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May a J-1 Visa holder work for a Non-Sponsor Employer?

Generally, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) regulations require J-1 holders to work only for their program sponsors. In some situations, however, J-1 holders may work for non-sponsor employers provided they meet eligibility requirements, which vary depending on the applicable category.

J-1 research scholars are eligible to work for a non-sponsor employer in a closely related research program for a maximum duration of six months provided that the program has been approved (written authorization required) by the original sponsor. This allows J-1 scholars to lecture and consult at institutions not listed on their IAP-66.

J-1 students are eligible for employment if they meet the following conditions:

  • Employment is limited to on campus if pursuant to scholarship, fellowship or assistantship or off-campus if it is a summer work/travel exchange program or if it is necessary because of serious, urgent, and unforeseen economic circumstances that have arisen since acquiring J-1 status.
  • Employment is only available to students in good academic standing, who continue in a full course of study, and who have been approved by a school officer.
  • Employment may not exceed 20 hours per week except during official school breaks and annual vacation.

An alternative available for J-1 students is the Practical Training Program. J-1 college students or graduate students (baccalaureate or master’s) and doctoral students are eligible to receive relevant practical training upon graduation, up to eighteen (18) months and up to thirty-six (36) months, respectively. Practical Training Program participants do not need to obtain Department of State or USCIS approval. Rather, a completed Practical Training Program application includes an approval letter from a designated exchange program officer, along with the J-1 Visa holder's passport, completed Forms IAP-66 and I-94.

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

J-1 General Issues

Specific Information on J-1 Waivers