J-1 Visa Basics

The Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa category is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. Participants are integral to the success of the program. Here you can learn more about obtaining the J-1 Visa and other relevant visas.

J-1 Program

The J-1 Visa provides countless opportunities for international candidates looking to travel and gain experience in the United States. The multifaceted programs enable foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to teach, study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills or receive on the job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years.

The J-1 classification (exchange visitors) is authorized for those who intend to participate in an approved program for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training.

In carrying out the responsibilities of the Exchange Visitor Program, the Department of State designates public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors. J-1 nonimmigrants are therefore sponsored by an exchange program that is designated as such by the U.S. Department of State. These programs are designed to promote the interchange or persons, knowledge, and skills, in the fields of education, arts, and science.

Examples of exchange visitors include, but are not limited to:

  • Professors or scholars
  • Research assistants
  • Students
  • Trainees
  • Teachers
  • Specialists
  • Nannies/Au pairs
  • Camp counselors

Application Process

The U.S. Department of State plays the primary role in administering the J-1 exchange visitor program, so the first step in obtaining a J-1 visa is to submit a Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, (formerly known as an IAP-66). This form will be provided by your sponsoring agency. You should work closely with the officials at your sponsoring agency who will be assisting you through this process.  An official who is authorized to issue Form DS-2019 is known as a Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO). Your RO or ARO will explain to you what documents are needed in order to be issued a DS-2019.

After you have obtained a Form DS-2019, you may then apply for a J-1 visa through the U.S. Department of State at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so submitting your visa application as early as possible is strongly encouraged (though you may not enter the United States in J-1 status more than 30 days before your program begins).

Employment

Some J-1 nonimmigrants enter the United States specifically to work (as a researcher, nanny, etc.) while others do not. Employment is authorized for J-1 nonimmigrants only under the terms of the exchange program. Please check with your sponsoring agency for more information on any restrictions that may apply to you working in the United States.

Family of J-1 Visa Holders

Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age, regardless of nationality, are entitled to J-2 classification. Your spouse and children are entitled to work authorization; however, their income may not be used to support you.  To apply for work authorization as a J-2 nonimmigrant, your spouse or child would file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. For more information on the application procedures, see the “Work Authorization” page.

Au Pair Program
Through the Au Pair program, participants and host families take part in a mutually rewarding, intercultural opportunity. Participants can continue their education while experiencing everyday life with an American family, and hosts receive reliable and responsible childcare from individuals who become part of the family.

Au Pairs must be:
• Proficient in spoken English;
• A secondary school graduate or equivalent; and
• Between 18-and-26-years-old.
• Capable of fully participating in the program as evidenced by the satisfactory completion of a physical.
• Personally interviewed, in English, by an organizational representative who shall prepare a report of the interview which shall be provided to the host family; and
• Successful in passing a background investigation that includes verification of school, three, non-family related personal and employment references, a criminal background check or its recognized equivalent and a personality profile. Such personality profile will be based upon a psychometric test designed to measure differences in characteristics among applicants against those characteristics considered most important to successfully participate in the au pair program.
Benefits
Host Family Stay: Live with a family for 12 months, with the option to extend 6, 9, or 12 more months.
Professional Training: Receive a minimum of 32 hours of childcare training before you start.
Childcare Experience: Provide up to 10 hours a day/45 hours a week of childcare.
School Credit: Complete at least six hours of academic credit or equivalent in formal educational settings at an accredited U.S. post-secondary educational institution.
Financial Value: Receive up to $500 toward the cost of required academic course work. Room and board plus compensation for childcare work.
Camp Counselor Program
The Camp Counselor Program enables post-secondary students, youth workers, and teachers to share their culture and ideas with the people of the United States in camp settings throughout the country.

Camp Counselors must be:
• Sufficiently proficient in the English language to supervise and interact with American youth;
• A foreign post-secondary student, youth worker, teacher or individual with specialized skills; and
• At least 18-years-old.
Benefits
Financial value: Participants receive pay and benefits commensurate with those offered to their American counterparts at the camps.
More information
Camp Counselors will occasionally have to:
• Perform non-counseling duties as part of camp life, but not serve as “staff.”
• For example, they cannot serve as administrator personnel, cooks or menial laborers such as dishwashers or janitors.
College and University Student Program
Foreign students have the opportunity to study at American degree-granting post-secondary accredited academic institutions, or participate in a student internship program that will fulfill the educational objectives of the student’s degree program in his or her home country.

College/University Students must:
• Be financed directly or indirectly by the U.S. government, the government of their home country, an international organization of which the United States is a member by treaty or statute, or supported substantially by funding from any source other than personal or family funds;
• Be carried out according to an agreement between the U.S. government and a foreign government, or according to a written agreement between American and foreign educational institutions, an American educational institution and a foreign government or a state or local government in the United States and a foreign government; or Student is participating in a student internship program that will fulfill the educational objectives for the student’s degree program in his or her home country; or
• Pursue a non-degree program must be enrolled full-time in a prescribed course of study. The maximum duration of a non-degree program is 24 months inclusive of academic training.
Benefits
School Credit: University/college students may engage in degree-granting programs until completion or non-degree granting programs for no more than 24 months.
Employment: Students may engage in part-time employment under certain conditions, including good academic standing at their host institution.
Academic training: Students may participate in academic training with or without wages or other remuneration during their studies with the approval of the academic dean or adviser and the responsible officer at their sponsor organization.

