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U.S. Exchange Visitor Visa: 2018 Update

Learn the J-1 visa basics, how the program works, who may apply, what you can and cannot do while in the U.S.


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U.S. Exchange Visitor Visa: 2018 Update
Updated January 14, 2018 | United States of America

J-1 Visa Overview

The Exchange Visitor program was created under the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (MECEA) to increase understanding between the peoples of the United States and other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange.

The program is administered by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) which designates sponsors to conduct exchange programs. The sponsors select and admit qualified program applicants (QPAs) from participating countries like the Philippines.

QPAs are issued the J-1 visa. The spouse and./or minor children of the J-1 visa applicant are issued the J-2 visas.

Program/Categories

The State Department designates more than 1,500 for-profit, non-profit, or federal, state, and local government entities to conduct such private sector programs. Exchange visitors on private sector programs may study, teach, do research, share their specialized skills, or receive on-the-job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years. In addition to the thirteen private sector exchange categories, the J-1 visa program also includes two categories that are publicly funded: International Visitors and Government Visitors.

The J-1 visa applicant is sponsored by accredited organizations (authorized by the US Department of State to sponsor a number of exchange visitor programs) not by employers. Hence the J-1 visa is not a work visa.

Current Programs / Categories

  1. Professors/Research Scholars: These two categories promote the exchange of ideas, research, and linkages between research and academic institutions in the United States and foreign countries.
  2. Short-term Scholars: Professors, scholars, and other accomplished individuals travel on a short-term visit to lecture, observe, consult, train, or demonstrate special skills at U.S. research and academic institutions, museums, and libraries.
  3. Trainees: Professionals with a degree, professional certificate, or relevant work experience gain exposure to U.S. culture and receive training in U.S. business practices through a structured and guided work-based program.
  4. Interns: College and university students or recent graduates gain exposure to U.S. culture as they experience U.S. business practices in their chosen occupational field.
  5. College and University Students: Students study at a U.S. degreegranting post-secondary accredited academic institution, participating in a degree, non-degree, or student internship program.
  6. Teachers: Educators teach fulltime at a U.S. accredited primary or secondary school or in an accredited pre-kindergarten program.
  7. Secondary School Students: Secondary school students study at an accredited public or private high school and live with an American host family or at an accredited boarding school.
  8. Specialists: Experts in a field of specialized knowledge observe U.S. institutions and methods of practice and share their knowledge with their U.S. colleagues.
  9. Alien Physicians: Foreign medical graduates pursue graduate medical education or training at a U.S. accredited school of medicine or scientific institution, or pursue programs involving observation, consultation, teaching, or research.
  10. Camp Counselors: Post-secondary students, youth workers, teachers or others with specialized skills interact with and supervise American youth at U.S. camps.
  11. Au Pairs: A young adult lives with a host family for 12 months and experiences U.S. culture while providing child care and taking courses at an accredited U.S. post-secondary institution.
  12. Summer Work Travel Program: College and university students at foreign universities gain first-hand experience as they work in seasonal or temporary jobs and travel in the United States during their summer.
  13.  Government Visitors: Distinguished international visitors develop and strengthen professional and personal relationships with their American counterparts in U.S. federal, state, or local government agencies.
  14. International Visitors: Reserved for State Department-sponsored and funded exchange participants.

Philippine participants in 2017

The 2017 program report of the State Department shows the number of Philippine applicants in various categories.

J-1 Program Category

Official description

Participants, 2017

Alien Physician

Foreign medical graduates pursue graduate medical education or training at a U.S. accredited school of medicine or scientific institution, or pursue programs involving observation, consultation, teaching or research

27

Au Pair

Young adult lives with a host family for 12 months and experience U.S. culture while providing child care and taking courses at an accredited U.S. post-secondary institution.

0

Camp Counselor

0

Intern

College and university students or recent graduates gain exposure to U.S. culture as they experience U.S. business practices in their chosen occupational field.

2,193

Secondary Student

Study at an accredited public or private high school and live with an American host family or at an accredited boarding school.

0

Summer Work/Travel

College and university students at foreign universities gain first-hand experience as they work in seasonal or temporary jobs and travel in the U.S. during summer.

4,037

Teacher

Educators teach fulltime at a U.S. accredited primary or secondary school or in an accredited pre-kindergarten program.

472

Trainee

Professionals with a degree or professional certificate, or relevant work experience gain exposure to U.S. culture and receive training in U.S. business practices through a structured and guided work-based program

1,759

Designated Sponsor

The U.S. State Department authorizes accredited designated sponsors. The sponsor may be U.S. government, academic and private entities to conduct educational and cultural exchange programs. Program sponsors screen and select eligible applicants as well as support and monitor those admitted into the U.S. on J-1 programs for the specific sponsor.

To retain status, the Designated Sponsor must have at least five (5) J-1 participants yearly.

