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

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.

Those who can go to the U.S with a J-1 visa are:

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Students complete a U.S degree and can complete internships.

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

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

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

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

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.

J-1 Visa 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.

Participant Requirements

  • 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

Sponsor Requirements

  • 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

Employer Requirements

  • 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

Participant Requirements

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Must be proficient in English
  • Must be students, youth workers, people with special skills, or teachers

Sponsor Requirements

  • 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.

Employer Requirements

  • 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)

Participant Requirements

  • Chosen by a U.S government agency to strengthen relationship with the U.S
  • Must be an influential government person in their home country

Sponsor Requirements

  • Chosen and screened by a U.S government agency
  • Offer training and visits
  • Offer health insurance
  • Provide information on the program details
  • If a stipend is provided, the sponsor (U.S government agency) must state the amount

Employer Requirements

N/A

Participant Requirements

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

Sponsor Requirements

  • 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

Employer Requirements

  • 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

Participant Requirements

  • 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

Sponsor Requirements

Provide participants with information regarding their program.

Employer Requirements

N/A

Participant Requirements

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

Sponsor Requirements

  • 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

Employer Requirements

Medical institutions have to provide participants with the designated clinical training.

Participant Requirements

  • 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

Sponsor Requirements

  • Select and monitor the participants
  • Ensure they are being exposed to U.S culture

Employer Requirements

N/A

Participant Requirements

Must be professionals in a field

Sponsor Requirements

  • 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

Employer Requirements

N/A

Participant Requirements

  • 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

Sponsor Requirements

  • 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

Employer Requirements

N/A

Participant Requirements

  • 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.

Sponsor Requirements

  • Select and monitor participants
  • Ensure they have the right qualifications to be admitted at a U.S educational institution

Employer Requirements

N/A

Participant Requirements

  • 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.

Sponsor Requirements

  • 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

Employer Requirements

Host families must provide housing, clothing, transportation and meals to the participant.

Participant Requirements

  • 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

Sponsor Requirements

  • 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

Employer Requirements

Host schools should monitor the performance of teachers and involve them in cultural activities

Participant Requirements

  • 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

Sponsor Requirements

  • 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)

Employer Requirements

  • 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

Participant Requirements

  • 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

Sponsor Requirements

  • 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.

Employer Requirements

  • 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

How to apply for the J-1 visa?

Applications for the J-1 visa include these steps:

  • Potential participants must find a sponsor, as the J-1 visa is not granted to anyone without a sponsor
  • Apply through filing the DS-160 form online
  • Pay the $160 visa application fee (those sponsored by a U.S agency are exempt from paying the fee)
  • Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee of $180.
  • Schedule and conduct the visa interview
  • Submit these documents:
    • 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

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.

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.

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.

Since most J-1 participants have a 2 year home residency request, the U.S government has specified conditions under which they can request a waiver of this rule. Waivers are issued in these cases:

  • If the government of the home country of the participant issues a No Objection Statement, which means that they release the participant from the two year rule.
  • With the request of a U.S government agency
  • With the request of a State Health Department
  • If the participant can prove that they are being persecuted in their home country because of political, racial, or religious causes
  • If the participant claims that returning to their home country causes a U.S permanent resident such as a spouse or child some form of Exceptional Hardship.

What are the benefits and limitations of J-1 visas to participants?

Participant 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

Participant 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.

Participant Benefits

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

Participant Limitations

  • N/A

 

Participant Benefits

  • Receive training and special skills consultation in the U.S

Participant Limitations

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

 

Participant Benefits

  • Interns get practical work experience

Participant 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.

Participant Benefits

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

Participant Limitations

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

Participant Benefits

  • Participants receive medical education and training credit.

Participant Limitations

  • N/A

 

Participant Benefits

  • Increase research and educational cooperation between cultures and countries.

Participant Limitations

  • N/A

 

Participant Benefits

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

Participant Limitations

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

Participant Benefits

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

Participant Limitations

  • Cannot participate in a program longer than one year.

Participant Benefits

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

Participant Limitations

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

Participant Benefits

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

Participant Limitations

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

 

Participant 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.

Participant 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.

Participant Benefits

  • Increase their skills and knowledge in their field

Participant Limitations

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

Participant Benefits

  • Increase cultural awareness through travelling and work experience

Participant 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 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.