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There are many types of different visa options available for international students planning to study in the United States. Among these, the most common types of visa options are an F-1 visa and a J1 visa in the US. The J1 Visa US is also known as J Student Visa or the Exchange Visitor Visa. The J1 visa is intended for any individual living outside the US who is interested in pursuing an internship, education, or receiving hands-on training in the US for a short duration of time. The J1 visa US program allows the interested applicants to both study and work simultaneously in the country.
Currently, about 1,70,000 J1 visa holders are in the US working, teaching, or studying. There are various categories of J1 student visas. On the basis of their category, a visa obtained in the J1 Exchange Visitor Program’ allows an international applicant to study, travel, work, or train in the US. In this article, we will discuss everything about the Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa, which is also known as the J1 student visa, including its eligibility criteria, J1 visa US student requirements, and the process regarding the submission of the application with the required documents.
The J1 Visa US is an exchange visitor visa for an individual residing outside of the US wishing to take part in the study as well as work-related exchange programs that are approved by the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Generally, an applicant for a J1 student visa has a sponsoring organization that may be an educational or a not-for-profit institution.
There are typically 15 categories of program types or eligible roles. They are as follows:
A student enrolled in pursuing a degree in a university is eligible to apply for the program. They must have completed at least one semester of the program to qualify for this visa.
For a student J-1 category visa, the applicant must be sponsored and have their stay funded via a government program, the US, or both the home and international governments.
An individual can apply for the J-1 visa application in the government visitor category; you need to be selected by the local government or a US federal agency to visit and engage in various activities to strengthen your American relationships.
For the camp counsellor J1 visa category, the applicant needs to be proficient in English to interact with the campers. They will be eligible to receive the same benefits as all their American counterparts.
For this category of J1 visa US, the applicant needs to have completed education and have adequate medical education to participate in their program.
To get a J1 visa US as a research scholar, the individual must not be a candidate for any tenure track position and must not have been a part of any professorship program in the last twenty-four months.
For a teacher category visa, the applicant must have the qualification to work in a school. They must have a degree equivalent to any bachelor’s degree in the US or the academic subject they intend to teach.
For this visa type application, the individual must be at least 15 years old, but they can not be older than 18 years and 6 months before the program begins.
With a short-term scholar visa, you can usually stay for only six months. To get this J visa, they must be a research scholar or a professor or should have a similar background education and experience.
To get a J1 visa US for the Au Pair program category, the applicant must be between 18 to 26 years old. They will be placed with a host family for a duration of 12 months. Prior to this, they will have to undergo a training program for working with children so they can be better prepared.
The applicant needs to be selected by the United States Department of State in order to qualify for this category of the J1 visa. As an international visitor, the applicant must take part in research, consultations, observation, and training. They must be a recognized individual in a specialized field.
With a J1 visa US for the specialist category, an individual can stay up to a year. They must be an expert in their respective field and must not be looking to be employed on a full-time basis in the United States.
For the trainee J1 visa US category, the individual must have a professional certificate or a degree from a recognized university or a similar institution.
The individual applying for this category must not have been a part of any professorship program in the US over the duration of the last 24 months and must not have participated in a J visa program for the last 12 months or so.
A J1 visa US in the intern category can be applied for if the applicant is currently enrolled at a university or has graduated from the institution in the last twelve months. The internship is only offered in some specific fields.
If you are applying for a J1 Student Visa US under the category of College and University Student, then you can remain in the country and study at the college or the university in the US for the duration of the educational program you opt for.
The duration of your stay in the US also depends on the visa category or program you are choosing. For instance, while a J1 visa US for a camp counsellor program makes you eligible for a short stay in the US, usually of about 4 months in the summer, an Au Pair and Research Scholar Program, on the other hand, can help you receive J1 visas that are valid for many years in the country.
A J1 visa US holder is required to return to their home country after their graduation and stay there for a duration of two years. Only after filling this requirement condition will they be allowed to return to the US.
There are certain eligibility requirements to apply for the J1 Visa US. An applicant must meet all these criteria to apply for the program. These requirements are as follows –
Every university or college in the US has specified English Language criteria that can be fulfilled through the IELTS or TOEFL exam scores. The applicant must make sure to attain the scores required for the university or college they are choosing.
