Working Holiday in USA: J-1 Visa

J-1 Visa is granted to students and exchange program participants who travel to USA.

J-1 Visa 2020-01-08T16:09:53+00:00
Amongst the U.S non-immigrant visas are not only work visas, but also student and exchange program participant visas. These are otherwise known as working holiday visa USA. One of the visas which is designed for exchange program participants and students is the J-1 visa. The J-1 Visa USA encompasses a diverse group of people, who come to the U.S as part of a sponsorship program to study or work.

Who Can Get a J-1 Visa?

Those who can go to the U.S with a J-1 visa are:
  • Au Pairs
  • Camp Counselors
  • Government visitors
  • Interns
  • International visitors
  • Physicians
  • Professors and Research Scholars
  • Short-term Scholars
  • Specialists in different areas
  • University Students
  • Secondary School Students
  • Teachers
  • Trainees
  • Work and Travel Participants
The J-1 visa does not have a set cap on how many people can go to the U.S through sponsorship programs. However, it is necessary for anyone who is participating in an exchange program in one of the roles mentioned above. Even people who are from countries listed in the Visa Waiver Program need to get a J-1 visa if they are visiting the U.S as part of a program.

How to apply for the J-1 visa?

Applications for the J-1 visa include these steps:
  1. Potential participants must find a sponsor, as the J-1 visa is not granted to anyone without a sponsor. You must have health insurance coverage and it is the sponsor’s responsibility to ensure that you have purchased one.
  2. Apply through filing the DS-160 form online
  3. Pay the $160 visa application fee (those sponsored by a U.S agency are exempt from paying the fee)
  4. Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee of $180.
  5. Schedule and conduct the visa interview
  6. Submit the required documents for J-1 Visa

J-1 Visa Document Requirements

Since there are so many categories which fall under the J-1 visa, each one of them has different J-1 visa requirements. There are rules for the participants of the J-1 program, the sponsors or exchange visitor programs, and for employees or hosts. Here are the required documents for J-1 Visa application:
  • Passport
  • DS-160 confirmation barcode
  • Receipts that prove they have paid the fee
  • Two photographs as per the requirements
  • Form DS-2019 provided by sponsors via the SEVIS system
  • Form DS-7002 for interns or trainees
Once you collect all your required documents for J-1 visa, you can look at health insurance options. You can find the best plan that meets your needs and compare health insurance plans. Comparison marketplaces such as VisitorsCoverage, offer affordable health insurance coverage plans for visitors in the United States. 

Why do we advise to purchase a health insurance plan through VisitorsCoverage?

The United States is the country with the most expensive healthcare services in the world. For instance, a broken leg or broken arm will cost you $2,500, while staying at a US hospital for one night may cost over $10,000, on average.
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  • You will get the lowest rates and will get the necessary information on choosing the plan that suits you best.
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J-1 Visa Types

Au Pairs

The program matches au pairs from foreign countries with host families. Au pairs take care of the children and participate in academic programs.

Requirements for Au Pairs

  • Must be between 18 to 26 years old
  • Prove English proficiency
  • Have graduated from at least a secondary school
  • Pass a background and personality check
  • Participate in a 6 to 12 semester hours post-secondary academic program while in the U.S
  • Match host families and au pair applicants
  • Ensure that au pairs have enough experience with children and child development
  • Provide orientation and monitor the au pair while they are in the host family
  • Ensure the au pair does not work more than 10 hours/day or 45 hours/week
  • Ensure au pairs are financially compensated according to the law
  • Be U.S citizens
  • Compensate the au pair with a monthly stipend
  • Provide housing and meals for the au pair
  • Contribute $500 to the au pair’s academic work
  • Allow two weeks of paid vacation each year and one weekend off each month

Au Pair Benefits

  • Live with a host family for 12 months, with extension possibilities of 6, 9, or 12 months
  • Complete child care training
  • Enroll in academic studies
  • Get compensated for the child care and receive academic stipends

Au Pair Limitations

Au pairs cannot be placed in the following host families:

  • With an infant less than three months old, unless there is another adult present at home
  • With a child under 2 years old, unless the au pair has at least 200 hours of childcare experience
  • In homes of people related to the au pair
  • With special needs children unless the au pair can prove that they have completed training for special needs children.

Camp Counselors

Camp counselors work in U.S youth camps with children and others while sharing their culture.

