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J1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program

J1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program

By Julie Sparks in Visas and Green Cards | on 2023-08-08 14:12:12

J-1 visas, also known as exchange visitor visas, are given to nonimmigrants who are coming to the United States as part of an officially approved exchange program in the arts, education, or sciences. The exchange program is intended to foster intellectual and cultural exchanges between the U.S. and other countries. Beneficiaries of J-1 visas are typically professors, short-term scholars, researchers, teachers, students, au pairs, or specialists in various fields. 

At J. Sparks Law, PLLC, our visa attorneys help clients in the Austin area apply for and obtain J-1 visas whenever possible, and we are here to help you as well.

young happy attractive exchange student girl having fun in town visiting Lviv city reading tourist guide book having fun outdoors in tourism and travel vacation concept

J-1 Exchange Visa Process

To apply for a J-1 visa, you must first have a sponsor who can be a public or private institution that is approved by the U.S. Department of State (DOS). DOS has the primary role in administering the J-1 exchange visitor program. To get the process started, you will need to file a Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status with DOS. Your sponsoring agency will give you this form. 

It is important that you have an experienced visa attorney to work with you and your sponsor to make sure all the steps necessary are taken and the required documents and information are submitted for seamless processing and approval of your application.

Once you receive the DS-2019 form, you can then apply for a J-1 visa through DOS at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your native or other country where you wish to have the visa processed. 

A common question we hear is how long it takes to process the visa, and the answer is that it depends on your native country. For example, applicants from Bogota can have their J-1 visa processed within 22 days, while those from countries like China can expect a decision within two days of submitting their application and paying the required fee.

You should apply for your J-1 visa as soon as possible but note you cannot travel on the visa more than 30 days before your program begins. You should base your application on your program’s start date and allow at least 30-60 days to prepare, file and have your visa processed. Applying too close to your program start date risks the visa not being approved before your program start date, which will create complications for you.

J-1 Visa and Employment

Some J-1 visa holders come to the U.S. specifically to work, but others do not. As a J-1 visa holder, you are authorized to work but only under the specific terms of your sponsor’s exchange program. It is important to check with your sponsor and get more information about employment restrictions that may apply to you while in the U.S.

J-1 Dependents

Spouses and unmarried children who are under 21 of J-1 visa holders are eligible to be given J-2 nonimmigrant visas. These close relatives are also entitled to employment authorization, but their income cannot be used to support you. 

Learn More from Our Austin Visa Lawyers

If you are in the Austin area and wish to apply for a J-1 exchange visa, contact our office and speak to one of our experienced immigration lawyers about how we can help you.

Julie Sparks

Julie Sparks is Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Immigration and Nationality Law, one of a few such attorneys in Texas. After 15 years of practice in this field, she has represented immigrants from more than 70 different countries.

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