One of the most overlooked visa categories is the J-1, or exchange visitor visa. While its applications are somewhat murky, it is routine for people to have several misconceptions about it even after receiving one. If you believe a J-1 visa might work best in your travels to the United States, it is imperative that you understand what it can and cannot do.
The J-1 visa is designed for those in study or work-based exchange programs—that is, people intending to say in the United States for a specific, temporary length of time. It is not uncommon for many to confuse this visa with an L-1 (a visa allowing workers to transfer between an international branch of their company and a United States branch) or an F-1 (a visa which permits study at an institution of higher education or at a trade school). There are specific categories into which an applicant must fall in order to have clearance to apply for a J-1. Categories include the following:
There are additional categories; however, these are by far the most common and tend to offer the most guidance in applying to a participating exchange program (which is required before you are permitted to apply for the visa; it is not unlike an H-1B applicant requiring a job offer before a visa will be adjudicated). Once you have been accepted into a program, you may then apply for a visa and go from there if approved.
The Two-Year Requirement
J-1 visa holders are subjected to one unique rule that must be fulfilled after their exchange program is complete: most are required to return to their home country for a two-year period. An exchange visitor must abide by this requirement if the following conditions exist: (1) if the program you participated in was financed either by your home country’s government or the U.S. government; (2) if you came to the U.S. to receive graduate medical education and/or training; and (3) if you come from a country that has designated your particular skill necessary for its development. You will almost always be advised in your program materials if the latter is true in your case.
Waiving the requirement is possible in some circumstances; there are specific grounds on which a waiver may be granted, notably if your home country issues what is referred to as a “No Objection” statement which allows you to remain. However, if you do not meet the grounds for a waiver, you must depart or run the risk of lapsing out of status, which can have future consequences.
Seek Experienced Assistance
This process can seem very intimidating to even the best-educated people. Engaging the services of a competent immigration lawyer can help. The dedicated Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC will advise you on what you need and what you may be required to do in order to have as few problems on your exchange program as possible. Please contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.
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