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The J-1 visa is available to authorized aliens participating in exchange visitor programs in the US.

In the United States there are 2 types of cultural exchange visas: The Q visa administered by USCIS and the J-1 visa administered by the US Department of State. In this article we will learn in detail everything about the J-1 category. 

Our Los Angeles immigration lawyers at Lluis Law have over 50 years of combined experience in all types of visa and immigration matters.


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What is A J-1 visa?

It is a nonimmigrant visa that authorizes temporary entry into the United States to alien nationals under an authorized exchange program for the purpose of instructing, teaching, lecturing, conducting research, receiving education, training, postgraduate medical training, consulting or to demonstrate special abilities.

The Department of State will designate public and private entities as exchange sponsors. This program seeks to promote the exchange of people, knowledge and skills in education, art and science.

J1 exchange visa

J-1 visa categories in 2024

The J-1 visa has 16 eligible role categories or program types, these are: 

  • Au Pair.
  • Camp counselor.
  • College and university student.
  • Early career STEAM research initiative. 
  • Government visitor.
  • Intern.
  • international visitor.
  • Physician.
  • Professor.
  • Research scholar.
  • Secondary school student.
  • Short term scholar.
  • Specialist.
  • Summer work travel.
  • Teacher.
  • Trainee.

For more information regarding the requirements for each category, visit the US Department of State website.

How to get a J-1 visa?

  1. Determine which program or J-1 visa category is the best option for you;
  2. Apply and expect to be accepted into an exchange visitor program through a designated US sponsoring agency;
  3. After being accepted into the exchange visitor program, you must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee;
  4. Wait to receive a Form DS-2019 from your sponsor;
  5. Access the US Department of State website, complete Form DS-160 and pay the application fee;
  6. Schedule the interview with the US embassy or consulate;
  7. Attend your interview and bring all the necessary documents with you;
  8. Wait for visa approval or denial.

Note: In addition to the DS-2019 form, participants in the apprentice and intern categories will require Form DS-7002.

J-1 visa requirements

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

Generally, those who apply for a J-1 visa must prove proficiency in the command of the English language. In addition, they need health insurance that meets the appropriate standards. 

To obtain precise information on the requirements of this visa, consult our specialized immigration lawyers.

Documentation for the J-1 visa

You will need to bring the following documents to your interview with the US embassy or consulate:

  • Passport. Whose validity period is at least 6 months after leaving the country. Unless there are exemptions;
  • Confirmation sheet DS-160. It must be printed;
  • Photography. When completing the DS-160, you will need to submit your photograph following the photo requirements
  • Receipt of payment of fees ;
  • Health insurance. You must be able to prove that you have one.

How long does the J-1 visa last?

The duration of the J-1 visas varies according to the duration of the exchange visitor program. 

  1. The time is the same as the sponsor has indicated on Form DS-2019; 
  2. Upon completion of the program, the J-1 visa holder has 30 days to leave the US.

Although you may travel within the United States, you may not continue to participate in any activities associated with the program. If the program ends earlier than expected, you will still have to leave the country. Such rules also apply to the companions of the J-1 visa holder.

Exchange visitor programs generally have a maximum duration of 18 months.

J-1 visa delivery time

The J-1 visa can take between 1 to 4 months to be processed and subsequently delivered. The Department of State has a special division that verifies the applications and then sends the recommendation to USCIS for a final decision on the application.

Can family members of the J-1 visa holder accompany them?

Spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may be eligible for J-2 classification. Eligibility for the J-2 visa depends on the specific program in which the J-1 visa holder is enrolled.

For example, the secondary school student, au pair, camp counselor, and summer job travel exchange categories do not allow a J-2 visa. Also, some specific programs within the categories do not allow J-2 visas.

Our attorneys will be able to determine whether or not your family members may be eligible for this classification.

What is the J-2 visa application process like?

It is the same process followed by the holder of the J-1 category. The sponsor must approve the accompaniment of the spouse or child to whom a specific DS-2019 will be issued.

Holders under the J-2 classification may accompany the J-1 visa holder to the US or choose to join later.

J1 visa for teachers

Can I work with the J-1 visa?

Employment in the United States is authorized for some nonimmigrants on the J-1 visa, but only under the terms of the exchange program. In addition, both the spouse and children are entitled to employment authorization.

However, the income obtained by these cannot be used to support the holder of the J-1 visa. To obtain work authorization in the United States under the J-2 nonimmigrant classification, the spouse or children must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

Can I change my category with a J-1 visa?

It is possible to change your category as long as you have strong reasons to do so and maintain your original goal for the exchange program. Your sponsor will be responsible for you to submit a request to change the category with the Department of State.  

Can I swap my exchange program?

It is possible to change the program as long as it stays in the same category. Also, you must have a new sponsor who submits a transfer request to the Department of State.

If the transfer is approved, you will receive a new DS-2019 form showing the modification.

what is the two year rule on j 1 visa?

