The Exchange Visitor Program exists for individuals who plan on participating in a program for the purpose of teaching, lecturing, studying, instructing, observing, consulting, demonstrating a special skill, conducting research, getting training or receiving a graduate education in medicine, or other specialized types of training. In order for the individual to obtain a J-1 visa, the Department of State names a public or private entity to serve as his or her exchange sponsor. It would be wise to have an immigration lawyer on your side to explain how the process works as you are obtaining the visa.
Examples of Exchange Visitors to the United States
There are specific examples of immigrants who can qualify for the Exchange Visitor Program. In addition to the following types of individuals eligible for receiving a J-1 visa, your immigration attorney can give you more examples when you meet for a consultation:
- Professors and scholars
- Research assistants
- Camp counselors
- Nannies and au pairs
What is the Application Process for the J-1 Visa?
In order to obtain a J-1 exchange visitor visa, the individual must file Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (originally Form IAP-66) and submit it to the US Department of State, which plays the primary role of administering the visas. To file the form, an individual must obtain it through the agency that will be sponsoring them. It is important for the individual to work closely with officials from the sponsoring agency, who will assist them throughout the entire process. The official who is able to authorize Form DS-2019 is also known as a Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO). That person will explain the entire process and any additional documents the immigrant may need to receive a Form DS-2019.
It is recommended that you seek the assistance of your immigration lawyer when filling out Form DS-2019. Once you have filled the form and submitted it, you can then apply for the J-1 visa through the US Department of State either at the embassy or at a consulate. Generally, the waiting period for applicants varies, so you are encouraged to submit the form as soon as possible. It is also worth noting that J-1 visa applicants cannot come into the United States more than 30 days prior to the start of their program.
What About Employment with a J-1 Visa?
Many J-1 visa holders such as researchers, teachers, or nannies come into the United States for the specific purpose of working, but others do not. A person holding the visa can only gain employment under the terms of the exchange program. It is important to check with the agency sponsoring you as well as your immigration attorney to ensure that you have all the information you need in order to gain employment and to determine any restrictions regarding working in the United States.
What About the Family Members of J-1 Visa Holders?
When a person applies for the J-1 visa, their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can receive J-2 classification. The spouse and children can obtain work but cannot use their income to support the J-1 visa holder. To have a spouse and children apply for work authorization under a J-2 visa, you must obtain and file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.