J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa: Trainee Program Background

Hendrik Tjaart J Pretorius

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Immigration Attorney

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Posted over 5 years ago. 2 helpful votes



What is a J visa?

A J visa is a visa referred to as an Exchange Visitor Visa. This visa is intended for those with non-immigrant intent who wish to enter to participate in Trainee or Internship type programs. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, for example proof that the applicant has sufficient money to last for the duration of the visa and that the applicant has English fluency. Further, the applicant must be entering to partake in a program within a designated list of occupations. Let's focus on some of the basic J-1 trainee program requirements.


Do I need a specific level of education to qualify for a J-1 Visa?

You do not necessarily need to have attained a certain level of education as experience also counts. The regulations require that a J-1 applicant for a trainee program either have (1) competed a degree from a foreign post-secondary institution and also have worked for at least one year in a job related to their industry, or (2) have gained at least 5 years work experience in a country outside of the U.S. in the specific field of endeavor.


What occupations qualify for the J-1 trainee program?

The following occupational categories are some of the categories deemed proper for J-1 trainee purposes: (1) Business, Management, Commerce, (2) Sciences, Engineering, Mathematics, (3) Arts and Culture, (4) Hospitality Note that there are other categories available, these are just a view provided as examples..


Can I enter the U.S. on a J-1 and then find an employer to train with?

No. The training program must be authorized with a specific employer as part of the J-1 petition process.


How long will I be able to remain in J-1 status?

In general a J-1 trainee may petition for a training program lasting no longer then 18 months. Certain training programs however, in certain occupational fields may only be issued for a maximum of 12 months.


What is the 2 year home residency requirement?

The two year home residency requirement is applicable to certain J-1 trainees. If you are determined to be subject to this requirement, you will have to return to your home country for a period of at least 2 years after your J-1 program has ended before you may re-enter the U.S. There are several reasons why a person may be subject to the 2 year requirement, including being from certain countries and training in certain industries. There is a Skills List which dictates which persons are subject to this requirement. Note that there are waivers available in certain instances which may remove the 2 year home residency requirement.


Consult an Immigration Attorney

It may be a good idea to consult an immigration attorney when dealing with J-1 visa issues, in particular when dealing with the two year home residency requirements and waiver applications.

Additional Resources

Pretorius Law Firm

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