The J-1 nonimmigrant visa is stated by the U.S. Department of State under The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 for foreign nationals who are coming to the United States to participate in one of the Exchange Visitor Program categories through a designated sponsoring organization identified as “program sponsor”.
The purposes of these J-1 Exchange Programs are to increase interchange, mutual cooperation and intercultural learning opportunities between research and educational institutions in the United States and foreign countries.
Participants in the J-1 Exchange Programs identified as “exchange visitors” are coming to the United States with a J-1 visa. They will experience life in the United States and get acquainted with American history, culture and society during Exchange Visitor Programs which could proceed from a few weeks to several years. The objectives of these programs could be but not limited to the following: upgrade their skills to American standards, develop professional knowledge, or demonstrate special skills, conduct mutual research or give lectures and training.
Program sponsors facilitate the entry of the exchange visitors to participate in one of the following Exchange Visitor Program categories:
- Au Pair;
- Camp Counselor;
- College and University Student;
- Government Visitor;
- International Visitor;
- Professor and Research Scholar;
- Secondary School Student;
- Short-Term Scholar;
- Summer Work Travel;
Each category of exchange has specific requirements, regulations and designated sponsoring organizations list. A designated organization could be a sponsor for a few Exchange Visitor Program categories at the same time.
According to facts and figures from the U.S. Department of State every month more than 170,000 participants are working, studying or teaching in the U.S. through the J-1 visa program. The provided interactive map demonstrates how many participants are in each state or program across the country.
The program sponsors are responsible for screening and selecting eligible foreign nationals for participation in their designated Exchange Visitor Program under provisions of U.S. immigration law as well as for supporting and monitoring exchange visitors during their stay in the United States.
If the exchange visitors meet all requirements and are accepted for one of the Exchange Visitor Program categories the program sponsors will provide the information and documents necessary to apply for the J-1 visa to enter the U.S. Designated sponsors are authorized to issue Form DS-2019 to prospective or current exchange visitors selected for the program.
The program sponsors charge participants program fees which vary from sponsor to sponsor based on the exchange category, the sponsor’s program, program duration, etc.
Exchange visitors must meet specific requirements to qualify for J-1 visa. They have to apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, generally in their country of permanent residence. The consular officer will determine whether they properly meet requirements, including the following:
- that they plan to remain in the U.S. for a temporary, specific, limited period;
- evidence of funds to cover expenses in the U.S.;
- evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.
J-1 visa applicants may be required to meet certain health and character requirements.
The exchange visitors can arrive up to 30 days before the program start date shown on your DS-2019. Upon completion of their exchange program, they have a grace period of 30 days to depart the United States.
A J-1 visa holder may only perform the activity listed on their Form DS-2019, or as provided for in the regulations for the specific category for which entry was obtained.
The exchange programs’ participants are subject to the U.S. Department of State's Exchange Visitor Program regulations, and to the rules specified by their sponsors. Participants found to be in violation of program regulations and/or sponsors' rules may be terminated from the program and are expected to leave the United States immediately.
The exchange visitors must pay a SEVIS fee to the Department of Homeland Security for each individual program. The fee may be paid either through a special web site, via Western Union, or by mail. To pay the SEVIS fee online go to https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/index.jsp.
SEVIS - The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System is used by the Department of Homeland Security to better manage F, M, and J visa holders. SEVIS allows schools and exchange programs’ sponsors to transmit mandatory data through the internet, in order to maintain current information and records of students and exchange visitors.
Some categories of J-1 visa allow for spouses and/or dependents (unmarried children under the age of 21) to accompany a J-1 visa holder with J-2 visa . But there are specific programs that do not. The exchange categories of au pair, camp counselor, secondary school student and summer work travel do not permit J-2 visas. In most cases a J-2 visa holder can seek employment. To work, a J-2 visa holder must obtain an Employment Authorization Document from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Money earned by a J-2 visa holders cannot be used to support the principal J-1 visa holder. The application procedure for J-2 visa is the same as that for a primary visa applicant. The sponsor has to approve the accompaniment of the spouse and/or children who will each be issued their own Form DS-2019. A J-2 visa holders may enter the United States along with their J-1 spouse or parent or join to them while participating in their exchange program in the United States. They may study or work while in the United States. They may remain in the United States as long as the principle J-1 visa holder has valid J-1 status.
