J-1 visas are for non-immigrants seeking admission to the United States through the sponsorship of a foreign exchange program approved by the Department of State. This type of visa can be used by three different groups of people:
1. Students seeking to attend a college or university;
2. Students in secondary school exchange programs;
3. Individuals sponsored through the Au Pair program.
-College or University Program-
In order to gain admission to the United States under the J-1 visa to attend a college or university, the nonimmigrant must satisfy one of the following criteria:
1. The student or the program must be funded by (a) the U.S. government; (b) the student’s home country; or (c) an international organization;
2. The program the student is looking to participate in must be carried out according to an agreement between the U.S. and a foreign government;
3. The program is being carried out via an agreement between a U.S. university and a foreign university or a foreign government;
4. The student is being substantially supported by a source other than personal or family funds.
If an alien is granted a J-1 visa as a college or university student, then his or her spouse and children are permitted to work in the United States during the J-1 visa holder’s stay. Furthermore, the J-1 visa allows students a longer period of practical training than aliens holding the F-1 visa. Students under the J-1 visa are also subject to a foreign residency requirement. J-1 holders who fit one of the following criteria are required to remain outside of the United States for 2 years after completing their course of study:
1. The alien participated in a program that got financing from the U.S. government or from their foreign government;
2. The alien is a national or resident of a country designated by the U.S. Department of State as clearly needing the services of a person who has studied in the alien’s field of specialized knowledge or skill;
3. The alien has received a J visa in order to participate in graduate medical training within the
-Secondary School Exchange Program-
This category applies to foreign students who are between fifteen and eighteen-and-a-half years of age who desire to participate in a secondary school exchange program. This program allows foreign students to come to the United States to study for up to one year and live with a host family. These individuals are also allowed to engage in sporadic employment, for example babysitting or yard work.
-Au Pair Program-
This program is designed for foreign citizens who are looking to spend a maximum of two years in the U.S. to provide childcare services for a host family and study part-time at a post-secondary school. Individuals in this program are required to spend up to 45 hours a week providing childcare for their host family in addition to taking a minimum of 6 credit hours of class each semester. An Au Pair’s host family is required to provide housing for the foreign individual, pay at least minimum wage for the childcare provided by the au pair, and pay part of the foreign individual’s tuition.
Other General Information
Those holding J-1 visas are allowed to stay in the United States for the length of their exchange program, as set out by the program sponsor, and then an additional 30 days after its completion. Foreign individuals who used the J-1 visa in order to obtain graduate medical training are not allowed to change their status to that of any other nonimmigrant classification. Other individuals holding a J-1 visa who are subject to the 2 year foreign residency requirement cannot change their visa to any other nonimmigrant visa except that of A or G before they comply with the foreign residency requirement.