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J Visa – An Alternative to Filing for the H-1B Visa

By Michael J. Spychalski

With not being able to file for H-1B visas until April, there are a few alternatives to the H-1B that can be pursued. One alternative is a J visa. A J visa is an exchange program established by the U.S. Government to facilitate the visitors from other countries to come to the U.S. to participate in Educational and Cultural programs. The objective is to increase mutual understanding between the citizens of the U.S. and the Exchange Visitors’ countries. J visa holders participate in studies, research, teaching, or receive training. Universities, research institutes, and organizations can be recognized by the U.S. Department of State as Exchange Visitor Program Sponsors.

Exchange Visitors (J visa holders) can have dependents (spouse and unmarried children of 21 years of age or younger) accompany him or her. Employment authorization is allowed for dependents. There are a number of program categories to choose from. They are Au pair, Camp Counselor, College and University Student, Government Visitor, Intern, International Visitor, Physician, Professor and Research Scholar, Secondary School Student, Short-Term Scholar, Specialist, Summer Work Travel, Teacher, and Trainee. Each program allows for different maximum periods of stay. For example a specialist is allowed to stay for a maximum duration of 12 months, while a researcher can stay for a maximum duration 60 months. You cannot extend your stay beyond the maximum duration.

Exchange visitors can have a condition attached called a two-year home country residence requirement. If the following applies to you, you will be required to return to your home country for two years:

  • a. The Exchange Visitor received funds from the U.S. government, his/her own government, or an international organization funded by government;
  • b. The education, training, or skills that the Exchange Visitor is pursuing in the U.S. appear on the Exchange Visitor Skills List for his/her country published by the Department of State.
  • c. Foreign medical graduates receiving training in the U.S. under the sponsorship of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

If you have the two-year residence requirement, you are not eligible to change your visa status to any other work visa or immigrant visa. However, there are waivers available.

For this or any other immigration issue you may have, feel free to contact Bailey and Galyen.