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A Guide to Student Visas: J-1 Visas

Around 450,000 visitors from over 200 countries and territories are accepted into the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program each year. This program is a way for international visitors to experience the life and culture of the United States, engaging with Americans and fostering global interaction and enrichment. What makes the J visa unique from other temporary nonimmigrant visas is its selection of programs, which span academics to employment opportunities to childcare. Specific programs are provided for:

  • Au pairs, young adults between the ages of 18-24 who stay with a host family and care for their children, in exchange for room and board, meals, and attending a college or university
  • Camp counselors
  • Government-sponsored visitors (federal, state, and local)
  • Interns and trainees
  • Physicians
  • Scholars, researchers, and professors
  • Students (both secondary and college/university)

These programs are hosted by academic institutions. Each program has its own limitations regarding the length of the visitor’s stay. Some programs, such as the professor and research scholar programs, have a minimum stay of three weeks, while the physician program can have a maximum stay of seven years.

In addition to the J-1 visa, the J-2 visa is available for the spouse and/or dependents of the J-1 visa holder. The J-2 visa allows the spouse and/or dependents to travel and stay with the primary visa holder.

Where Do I Start?

Applicants must first apply for and be accepted into their chosen program. After choosing your program, find and contact a designated sponsor that offers that specific program. Designated sponsors, which are unique to J-1 visa holders, are organizations that are designated by the Department of State and administer the exchange program. They provide the connections between J-1 participants and the schools, employers, or hosts the J-1 participants wish to study under and/or work for, as well as monitor the participants’ safety, health, and overall well-being throughout the program. These sponsors screen select participants according to criteria established by each program category. These criteria may include:

  • Interviews
  • English language proficiency
  • Sufficient medical insurance
  • Program fees

If you are accepted into a program, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Some sponsors include the SEVIS-I-901 fee as part of the program fees, but other sponsors or programs may require you to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee to the Department of Homeland Security. Check with your sponsor for details.

Once enrolled in SEVIS, you will be issued a Form DS-2019. This form is a basic document that identifies the participant, the sponsor, and the outlines of the program you have been accepted into, including the beginning and end dates.

Once you have your Form DS-2019, it’s time to apply for your visa.

Applying for the J Visa (J-1 and J-2)

J-1 visas require application through the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country. Each country may have different instructions, so check your specific embassy’s website for complete instructions.

  1. Fill out the online application for a nonimmigrant visa through the U.S. Department of State’s website. This application, Form DS-160, will require you to upload a photograph of yourself. Once completed, print out your application form confirmation page.
  2. Schedule your interview. Bring your application confirmation page to your interview. Certain ages, such as 13 and younger and 80 and older, do not require an interview, but consular officers may ask one of you. Schedule your interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country. Be sure to apply early, because appointment times and dates vary by location, season, and visa category. Check the Visa wait times website for more details.
  3. Pay the fee. A visa from certain countries may require an additional visa reciprocity fee, meaning that if your country charges a fee for its own similar visa, the United States will charge one as well. However, if you are a government-sponsored visitor, these fees are waived.
  4. Bring the required documents. As well as the application confirmation page, you must also bring your passport, a photograph of yourself, and if you are applying for the J-1 as a trainee, a DS-7002 form. Check your U.S. Embassy website for any additional items required.

For J-2 visas, applications must be submitted for each dependent, and can be submitted either during the application for the J-1 visa or later. J-2 visas also require health insurance.

What If I’m Not Eligible?

There are a few reasons why your visa application may be denied. Some of the most common are:

  • Incomplete applications or documentation – if this happens, submit the proper documents as soon as possible. If you do not supply the needed information within a year, you must reapply and pay the fee again.
  • Immigrant intent – if, during the application process, you did not provide sufficient proof that you intend to return to your home country after your stay in the United States. You must demonstrate you have strong ties, such as your job, home, or family and friends to come back to. Once you are able to demonstrate your strong ties, you must reapply for the visa, pay the fee, and reschedule an interview.

U.S. immigration law can be difficult to navigate, as our laws and their interpretation are always changing, and new legislation is constantly in the works. Our knowledgeable New York immigration attorneys at Pollack, Pollack, Isaac & DeCicco, LLP, are available five days a week to guide you through the ins and outs of your visa application, so give us a call at 646-779-2896 or contact us online to get started.

 

Immigration News from ILW.COM
FAQs
  • Q: My employer wants to sponsor me to get a green card – can they?

