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J-1 & J-2 Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is USCIS?

A: USCIS stands for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is an agency of the U.S. government under the Department of Homeland Security. USCIS is principally responsible for matters dealing with aliens in the United States. This includes jurisdiction over petitions for non-immigrant status and immigration status. Prior to March of 2003, the USCIS was called the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). For a brief period of time, it was known as the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS). It is also sometimes just referred to as the CIS. For purposes of this web site, we use the currently accepted name of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS.

Q: Who handles my case if I retain Z&A?

A: Our attorneys handle their clients' cases individually by preparing petition letters, contacting clients, and following up on pending cases. That is why we have more attorneys than clerks. Our clerks' main objective is to help attorneys prepare clients' packages. Each client's package will be reviewed by one of our experienced attorneys for final checking before being sent out to the USCIS.

Q: What is a J-1 Visa?

A: A J-1 Visa is issued toan Exchange Visitor who is participating in an established J Exchange program pre-approved by the State Department. Exchange Visitors onJ-1 visas include secondary school and college students, business trainees, trainees in flight aviation programs, primary and secondary school teachers, college professors, research scholars, medical residents or interns receiving medical training in the U.S., certain specialists, international visitors, and governmentvisitors.

Q: What is the two-year Foreign Residency Requirement for J visa holders?

A: This rule requires some J visa holders to reside in their home country for at least two years before they may obtain an H, L or other immigrant visa to enter the U.S. or adjust their status within the U.S. For FAQ’s about the Foreign Residency Requirement, please click here.

Q: What is a J-2 Visa?

A: A J-2 visa is issued to a child (under age 21) or spouse of a J-1 principal. Once the minor child reaches their 21st birthday, they no longer qualifyfor a J-2 visa or J-2 status. Also, if the J-2 spouse divorces the J-1 status holder, they no longer qualify for J-2 status. J-2 status holders may study and work while in the United States.

Ian is a J-2 holder. Ian may enroll in a college or university during his length of stay.

Alice is a J-2 holder. Alice may apply for Employment Authorization and work for anyone once Employment Authorization is obtained from the USCIS throughout her J-2 status period.

Q: How long can a J-1 program last?

A: The J program's duration depends on the program category and the J program sponsor. The J program sponsor has full discretion to extend the period within the maximum program's duration period. For more information on the maximum program duration, please click here.

Q: When my J status expires, do I have a grace period to legally stay in the US?

A: Yes, you still have 30 days grace period to legally stay in the US.

Q: My J status expired and I am in the middle of my 30-day grace period staying in the US, can I apply to change to another non-immigrant status at this stage?

A: If you are subject to two-year home country residency requirement, you cannot change to another non-immigrant status. If you are not subject to such requirement or have obtained a J waiver, you can change your status to another non-immigrant status within the 30 day.

Q: Where do I apply for a J-1 visa?

A: You apply for a J-1 visa at U.S. Consulate offices located abroad.

Q: Do I need to have a program sponsor before I can apply for the J-1 visa?

A: Yes. Before you are allowed to apply for a J-1 visa, you are required to have a program sponsor and be accepted into an Exchange Visitor Program.

Q: What other requirements do I have to meet in order to obtain a J-1 visa?

A: In addition to havinga program sponsor, the J-1 visa applicant must show the consular officer that they plan to stay in the U.S. for only a limited period of time, haveenough funds to cover all expenses in the U.S., and that there are significant, binding social and economic ties to the applicant’s country of residence.

Q: How long does it take to obtain a J-1 Visa?

A: The processing time for a J-1 Visa varies from country to country. To check the wait times for your specific country, please click here.

Q: What documents are needed to apply for a J-1 visa?

A: You need to provide the following documents to apply for a J-1 Visa: a completed Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility) issued by your program sponsor, your passport, completed Form DS-156 (Non-Immigrant Visa Application), Form DS-157 (Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application), and Form DS-158 (Contact Information and Work History), a 2x2 photograph, and other supporting documents. In addition, you are required to pay the relevant processing fee ($160) for each application.

Q: Is an interview required for the visa process?

A: Yes. Applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 are required to complete an interview at the consular embassy section. Applicants 13 and younger or 80 and older do not require interviews, unless required by the embassy or consulate.

Q: Are there any additional fees that I have to pay if I successfully receive a J-1 visa?

A: Maybe. The U.S. will only charge a visa issuance fee if the country you are residing (i.e. the country you are living in when you apply for your J-1 visa) in charges U.S. citizens for a similar type of visa.

For example the United Arab Emirates (UAE) charges $52 for a U.S. citizen to get a J-1 Visa to the United Arab Emirates. Therefore if a citizen of the UAE receives a J-1 visa to the U.S., he/she will have to a visa issuance reciprocity fee of $52.

