J-1 Exchange Visitor

The J-1 Exchange Visitor visa is used for a variety of purposes including: professors or research scholars, short-term scholars, trainees or interns, college or university students, non-academic specialists, foreign physicians, au pairs, camp counselors or summer travel/work programs. The J-1 Exchange Visitor visa, which allows professionals to train and foreign students to complete an internship in their particular field, are discussed below.

J-1 Internship Program Criteria

A student may participate in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Internship Program if he or she is being sponsored by a US host organization. The student must be enrolled in a degree granting post-secondary institution outside the US or be a graduate of such an institution within the last 12 months prior to the date of the internship. The student must also have sufficient English language skills.

J-1 Trainee Program Criteria

The J-1 Trainee visa requires an applicant to be sponsored by a US employer to train with the company for a period up to 18 months. The Trainee must have the minimum of a bachelor’s degree as well as at least one year of prior related work experience in their occupational field outside the US, or if the Trainee does not have a degree, then five years of work experience outside the US in their occupational field. The process to apply for this visa involves applying initially with a J-1 sponsor by setting out a detailed training plan. Once the J-1 document is issued the foreign trainee may apply for a J-1 visa at a local US Embassy or Consulate.

Occupational Categories

Both the J-1 Exchange Visitor Internship and Trainee programs are limited to specific occupational categories, including:

    • Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
    • Arts and culture;
    • Aviation;
    • Construction and building trades;
    • Education, social sciences, library science, counselling and social services;
    • Health related occupations;
    • Hospitality and tourism;
    • Information media and communications;
    • Management, business, commerce and finance;
    • Public administration and law; and
    • The sciences, engineering, architecture, mathematics and industrial occupations

Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement

Upon completion of their J-1 Exchange Visitor program certain exchange visitors are required to return to their home country, or country of last residence, for at least two years before they may qualify for another US immigrant or non-immigrant visa. J visa holders are subject to this foreign residence requirement if:

    • The program is financed in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by the US government or the government of the Exchange Visitor’s nationality or country of last residence.
    • The Exchange Visitor is a national or permanent resident of a country which has deemed the field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of that country, as shown on their Exchange Visitor Skills List. Note that many European countries, including Ireland, do not have a Skills List.
    • The exchange visitor entered the United States to receive graduate medical education or training.

There is a process to request a waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services can grant the waiver upon favorable recommendation by the US Department of State. The basis for the waiver may be based on possible persecution in the J-1 visa holder’s home country on account of race, religion or political opinion, or if the departure from the US would result in exceptional hardship on a US citizen or permanent resident spouse or child. In those instances, a “no-objection” waiver requiring a statement from the J-1 holder’s home country indicating it does not object to the J-1 visa holders decision not to return home may be required.