The J-1 Visa or Exchange Visitor Program was first implemented in 1961 as part of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. The motivation behind this act was to promote the understanding of other cultures by the people of the United States and likewise the understanding of the America culture by people of other countries through educational and cultural exchanges. A J-1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa available to aliens that fall under the designation of "Exchange Visitor". To obtain a J-1 Visa, your sponsor must be accredited through the Exchange Visitor Program designated by the U.S. State Department. In carrying out the responsibilities of the Exchange Visitor Program, the Department designates public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors. Designated sponsoring organizations facilitate the entry of foreign nationals into the United States as exchange visitors to complete the objectives of one of the exchange visitor program categories, which are:
- Au Pairs to live with an American host family
- Camp Counselor
- Student, college/university
- Student, secondary
- Government Visitor
- International Visitor (reserved for U.S. Department of State use)
- Alien physician
- Research Scholar
- Short-term Scholar
- Summer work/travel
The duration of J-1 status depends on the rules established by your particular Visitor Exchange Program. To determine the duration of your program, review your DS-2019 form. You may be eligible to extend your stay under the J-1 Visa if your total stay period does not exceed the maximum duration of stay for the program and your program sponsor agrees to your extension. The most common J-1 categories along with its corresponding lengths of stay are listed below.
- Secondary school (12 months)
- College and University students (duration of studies plus duration of Practical Training Program(18 months for baccalaureate/masters and 36 months for post doctoral students) following graduation)
- Non-degree student in college and university (24 months)
- Business trainees (18 months)
- Trainees in flight aviation programs (24 months)
- Primary and secondary school teachers (36 months)
- College professors (36 months)
- Research scholars (36 months)
- Medical residents/interns receiving medical training in the U.S. (duration of residency program, 7 year maximum)
- Specialists (12 months)
- International visitors (12 months)
- Government visitors (18 months) J-1 Professors and Research Scholars are eligible to extend their stay for an additional six (6) months after the three-year maximum duration period provided that the extension is necessary in order for the alien to complete a specific project or research program. The granting of the extension falls wholly within the program sponsor's discretion and no State Department or USCIS approval is required.
J-1 Professors and Research Scholars are also eligible to extend their stay via the State Department. The State Department may authorize an extension beyond the three-year period if "exceptional and unusual" circumstances exist. The extension request should be made with Department of State within NINETY days prior to the expiration of the alien's three-year stay period. The initial admission of an exchange visitor, spouse and children may not exceed the period specified on Form DS-2019, plus a period of 30 days for the purpose of travel. The 30-day grace or travel status period is intended to be a period following the end of the exchange visitor’s program and is to be used for domestic travel and/or to prepare for and depart from the U.S., and for no other purpose.
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