The “J-1” Student Visa
The J-1 visa for exchange visitors is expansive and covers several groups of foreign nationals, including research scholars, short-term scholars, college and university students, secondary school students, and summer students participating in a travel or work program. Fulbright scholars are the quintessential example of a J-1 student. Like all other J-1 categories, these students must be fluent in English, have sufficient funding for the program, possess medical insurance, and maintain a residence abroad. It is not uncommon for J-1 student visas to come with a 2-year home residency requirement.
J-1 students must have a SEVIS Form DS-2019 issued by their school. Upon completion of their studies they are afforded a 30-day grace period. Spouses and minor children receive their own DS-2019 and J-2 status. If the principal J-1 visa holder is subject to the 2-year home residency requirement, then their dependents are as well.
The “J” Visa for Cultural Exchange Programs Certified by the Dept. of State
Roughly 130,000 foreign nationals enter the United States each year under the J-1 exchange program or trainee/intern classifications – more than the H-2 temporary worker program. These individuals often find summer employment in hotels, restaurants, and amusements parks across the U.S. To apply, foreign nationals will select a program sponsor that will facilitate their placement and employment in the U.S., complete with a Form DS-2019. These sponsors are designated by the Department of State and place J-1 workers with U.S. employers in jobs that offer cultural exchange opportunities and, for trainees and interns, professional job training. The remainder of the application process is conducted through the consulate to obtain the J-1 visa. J-1 visas obtained through a cultural exchange summer program do not always come with the 2-year residency requirement.