Government Visitor Program
Through the Government Visitor program, distinguished international visitors develop and strengthen professional and personal relationships with their American counterparts in U.S. federal, state or local government agencies.

Government visitors must be:
• Selected by a U.S. federal, state or local government agency;
• Engaged in observation tours, discussions, consultations, professional meetings, conferences, workshops and travel; and
• An influential or distinguished person.
Benefits
Professional training: Participants consult, observe, train and demonstrate special skills on matters of shared interest.
Intern Program
Internship programs are designed to allow foreign college and university students or recent graduates to come to the United States to gain exposure to U.S. culture and to receive hands-on experience in U.S. business practices in their chosen occupational field.

Interns must be foreign nationals:
• Who are currently enrolled in and pursuing studies at a foreign degree- or certificate-granting post-secondary academic institution outside the United States; or
• Who have graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to their exchange visitor program start date.
Benefits
Practical Experience: The program bridges the gap between formal education and practical work experience.

International Visitor Program
The International visitor category is for people-to people programs, which seek to develop and strengthen professional and personal ties between key foreign nationals and Americans and American institutions.

International visitors must be:
• Selected by the United States Department of State;
• Engaged in consultation, observation, research, training or demonstration of special skills; and
• A recognized or potential leader in a field of specialized knowledge or skill.
Benefits
Cultural understanding: Recognized or potential foreign leaders participate in observation tours, discussions, consultations, professional meetings, conferences, workshops and travel as a way to better understand U.S. culture and society and contribute to a better knowledge of foreign cultures in the United States.

Physician Program
Through the Alien Physician program foreign physicians participate in U.S. graduate medical education programs or training at accredited U.S. schools of medicine.

Participants
Alien Physicians must:
• Have adequate prior education and training to participate satisfactorily in the program for which they are coming to the United States;
• Be able to adapt to the educational and cultural environment in which they will be receiving their education and training;
• Have the background, needs and experiences suitable to the program;
• Have competency in oral and written English;
• Have passed either Parts I and II of the National Board of Medical Examiners Examination, the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination, Step I and Step II, or the Visa Qualifying Examination (VQE) prepared by the National Board of Medical Examiners, administered by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates;
• Provide a statement of need from the government of the country of their nationality or last legal permanent residence. Providing written assurance to the Secretary of Health and Human Services that there is a need in that country for persons with the skills the alien physician seeks to acquire and the alien physician has filed a written assurance with the government of this country that he/she will return upon completion of the training; and
• An agreement or contract from a U.S. accredited medical school, an affiliated hospital or a scientific institution to provide the accredited graduate medical education, signed by the alien physician and the official responsible for the training.
Benefits
School credit: Graduate medical education or training in a specialty or subspecialty occupation.
More information
Non-clinical exchange participants must have:
• A designated United States university or academic medical center may issue an alien physician a Form DS-2019 to enable them to come to the United States for the purpose of observation, consultation, teaching or research if the sponsor signs and appends to the Form DS-2019 a certification which states, “this certifies that the program in which…is to be engaged is solely for the purpose of observation, consultation, teaching or research and that no element of patient care is involved;” or
• The dean of the involved accredited U.S. medical school or his designee must certify the following five points:
o The program is predominantly observation, consultation, teaching or research;
o Any incidental patient contact will be under the direct supervision of a U.S. citizen or resident alien who is licensed to practice medicine in the State in which the activity is taking place;
o The foreign national physician will not be given final responsibility for the diagnosis and treatment of patients;
o Any activities will conform fully with the State licensing requirements and regulations for medical and health care professionals in the State in which the program is being pursued; and
o Any experience gained will not be creditable towards any clinical requirements for medical specialty board certification.
Find a Physician SponsorCommon Questions
Program Sponsors
Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates:
The Department of State has designated the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) as the only sponsor for all alien physicians who wish to pursue a program of graduate medical education or training.
ECFMG is required to:
• Verify that the foreign national physicians meet J-1 eligibility requirements; and
• Upon establishing an applicant’s eligibility, ECFMG issues Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status. The physician may also request Form DS-2019 to enable dependents (spouse and unmarried, minor children) to apply for J-2 dependent status.
Common QuestionsSEVIS Information
Hosts
Host institutions are required to provide the J-1 physician with the approved clinical training. Each host institution designates a Training Program Liaison (TPL) who serves as the official representative to communicate with ECFMG.
Find a Physician SponsorCommon Questions

