duration of the exchange visitor program. The time is the same as the sponsor has indicated on the DS Form 2019. At the end of the program, the J-1 visa holder has a period of 30 days to leave the US.

Although you can travel through the United States, you cannot continue participating in any activity that is associated with the program. If the program ends earlier than planned, you will still have to leave the country. Such rules also apply to companions of the J-1 visa holder.

Exchange visitor programs generally range from 12 months to 18 months.

Visa processing and delivery time

Currently there is no exact time for the processing and delivery of the J-1 visa. Because the data verification period varies according to the embassy and the applicant. On average, it could take 3 to 4 weeks to notify the approval, after the interview at the consulate.

J1 exchange visa

How can I get a Form DS-2019?

Sponsors of exchange visitor programs can issue the form on behalf of the foreign candidate. Typically, the sponsor completes the information requested on the form, before sending it to the participant.

Upon receipt, the J-1 visa applicant submits the DS-2019 form at the embassy along with the other documents. Acceptance and approval of the DS-2019 form does not guarantee the approval of the visa. As with the rest of the categories of non-immigrant visas.

Differences between the J-1 and F-1 visa

Below we mention the most notable differences between both visas:

J-1 visa

  • It is a visa category for teachers, students, professors, researchers and apprentices. This visa allows its holders to work in the institution where they study or train for up to 18 months.
  • The spouse and children of the holder of this visa can also accompany him while he remains in the United States. Furthermore, the spouse is authorized to work as long as the support of the visa holder does not depend on their work.
  • English proficiency or commitment to learn it while studying / working is required.
  • Already possess a sufficient level of knowledge or study in the area to start the internship.
  • You need to choose an internship appropriate to the field of study.
  • Having the ability to support oneself financially, not depending on another.
  • Comply with the application requirements regarding:

            – Have a host company and an approved sponsor application.

            – Respect the conditions of the sponsor.

            – Be approved by the consular officer during the interview at the US embassy

F-1 Visa

  • It is aimed at any foreigner who wishes to study at a US university / institution (public / private) full time.
  • Requires pre-enrollment at the selected US university or educational institution.
  • English proficiency must be tested using the TOEFL test. Except that the object of study is English.
  • Demonstrate that you have sufficient financial means to cover your education and living expenses.
  • After enrolling, the university issues form I-20A-B that is sent to the consulate or embassy.
  • The applicant must complete and submit forms DS-156 and DS-157 (must only be completed by men between the ages of 16 and 45). Like form DS-158.
student visa F-1

You can read all about this visa in our article dedicated to the F-1 student visa.

Differences in study programs and employment of both visas

F-1 visaJ-1 visa
Funding Source– Own resources.
– External resources or from both sources.
More than 50% of the resources come from a national or international scholarship
Evidence of financingThe applicant must demonstrate that he has the resources to finance his tuition and other expenses during the first year.The applicant must demonstrate that he has the resources to finance all of his studies and other expenses during his stay in the USA.
I work off campus.1. Extracurricular Practical Training (CPT) for off-campus employment while studying (renewable semesterly) or;

2. Optional hands-on training (OPS) to be used off-campus after graduation generally.

For the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) area it can be extended for another 17 months.

Students who choose one of the two options must have completed a year of study in the United States.
Only academic training (AT) is offered for off-campus employment while studying or after graduation.

Work authorization is for 18 months or for the duration of the program (as long as it is less than the maximum time). PhD students can obtain a visa extension for an additional 18 months.

AT lasts for the duration of the study program. 
DependentsF-2 visa holders do not receive work authorization, they can study only part time.They can study full time and apply for employment authorization.

Frequently asked questions about the J-1 visa

Below we will answer many questions regarding this visa. If you do not find an answer or have your own questions, do not hesitate to consult us.

How to apply for an internship in the USA?

Students who excel in their studies generally receive offers in company internship programs. Similarly, the university usually has an International Office and Professional Career Services are offered where you can apply for help.

When students have had the opportunity to do internships or training in some companies, their possibilities increase. Other times on the recommendation of friends or family who work or have done internships in these companies.

It is also a good idea to research online for internship vacancies at US companies. Multinational companies with branches in the student’s home country facilitate this connection. Mainly, if the student’s area of ​​knowledge is of strategic interest for the business purpose.

Can I receive a certificate after completing my internship in the USA?

It is usual for companies that receive foreign interns to issue certifications or letters confirming the completion of the internship. The letter will include the performance of the intern and will surely express the opinion of the company recommending the services of the intern. If the foreign student’s work was outstanding, of course. 

Can the J-1 visa be extended?

It is only possible to request an extension of the J1 visa until the maximum duration of the program. Some programs are 12 months and others up to 18 months. It is also not possible to leave the country during the internship period because to return you will need a new visa.

Are internships remunerated?

This is generally agreed with the supervisor of the company where you do the internship. Although they are generally paid since the companies understand that the student needs to cover transportation and food expenses. 

When the host company pays for the internship or pays for transportation, food and more this must be indicated on form DS-7002. The intern must not accept additional work while doing their internship in the United States.

Can internship dates be changed after registering for the J1 visa?

Yes, just ask your immigration attorney to tell you how to update those dates in the SEVIS database. Of course, there must be a reason that justifies it, after the DS-2019 has been issued. 

Should taxes be paid on recompensed internships?

Yes. The internship payment has an income tax deductible (federal, state and municipal). The other taxes normally paid by US workers are not collected in this case. 

The intern receives the W-2 form (wage and tax declaration) in February. If you pay Social Security, Medicare or employment taxes, then you can request a refund.

Can you take vacations during the internship period?

This is not possible. However, some companies offer foreign J-1 visitors some free time. 

If you still have questions about the J-1 visa, please contact one of our immigration attorneys. Request a private consultation and we will be happy to provide you with the information you need. We speak Spanish and English.