J-1 visa features of the Exchange Visitor Program
The J-1 visa is a feature of the Exchange Visitor Program and was created to implement the Mutual Education and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (also called the Fulbright-Hayes Act). The Program is administered by the Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.
The purpose of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is to further the foreign policy interest of the United States by increasing mutual understanding between people of other countries and the United States by means of mutual educational and cultural exchanges. The J-1 Exchange Visitor Trainee is a non-immigrant who seeks to enter the United States for the purpose of participating in a structured training program conducted by a Third Party (Host Company), sponsored by either an individual sponsor organization or an umbrella sponsor organization designated as such by the Department of State.
A nonimmigrant J-1 Exchange Visitor Trainee and his/her accompanying spouse and/or minor children may apply for a visa to be admitted into the United States in J-1/J-2 classifications under Immigration and Nationality Act § 101(a)(15)(J) if the Exchange Visitor Trainee and his/her accompanying spouse and/or children each present a SEVIS Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor [J-1] Status) to a U.S. Consular Official abroad issued by a sponsor organization.
In order to obtain a SEVIS Form DS-2019 through one of the sponsor organizations, the proposed Host Company, training program and J-1 Exchange Visitor Trainee must meet regulatory requirements:
Trainee Candidate Eligibility Requirements
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 of the United States in their chosen occupational field, OR
- five years of work experience outside of the United States in their chosen occupational field. Individuals who have graduated from U.S. universities or who are currently enrolled in university do not typically meet these criteria and may not be eligible to participate in the J-1 Trainee Program.
The Trainee must be functionally fluent in both spoken and written English. English skills must be verified by a recognized English language test (TOEFL minimum 550, SLEP minimum 60, TOEIC minimum 760), by signed documentation from an academic institution or language school, or through a documented in-person interview conducted by the host company, or other authorized third party.
The Trainee must return to their home country upon completion of the program and may not pursue a change of status to a different visa to lengthen their stay in the United States.
The Trainee must apply for the J-1 visa in their native country, or at another consulate abroad. Consular processing times differ for each consular location.
He/she has not previously completed work or training that would be duplicative of the proposed J-1 training;
He/she and his/her spouse and/or minor children have an insurance policy with the following minimum benefits:
- Medical benefits of at least $50,000 per accident or illness;
- Repatriation of remains in the amount of $7,500;
- Medical evacuation in the amount of $10,000; and
- A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.
He/she has at least conversational English–speaking skills so as to be able to fully benefit from the training and cultural opportunities in the United States.
He/she is at least twenty-one years of age.
He/she can demonstrate how the training will be used upon return to the home country.
He/she can demonstrate the intent to return to the home country.
He/she will apply for the J-1 visa in the home country.
One of the critical issues with J-1 trainees occurs when there is a desire to change their status to another visa category, or even apply for permanent residence for them, both of which may result in a violation of the regulations by the employer and/or the individual trainee. As the above is only a limited overview of the J-1 visa requirements. Most importantly, an employer would want to ensure that planning for a potentially longer stay in the US or permanent residence filings have been discussed as the J-1 is a nonimmigrant visa which does not allow for permanent residence filing. It is therefore essential to explore goals and discuss your particular circumstances with Younossi Law before any offers of US training is made to a foreign national.