J1 Visa – Overview, Eligibility & Validity Details

The J1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for foreign nationals coming to the United States to participate in work-and-study-based exchange visitor programs. J1 visa exchange visitor programs allow participants to work, study, teach, conduct research, or receive training in the USA for a period of a few weeks to a few years.
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HomeUS Visa & ImmigrationJ1 Visa – Overview, Eligibility & Validity Details

To obtain a J1 visa, foreign nationals must apply for and be approved to participate in a J1 visa USA exchange visitor program. There are 14 individual J1 programs within the J1 exchange visitor visa category pertaining to various occupations and functions. This article provides a J1 visa overview of all of the qualifying J1 programs.

J1 Visa Eligibility

J1 visa eligibility and requirements vary depending on the exchange visitor program, but some of the general J1 visa requirements may include:

  • English language proficiency
  • Medical insurance

J1 Program Sponsor Requirements

J1 visa applicants must have a program sponsor in order to apply for a J1 exchange visitor visa. The US State Department maintains a list of J1 exchange visitor program sponsors organized by program. In order for an organization to become a sponsor, it must demonstrate its ability to maintain a successful sponsorship of its J1 exchange visitor program. Some of the sponsor requirements may include:

  • Pre-arrival information (details about the program to be provided to participants prior to departure from home country)
  • Orientation (information to help participants get acclimated to the United States)
  • Monitoring (sponsor must keep track of participants welfare and progress, making sure they have 24-hour emergency support)

After you select a program sponsor and contact them directly, they will determine whether you are eligible; make the appropriate preparations for your visit; and submit a Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J1) Status (Form DS-2019).

Home Residency Requirement (HRR)

Some J1 visa USA programs are subject to a home residency requirement, a 2-year home country physical presence. J1 visa participants of the following J1 exchange visitor programs are required to return to their home country at the end of their exchange visitor program under the home residency requirement.

  • Government funded exchange programs
  • Graduate medical education or training
  • Specialized knowledge or skill

HRR is also clearly stated on page 2 of Form DS-2019, which is to be read and signed by all J1 visa applicants. Applicants may file for an HRR Waiver by filing Form DS-3035 with a $120 filing fee.

J2 Visa

Eligible immediate family members may accompany J1 exchange visitors during their stay in the US by obtaining a J-2 visa.

Overview of the J1 Programs

There are numerous opportunities for foreign nationals to visit the United States as exchange visitors. Search the State Departments database of sponsors to find a J1 exchange visitor visa program that suits your needs. Each of the 14 programs is briefly discussed below.

ProgramBasic RequirementsBenefits
Au PairProficiency in spoken English; high school diploma (or equivalent); 18 to 26 years old; background check12 month stay, with option for up to 12 additional months; professional childcare training and experience; school credit
Camp CounselorProficiency in spoken English (sufficient for interacting with American youth); at least 18 years old; background checkOpportunity to share your culture with others; pay and benefits, in addition to food and lodging
College & University StudentMust receive substantial funding from a source other than personal funds, family, or friends (such as a government or non-governmental organization); for non-degree programs, student must be enrolled full-time (for a duration of up to 24 months)School credit; part-time employment (under certain conditions)
Government VisitorParticipants must be selected by a federal, state, or local government agency in the United States; must be an influential or distinguished individual; must be engaged in official government activitiesProfessional consulting and training; greater participation among government officials
InternMust be enrolled (or soon to be enrolled) at a foreign post-secondary institution that grants degrees, or must have graduated within the past 12 monthsPractical work experience in ones chosen professional field; school credit
International VisitorSelected by the U.S. Department of State; leader in a given field; engaged in research, observation, training, etc.Better cross-cultural understanding; sharing of knowledge; valuable insight pertaining to a given discipline
PhysicianAdequate background education; suitable preparation for the cultural and educational experience; English language competency; statement of need (for medical expertise) from official in home country; agreement from U.S. medical school; various test requirementsSchool credit; medical training
Professor & Research ScholarMust not be a candidate for tenure; must not have participated in this program in the past 24 months; must not have participated in a J1 program in the past 12 months (with some exceptions)Exchange of academic ideas and research
Secondary School Student15 years or older, but younger than 18½ at the start of the program; completed no more than 11 years of primary and secondary school; have not previously participated in a U.S. exchange student programParticipation in school clubs, sports, and other activities; accommodations provided by host family or boarding school
Short-Term ScholarAvailable to research scholars, professors, or related professionsA chance to share expertise and collaborate with like-minded professionals and academics
SpecialistBe an expert in a given field; seek travel to the U.S. for the purpose of exchanging knowledge and/or skills in a particular field; must not seek long-term employment in the U.S. while traveling on the J1 visaEducational enrichment and the exchange of ideas
Summer Work TravelSufficient spoken English language skills; full-time enrollment in a college or university outside of the United States (with at least one semester completed); placement in a seasonal jobOpportunity to live and work in the United States
TeacherHave at least three (3) years teaching experience; meet the teaching standards of the host state; be of good reputation and character; proficiency with the English languageLearn about the U.S. education system, while also sharing non-U.S. perspectives
TraineeDegree or professional certificate from foreign college or university and at least one year of work experience (outside of the United States); or five years of work experience in that particular fieldPractical and professional experience

Validity of J1 Visa

The J1 visa duration depends on the type of J1 visa program the participant chooses. The validity periods of the J1 visa types are included below.

  • Au pair, intern, international visitor, secondary school student, and specialist programs are valid for 12 months. (Au pair program may be extended for an additional 6, 9, or 12 months).
  • Camp counselor and summer work travel programs are valid for 4 months.
  • Short term scholar programs are valid for 6 months, and teacher programs are valid for 3 years.
  • Trainee programs are usually valid for 18 months (the exception of 12 months for Agriculture and Hospitality).
  • Physician programs are valid for the period of the residency program (maximum 7 years).
  • Professor and research scholar programs are valid between 3 weeks to maximum 5 years.
  • Government visitor programs are valid for 18 months.
  • College and university student programs are valid for 18 months for Bachelor/Master degree, 36 months for Post-Doctoral degree, and 24 months for non-degree.

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