All J-1 visa holders must purchase medical insurance for themselves and their J-2 dependents immediately upon arrival in the U.S.
J-1 program participants who have received funding for J-1 program participation from the government in their home country or from the U.S. government, or whose skills are deemed to be in short supply by the home country (i.e. on the Skills List), are subject to the two-year home country residence requirement and obliged to leave the U.S. upon completion of their J-1 program. They must reside and be physically present in their country for an aggregate of two years before being eligible for other U.S. immigration statuses, including H, L or permanent resident status.
The two-year home country residence requirement does not, however, apply in all cases, since there are many countries that do not maintain a list of skills in short supply.
Introduction to the Trainee and Intern Categories
The training and internship programs are designed to allow foreign professionals and students to come to the United States to gain exposure to U.S. culture and business practices in their chosen field that is not available in their home country. Upon completion of their programs, participants are expected to return to their home countries where they will be able to utilize their newly learned skills and knowledge to advance their careers, and to share their experiences with their peers and others.
Trainees/interns have to be fluent in English. The J-1 trainees/interns either have to verify their fluency through TOEFL or a similar English test, obtain signed documentation from an English language school, or demonstrate their English language skills in an interview setting. Sometimes, candidates may be interviewed through the use of a web camera, videoconferencing or Skype.
The maximum period of time for a J-1 trainee is 18 months. To qualify, the trainee must have either:
- a degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution AND at least one year of prior related work experience outside the U.S.; OR
- five years of related work experience outside the U.S.
The trainee category comprises a range of temporary, nonimmigrant visas that permit trainees to come to the U.S. to participate in structured training programs with U.S. corporations and organizations in their field of interest or expertise.
Duration for the training programs for the Hotel/Hospitality and Tourism industries are limited to 12 months.
The maximum period of time for a J-1 intern is 12 months. To qualify, the intern must be either:
- currently enrolled in and pursuing studies as a degree-or certificate-granting post-secondary institution outside the U.S.; OR
- graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to the start date of the J-1 employment.
The intern category was created to differentiate the learning experiences of current post-secondary students and recent graduates from those of professionals. Like the trainee program, the intern program must directly relate to the participant’s career field or field of study.
Applicants who have previously participated in a J-1 training or internship program may be eligible to participate in additional J-1 training or internship program after a two-year residency outside the U.S. if objective of the additional program is development of more advanced skills or a different field of expertise. Host company cannot employ the same person again as a J-1 trainee/intern unless this person first spends two years out of the country.
- trainees/interns cannot work in unskilled or casual labor positions, in positions that require or involve childcare or elder care or in any kind of position that involves medical patient care or contact;
- trainees/interns cannot work in positions that require more than 20 percent clerical or office support work;
- program sponsors may not place trainees/interns in positions which are filled or would be filled by full-time or part-time American employees;
- exchange visitors cannot travel on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Citizens from a country participating in the VWP who want to enter the U.S. temporarily as exchange visitors, must first obtain an exchange visitor visa. Those travelers coming on the VWP to participate in an exchange program may be denied admission to the U.S. by the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. immigration inspector at the port of entry. Also exchange visitor program participants cannot travel on a visitor (B) visa.
- Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing;
- Arts and Culture;
- 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.
Certain businesses are not eligible to provide internship or training programs to foreign nationals. These include: economy hotels and properties (lower than three star/diamond rating), fast food franchises, recruiting agencies, home offices, single location retail shops and clinical practices of any kind. The J-1 intern and trainee categories may not be utilized by individuals coming to the United States as au pairs, camp counselors, teachers, or physicians.
Introduction to the U.S. Employers
In today’s highly competitive global economy, many companies recognize the need for forming a multi-cultural workforce. However, they often face the challenge of finding those multicultural skills locally and seek to import skills from around the world to add diversity to their organization.