About 50 percent of the funding for the program must be provided through an accredited sponsor who is not a family member or a personal friend.
You and any dependents of yours must have medical insurance that meets the minimum standards required by the host university.
The sponsor must provide you and your dependents with information about the opted program. They are required to conduct an orientation providing you with the information about the region where you will study.
You must maintain the active status as a J1 student. You and the sponsor must make sure to adhere to all the rules of the J1 visa US. The sponsor must also provide you with a 24-hour emergency contact.
You and your dependents must make sure that you have passports that are valid for travel to the US about 6 months ahead of the date of the completion of the program.
Upon completion of the program, you must return to your home country and stay there for at least a period of 2 years.
Though you can work on a full-time basis during the academic breaks, you should also make sure that you are enrolled in a full-time study program when the academic year is in session.
If you wish to work while studying in the academic program, make sure that you work part-time on the campus, maximum for about 20 hours per week. You are also required to work during the academic year on a full-time basis. Though, if you do not have authorization from the university or the sponsor, you are not permitted to work off-campus.
In any case, if you are changing your residence, make sure you also update the university and the sponsor of the change in address within 10 days of doing so.
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The steps required to submit the application for a J1 visa in the US are as given below –
The main condition of receiving a J1 student visa is that your program should be sponsored by a non-personal source. You should first identify a sponsor who is willing to fund the program. The sponsor needs to be accredited by the United States Department of State.
After finalizing the sponsor and being accepted into the program, you must submit the Form DS-2019. The form acts as the Certificate of Eligibility for the J-1 status. There is a different version of the form if you also have any dependents with you, so make sure you receive the right form. The form should be issued by your designated sponsor.
Apart from the fee of the program, there are other fees that you need to pay during your application process too. You must pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) I-901 fee to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Other additional fees include a visa issuance fee along with a non-immigrant visa application processing fee. Both of these can be paid at the US embassy of your home country. The fees are not required to be paid if your program is a US government-funded educational and cultural exchange program or is sponsored by the Department of State, US Agency for International Development (USAID).
A consular officer has to take your interview at your local US Embassy or Consulate for the acceptance of your application. Different countries can have different waiting times for the visa; therefore, you must schedule your interview accordingly.
A J1 visa US application fee can only be approved after an interview where the consular officer tries to understand your intention behind visiting the US. The visa questions that are frequently asked in the interview are as follows –
– Why did you choose this particular area of study?
– Do you plan to pursue further education in the country?
– What is the profession of your parents?
– Who is sponsoring your education?
– Do you plan to return to the job you have after the exchange program?
– What are your employment goals for now?
– Why do you wish to be a part of an exchange program?
The J1 visa US is valid for a period equivalent to the duration of their training or visit to the country. The applicants can receive a grace period of 30 days after the completion of their program. You need to show your finances to the university or college you are applying for. The US State Department charges a J1 visa US application fee of 160 USD. An applicant can apply for the J1 visa US again; however, there needs to be a gap of two years between the start of your new training period and the end of your previous one.
The applicants need to complete and submit their filled out Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form and pay a fee of 160 USD along with it. After which, they will be able to receive the visa after their DS-2019 form application and study at a US university.
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Though J1 and F1 visas seem to be similar, there are certain differences between the two. The differences between a J1 and an F1 student visa are –
The students with J-1 visas are required to coordinate with a Responsible Officer who is their point of contact through their program sponsor.
Students with an F-1 visa, on the other hand, have access to a Designated School Official (DSO) at their university or college.
You need to make sure that your documents are in order and are correct and updated, also remember to meet the deadlines for every step of the process. Be careful and do not produce any false documents and prepare your best for the interview.
When a student receives F1 Visa approved, the visa stamp is typically valid for five years. But, there are times where the F1 stamp is expired within five years.
This visa allows people like trainees, students, scholars, teachers, interns, researchers, professors, and more to come and work in USA.
The J1 visa costs around $160 (around INR12,000). The fee amount keeps changing based on SEVIS fees. SEVIS charges can cost up to a hundred dollars.
J-1 visas are comparatively easy to get approved. Students coming for academic study may get a visa for three years, while others will only get a 3-month stay. But ,extensions are available depending on the category of visa.
You can change J-1 to H-1B, visa provided you meet all the H-1B visa requirements like having a job offer from a US sponsor.