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J-1 Cultural Exchange Visitor Visa for Entrepreneurs, Scholars, Au Pairs, Professors, and Trainees

The J-1 Visa is a non-immigrant US visa available to cultural exchange visitors, scholars, and professors. The Exchange Visitor Program fosters global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges. It is often used by entrepreneurs, “au pairs, ” or to obtain business or medical training in the United States. J-1 visas are obtained as part of an exchange program, and the Department of State designates both public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors. All exchange visitors are expected to return to their home country upon completion of their program in order to share their exchange experiences.

The Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) provides opportunities for around 300,000 foreign visitors per year to experience United States society and culture and engage with Americans.  Exchange visitors on private sector programs may study, teach, do research, share their specialized skills, or receive on-the-job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years.   EVP participants are young leaders and entrepreneurs, students, fledgling and more seasoned professionals eager to hone their skills, strengthen their English language abilities, connect with Americans, and learn more about the U.S. There are fifteen different categories under the J-1 visa program, including: professors and research scholars, short-term scholars, trainees, interns, college and university students, teachers, secondary school students, specialists, foreign medical graduates, camp counselors, au pairs, and the summer work travel program.

To obtain a J-1 visa , you must work with a sponsoring agency. They agency will provide you with Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status. After you have obtained a Form DS-2019, you may then apply for a J-1 visa through the U.S. Department of State. Waiting times may very, so it is recommended that you submit your visa application as early as possible, keeping in mind that you may not enter the US as a J-1 visitor more than 30 days before your program begins. While in the US, you may only work for your sponsoring agency and cannot obtain outside employment.

When you agree to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program you will be subject to the two-year home-country foreign residency requirement if your exchange program is funded by either your government or the U.S. government, involves specialized knowledge or skills deemed necessary by your home country or you received graduate medical training. If this requirement applies, you must return to your home country for a cumulative total of two years at the end of your exchange visitor program.  You are not prohibited from traveling to the United States but may not benefit from certain employment-based or family-based visas until the foreign residency requirement is satisfied.

Those wanting to develop new businesses in the United States are also welcome to apply for J-1 visas. Programs like East Stroudsburg University’s International Innovation Program allows international entrepreneurs to come to the U.S. for up to five (5) years in order to establish a new business or bring a new product to market in the state of Pennsylvania with little initial investment liability.

If you have a spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age, they may join you in the United States as J-2 visitors. Your spouse and children may obtain work authorizations, but their income may not be used to support you.

Click here for additional information about the J-1 visa.


If you are interested in immigrating to the United States, or have questions about the various visa options, or finding the right J-1 program, schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with The Grady Firm’s attorneys; call +1 (949) 798-6298; or fill out a Contact Request Form.

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*This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular case, as each case has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by licensed attorney.


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