We, at Educational World, Inc. , take pride in bringing quickly on board with a very reasonable compensation the highly qualified and motivated foreign employees. The J-1 employees will participate in a practical training program at your company, whether large or small, that combines productive employment with training in specific skills, technologies or your overall procedures for competing in the United States and overseas markets. Specially selected and checked, the J-1 employees provided by our company undergo an interview qualification process. We invite J-1 employees from countries around the world and they in turn share their cultural uniqueness at the workplace.
Your organization will have an advantage of the skills and techniques of these professionals and retaining the talented staff within a company on a global level. Numerous employers from hospitality and tourism, information media and communications, management, business, commerce and finance, public administration and law, the sciences, engineering, architecture, mathematics and other industries already participate in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Programs.
The benefits of the Exchange Visitor Programs are potentially great. There is no quota. There is no issue of the prevailing wage as with the H visas, provided, of course, that minimum wage and hour and overtime rules are respected. J-1 exchange visitors are not displacing American workers. On the contrary, Exchange Visitor Programs are offering an additional practical training or internship opportunity to motivated foreign individuals who will spread the good word about their American experience in home country.
In order to be eligible to offer an internship or training program to foreign nationals, the potential host company is required to document that they are the U.S.-based employer and have been in business at least 24 months (sometimes exceptions could be made for certain industries). U.S. employers of all sizes could be considered, however, the U.S. Department of State requires that potential host companies with fewer than 25 full time employees or less than $3,000,000 in annual revenue be visited by a representative of the program sponsor before hosting an exchange visitor. Most U.S. employers are eligible to serve as host companies, provided that they have the capacity to meet certain regulations such as to present the Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) Number, Employer Identification Number (EIN) - Tax Number, verification of address, phone number and business activities by website, and verification of the company's/organization's general Workman's Compensation Insurance Policy.
Our company coordinates the entire process which includes:
- recruiting, screening and selecting international applicants;
- processing all paperwork for J-1 visa applications that ensures compliance with J-1 visa regulations of the U.S. Department of State and has the best chance possible to qualify for a J-1 exchange program;
- providing participants with the proper insurance required by the U.S. Department of State;
- providing orientation and program materials and ongoing support throughout the program, we recognize that the needs and the well-being of the workers are always top priorities.
After all is said and done here you can see how J-1 is worth doing.
If you decided whether the J-1 training or internship program is a good fit for you and are considering using the Exchange Visitor Program, move forward with the process!
There are two major categories of nonimmigrant visas for persons seeking training opportunities from the professional staff of American Companies. The H visa category has an H-3 classification for trainees and the J-1 exchange visitor visa contains a subcategory reserved for trainees as well. The H-3 trainee visa is valid for a maximum period of up to two years. The trainee under J-1 exchange visa can be accepted up to 18 months. There are no extensions allowed for both categories. The trainees gain practical professional skills in business, communication, education, finance, information media, law, management, hospitality, tourism, special education, etc.
Decades ago, Congress created a trainee visa called the H-3. The H-3 trainee visa allows individuals to come to the U.S. to receive instruction and training from a United States company that would otherwise be unavailable to them in their home country. The H-3 visa is also suitable for those persons looking to participate in a special education training program for the education of children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities in the United States.
To be eligible for an H-3 visa, the applicant must show that:
- The training must not be available in the alien's home country.
- The alien must not be placed in a position which is part of the normal operation of business which would ordinarily be filled by a U.S worker.
- The alien must not be productively employed unless such employment is "incidental and necessary" to the training.
- The training must benefit the alien in pursuit of employment outside the U.S.
There are also eight restrictions on training programs, which are essentially designed to ensure they meet the above listed requirements. Under these restrictions, a training program will not be approved if:
- It would go beyond training to productive employment with the alien acting as part of the petitioner's regular staff.
- It is not described in terms of a fixed schedule.
- There are no stated objectives.
- There is no method by which to evaluate the training.
- It is incompatible with the petitioner's other business.
- The proposed training cannot be accomplished by the petitioner.