Requirements for Camp Counselors

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Must be proficient in English
  • Must be students, youth workers, people with special skills, or teachers
  • Ensure that camp counselors have full information on their duties and responsibilities
  • Ensure they have health insurance
  • Ensure that camp counselors are qualified enough to serve in the position
  • Maintain SEVIS records
  • Monitor participants throughout their stay in the U.S.
  • Compensate the camp counselors in the same way as U.S counterparts
  • Ensure that camp counselors do not serve in other positions within the camp (staff and administration)

Camp Counselor Benefits

  • Receive the same financial compensation as U.S camp counselors

Camp Counselor Limitations

  • N/A

Government Visitors

Distinguished members of other countries visit the U.S through the invitation of a U.S government agency to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

Requirements for Government Visitors

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Must be proficient in English
  • Must be students, youth workers, people with special skills, or teachers
  • Ensure that camp counselors have full information on their duties and responsibilities
  • Ensure they have health insurance
  • Ensure that camp counselors are qualified enough to serve in the position
  • Maintain SEVIS records
  • Monitor participants throughout their stay in the U.S.
  • Compensate the camp counselors in the same way as U.S counterparts
  • Ensure that camp counselors do not serve in other positions within the camp (staff and administration)

Governmen Visitors Benefits

  • Receive the same financial compensation as U.S camp counselors

Government Visitors Limitations

  • Cannot stay in the U.S for more than 18 months


University students or graduates from other countries go to the U.S to gain experience through internships and become familiar with U.S culture.

Requirements for Interns

  • Must be enrolled in studies in their home country, or
  • Must have graduated no more than 12 months with a degree in their home country.

Must intern in these fields:

  • Agriculture / Forestry / Fishing
  • Arts / Culture
  • Construction
  • Education and Social Science
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Communication
  • Business and Finance
  • Public Administration and Law
  • Science fields
  • Find organizations which have less than 25 employees and less than $3 million in revenue
  • Have enough information about the employee
  • Evaluate participants at the end of the 6 month internship, or after 6 months if the internship is more than that time
  • Sign Form DS-7002
  • Ensure interns have the skills to complete the job
  • Communicate with the sponsors about the performance of the intern
  • Follow all U.S laws and sponsor rules
  • Monitor and train interns

Intern Benefits

  • Interns get practical work experience

Intern Limitations

  • Interns are not allowed to work in unskilled labor positions, in child care, medical care, or jobs that require more than 20% of office support work.

International Visitors

International visitors are professionals from other countries who go the U.S to exchange professional practices with the U.S.

Requirements for International Visitors

  • Be selected from the U.S Department of State
  • Participate in training or other special skills activities
  • Be a recognized professional in their home country
  • Provide participants with information regarding their program.
  • N/A

International Visitors Benefits

  • Participants get a better sense of U.S culture through their activities.

International Visitors Limitations

  • Participants are not allowed to stay within the U.S for longer than 1 year.


Physicians from other countries go to the U.S to participate in medical training in U.S medical schools.

Requirements for Physicians

Clinical participants must:

  • Have enough education and training to fit the program
  • Have completed the necessary examinations to qualify for the program
  • Have a written statement from their home country government stating the need for the skills that the participant will get during the program and that the participant will return to the home country.

Non-clinical participants must:

  • Go to the U.S to teach, consult, observe or research.
  • Be supervised by a U.S medical practitioner
  • Conform to U.S medical practices and laws
  • The only sponsor of this program is the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG)
  • Issue Form DS-2019 to the participant and help with getting a J-2 visa for spouse or other dependents of the participant
  • Medical institutions have to provide participants with the designated clinical training.

Physicians Benefits

  • Participants receive medical education and training credit.

Physicians Limitations

  • N/A

Professors and Research Scholars

Professors and scholars go to the U.S to strengthen research ties between the U.S and other countries.

Requirements for Professors and Research Scholars

  • Must not be tenured professors
  • Must not have completed any similar program within the last 24 months
  • Must not have had a J-1 visa in the last 12 months
  • Allowed if they participated as a short-term scholar with a J-1 visa for less than 6 months.
  • Must be proficient in English
  • Select and monitor the participants
  • Ensure they are being exposed to U.S culture


Professors and Research Scholars Benefits

  • Increase research and educational cooperation between cultures and countries.

Professors and Research Scholars Limitations

  • N/A

Short-term scholars

Scholars travel to the U.S for consultations, trainings, lectures, etc., in U.S institutions.