Q: How do I determine my current legal status in the U.S. as a J-1 Status Holder?

A: To determine your U.S. status, please refer to Forms IAP-66 and I-94. When you entered the U.S., the immigration inspection officer would have marked "D/S" on your Form I-94. "D/S" means "Duration of Status" and indicates that your legal stay is for a certain limited period of time. The Exchange Program Period that is marked on your IAP-66 determines the length of your legal stay within the U.S.

Q: What is my J-1 Visa valid period?

A: The valid period of your J-1/J-2 visa is the period during which you may enter the U.S. This differs from the maximum duration of stay for your J program which defines maximum amount of time you may stay participating under your particular J program.

Q: My IAP-66 (Certificate of Eligibility) and I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) are still valid but my visa has expired. May I leave and re-enter the U.S.?

A: It depends. You will need a new visa to re-enter the U.S. Reapplying for a J-1/J-2 visa may be risky in some countries. Z&A can help you obtain a Third Country Visa at a U.S. Consulate located in a Mexican border city before you leave the U.S. For more information about Third Country Visas, please click here.

Q: Is a J-1 Visa holder allowed to work?

A: A J-1 holder is allowed to work for the J-1 program sponsor. A J-1 holder may not work for another employer without special authorization.

Q: How can a J-1 holder work for an employer other than the program sponsor?

A: A J-1 holder may work for institutions or companies within his/her specialty field, provided this work meets certain requirements and the J-1 program sponsor gives its written consent.

Q: How can an entity apply to become a J-1 program sponsor?

A: Educational Institutions, Private Companies, Research Institutions and Governmental Agencies are all examples of organizations that may qualify as J-1 program sponsors, BUT, the entity needs to be pre-approved by the Department of State. For more information about how to become a J-1 program sponsor, please click here to contact Z&A.

Q: I am a J-1 student. How long can I participate in Practical Training upon completion of my degree program?

A: You may be eligible to participate in a Practical Training Program upon graduation. The length of time varies depending on the degree awarded. If you have received your baccalaureate/master's degree you may enter a training program for a maximum period of eighteen (18) months, while post-doctoral individuals can receive practical training for a maximum period of thirty-six (36) months.

Q: I am a J-1 Researcher. May I change my status to a J-1 Student?

A: It depends. Some program sponsors require you to go abroad and apply for another J-1 visa under the new program before allowing you to adjust your status. Z&A offers Third Country Visa Services that allow you to apply for a J-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate located in a U.S.-Mexico border city without risk of prohibited re-entry. For more information about Third Country Visas, please click here.

Q: I am a short-term J-1 researcher (6 mos.). May I change toa long-term J-1 researcher?

A: It depends. Some sponsors may require you to obtain a new visa and re-enter the U.S. before allowing you to adjust your status. Z&A provides Third Country Visa services that can help you with this issue. For more information about Third Country Visas, please click here.

Q: What is the relationship between a J-1 Visa and an O-1 Visa?

A: There is no direct relationship between a J-1 Visa and an O-1 Visa. If a J-1 holder is not able to obtain a J-1 Waiver before his/her maximum term expires, an employer may apply for an O-1 Visa on behalf of the J-1 holder and they may go abroad to obtain an O-1 Visa via the Third Country Visa Process. For more information about Third Country Visas, please click here. For more information about O-1 visas and status, please click here.

Q: How do I get a J-2 visa for my spouse/child?

A: In order for your spouse to be eligible for a J-2 visa, your program sponsor must approve the accompaniment of your spouse or child and they will be issued their own DS-2019. The application procedure for a J-2 visa is the same as that for the J-1 Visa. The spouse or child can apply for a J-2 visa while the J-1 applicant is applying for their visa.

Q: Can the spouse/child apply for a J-2 visa after the J-1 principal has already travelled?

A: Yes. The spouse or child may complete SEVIS generated Form DS 2019 (approved by the sponsor), show proof that the principal applicant is maintaining his/her J visa status, copy of the J-1's (principal applicant's) visa, proof of relationship to the principal applicant, and proof of sufficient money to cover all expenses in the United States.

Q: Can a J-2 visa holder enter the US before the J-1 principal?

A: No. The spouse/child of the J-1 principal is not allowed to enter the U.S. before the J-1 principal does.

Q: Can the J-2 visa holder work?

A: Yes. A J-2 visa holder is permitted to work only after theyfileForm I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with the USCIS. After approval of this application, the J-2 visa holder is permitted to work.

Q: Is the J-2 visa holder allowed to study in the U.S. without being required to change to F-1 status?

A: Yes, a J-2 visa holder can study in the U.S. without changing to F-1 status.

For more information about J-1 visa, please refer to the following links:

J-1 General Issues

Specific Information on J-1 Waivers