J-1 Exchange Visitors

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States, the J Visa and the Q Visa. The J Visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs designated by the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs.

(Links to headings below)
J-1 Visa Requirements
J-1 Petition Document Requirements
Duration of Stay
Helpful Links

J-1 Visa Requirements

The J exchange visitor program is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences. Participants include:

  • Students at all academic levels;
  • Secondary School Students;
  • Trainees obtaining on-the-job training with firms, institutions, and agencies;
  • Teachers of primary, secondary, and specialized schools;
  • Nonacademic Specialists;
  • Professors coming to teach or do research at institutions of higher learning;
  • Research scholars;
  • Camp Counselors;
  • Professional trainees in the medical fields (foreign medical graduates or physicians) to pursue graduate medical education or training at accredited schools of medicine or scientific institutions;
  • Summer students in a travel/work program;
  • Au Pairs to live with an American host family; and
  • International and government visitors coming for the purpose of traveling, observing, consulting, conducting research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs.
  1. Approved Institution

    The sponsoring organization must be approved by the Department of State and able to issue a Form DS-2019 to prospective J-1 applicants

  2. Financial Resources

    Participants in the J exchange visitor program must have sufficient funds to cover all expenses, or funds must be provided by the sponsoring organization in the form of a scholarship or other stipend.

  3. Scholastic Preparation and English Language Requirement

    J exchange visitors must have sufficient scholastic preparation to participate in the designated program, including knowledge of the English language, or the exchange program must be designed to accommodate non-English speaking participants.Participants must possess sufficient proficiency in the English language to participate in their programs.  Sponsors are required to ensure that their participants are sufficiently proficient in the English language to participate in their exchange programs before they enter the United States.  Participants may be exempt from this requirement if they intend to come to the U.S. to participate exclusively in an English language training program

  4. Medical Education and Training

    Exchange visitors coming under the J program for graduate medical education or training must meet certain special requirements.  These requirements include passing the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in Medical Sciences, demonstrating competency in English, being automatically subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement (after completion of their program), and being subject to time limits on the duration of their program. Physicians coming to the United States on exchange visitor programs for the purpose of observation, consultation, teaching, or conducting research in which there is little or no patient care are not subject to the above requirements.

  5. Orientation

    Sponsors must offer appropriate orientation for all participants, and are encouraged to offer orientation to the participant’s family (J-2 spouses and dependents), especially those expected to remain in the United States for at least one year.Orientation material should include information about the region, state, and locale. Useful information specific to each state may be found at that state’s website. The URL for each site is <<www.state’s name spelled as one word.com>>. For example, the site providing information for the state of Maryland is located at www.maryland.com. The site providing information for the state of New Hampshire is located at www.newhampshire.com.

  6. Return to Place of Residence

    Participants must intend to depart the U.S. upon completion of the course of study. Participants may establish this by presenting evidence of economic, social and/or family ties in their homeland.

For more information on the following programs please visit the links below at the Department of State

Au Pairs

Camp Counselors

College and University Students 

Government Visitors 

International Visitors 


Professors and Research Scholars 

Secondary School Students 

Short-Term Scholars 


Summer Work Travel


Trainees and Flight Training

J-1 Petition Document Requirements

Participants in the J program must present a Form DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status prepared by a designated sponsoring organization.

J-1 Waivers 

Certain exchange visitors are required to return to their home country or country of last residence upon completion of their U.S. training before they may apply for another non-immigrant visa, immigrant visa, adjustment of status or naturalization.
Program participants who are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement, as established by Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, must apply for a waiver of that requirement if they seek to remain in the United States beyond the end date of their programs or if they seek to submit an application to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for a change in visa status.

A waiver may be requested for five statutory bases:

  • A claim of Exceptional Hardship to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse or child of an exchange visitor if the exchange visitor is required to return to the country of residence;
  • A claim that the participant will be persecuted due to race, religion, or political opinions if he/she returns to the country of residence;
  • A request from an interested US Government Agency on the participant’s behalf;
  • A No Objection Statement from your government; and
  • A request by a designated State Health Department or its equivalent.

Participants must file an application to receive a recommendation for a waiver with the Department of State.

Duration of Stay

The period of admission on a J-1 visa is usually for the duration of the program plus 30 days.  Extensions may be granted as long as it is necessary to complete the program.  However, extensions for J-1 are rare because the length of the stay is usually granted for the period considered reasonable for the type of program. The exchange program participant may be admitted for a period up to 30 days before the report date or start of the approved program listed on Form DS-2019.


Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of J-1 Exchange Visitors are eligible for J-2 status with the same restrictions as the principal.  Dependents generally may not be employed under the J-2 classification.  However, Dependents can receive special permission from the USCIS to work if they can show that the money is not needed to support the principal J-1 Visa applicant.  Dependents may also study on a J-2 Visa without obtaining additional authorization.

Catalog of State Designated Exchange Visitor Program Sponsors
Department of State J Exchange Visitor Program

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