J-1 Consular Processing
The most important benefit of consular filing is that only consulates issue visas. When you go through a U.S. filing you get a status, not a visa. A J-1 status confers the same right to work or attend school as a J-1 visa, but it does not give you the ability to travel in and out of the U.S. Therefore, if you want travel privileges, you will at some time have to go through the extra step of applying for a visa at a U.S. consulate, even though you have already applied for and received exchange visitor status in the U.S. You are usually not eligible to process a status application in the U.S. unless you are currently maintaining legal status. If you are in the U.S. illegally, consular filing may be your only option.
A further plus to consular filing is that consular offices may work more quickly to issue nonimmigrant visas than USCIS offices do to process nonimmigrant statuses. Your waiting time for the paperwork to be finished may be shorter at a U.S. consulate abroad than at certain USCIS offices. A drawback to consular filing comes from the fact that you must be physically present in the country where the consulate is located in order to file there. If your application is ultimately turned down because it is suspected you are not going to return home when your participation in the exchange visitor program is completed, the consul officer will stop you from entering the U.S. on any nonimmigrant visa. He may even cancel some other nonimmigrant visa you already have, including a visitor’s visa.
Our immigration law offices specializes in J-1 visas whether applied at a consular post or the in the U.S. Give us a call for your free consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer.
The consulates will frequently require an interview before issuing an exchange visitor visa. During the interview, a consul officer will examine the forms and documents for accuracy. Documents proving your ability to support yourself while you are in the U.S. will be carefully checked as will evidence of ties to your home country.
During the interview, you will surely be asked how long you intend to remain in the U.S. Any answer indicating uncertainty about plans to return home or an interest in applying for a green card is likely to result in a denial of your J-1 visa. If you are subject to the two-year home residency requirement, the consul officer will probably discuss this with you to make certain you understand what it means.
Keep in mind that if you want a green card, a home residency requirement can significantly delay your reaching this goal. Because of new security requirements, you are unlikely to be approved for your visa on the same day as your interview. The consular officer will need to compare your name against various databases of people with a history of criminal activity, violations of U.S. immigration laws or terrorist affiliations. This can add weeks or months to the processing of your visa, particularly if you come from a country that the U.S. suspects of supporting terrorism.