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J1 Visa Program in the USA: Eligibility, Rules, Requirements and Application

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

J1 visa USA eligibility, requirements, and application process. A J1 visa program in the USA is an exchange visitor visa falling under the non-immigrant visa category. People who are outside the USA and plan to take part in an approved program like research, teaching, studying, training, medical education, or demonstrating special skills can apply for a J1 visa.

I, Hina Singh, held a J1 exchange visitor visa for 5 years. As I mentioned in my previous blog, when you secure a postdoc position in the USA, you will most likely receive a J1 visa type, and occasionally an academic H1B.


I worked as a research scholar at the University of California under a J1 visa. Many questions come to mind when applying for the J1 visa for the first time. Here are some that I wondered about when I was undergoing this process. This blog will help you understand a few basic J1 visa rules and requirements.



Table of Contents: J1 Visa USA Requirements


J1 Visa Eligibility

Who can obtain a J1 visa? Am I even eligible? These are very basic questions that will arise for anyone. In short, a J1 visa can be granted to professors, researchers, trainees, medical students, teachers, specialists, etc. For a detailed list, you can refer to the USCIS website.


J1 Visa Application

Another question that comes up is how to apply for a J1 visa, or how the J1 visa application process works. To apply for a J1 visa, you first need to get Form DS2019. Your sponsoring agency, like a university or institute, will give you this form.


Once you have Form DS2019, you can apply for a J1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate run by the U.S. Department of State. Your sponsoring agency will also give you guidance on the J1 visa application process, so there's nothing to worry about. It's quite straightforward, unlike some other types of visas.



J1 Visa Processing Time

J1 visa application usually takes around 6 to 8 weeks to process. The processing time for a J1 visa can also vary depending on factors such as the specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply, the time of year, and any additional administrative processing that might be required. I have explained this in detail in the next blog.


J1 Visa Transfer to another University

You might wonder what to do if you don't like your postdoc position, or if you can change the position now. Can you transfer the J1 visa to another university? The answer is yes. J1 visa holders can transfer to their institutes or universities. I've done it three times, and the process was quick and simple. If needed, your sponsoring agency can help you with this.



J1 Dependent Visa

If you have family members, you might be asking yourself what will happen to them. Can they come to the USA with me? Can they work on a J1 dependent visa, or what type of visa can a family member of a J1 holder get? Once again, the answer is yes. In fact, J1 dependents can work in the USA without needing any sponsorship. Spouses or children under 21 of J1 visa holders are allowed to apply for a J2 visa.

You might be wondering if a J2 visa application can be done at the same time as a J1 application. The answer is yes, both J1 and J2 can apply for visas together if they have received Form DS2019 from the sponsoring agency. The process for a J2 application is the same as for a J1, and one can even apply for a J2 visa after the J1 visa has been approved.



J2 Visa Work Permit

You might be curious about whether your spouse can work when they come to the USA on a J2 visa with you. Once again, the answer is yes. J2 visa holders are allowed to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). However, their income cannot be used to support the J1 visa holder. Once a J2 visa holder gets their EAD, they can start working right away. I've written an entire blog on how to apply for J2 EAD; you can find it here.


An important thing to note is that you can only apply for an EAD after you've entered the US. So, if you're thinking of applying for an EAD from outside the US, the answer is no. J2 visa holders must first enter the US before they can apply for J2 EAD.


J1 Visa to Green Card

You might wonder if it's possible to get a green card after your J1 visa ends. The answer is yes, you are eligible for a green card. There are certain criteria you'll need to meet, which I'll discuss in upcoming blogs. I've provided a detailed explanation of how to apply for a 2-year waiver and initiate the green card process.



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