Exchange Visitors (J-1)

International Exchange Visitors, Interns, Trainees and Research Scholars

The J-1 nonimmigrant visa classification is available for foreign nationals coming to the United States to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program approved by the U.S. Department of State to gain practical experience, study, perform research or gain skills that can be brought back to the individual’s home country.  The J-1 is commonly utilized by teachers, students, research scholars, interns, business trainees, international and government visitors, medical interns, camp counselors and au pairs.

U.S. sponsors/employers may utilize their own U.S. Department of State approved J-1 program or use another organization’s established and approved J-1 program.  There are several well-established organizations that allow companies to utilize the organization’s J-1 program to seek sponsorship of J-1 applicants.

Trainee and Intern Programs

Trainee Qualifications

An individual may qualify as a J-1 Trainee if he/she possesses

  • A degree or professional certificate from a post-secondary academic institution outside the United States and at least one (1) year of prior related work experience in his/her occupational field acquired outside the United States; or
  • Five (5) years of work experience outside the United States in his/her occupational field.

Intern Qualifications

An individual may qualify as a J-1 Intern if he/she is:

  • Currently enrolled in and pursuing studies at a degree or certificate granting post-secondary academic institution; or
  • Graduated from a degree or certificate granting post-secondary academic institution no more than twelve (12) months prior to the exchange visitor program begin date to participate in the internship program.

General Information for Trainees and Interns

The intern must be coming to the United States to participate in a program in his/her specific academic field.

  • Program must be related to the trainee’s occupational field or the intern’s field of study
  • Trainee programs have a maximum length of 18 months, except those in the Agriculture and Hospitality and Tourism are limited to 12 months
  • The maximum duration for an intern program is 12 months
  • Hospitality and Tourism training and internship programs of 6 months or longer must contain at least three departmental or functional rotations.

Post-Secondary Students
May study at degree granting post-secondary accredited academic institutions
Undergraduates may stay for the length of time needed to complete studies or 18 months, whichever is less.  Postdoctoral students may stay for up to 36 months.

Short-Term Scholars
May come to the U.S. to lecture, consult, attend seminars, workshops, conferences, study tours, professional meetings, or similar types of activities for up to 4 months. It is possible to extend for 2 additional months.

Professors and Scholars
May come to the U.S. for teaching, lecturing and researching for a initial period of up to 3 years. It is possible to extend for 2 additional years.

Special Rule – The Two Year Foreign Residence Requirement – Section 212(e)
Some J-1 nonimmigrants may be required to return to their home country for two years after completion of their stay in the U.S. in J-1 status.  J-1 nonimmigrants subject to this rule are not eligible for U.S. lawful permanent residence or H or L visas until they have spent two years in their home country after completion of their J-1 stay in the United States.  Very limited waivers of this requirement are available.

Generally, J-1 nonimmigrants subject to the two year foreign residence requirement are persons who either entered the United States in J-1 status in a field that is on the U.S. Department of State’s “Skills List” for their home country or their J-1 participation was financed in whole or part by a United States or other governmental agency.

The “Skills List” is divided by country.  The list details those occupations and skills deemed in great demand in the specific country.  Generally speaking, non-industrialized nations are listed in the “Skills List.”