J-1 Visa

J-1 Visa: Foreign Exchange



  • The J-1 visa allows students, scholars, trainees in business and industry, research assistants, teachers, and international visitors on cultural missions come to the U.S. to participate in a variety of informational exchange programs sponsored by schools, businesses, and various organizations and institutions.
  • J-1 visas can be issued quickly, with approval from one to two days if filed at home consulates, or one to three months if filed in the U.S.
  • You may work legally in the U.S. if it is part of your program (i.e., trainee in a business) or if you receive permission to work from your program sponsor.
  • Travel in and out of the U.S. is allowed until the completion of your program.
  • Visas are also available for immediate family members (i.e., spouse and children).
  • Immediate family members (spouse and/or unmarried children under 21 years of age) may work in the U.S. under special permission from the CIS and if the money is not needed to support you.



  • You may only participate in the visitor exchange program under which your visa was approved (e.g., an approved camp counselor cannot participate in an au pair program).
  • You must be accepted into an USIA-approved program before you can apply for the J-1 visa.
  • Participants in certain types of programs may be required to return to their home country for a minimum of two years before they are permitted to obtain a green card or change to another nonimmigrant status.



You qualify for a J-1 exchange visitor visa if you fall under one of the following: student, scholar, trainee, teacher, professor, research assistant, medical graduate, international visitor and are participating in a USIA-approved study, research, or cultural enrichment program. You must already be accepted into the program before applying for a J-1 visa.



1. You must be visiting the U.S. to either work, study, teach, train, or observe U.S. culture in an USIA-approved exchange visitor program.

2. Acceptance into an USIA-approved exchange visitor program is mandatory before applying for a J-1 visa.

3. You must have sufficient funds to adequately cover your expenses while in the U.S.

4. A sufficient knowledge of English is required to effectively participate in your program.

5. You must intend to return home after your status expires.


Validity of J-1 Program

The validity of the program varies according to specific programs:

Secondary School Students: one year maximum.

College and University Students: duration of degree program plus an additional 18 months of practical training (the student must apply for this training).

Foreign Medical Graduate Students: length of time necessary to complete their training program, with a maximum of seven (7) years.

Other Medically Related Programs (not foreign medical graduates): duration of their education program plus 18 months of practical training, both totaling not more than three (3) years.

Teachers, Professors, Research Scholars, and People with Specialized Skills: no more than three (3) years.

International Visitors: one year maximum.

Business and Industrial Trainees: eighteen month maximum.

Au Pairs: one year maximum, with no extensions.

Camp Counselors: four months.