How to find a Designated Sponsor Organization in the Philippines (or other countries)

You may click on this official link from the U.S. Department of State - https://j1visa.state.gov/sponsors/sponsor-by-country/?program=all

J-1 Visa Acceptance Placement and Processing Fees

Sponsors with offices or authorized agents in the Philippines assist and coordinate the selection and application process. The fees charged for applicants are determined by the length of the internship or training which could include the following services:

  • Finding a suitable employer in the United States
  • Obtaining a DS-2019 form (J-1 visa)
  • Providing interview preparation
  • Medical insurance for the whole duration of the program
  • Administrative costs associated with the visa processing
  • Orientation and other pre-departure advisory services
  • Assistance for housing arrangement
  • Advice for tax reimbursement
  • 24 hour emergency assistance
 

PROGRAM LENGTH

ADMINISTRATIVE FEE

UPON PLACEMENT

Work & Travel

3/4 months

550 USD

1,000 USD

Internship

6 months

550 USD

2,650 USD

Internship / Management Training

12 months
 

550 USD
 

3,800 USD
 

Management Training

18 months

550 USD

4,850 USD

 

 J-1 visa and medical insurance included

General Conditions and Guarantees Template

The following conditions are normally incorporated in a selection qualification and placement agreement between a designated sponsor (or through its country representative) and the applicant.

  • The cost of the Embassy and SEVIS fees required to participate in a cultural exchange program in the United States are not included.
  • Once a training or internship placement Offer Letter has been signed by a host employer for a specific candidate, the candidate is considered placed and full program fee is due within 2 business days.
  • If the candidate decides to withdraw from the program before the issuance of the DS-2019 but after the employer has signed the job offer, 35% will be withheld and account for the administrative costs of Placement International.
  • In case of visa denial after the second interview at the US Embassy, the candidate must return the DS-2019 form and submit proof of denial from the American Embassy or Consulate, 50% will be withheld and account for the administrative costs of Placement International. No refund will be processed if the original DS-2019 and the denial letter from the US Embassy is not sent to the visa Sponsor.
  • If the candidate decides to cancel his program after arrival to the U.S. or is laid off or fired by the host employer, he will not be entitled to any refund.
  • The length of the program agreed with the host company and the candidate is based solely on performance and does not bind the host company to the full term if the candidate does not meet the property’s requirements. If the host company has layoffs or closes for any reason, Placement International will assist the candidate in finding a new host property.

What J-1 visa holder can do:

  • Specific activities listed in the DS 2019 issued by the designated sponsor e.g. study, train or be employed.
  • Arrive in the U.S. no more than 30 days before program starts
  • Stay in the U.S. for 30 days after program completion

Documents needed for J-1 Visa

  • Form DS 2019 – Certificate of Eligibility issued by the program sponsor
  • Passport valid for travel to the U.S.
  • Completed DS 160 Nonimmigrant visa application online
  • Fee receipt showing payment of the $140 visa application fee
  • 2 x 2 color photograph.

After the J-1 Program

A J-1 visa is specific to a program and current sponsor. The J-1 visa holder is then expected to leave the U.S.  You may apply for a 2nd J-1 program (in a different category and with a different J-1 sponsor) to be readmitted into the 2nd J-1 visa program.

Stay before and after the program

J-1 visa holders may not arrive in the U.S. for more than 30 days before program start indicated in the DS 2019.  Upon completion of the program, a grace period of 30-days may be granted to leave the U.S.

Change of Nonimmigrant Status

Those admitted in J-1 status may apply for change of nonimmigrant category (status) in the U.S. The most current I-539 Application to Extend Stay or Change Nonimmigrant Status does not include J1 and his or her dependents from changing status as long as they remain in valid status.  Those not eligible to file I-539 are aliens in transit (C ) or in transit without a visa (TWOV); crewman (D) a fiancé(e) or dependent of fiancé(e) (K-1, K-2) and K-3, spouse of US citizen, K-4 child of K3).

Employment of J-2 (Spouse and minor children)

The accompanying spouse and minor children of a J-1 exchange visitor may accept employment only with authorization by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Form I-765 Employment Authorization. A request for employment authorization must be made on Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with fee, as required by the Service, to either the USCIS Lock Box in Phoenix or Arizona.   

Application for Permanent Residency / Adjustment of Status

While the principal Exchange Visitor visa holder and dependents may apply for change of status to another nonimmigrant category, the J-1 and J-2 dependents are not eligible to apply for adjustment of status to that of a permanent resident inside the United States if

  1. The J-1 visa is subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement but,
  2. A waiver of the foreign residency requirement has been obtained and
  3. A favorable waiver recommendation letter has been issued by the U.S. Department of State.

When is the two-year foreign residence for J-1 imposed?

There are three reasons why a J-1 visa is issued with this requirement:

  1. The J-1 program is funded in part or wholly by the United States government, the visitor’s government or an international organization
  2. The J-1 program is engaged in one or more of the skills listed on the Exchange Visitor Skills List for the J-1 visa holder’s country and
  3. The J-1 visa holder is receiving graduate medical education or training.

For the complete and update Skills List for the Philippines, click here - https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/skill-list-by-country/philippines.html

              

About the Authors

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer S. Aranda is the COO of IVC Immigrant Visa Center, Inc.

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