Exchange Visitors (J-1)

The exchange visitor program is administered by the United Stated Department of State. The purpose of the program 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. 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.

The Department of State has a Private Programs Division and an Academic and Government Programs Division. The Private Sector Programs Division includes the alien physician, au pair, camp counselor, summer work/travel, and training exchange visitor categories. The Academic and Government Programs Division includes the student program category, which accommodates programs for both secondary (high school) and post-secondary (college/university students) at undergraduate and graduate levels, degree and non-degree tracks, the professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, specialist, teacher, and Government Visitor and International Visitor categories.

The Training Exchange Visitor Category

Training program

A qualified training program is one intended to provide exchange visitors the opportunity to enhance their skills in their chosen career field as a trainee or intern to improve their knowledge of American techniques, methodologies, or expertise within their field of endeavor. The training or internship must not duplicate the participant's prior training and experience.

Sponsors and host organizations

The Department of State designates public and private entities to act as exchange program sponsors. The program participant may undergo a program directly for the sponsor or at a host organization approved by the sponsor.

Restrictions

Use of the exchange visitor program for ordinary employment or work purposes is strictly prohibited. Sponsors may not place trainee or intern participants in positions that are filled or would be filled by full-time or part-time employees.

Trainee means a foreign national who has either:

  • A degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution and at least one year of prior related work experience in his/her occupational field acquired outside the United States, or
  • Five years of work experience outside the United States in his/her occupational field, and who enters the United States to participate in a structured and guided work-based training program in his/her specific occupational field.

Intern means a foreign national who either:

  • Is currently enrolled in and pursuing studies at a degree- or certificate-granting postsecondary academic institution outside the United States; or
  • Graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to his/her exchange visitor program begin date, and who enters the United States to participate in a structured and guided work-based internship program in his/her specific academic field.

Internship Program means

A structured and guided work-based learning program as set forth in an individualized Training/Internship Placement Plan that reinforces a student’s or recent graduate’s academic study, recognizes the need for work-based experience, provides on-the-job exposure to American techniques, methodologies, and expertise, and enhances the Intern’s knowledge of American culture and society.

Categories

Training and internship programs may be in any of the following occupational categories:

  • Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing
  • Arts and Culture
  • Aviation
  • Construction and Building Trades
  • Education
  • Social Sciences
  • Library Science
  • Counseling and Social Services
  • Health Related Occupations
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Information Media and Communications
  • Management, Business, Commerce and Finance
  • Public Administration and Law
  • The Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics, and Industrial Occupations.

Application Process

All exchange visitor (J visa) trainee and intern visa applicants must first apply to a sponsor organization that has been approved by the State Department to issue a form DS-2019. This form will be necessary to obtain the visa at a United States consulate. When applying for the actual visa, applicants must be able to show:

  • That they plan to remain in the U.S. for a temporary, specific, limited period
  • Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States
  • Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit

Possible two-year home residency requirement

An exchange visitor is required to return to their home county for a least a two-year period before changing his or her status to that of H, L, K, or lawful permanent resident if:

  • The program in which the exchange visitor was participating was financed in whole or in part directly or indirectly by the United States government or the government of the exchange visitor's nationality or last residence
  • The exchange visitor is a national or resident of a country designated as requiring the services of persons engaged in the field of specialized knowledge or skills in which the exchange visitor was engaged for the duration of their program as indicated on the Exchange Visitor Skills List
  • The exchange visitor entered the United States to receive graduate medical education or training.

Waiver of two-year home residency requirement

There are five separate bases to obtain a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement:

  • No Objection Statement
  • Exceptional Hardship
  • Persecution
  • Conrad Program
  • Interested Government Agency

For detailed information respecting waivers, see the United States Department of State.