Change of status from an H1B to a J2 visa is a very rare case, usually, it's the opposite, people on J visas try to get an H1B visa. But there are scenarios when you might need to change your visa status from H1B to J2 dependent and it could be due to multiple factors.
One of the common reasons could be the loss of a job on H1B and you want to switch to a spouse's J1 dependent visa so that you don't need to leave the United States, and after you file a change of status, you can get J2 EAD and start working again.
It's very important to maintain a valid job status on H1B otherwise you get out of status. There is a grace period of 60 days before you get out of status though. So if you lose your job on H1B due to some reason, you would need to find another job and get back on the payroll within 60 days period. You can read this in detail here: H1B grace period with a severance package.
I was on an H1B visa and I want to share my experience with H1B to J2 visa change of status. No one wants to lose their H1B status but sometimes you have no other option. I had completed roughly 4.5 years on H1B and due to some reason, I had to quit my job. Luckily, my wife was working on a J1 visa and I had the option to change my status to J2 dependent. In this blog, I will share what steps I took and you might find this useful.
I am not a lawyer and I just requested Dataneb to publish my story so that others can find it useful. Please consult a lawyer if you have any doubts.
J1/J2 visa 2-year rule
J visas are valid for up to 5 years. Additionally, J visas are subjected to 2 year home residency rule so after you complete 5 years on a J visa you have two options.
The first option is that you go back to your home country and serve for 2 years, the second option is that you can request a J1 waiver and continue living in the United States by switching to another visa or academic H1B or by applying for a green card.
Related: How to change from J1 visa to H1B
As I moved from H1B to a J2 visa - I got subjected to 2 year home residency rule. So if you are planning to change your status to J2 dependent, keep in mind that you will get subjected to 2 year home residency rule. It's not the end of the world though, you can always get a waiver but it's a lengthy and time-consuming process, and sometimes it gets denied as well.
Related: How to apply for a J visa waiver
The good part is that J2 visa holders automatically get a waiver when the primary J1 visa holder gets a waiver so you don't need to apply for it separately. Also, J1 visa holders anyway have to get a waiver if they are subjected to the 2-year rule.
H1B to J2 Visa Transfer Options
There are two options to file a change of status from H1B to J2 dependent depending upon whether you want to travel back to your home country or not.
The first way, faster way is to travel back to your home country, apply for J2 dependent visa, get your visa stamped, and travel back to the US. This could take a couple of months depending on how soon you get the interview dates.
After coming back you can apply for J2 EAD which could take 3 months to 7 months depending upon which service center your application is processed. You can find the USCIS processing times here.
One thing to note is that you can apply for J2 EAD only after coming back to the US, this can not be done from India or from your home country along with the J2 visa application.
The second way, the slower way is to apply for a change of status (form I-539) while living in the US and once your change of status is approved, then you can apply for J2 EAD. You can do this yourself, it's not much paperwork.
In my case, I went through this option as I had to support my family in the US. This end-to-end process took me 10 months. 7 months to get a change of status approved and 3 months to get J2 EAD. This also depends upon which service center is processing your I-539 form, you can find processing time on the USCIS website here.
You get J2 EAD for a year and you can extend it every year, it's a very easy process. The good news is that you don't need any sponsorship on J2 EAD, unlike H1B. You can work anywhere, without any restrictions.
Related: How to apply for J2 EAD
H1B to J2 Change of Status
On a high level, you will end up following these steps. I did all the steps myself, with no involvement of a lawyer, and it's a very easy process but time-consuming. If you are planning to stay in the US then,
Obtain a DS-2019 Form: The university or sponsor of the J1 visa holder will provide you with a DS-2019 form, which you need to file the change of status.
Fill Form I-539: If you are planning to file a change of status while living in the US (Option 02 mentioned above) then you would need to fill out the I-539 form (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status), pay the fees, and submit the form. This form is available on the USCIS website.
Include Supporting Documents: You will need to provide supporting documents along with the I-539 form. I have mentioned the list of documents in the next section.
Receive Approval: Once all the documents are ready, you need to post them to USCIS. You can find the mailing address on the USCIS website here. Once approved you will find updated I-94 details on the approval notice.
File for J2 EAD: You can find all the steps to file J2 EAD in this blog.
The university would issue you the J2 dependent DS2019 form
Fill DS-160 form
Make payment and book the interview dates
Get passport stamped
Travel back and apply for J2 EAD
Documents Required for Filing H1B to J2 Change of Status
If you are planning to file it while staying in the US, then you would need the following documents. I included all of these documents and a few of them might not be even required by USCIS. But I wanted to make sure there is no document missing and thus I included all of the following.
Completed I-539 Form
Copy of DS2019 (J1 & J2 both)
J1's latest pay stubs (3 months)
Latest I-94 form (J1 & J2 both)
Copy of H1B Approval Notices
Copy of all pages Passport and Visa (J1 & J2 both)
Marriage Certificate (for evidence of the relationship)
H1B to J2 Processing Time
The change of status process might take any time between 3 to 10 months depending upon which service center is processing your I-539 request and what's their processing time currently.
Or, if you are planning to visit your home country then it will be definitely faster depending on your biometrics and interview appointment date. If you see these dates are available, definitely traveling back to your home country is a better option.
On top, if you are applying for J2 EAD that might take another 2.5 to 7 months. Again it depends upon I-765 processing time at various service centers.
I hope you find this blog helpful, please comment if you have any questions and I would be happy to help.
Does H1B 6-year period still apply to me after the J2 change of status?
No, once you change your status to a J2 visa, 6 year H1B max period does not apply to you. But the J visa 2-year home residency rule does apply.
Can I work on a J2 visa?
Yes, you can work on a J2 visa after receiving J2 EAD. You don't need any sponsorship like H1B. You can work part-time, full-time, or any number of hours similar to other EADs.
How to apply for a J2 waiver?
You don't need to apply for a waiver separately. The J1 waiver will cover J2 visa holders as well.
Can I travel outside the US on a J2 visa?
Yes, you can travel outside the United States on a J2 visa as far as you have a valid visa, otherwise, you will need stamping.
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