Requirements for Short-term scholars

  • Must be professionals in a field
  • Screen and monitor participants
  • Ensure they are being exposed to U.S culture
  • Maintain SEVIS records
  • Ensure financial soundness of the participants
  • Ensure that participant and dependents have health insurance


Short-term scholars Benefits

  • Increase skills and knowledge through program activities in their field.

Short-term scholars Limitations

  • Cannot be in the U.S for more than 6 months
  • Extensions and changes in this category are not allowed.

Specialists in different areas

Experts in various fields go to the U.S to exchange ideas and knowledge with other U.S experts.

Requirements for Specialists in different areas

  • Must be experts in a field
  • Must be ready to exchange knowledge and skills in the U.S
  • Not seek full time employment in the U.S
  • Ensure the participants have enough qualifications to be specialists
  • Provide detailed information about the program
  • If there is a stipend, provide information on it to the participants


Specialists in different areas Benefits

  • Exchange ideas and knowledge with U.S experts in a field.

Specialists in different areas Limitations

  • Cannot participate in a program longer than one year.

University students

Students complete a U.S degree and can complete internships

Requirements for University students

  • Have financing from the U.S government, the government of their country or other international organization
  • Be a participant of an agreement between the U.S and another organization for the exchange of students.
  • Select and monitor participants
  • Ensure they have the right qualifications to be admitted at a U.S educational institution


University students Benefits

  • Participants get university credit or degree, academic training, and internships.

University students Limitations

  • If enrolled in a non-degree program, participants cannot enroll in a program longer than 2 years.

Secondary school students

Students complete high school in the U.S and live with an American family.

Requirements for Secondary school students

  • Must be between 15 and 18 years old
  • Have less than 11 years of education
  • Must not have participated in a similar program in the U.S.
  • Provide the participant and host families with detailed information about each other
  • Have references of the host family
  • Ensure that the host family has the financial means to support the student and are not engaged in criminal activities
  • Monitor participants
  • Not place more than two students in one host family or in families that are related to the participant
  • Host families must provide housing, clothing, transportation and meals to the participant.

Secondary students Benefits

  • Students get cultural exposure, complete high school, and can participate in extracurricular activities

Secondary school students Limitations

  • Students cannot work part or full-time employment, except for yard work or babysitting.


Teachers go to the U.S to teach in primary and secondary schools.

Requirements for Teachers

  • Be qualified to teach and have a teaching job in their home country
  • Have the educational qualifications for teaching and at least 2 years of experience in teaching
  • Must be proficient in English
  • Select, screen, and monitor teachers
  • Provide detailed information about the teacher’s program and place of work, including compensation
  • Ensure that the teacher is organizing cultural activities to promote their culture in the school they are teaching
  • Host schools should monitor the performance of teachers and involve them in cultural activities

Teachers Benefits

  • Increase knowledge and U.S cultural awareness which they can communicate in their home country.
  • Are eligible to repeat the program once they complete the two year home residency requirement.

Teachers Limitations

  • Teachers can remain in the program for two years, but schools can apply to extend their stay for another two years. They have to send documents and reasons to the State Department three months before the extension period begins.


Foreign nationals travel to the U.S to receive training in different fields and become familiar with the U.S culture.

Requirements for Trainees

  • Must have a post-secondary degree and one year of experience in their field, or
  • Has 5 years of experience in their field

Training fields include:

  • Agriculture / Forestry / Fishing
  • Arts / Culture
  • Construction
  • Education and Social Science
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Communication
  • Business and Finance
  • Public Administration and Law
  • Science fields
  • Find training organizations with less than 25 employees and less than $3 million in revenue
  • Have detailed information about the training organization
  • Evaluate participants at the end of a six months training, or if the training is longer, evaluate them once every six months.
  • Find a full time training program for the participant (more than 32 hours/week)
  • Training organizations should sign Form DS-7002
  • Follow all relevant U.S laws and sponsor rules
  • Supervise the training and evaluate the participant
  • Have enough resources to provide the training

Trainees Benefits

  • Increase their skills and knowledge in their field

Trainees Limitations

  • Cannot work in unskilled labor positions, in child or elderly care, in patient care, and jobs requiring more than 20% of office work.

Work and travel participants

Students completing degrees in their home countries travel to the U.S to work and travel temporarily.

