Exchange Visitors J-1 Visa

The U.S. Government initiated the Exchange Visitor program to allow foreign nationals and its people respectively, to learn about each other’s cultural and educational exchanges. This is essentially a program that affords an opportunity for foreign nationals to represent their culture in the United States, learn about the American culture, under some classes work among Americans and the opposite.

The two most common visa types that are utilized under the Exchange Visitor program are the J-1 and Q-1 classifications. Both of these visas, mindful of rather specific statutory differences are to allow foreign nationals to participate in such exchange visitor programs.


• You may come to the U.S. to participate in a specific exchange visitor program approved by the United States Department of State (DOS) (formerly the U.S. Information Agency (USIA)). DOS has approved a large array of such special programs, sponsored by schools, businesses and a variety of organizations and institutions, meant to foster international cooperation through exchange of information. The programs are intended for students, scholars, trainees in business and industry, teachers, research assistants and international visitors on cultural missions.

• You may work legally in the U.S. if work is part of your approved program or if you receive permission to work from the official program sponsor.

• You may travel in and out of the U.S. or remain there until the completion of your exchange visitor program.

• Visas are available for accompanying relatives.

• Your accompanying relatives may work in the U.S. if they receive special permission from the INS and the money is not needed to support you.


• Your activities are restricted to studying, working or otherwise participating in the specific exchange visitor programs for which your visa has been approved.

• You must first be accepted as a participant in an exchange visitor program approved by the DOS before you can apply for a J-1 visa.

• Exchange visitors participating in certain types of programs may be required to return to their home countries for at least two years before they are permitted to get a green card or change to another nonimmigrant status or to have an L or H visa petition approved on their behalf.

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