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J-1 – Exchange Visitor

Basic Requirements:

The J-1 visa status is available to foreign citizens through the Exchange Visitor Program for the express purposes of engaging in academic study, gaining experience, or contributing to research in the United States. With that in mind, this visa status may be available to a broad range of foreign nationals, including: students, scholars, researchers, teachers, business trainees, experts, medical interns, camp counselors, and aux pairs. Applicants must maintain residence in a foreign country for the duration of their stay.

Sponsors for applicants must already possess the Department of State’s designation as an Exchange Visitor Program participant and have been assigned a designated program number.

Two Years Foreign Residence Requirement:

Before some J-1 visa holders may obtain nonimmigrant or permanent residency visas in the L or H categories, they may be required to satisfy a two year foreign residence requirement following the completion of their visit. Pursuant to this requirement, some J-1 visa holders may first be required to live in their home country for a period of two years—or any country they last resided in—in order to obtain a waiver for this requirement.

In most instances, any individual who studied or worked in a field that appears on his or her home country’s Skill List—as maintained by the Department of State—will be subject to this requirement. Additionally, individuals who received funding from the United States or their home country will likely be required to fulfill the two year foreign residence requirement.

Waivers to this requirement may be available under specific circumstances; this will be discussed in greater detail below.

Duration of Stay:

The duration of stay for individual J-1 visa holders will directly depend upon the following classifications within the Exchange Visitor Program:

Students: Students who wish to attend a secondary school may be admitted for a period of a single year. Students who wish to enter college or university programs may be admitted for a period of time that will be sufficient to complete their studies. Under some circumstances, college or university students may extend their visas to engage in professional training upon the completion of their degrees.

Teachers: Teachers who wish to work in a primary or secondary school may be admitted for a period of up to three years. Professors and research scholars that will be associated with a college or university will be admitted for a period that may not exceed five years.

Short-Term Scholars: Under this designation, short-term scholars may be admitted into the U.S. for a period of six months.

Foreign Medical Graduates: Doctors who participate in an internship or residence in the United States may be admitted for the duration of their program, which will not typically exceed seven years.

Trainees and Interns: Individuals who will be serving as trainees in most occupations will be admitted for a period of no more than 18 months. However, trainees in the field of hospitality and tourism may only be admitted for 12 months, except for those individuals training for a management position. Individuals who will be serving as interns may remain in the United States so long as they maintain their status as a student or begin their program within a year of their graduation.

Specialists: Individuals serving as specialists may be admitted for a period of a single year.

Aux Pairs: Individuals serving as aux pairs may be admitted for a period of a single year.

Camp Counselors and Summer Student Workers & Travelers: Individuals of any of these designations may be admitted for a period of four months.

Government Visitors: Individuals who will be entering the United States under the capacity of a government visitor may be admitted for a period of 18 months.

Depending upon the circumstances of any given case, the Department of the State may choose to extend the duration of stay for any of these designations to match the needs of the applicant.

Family Members: The derivative J-2 status will be available to the spouse and children of any person who obtains J-1 status. To be eligible, children must be under the age of 21 and be unmarried. As such, spouses and children of J-1 visa holders may accompany and remain with their loved ones for their duration of their stay.

Under the J-2 derivative status, spouses and children who are of age may accept employment opportunities after they have first obtained employment authorization. To obtain authorization, J-2 visa holders must apply for and receive approval. The compensation spouses and children receive from their positions must not be required to provide financial support for the J-1 visa holder.

Fees for the J-1 Status Change Application

At the Law Office of William Jang, PLLC, our Austin immigration attorneys will charge the following in attorney’s fees to file your application from within the United States at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)(please take a moment to look over this disclaimer), in addition to the filing fees that are currently charged by the USCIS:

Change Status in the USA:

  • $3,000 attorney’s fees
  • $370 USCIS filing fee
  • $85 biometrics fee for each family member (if applicable)
  • $200 for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee

Application outside of USA at a Consular Office:

  • $3,000 in attorney’s fees for the immigration application
  • $1,000 in attorney’s fees for family’s application (if any family is also applying)
  • $160 + Reciprocity Fee per person US Consular fees
  • $200 for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee

Waiver of the Two-Year Foreign Residence Requirement

There are a number of waivers that may be obtained to satisfy the two-year foreign residency requirement. The following waivers may be obtained by the exchange visitors:

No-Interest Waiver

This waiver may be obtained when an individual’s government of nationality—or of previous residency—provides the Department of State with a statement indicating that it has no objection to waive the J-1 visa holders obligation to return home.

It should be noted that physicians that have received medical training in the United States under the J-1 program will not be eligible for this waiver. Moreover, this waiver will likely not be available to anyone who received a U.S. government fund during their stay. This is probably the most widely used waiver for non-physicians.

Interested Government Agency Waiver

This waiver must be granted by what is known as an Interested Government Agency (IGA). These waivers must be submitted by a U.S. IGA to the Department of State and must indicate that agency’s belief that the J-1 visa holder’s departure would adversely affect a program or activity that is of official interest to that same agency.

If a J-1 visa holder is employed by a governmental agency in the U.S., that agency will most likely be the agency to request this waiver. If the J-1 visa holder is not employed by a governmental agency in the U.S., then the agency that is most directly involved with the J-1 visa holder’s work will request this waiver.

With this in mind, physicians who have chosen to work with underserved populations may look to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the applicable State Health Department that is under the Conrad Program, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Hardship to Family Member(s) Waiver

This waiver may be available if it may be determined that the departure of the J-1 visa holder would create exceptional hardship for a United States citizen or permanent resident, particularly for spouses and children. Typically, a full assessment of the hardship expected to be suffered by all parties must be addressed in this waiver application. It may be further argued that a social, cultural, economic, medical, psychological, business, political, racial, or religious hardship will qualify an individual for this waiver.

Persecution Waiver

If J-1 visa holders fear that they will be persecuted—based on race, political opinion, or religious views—upon their return home, this waiver may be obtained so that they may make arrangements to remain in the United States. However, it should be noted that the asylum application may be a better means of remaining in the U.S.

Fees for the J-1 Two Years Foreign Residence No-Interest Waiver:

At the Law Office of William Jang, PLLC, our Austin immigration attorneys charge the following in attorney’s fees during the visa application process from within the United States and with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)(please take a moment to look over this disclaimer), along with the filing fee that is currently charged by the Department of State:

Two Years Foreign Residence – No-Interest Waiver:

  • $3,000 in attorney’s fees
  • $215 Department of State filing fee
  • Fee charged by Applicant’s government (fees vary)

Two Years Foreign Residence – Exceptional Hardship/Persecution Waiver:

  • $6,000 in attorney’s fees
  • $215 Department of State filing fee
  • $930 USCIS filing fee

Two Years Foreign Residence – Interested Government Agency Waiver:

  • $6,000 in attorney’s fees
  • $215 Department of State filing fee
  • Fee charged by the interested government agency (fees vary)

What do I need to begin?

Consult with a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Attorney in Austin

If you or a loved one will be applying for a J-1 visa, you should speak with one of the Austin J-1 exchange visitor visa attorneys at the Law Office of William Jang, PLLC, to begin the process. Our Austin immigration attorneys have experience with the application process for this visa; we can help ensure the administrative processes run smoothly for you. To discuss your situation with one of our Austin immigration attorneys, please call our Austin offices at (512) 323-2333 today.

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