Requirements for Work and travel participants

  • Must be students in a post-secondary degree outside the U.S
  • Have a prior job offer in the U.S (Visa Waiver Program participants are exempt from this requirement)
  • Be proficient in English
  • Provide safe employment to participants
  • Provide emergency contacts
  • Inform participants on their duties and responsibilities, and maintain monthly contact
  • If the participant is in the Visa Waiver Program, provide them with job directories and information on how to find a job in the U.S.
  • Employers must provide participants with paid employment as agreed in the contract
  • Pay participants any overtime work
  • Maintain contact with sponsors on the performance and in case of emergencies of the participants

Work and travel participants Benefits

  • Increase cultural awareness through travelling and work experience

Work and travel participants Limitations

Participants cannot work in:

  • Sales
  • Domestic work or vehicle operators
  • Patient and medical care
  • Gambling and betting
  • Adult entertainment or commission work
  • Chemicals and warehousing
  • Night jobs and hazardous jobs
  • Jobs associated with human trafficking

How long is the J-1 visa valid?

When J-1 program participants get their visas, the DS-2019 form contains the dates that they can remain in the U.S. That varies from category to category, however, when the visa expires, participants should not remain in the U.S any longer.

The U.S gives J-1 visa holders a 30 day travel grace period after their visa expires to make arrangements to go back to their home country. Once they return, most of them are required to complete a two year home residency. This means that they have to live in their home country for 2 years before they can get another visa other than tourist or business visas. If you are unsure whether you have such a rule, contact your sponsor for more information.

How to Extend the J-1 Visa?

J-1 program exchange participants are allowed to request extensions of their stay in the U.S. The U.S sponsor officers decide whether to extend the stay until the maximum allowable date for the category in which the participant is. Participants are also allowed to request extensions beyond the maximum allowable time for their category. The sponsor officers can then issue a request to the Department of State with a $367 non-refundable fee and reasons as to why the participant should be allowed to remain in the U.S.

Changing Categories on a J-1 Visa

J-1 participants are also eligible to request changes to other categories. They should first find a sponsor of that category. The new sponsor makes a request to the Department of State with a non-refundable fee of $367. If the Department of State approves the request, they issue a new DS-2019 form.

In addition, J-1 visa holders can also request a transfer to another program within the same category. If they find a sponsor, the officer responsible issues a new DS-2019 form. If you are unsure whether you qualify for a transfer, contact your sponsors for more information.

What Is a Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?

The two-year home residence requirement means that J-1 visa holders must return to their home countries and be physically present there for two years. After the two years are completed, they can return to the U.S or any other country.

The two-year requirement can be completed immediately after the ending of the program or later, but it must be completed. The exchange visitor cannot obtain permanent residence, a U.S immigrant visa, or a temporary non-immigrant working visa without completing this requirement.

However, the person must be physically present in their home country for a complete two years. This can be in sequence, or in increments. For example, a J-1 visa holder can return to their home country and stay for two years. However, someone can also come to their home country and stay for 1 year, travel somewhere else, and then return to their home country for another 1 year. The conditions depend upon the J-1 visa holder’s contract with the exchange institution. Some institutions will require the person to complete the two-year requirement immediately, while some others will be more lenient.

Who Is Subject To the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?

If you are wondering whether you have to return to your home country for two years, you must contact your exchange institution or sponsor in order to get a final answer. However, you will be subject to this requirement if you belong to any of the following groups:

  • Your program is government funded – your exchange program is partially or entirely funded by the U.S government, your country’s government, or an international organization with funding from your home country’s government or the U.S government.
  • You are obtaining specialized skills or knowledge – during your exchange program you have obtained skills and knowledge that are important for your home country’s development.
  • You have received graduate medical training or education in the U.S on a J-1 visa

Additionally, if the J-1 visa holder has dependents in the U.S with J-2 visas, they are also obliged to return to their home country once the J-1 visa holder has to return too. Since they have a J-2 visa which is a dependents visa, they are also subject to the two-year home residency rule.

Is There a Way to Waive the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?

If you have determined that you are subject to the two-year rule then you can obtain a waiver if you meet any of the following five conditions:

Obtain a “No Objections” statement

A No Objections Statement is a letter that the government of your home country or any ministry of that country issues and sends to the U.S Embassy, U.S Chief of Mission, or Consular Section. The letter must state that the government has no objections to you not returning to your home country to fulfill your two-year rule as well as no objections to the possibility that you might become a permanent resident of the U.S.