    If you entered the United States without visa and are working here without legal documentation, your employer may be able to help you. But it’s important to understand that just because your employer wants to help doesn’t mean you will be able to obtain a green card. The process for obtaining a green card is complicated and depends on many factors, including your prior history (and your family’s prior history) in the United States. So it’s good that your employer wants to help but the first step is to call us for an interview so we can understand more about your situation.

  • Q: How can I get a work permit?

    A work permit is a common way of referring to an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which is issued by the Immigration Service (which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security). Under U.S. law, you need a work permit or EAD in order to become a legal employee of a U.S. company. Many lawyers will promise to get you a work permit, but you have to be careful about this. The catch is that you can’t simply apply for a work permit or EAD in itself. In order to apply for a work permit you have to make an application for legal status in this country on some other basis. Don’t believe any other lawyer or person who tells you it’s an easy thing to get a work permit. Call us for an interview and we can explain to you how the process and immigration laws in the United States really work.

  • Q:  Can I apply for deferred action now?

    As a result of the injunction issued by the District Court in Texas, applications for the expanded DACA program and DAPA are currently on hold. The Department of Homeland Security is not currently accepting requests for the expansion of DACA, as originally planned. Until further notice, it has suspended the plan to accept requests for DAPA.

  • Q: Does the new executive order or court injunction change Deferred Action protection under existing DACA?

    The Court’s order does not affect the existing DACA. Individuals may continue to come forward and request initial grant of DACA or renewal of DACA pursuant to the guidelines established in 2012. This ruling only delays the start of DAPA and the expansion of DACA.

  • Q:  Who can I contact for more help or information?

    It’s important that you speak with a qualified attorney who can explain all the options and issues relating to your immigration status.  Do not take advice about your immigration case from a notary public or an immigration consultant.  The U.S. immigration laws and rules are very complicated and many people take advantage of undocumented immigrants, making promises and charging money without providing honest advice.  Contact only a qualified immigration lawyer for legal advice about your case. If you encounter 'notarios' who offer legal advice without a license, report it.

  • Q; What should I do now?

    You can begin preparing now! Even though DHS is not currently accepting applications under DAPA or the expanded DACA programs, individuals who are potentially eligible for Deferred Action status should begin preparing their applications now. It is very likely that the Texas decision will be overturned and there will probably be a rush of applicants when that happens. Individuals should be ready with their applications and start now by gathering the necessary documentation and seeking good counsel to give themselves the best chance for success and to avoid potential problems.

  • Q: I haven’t seen my mother since I came to the U.S. 10 years ago. Can I apply for a visa so she can join me here?

    If you are a U.S. citizen or have a Green Card, then yes, you can apply for a visa for your family members. But the process can take a long of time, depending on your own status. If you’re a U.S. citizen, it might take 8 months to a year to process the application. The waiting time will be much longer if you’re a Green Card holder. Generally, the sooner you start the process the better, so contact one of our attorneys now to get started or browse our site to learn more about the different types of visas available for family members.

  • Q: My grandma is sick back home – can I go visit her?

    Whether you can travel abroad depends on your immigration status. If you have been granted DACA or if you have a Green Card in hand – you still must ask for advanced permission in order to leave the country. This is called advanced parole. Obtaining advance parole is relatively inexpensive. But it is not without risk, because there is really no way to guarantee that you will be able to return. Your return is ultimately within the discretion of the authorities at the point of your reentry to the U.S.

  • Q: Can our company sponsor an employee to get a green card?

    If one of your employees entered the United States without visa and is working here without legal documentation, you may be able to help this person obtain legal immigration status. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will be able to obtain a green card. The process for obtaining a green card is complicated and depends on many factors, including a person’s prior history (and their family’s prior history) in the United States. It’s definitely helpful to their case if you, as their employer, are willing to help, but the first step is to have the employee call us for an interview so we can understand more about their situation.

  • Q: What is a work permit?

    A work permit is a common way of referring to an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which is issued by the Immigration Service (which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security). Under U.S. law, an employee needs a work permit or EAD in order to become a legal employee of a U.S. company. Many lawyers will promise to get undocumented immigrants work permit. But you have to be careful about this. The catch is that you can’t simply apply for a work permit or EAD in itself. In order to apply for a work permit a person must make an application for legal status in this country on some other basis. So don’t let your employees get gulled into believing that it’s easy to get a work permit by some lawyer or hustler on the street corner. Call us for an interview and so we can explain to your employees how the process and the immigration laws in the United States really work.

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