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J-1 Exchange Visitor

Law Offices of Yu & Associates

What is the J-1 Visa Category?

J-1 visas are for people who want to participate in an exchange visitor program in the US. The J-1 visa is intended for students needing practical training that is not available in their home country to complete their academic program. The training must be directly related to the academic program. The J-1 Visa obligates the student to return to their home country for a minimum of two years after the end of their studies in the US.

There are basically two types of J-1 visas: (1) J-1 visas that do not have a two year ¡°Home Residency Requirement¡± (HRR); (2) J-1 visas that have the HRR restriction.

Who is Eligible for the J-1 visa?

The J-1 visa is applicable to the following:

  • Students at all academic levels
  • Au-pairs and nannies
  • Trainees obtaining on-the-job training with firms, institutions, and agencies
  • Teachers of primary, secondary, and specialized schools
  • Professors coming to teach or do research at institutions of higher learning
  • Research scholars
  • Professional trainees in medical and allied fields
  • Business and industrial trainees
  • International visitors coming for the purpose of travel, observation, consultation, research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs
  • Anyone who takes part in an exchange program approved by the U.S. Department of State

What are the Requirements for J-1 Applicants?

J-1 applicants must demonstrate that they:

  1. Plan to remain in the U.S. for a temporary, specific, limited period;
  2. Have evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States; and
  3. Have evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad, and other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.

Can the Spouse and Children of a J-1 Statusholder Come to the U.S.?

The spouse and children of a J-1 statusholder may be admitted to come to the U.S. under a J-2 visa. The spouse or child cannot stay in the U.S. for a period longer than the principal J-1 exchange visitor.

Can the Dependents of J-1 Holders Work or Study on a J Visa?

Yes, the dependents of J-1 holders may work in the US. The accompanying spouse and minor children of a J-1 exchange visitor may accept employment only with authorization from USCIS. J-2 employment may be authorized for the duration of the J-1 Principal holder¡¯s authorized stay as indicated on Form I-94, and J-2 dependents can apply for an extension of stay and a renewal of employment authorization with USCIS.

The dependents of J-1 can study on J visa and do not need to apply for a separate student visa.

What is the Two-Year Rule on the J-1 Visa?

The two-year Home Residence Restriction (HRR) requires J-1 exchange visitors to return to their home countries and physically stay there for at least two years after the end of their J-1 visit.

Can I Waive the Two-year Home Residence Restriction?

Yes, you can. A J-1 visa holder can apply for an HRR waiver from the U.S. Department of State as long as the J-1 visa has more than 6 months validity time and the J-1 visa status has been kept for more than one year. J-1 visa holders can apply for the waiver based on the following circumstances:

  1. "No objection" statement from visitor¡¯s home country
  2. Request from an interested U.S. Government Agency
  3. Claim of persecution in home country if visitor returns
  4. Claim of exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child if visitor returns to home country

May a J-1 Visa Holder Subject to the Two-Year Residency Requirement Change from J-1 to other Non-immigrant Visas outside the U.S.?

You may apply for a non-immigrant visa such as an O, E or F visa from a U. S. Consulate located in a foreign country. However, you may not obtain an H or L visa until you have received either a J-1 Waiver or until you have fulfilled the two-year foreign residency requirement.

Can I Change My J-1 to Another Nonimmigrant Visa While in the U.S.?

A J-1 holder subject to the 2 year home residency restriction rule may change to F-1 status, but not to an H-1 work visa or other non-immigrant visa unless he or she has obtained a waiver of the residency requirement.

Can a J-1 Visa Holder Subject to the Two-Year Rule Change to Another J-1 Program?

If you have not yet fulfilled your two-year HRR requirement and you change to another J-1 program, you may be subject to the two-year HRR restriction twice and will have to obtain two J-1 Waivers before changing to other nonimmigrant visas or applying for a green card.

When Does a J-1 Visa Holder Have to Leave the U.S.?

A J-1 visa holder is eligible to stay in the US for the amount of time listed on the DS-2019 plus 30 days to depart.


The above is intended as a general introduction and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion for your particular case. Please contact the Law Offices of Yu & Associates with any specific questions. Tel: (301) 838-8986, Email:, Address: 110 N Washington St., Suite 328E, Rockville, MD 20850.

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