Professor and Research Scholar Program
The exchange of professors and research scholars promotes the exchange of ideas, research, mutual enrichment and linkages between research and academic institutions in the United States and foreign countries.
Professor and Research Scholars must:
• Not be a candidate for a tenure track position;
• Not have participated in and completed a professor or research scholar program within the last 24 months preceding the beginning date of their new program’s commencement;
• Not have participated in a J-Visa program for all or part of the 12-month period immediately preceding the start date of a professor or research scholar program unless they meet one of the following exceptions:
o The participant is currently in a professor or research scholar program and is transferring to another institution in the United States to continue their current J-1 program;
o The participant’s prior physical presence in the U.S. on a J-visa program was less than six months in duration; and
o The prior participation was as a short-term scholar.
Benefits
Educational enrichment: Scholars facilitate the exchange of ideas and research in a variety of fields between people of the United States and people of other countries.
Secondary School Student Program
Secondary school students travel to the United States to study at an accredited public or private high school and live with an American host family or at an accredited boarding school.
Secondary Students must:
• Be at least 15 years of age, but not more than 18 years and six months of age as of the program start date, or
• Not have finished more than 11 years of primary and secondary school, not including kindergarten; and
• Not have previously participated in a secondary school student academic year or semester exchange program or attended school in the United States in either F-1 or J-1 status.
Benefits
Extracurricular Experiences: Students may take part in school sanctioned and sponsored extra-curricular activities, including after school sports programs.
Accommodations: Students live with an American host family or at a U.S. boarding school.

Short-Term Scholar Program
Professors, research scholars and other individuals with similar education or accomplishments travel to the United States on a short-term visit for to lecture, observe, consult, train or demonstrate special skills at research institutions, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited academic institutions or similar types of institutions.

Short-Term Scholars must:
• Be a professor or research scholar or someone with similar education and or experience.
Benefits
Educational enrichment: Participants collaborate on special research projects, teach a semester at a college or university, or lecture, consult or observe in a variety of settings in education and research in the United States.

Specialist Program
Specialists are experts in a field of specialized knowledge or skills who provide opportunities to increase the exchange of ideas with American counterparts.

Specialists must:
• Be experts in a field of specialized knowledge or skill;
• Seek to travel to the United States for the purpose of the interchange of knowledge and skills among foreign and American specialists by observing, consulting or demonstrating their special knowledge or skills; and
• Not fill a permanent or long-term position of employment while in the United States.
Benefits
Educational enrichment: Participants experience an interchange of knowledge and skills among foreign and American specialists who are defined as experts in a field of specialized knowledge.
Limitations
The maximum duration of this program is one year.

Summer Work Travel Program
College and University students enrolled full time and pursuing studies at post-secondary accredited academic institutions located outside the United States come to the United States to share their culture and ideas with people of the United States through temporary work and travel opportunities.

Summer Work Travel Students must be:
• Sufficiently proficient in English to successfully interact in an English speaking environment;
• Post-secondary school students enrolled in and actively pursuing a degree or other full-time course of study at an accredited classroom based, post-secondary educational institution outside the United States;
• Have successfully completed at least one semester or equivalent of post-secondary academic study; and
• Pre-placed in a job prior to entry unless from a visa waiver country.
Benefits
The Summer Work Travel program provides foreign students with an opportunity to live and work in the United States during their summer vacation from college or university to experience and to be exposed to the people and way of life in the United States.

Teacher Program
Foreign teachers have the opportunity to teach in accredited primary and secondary schools in the United States.
Teachers must:
• Meet the qualifications for teaching in primary or secondary schools in their country of nationality or last legal residence;
• Be working as a teacher in the home country or country of legal residence at the time of application, or, if not working as a teacher, otherwise meet the eligibility qualifications and (a) have recently (within 12 months of application) completed an advanced degree and (b) have two years of full-time teaching experience within the past eight years;
• Have a degree-equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree in either education or the academic subject field in which they intend to teach;
• Have a minimum of two years (24 months) of teaching or related professional experience;
• Satisfy the standards of the U.S. state in which they will teach;
• Be of good reputation and character;
• Be seeking to enter the United States for the purpose of full-time teaching as a teacher of record at a primary (including pre-kindergarten) or secondary accredited educational institution in the United States (pre-kindergarten teachers must teach full-time, and at the pre-kindergarten level, may teach only language immersion at an accredited host school);
• Possess sufficient proficiency in the English language.
Benefits
Educational and cultural enrichment: Exchange teachers sharpen their professional skills and participate in cross-cultural activities in schools and communities, and they return to their home school after the exchange to share their experiences and increased knowledge of the United States and the U.S. educational system.
Repeat participation
• Teachers are eligible to repeat the program provided that they have resided outside the United States for two years and continue to meet the eligibility requirements.

Trainee Program
Training programs are designed to allow foreign professionals to come to the United States to gain exposure to U.S. culture and to receive training in U.S. business practices in their chosen occupational field.
A trainee must be a foreign national who:
• Has a degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution and at least one year of prior related work experience in his or her occupational field outside the United States; or
• Has five years of work experience outside the United States in the occupational field in which they are seeking training
Benefits
Practical Experience: Enhance the skills and expertise of exchange visitors in their academic or occupational fields through participation in a structure and guided training-based program.