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The J-1 Visa includes a lot of different programs, because it is for various nonimmigrant work-and-study oriented, exchange visitor programs. So it necessarily must have a lot of subcategories, fifteen in fact. All but two of the categories are privately-funded, and are administered through a variety of for-proﬁt, non-proﬁt, or federal, state, and local government entities. The only two publicly-funded subcategories are International Visitors and Government Visitors. A J-1 Visa necessitates a cultural exchange, which means you share your culture with your local American community, and vice versa. This sharing differentiates it from other visa categories that might seem to overlap.
Most people who participate in the J-1 program are young, have a desire to strengthen their English and learn more about the U.S., as well as share their culture with Americans! The length of your visa depends on your program and sponsor, so it can vary quite a bit. In fact the requirements vary by program, though all programs require you to meet their specific eligibility requirements (which can be found here), English language proficiency (whatever level is needed for participation in your selected program), and be sponsored either by a university, private sector or government program. The U.S. government issued 343,800 J-1 visas in 2017.
Students: Students between ages fifteen and eighteen can attend high school in the United States. They can study at a public or private school and live with an American host family, or they can study at a boarding school. Usually a high school student on a J-1 visa can stay in the U.S. for one academic year. They cannot have been to the U.S. on a J-1 or F-1 visa and not attended more than eleven years of primary and secondary school combined (not including kindergarten). While in the U.S., you can be a standard student and participate in any school-sponsored activities. You cannot work full- or part-time, but you can accept occasional work, like babysitting.
A college or university student can study at a degree-granting academic institution in a degree, non-degree or internship program. For college and university students the ability to participate in non-degree and internship programs, make the J-1 visa different from a student F-1 visa. If you are participating in a degree program, your visa will usually be for the length of your program. If you are in one of the non-degree or internship programs, the usual length of the visa is twenty-four months or two years. You have to be financed directly or indirectly by the U.S. government, your home country government, or an international organization (that the U.S. is a member of), or substantially supported by any source that is not personal/family money. That can sound scary or difficult to achieve, but there are programs. Some countries pay for their citizens to attend school abroad. There are also programs like the Rhodes Scholarship. And if none of these funding requirements are possible for you, you can always look into other student visas (click here for more information)! You can have part-time employment with a J-1 student visa, but it is subject to conditions.
Summer Programs: College and university students from foreign universities can work seasonal/temporary jobs in the U.S., and travel as well. This is called the summer work travel program. It is a fun and easy way to gain first-hand experience, as well as see some of the United States. Another way to come to the U.S. for the summer, is as a camp counselor. High school graduates and beyond, can come to the U.S. and work at an American summer camp and teach children. Usually these programs are for sleepaway camps, but not always (sleepaway camps include room and board, so they can be quite appealing for that reason).
Au Pairs/Nanny: A high school graduate between the ages of 18-26 years old, can live with a host family for twelve months and provide childcare, and take courses at a U.S. college or university ( at least six credit hours). A potential au pair/nanny has to be proficient in spoken English, and has to have passed a physical exam, and a background check (including a personality profile). You also have to be personally interviewed in English by a representative who will give a report to the host family. Working as an au pair lets you live in the U.S., and receive professional childcare training (at least thirty-two hours). You can even extend your time after your initial twelve months, by six, nine, or twelve additional months.
Other possible J-1 visa programs are for:
- Research Scholars
- Short-term Scholars
- Government Visitors
- International Visitors
Can you change categories or transfer programs partway through? You can! However, it is not the easiest thing to do, and there are some fairly strict requirements. To change categories, you have to show that the two categories (original and new) are related and consistent, and that it is necessary, because of unusual or extraordinary circumstances. In order to transfer programs you have to transfer within the same category, and it has to be approved by the appropriate officer.
Foreign Residency Requirement: Nearly all J-1 visa-holders are required to return to their home country for at least two years. After those two years you can then apply for other types of visas. You can get a waiver to skip your two year requirement, but there are specific requirements for limited circumstances, which include circumstances like persecution in your home country, or your departure would cause exceptional hardship to your U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident dependents.
Extending/Changing Your Status: It is difficult to change your status when you start with a J-1 visa, and it makes sense when you think about it. The core goal of the J-1 visa is to “foster global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges.” It would be difficult to do that if you do not return to your home country to share your new knowledge and understanding. It is not, however, impossible. You cannot change if:
- You came to the U.S. to attend graduate medical training, unless you get a special waiver.
- You are required to meet the foreign residency requirement, unless you receive a waiver.
- If you do not get a waiver, you can only apply to change to a diplomatic and other government officials (A visa) or representatives to international organizations (G visa).
An extension is usually within the power of your program sponsor who can, at their discretion, extend your stay for its maximum length. What is the maximum length you ask? That is dependent on your program category and your program sponsor’s designation, and so it can vary.
J-2 Visas: These are visas for your spouse and minor children. It is dependent on your visa, when your visa ends, so does theirs. J-2 visa-holders can attend school, recreationally or in a full or part-time program. If your visa ends before they finish school, they can apply to transfer to an F-1 visa. A J-2 visa-holder can also apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) and can therefore work!
A J-1 Visa is a broad category which includes a lot of different types of exchange visitors. So in order to determine if it is right for you, you may need to do more research and speak to an experienced immigration attorney.
Can I leave the country and return on a student visa?
Yes! You should make sure you have all your documents with you (passport and I-20 at least). You will also need a travel endorsement signature. That is a signature from the International Student Affairs staff at your school on the second page of your original I-20 or DS-2019. The signature proves that you are maintaining your status, and this will be checked by an immigration official when you re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad.
Will I and my dependents have to be interviewed?
What if my English needs some improvement?
Can I drive in the U.S.?
Is there a limit on how many people can get a student visa per year?
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Your Attorney Compiles your Case, you Sign, and your Attorney Submits. Your attorney prepares all necessary USCIS forms and any supporting materials in their power. If there is supporting documentation that only you as the client have access to (ex: former employer letters), they will tell you exactly what you need to do and provide you with samples, so you can get the correct documentation. Once everything is ready, your attorney will compile your case into a professional legal petition, with a cover letter and a table of contents that will please USCIS and/or the other immigration authorities. They will check everything again, and send it to you to print and sign, via our secure online system. You will print and sign your completed case, and mail it to us in the envelope we provide. Your attorney will verify that you signed in the correct places, and they will send it off to the correct USCIS Dropbox, processing center, or other authority. It is possible that USCIS or other immigration authorities may request additional documentation/clarification regarding your petition. Your attorney will handle any such requests, communicating with you as required. Please visit our How our Legal Services Work page.*
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She was perfect! It was such a luck to have Julia Greenberg referred to me by my acquaintance. She is the most caring and helpful attorney I have ever worked with. She is very professional and knowledgeable in the immigration law, and she gave me great advice! I appreciate most that she is always available by phone or returns missed calls shortly – this is something that many attorneys in NYC do not do or have their assistants do who never give the correct answer. I approached Julia to help me prepare for my citizenship interview since I had, frankly speaking, not an easy case, and she did the best job I could expect. I could not imagine how my interview would have gone without her; her support was significant! If I ever have a question about any immigration matter I would definitely ask Julia for help again. Awesome
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