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J-1 Exchange Visitors

Posted by attorney David Murray

THE "J-1" VISA CATEGORY The Exchange Visitor Program

The "J-1" Visa category is used by certain foreign students (not to be confused with the "F-1" or "M-1" student visas), scholars, expert, medical interns and residents, and industrial and business trainees, to enter the United States as "exchange visitors" under an approved Exchange Visitor Program, for the purpose of gaining work experience, doing research, or studying.

A J-1 generally obtains a visa through a pre-approved Exchange Visitor Program Sponsor, and once obtained, the alien can work for any qualifying employer.

For issuance of a J-1 visa it is not required that the employer prove there are no U.S. workers available, however, the alien must maintain a residence abroad which he or she has no intention of abandoning during the pendency of the J-1 visa and, at the time of the visa interview and at time of entry into the United States, must exhibit an intention to depart the United States upon the termination of J status.

Spouses and Children under 21 years of age receive J-2 Visas. Although spouses and children are not authorized to work in the United States without separate work permission, they may attend school. A child's J-2 Visa status expires on their 21st birthday.

Overview - About the Exchange Visitor Program

The Exchange Visitor Program is carried out under the provisions of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, as amended. The purpose of the Act is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges. International educational and cultural exchanges are one of the most effective means of developing lasting and meaningful relationships. They provide an extremely valuable opportunity to experience the United States and our way of life. Foreign nationals come to the United States to participate in a wide variety of educational and cultural exchange programs.

The Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The internet website for information on the Exchange Visitor Program is:

At the conclusion of their program Exchange Visitor program participants are expected to return to the home countries to utilize the experience and skills they have acquired while in the United States. However this is not mandatory for all J-1 programs, and for programs with mandatory foreign residence requirements, it may be possible in some instances to receive a waiver of the foreign residence requirement.

In carrying out the responsibilities of the Exchange Visitor Program, the U.S. Department of State 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 pair Camp Counselor Student, college/university Student, secondary Government Visitor International Visitor (reserved only for U.S. Department of State use) Alien physician Professor Research Scholar Short-term Scholar Specialist Summer work/travel Teacher Trainee

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