- It will teach skills the alien already possesses or will not be able to use in employment outside the U.S.
- It is being used to extend the training of a former student who has used their maximum period of optional practical training.
Although H-3 visa holders may work, the employment must be incidental to training and only with the petitioner through whom the status was obtained.
There is no annual cap on the number of H-3 Temporary Trainee Visas that can be issued. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of H-3 Visa holders are eligible for H-4 Visas. Dependents may remain in the United States, travel in and out of the country, but are not allowed to work on H-4 Visa status.
The regulations allow for training in "any field of endeavor." The regulations give examples of agriculture, commerce, communications, finance, government, transportation, the professions, as well as purely industrial areas. The only sort of training that is specifically excluded is graduate medical training. Nurses may, in some circumstances, receive training in the U.S. in H-3 status, and foreign medical students on school vacation can participate in externships at U.S. hospitals.
Applying for an H-3 visa is much like applying for any other visa in the H category. The application is made on Form I-129, which is then submitted to the appropriate regional service center. The application must also include evidence that will allow USCIS to determine whether the training program meets the four requirements. Typically this is done in the form of a statement from the sponsor of the training program.
This statement must include the following:
- A description of the training program, outlining the number of hours spent in classroom or on-the-job training.
- The amount of time that will be spent in productive employment.
- The employment abroad for which US training will prepare the alien, and why the alien must receive this training in the US.
- The amount and source of the alien's compensation, and what, if any, benefit the petitioner will receive.
If the petition is approved, the alien will receive an H-3 visa. This maximum period of admission in H-3 status is two years. If the visa is approved for a shorter period, it may be extended in increments of up to one year, but an alien is not permitted to remain in H-3 status for more than two years.
There are some advantages of the J-1 over the H-3:
J-1 training requirements are generally easier to meet than H-3 requirements. Furthermore, J-1 trainees can apply for a visa without initial approval by USCIS. This means that the costs may be less than the H-3 and the timing may be much faster.
The Q-1 nonimmigrant visa is designed for foreign nationals who are coming to the U.S. to participate in an international cultural exchange program. Available to both students and non-students, the Q-1 cultural exchange program provides participants with the paid positions for a maximum of 15 months, usually 5 to 6 months in duration.
The Q-1 visa was created in 1990, mainly because of lobbying efforts by the Walt Disney Company and similar businesses. They feared that the J programs they were using would be revoked because their foreign employees were working in generally unskilled positions, even though they were participating in cultural exchanges. Under the Q-1 visa, the foreign national can engage in practical training and employment so long as they are also sharing the history, culture and traditions of their home country.
The Q-1 Visa supports international cultural exchange such as practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the participant's home country in the U.S. This visa enables individuals to participate in exchange programs in the U.S. Q-1 visa holders must be at least 18 years old and possess the ability to effectively convey their home country's history and culture for a U.S. audience. Their U.S. employer/sponsor must agree to pay them the same rate that a similar worker in the U.S. would receive.
The Q-1 application must be accompanied by evidence that the employer/sponsor:
- Intends to provide "an overview of the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy, tradition and/or other cultural attributes of the participant's home country" (USCIS);
- Intends to make the program available to the public for the purpose of intercultural exchange between the visa holder and the American public;
- "Has designated a qualified employee to administer the program and serve as liaison with USCIS" (USCIS);
- Can provide a working environment comparable to that of a domestic employee providing the same services;
- Is capable of properly compensating the Q-1 visa holder for his or her work.
The Q-1 cultural exchange program must take place in a school, museum, business, or similar location where the public, or at least the interested public, can be exposed to aspects of a foreign culture as part of a structured program. The program must include a cultural component as an essential and integral part of the cultural visitor's employment or training and cannot provide for employment or training independent of the cultural component.
The employer/sponsor must also meet a number of other requirements. It must be engaged in the active conduct of business in the U.S. It must also demonstrate that it has the financial ability to pay the offered wage, and that it will provide the same working conditions U.S. workers in the area would have. However, there is no need to file an attestation with the Department of Labor.