J-1 visas are issued with several conditions, one of which is that after you finish the program and when the visa expires, you must return to your home country and live there for two years. You will be subject to this criterion if you are part of a program of:

  • Graduate medical education or training;
  • Government funded exchange;
  • Skills or specialized knowledge.

During this period of time, you will not be able to apply for the following visas:

Restrictions for J-1 visa holders

The J-1 visa also does not allow you to adjust status to achieve permanent residence, or be eligible as a temporary worker in the H category or transferred executive through L visas.

Can I apply for a two-year residency exemption?

You can do this by submitting a request to the Department of State. In order to receive the exemption, you must have strong arguments showing why you cannot meet the requirement. This includes:

  • Your American spouse and children may experience exceptional hardship if you return.
  • You may be prosecuted if you return to your home country.
  • Having a declaration of no objection from your country of origin.
  • You have a job application from a US federal government agency.
  • You have an application to stay with the Conrad 30 Waiver Program.
exchange student program in the united states

Differences between J-1 and F-1 visas

Below we mention the most notable differences between both visas:

J-1 Visa

  • It is a visa for teachers, students, professors, researchers and trainees. This visa allows its holders to work in the institution where they study or train;
  • The spouse and children of the visa holder may also accompany them while in the US. In addition, the spouse is authorized to work as long as the visa holder’s support is not dependent on their work;
  • Proficiency in the English language is required or a commitment to learn it while studying/working;
  • You must already have 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;
  • Also, you must be able to subsist financially on your own, not depend on another;
  • You must meet the application requirements regarding:
    • Have a sponsor 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 intended for any alien national who wishes to study full-time at a US university or institution (public/private);
  • Requires pre-registration at the selected US university or educational institution;
  • Proficiency in the English language must be proven by means of the TOEFL exam. Unless the object of study is English;
  • Demonstrate that you have sufficient financial means to cover your study and living expenses;
  • After enrollment, the university issues the I-20A-B form which is sent to the consulate or embassy;
  • The applicant must complete and submit the DS-156 and DS-157 forms (only to be completed by men between the ages of 16 and 45). Just like the DS-158 form.

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 they have the resources to finance their tuition and other expenses during the first year.The applicant must demonstrate that they have the resources to finance all of their studies and other expenses during their stay in the US.
I work off campus.1. After School Practical Training (CPT) for your off-campus employment while studying (renewable semi-annually) or;

2. Optional Practical Training (OPS) for off-campus employment after graduation generally.
For the STEM area (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) it can be extended for another 17 months. 
Students who choose one of the two options must have completed one year of study in the United States.
Academic Training (AT) is only offered for employment off campus, while in school, or after graduation.
The work authorization is for 18 months or for the duration of the program (as long as it is less than the maximum time). Only doctoral students can obtain a visa extension for an additional 18 months.
The AT has a duration equal to the time of the study program. 
dependentsF-2 visa holders do not receive work authorization, they can only study 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 can’t find an answer or have your own questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

how to extend the j-1 visa period of stay
What is the cost of the J-1 visa?

The cost of the J-1 visa is $160. However, this rate is not the same in all countries, it will most likely change depending on the J-1 category that is requested. 

Can I extend the J-1 visa?

The J-1 visa can be extended through a program extension, as long as the category allows it. The sponsor will be responsible for extending your program. When you extend the visa, you will receive a new DS-2019 form. To achieve the extension, the sponsor must apply to the Department of State on behalf of the J-1 visa holder. The extension request has a non-refundable fee of $370.

How to apply for an internship in the USA?

Outstanding students usually receive offers from companies in internship programs. Universities also often have international offices that can help you. Having done internships or coming on the recommendation of friends and/or relatives always increases the possibilities. Searching for internship vacancies on the internet is also a good idea.

After completing my internship in the USA, can I receive a certificate?

It is often so. Companies that receive interns usually issue certifications or letters that confirm the satisfactory completion of the internship. Also, if the performance was good, it is likely to include a letter of recommendation.

Are internships paid?

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

When the sponsor company pays for the internship or pays for transportation, food and other this must be indicated on the DS-7002 form. The intern must not accept an additional job while completing their internship in the United States.

Can internship dates be changed after registering for the J-1 visa?

It is possible to change internship dates, just talk to our immigration attorney to find out how to update those dates in the SEVIS database.

Do J-1 visa holders have to pay taxes?

J-1 visa holders who remain in the US for the entire tax year must report all of their international income on Form 1040, US Individual Income Tax Return.

Can vacations be taken during the internship period?

This is not possible. However, some companies offer alien J-1 visitors some time off. 

J-1 visa Lawyer in Los Angeles

The Lluis Law firm has been helping exchange visa applicants for over 40 years from the Los Angeles, California office.

We can also help you change your status from a J-1 visa to an H-1B visa and also from J-1 to F-1 category.

If you have questions about the J-1 visa, please contact us, you will receive a professional consultation and we will be happy to expand the information you need.


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