Upon receiving this letter, the U.S Embassy will forward it to the branch of the U.S Department of State that deals with the two-year requirement in the U.S, the Waiver Review Division.

This basis of waiving the two-year rule is not available to graduate exchange students who have received medical training or education in the U.S with a J-1 visa after January 10th, 1977.

Request by a U.S Federal Agency

Since many J-1 visa holders have specialized knowledge or skills, they may be working on various important projects. If a J-1 visa holder is working on a project with specific interest to any U.S Federal Agency, the agency can send an Interested Government Agency Waiver directly to the Waiver Review Division. The request must state that it is highly important for the J-1 visa holder to stay in the U.S to complete the project. The request must also be signed by the Head of the Federal Agency submitting the request.

Obtain a Persecution Waiver

If you are within the U.S with a J-1 visa but you believe that when you return to your home country, you will be persecuted on religious, political, or racial reasons, you can apply for a persecution waiver. You must submit Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), who will forward it to the Waiver Review Division. If there is enough proof that persecution will happen when you return to your home country, then your request will be granted.

Prove exceptional hardship to a U.S citizen or lawful permanent resident

If the J-1 visa holder has a spouse or child who is a U.S citizen or lawful permanent resident, then they can obtain a waiver of exceptional hardship to the spouse or child. You must prove that your move back to your home country will cause too much hardship for them. Only stating that it will be difficult to have a separated family for two years will not be enough.

You must submit the Form I-612 to USCIS who will then forward it to the Waiver Review Division.

Obtain a State Public Health Department waiver (Conrad State 30 Program)

For graduate medical exchange visitors on a J-1 visa, there is also a possibility of getting a waiver request from a state public health institution. To be eligible for this waiver opportunity, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be offered a full-time job at a health care facility which is in an area where there are shortages for your profession or which serves patients from such an area
  • Sign a contract for the job stating that you will start working 90 days after you receive the waiver and that you will work 40 hours a week for at least 3 years

Each State Public Health Department has 30 waivers per year with 10 of them being for physicians who will serve patients who are from areas which have a shortage of the profession. The State Public Health Department must file the waiver to the Waiver Review Division.

How to Apply for a Two-Year Home Residency Waiver?

Once you determine which basis you will request your waiver from, you must apply for it. The application has several steps as follows:

Submit Form DS-3035

You must submit Form DS-3035 online at the J-1 visa waiver website. You must not download the form and then submit it, but complete it online. After you submit it, you will receive a barcode with your information and case number. You must print the barcode and the Form DS-3035.

Mail your application and fee

You must pay a $120 application fee and mail it together with your printed Form DS-3035 and the barcode. The mailing addresses are:

Postal Service address

Department of State J-1 Waiver
P.O. Box 979037
St. Louis, MO 63197-9000

Courier Service address

Department of State J-1 Waiver
P.O. Box 979037
1005 Convention Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63101-1200

Submit supporting documents on the basis of your waiver

For each of the five bases, submit documents such as the No Objection Statement, Government Agency Waiver, Form I-612, or the State Public Health Department waiver. Additionally, you may also be required to submit your CV, resume, work contracts, previous Forms DS-2019, etc.

Checking your J-1 waiver status and submitting additional documents

A month after you have submitted your application and supporting documents, you can start checking your status on the J-1 visa waiver website. You can do that by entering your case number and it will show you whether you have been processed or not.

The Waiver Review Division might need additional information and if so they will contact you to request more documents. You must mail the documents to them at this address:

Waiver Review Division
U.S. Department of State
SA-17, Floor 11
Washington, DC 20522-1711

After you submit the additional documents, you can wait for your case to be processed. Processing times depend on the basis you are waiving and can vary from 1 to 4 months.

The Waiver Review Division will go through your case and make a recommendation. They will send the recommendation to USCIS. USCIS will then make the final decision on whether you will be allowed to stay or not and will send you a notification if you are approved or denied.

How Can you Bring Dependents to the U.S?

Spouses or unmarried children under 21 years old can accompany a J-1 visa holder with the J-2 visa. There are so many categories of J-1 visas and each one has their own rules to the J-2 visa. For instance, au pair, camp counselor, secondary school student, and work and travel participants on a J-1 visa are not allowed to bring dependents to accompany them in the U.S.