J-1 Visa Extension

A J-1 visa extension increases the time exchange visitors are permitted to stay in the United States – with a J-1 visa. This extension is generally for exchange visitors who are in a program or working on a research project not set to be complete until after the DS-2019 end date. It also allows for J-1 visa holders to complete their program so as to gain cultural knowledge and share their experiences with those in their home country (as a part of the J-1 visa requirements.) 

J-1 Visa

The J-1 Exchange Visitor visa, also known as the J-1 visa, is for foreign nationals to travel to the United States as a part of a cultural exchange program. Such exchange programs are exchange visitors to study, work or research in specific areas and then return to their home country for at least two years. They are required to do so in order to share the benefits of their gained experiences with those in their home country. This is also known as a two-year home-country physical presence requirement. 

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website about exchange visitors, some examples of exchange visitors include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Professors or scholars
  • Research assistants
  • Students - secondary and college or university
  • Trainees
  • Teachers
  • Specialists
  • Au Pairs and EduCare
  • Camp counselors
  • Government visitors
  • DOS International visitors
  • Physicians
  • Summer work travel

The otherwise maximum time J-1 exchange visitors are legally allowed to stay in the U.S. are as follows:

  • Research scholar or professor: 5 years
  • Short-term scholar: 6 months
  • Student intern: 1 year
  • Specialist: 1 year

As mentioned above, J-1 visa holders must return to their home country upon the completion of their program. However, there is no requirement to return directly to their nation of origin. They are free to travel, but would need to spend a cumulative two years back home before applying for another U.S. visa.

J-1 Extension Requirements

The applicant’s J-1 visa must be current and valid at the time of the extension application, and their program sponsor must fill out a new DS-2019. In summation, the following documents are required:

  • Evidence of the necessary financial resources to cover the cost of application fees, tuition (if enrolled in a higher education institution) and living expenses for at least one year (unless the program sponsor is funding the exchange visitor’s program and visa)
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (Form DS-2019)Valid passport
  • Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94)
  • Proof of J-1 visa health insurance for the visa holder and their J-2 spouse or children
  • Supporting documentation detailing the reason the extension is needed
  • Any additional supplementary documentation as requested by the USCIS
  • Additional SEVIS fee when applicable

Exchange visitors who wish to apply for an extension of their J-1 visa must notify his or her department administrator at least one or two months prior to the DS-2019 end date. Understandably, the program must either be extended or transferred to another institution before that end date.

Effectively, J-1 visa extensions must be submitted at least 10 days prior to the visa expiration, otherwise the exchange visitor will be unable to apply. 

Apply For A J-1 Visa Extension 

Firstly, the exchange visitor must apply for a J-1 visa extension. If the application is approved, he or she must file Form DS-2019. Exchange visitors should consult with their program sponsor during this process because they will communicate with the officer who can/will determine the applicant’s eligibility. After eligibility is determined, the application can be submitted.

Upon approval, the exchange visitor will receive a new DS-2019, which will have the new expiration date. Approvals will also extend J-2 dependents’ visas , as they will not need to submit any applications.

J-1 Visa Extensions

In general, a J-1 visa extension is when an exchange visitor receives additional time to remain in the U.S. to continue working on their research project. Though approval of the extension largely depends on the specific program or project. 

In some cases, the J-1 visa extension can last for five, and even up to seven years, while the research scholar, teacher or professor completes their project. The longest extension is usually for International Communications Agency (ICA) employees who are permitted to stay for up to 10 years.

It is important to note, J-1 research scholars and professors can request a six-month extension with their program sponsors, instead of needing to apply through the U.S. Department of State (DOS). 

Sometimes, there are extraordinary circumstances making a change of category necessary for the exchange visitor. In such cases, the visitor can apply for the change of category when he or she applies for an extension. To do this, the visa holder must be able to demonstrate clearly that the change is still closely related to his or her original exchange program objectives. Their program sponsor will be required to submit the request, in writing, to the U.S. DOS. 

Accepted requests result in the issuance of an updated DS-2019 for the visa holder and their J-1 spouse and/or children.

J-1 Visa Extension vs Waiver

Exchange visitors who wish to remain in the U.S. as temporary workers upon the completion of their programs usually request a J-1 visa waiver. In order to request a waiver, or a change of status, exchange visitors must meet the following criteria:

  • A State Health Department, U.S. government agency, or another state agency makes a request for the applicant
  • The applicant’s home government provides a No Objection Statement
  • Demonstration that the applicant will face persecution due to political affiliations, race or religion in the applicant’s home country
  • The applicant (or their U.S.-resident family) will otherwise experience exceptional hardships if they or their dependents are forced to leave the U.S.

If the waiver application is accepted, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) waives the two-year requirement for J-1 visa holders (and their dependents) to return to their country for the two cumulative years. 

J-1 Visa Travel, Denials and Grace Periods

After the DS-2019 end date, J-1 visitors are no longer permitted to work. They must complete their personal affairs and prepare (if not already prepared) to return home. Technically, J-1 visa holders can travel within the U.S within the next 30 days. And if he or she has a valid J-1 visa stamp on their passport, they can travel outside of the country and return, though they may not be permitted to re-enter the country.

If the J-1 visa extension is denied, the visa holder must immediately return to his or her home country. Because certain situations can arise, the U.S. government allows for a 30-day grace period (past the completion date indicated on his or her DS-2019). Though the visitor is given an automatic grace period, he or she is considered to be out of status. Which can ultimately have serious consequences, especially if the visitor tries to apply for permanent residency or another visa in the future.

FAQs For A J-1 Visa Extension

Why do I need a J-1 Extension?

J-1 visa holders who are engaged in a research project or otherwise approved program whose DS-2019 end date occurs before the completion of their project apply for extensions. When approved, this gives exchange visitors additional time to complete their work in the U.S.

As a J-1 visa holder, can I apply for a change of category?

Yes. Sometimes extraordinary circumstances necessitate a change of category. Visa holders can apply if they can demonstrate how their new endeavor is still closely related to their original exchange program objectives.

As a J-1 exchange visitor, what if I need more time in my program?

Depending on the research project or program, some exchange visitors can request a J-1 visa extension. That is, if the visa holder can prove how the original amount of time was insufficient to finish their program, and how the extra time needed is for exceptional or remarkable reasons.

Can I travel outside of the United States with a J-1 visa?

Yes, as long as the travel is to adjacent territories, Canada or Mexico, and will be less than 30 days. Exchange visitors must ensure they have a valid J-1 visa stamped in his or her passport. If the stamp expires, he or she will be unable to re-enter the U.S.

Conclusion of J-1 Visa Extension

J-1 visas are typically for exchange visitors who wish to travel to the United States to gain cultural knowledge and experiences. This type of program requires them to return home to share their experience with the people in their home country for at least two years before applying for another U.S. visa. 

If they are nearing the end of their program end date (or DS-2019 end date) but need more time to complete their research project, exchange visitors and their program sponsors can request a J-1 visa extension. In special circumstances, this extension gives additional time for their program or research completion.

A J-1 visa extension differs from a J-1 waiver, as the waiver is for individuals who wish to remain in the U.S., though it may not necessarily be for work-related reasons. The waiver waives the otherwise two-year home-country requirement.

Traveling internationally after an J-1 extension when the J-1 visa has expired, will require an application for a J-1 visa renewal at a U.S. consulate abroad in order to re-enter the U.S.

Marrying a U.S. permanent resident or citizen does not waive requirements or extend programs. Nor does it extend a J-1 visa stamp.

The J-1 category does not have a limit to the amount of extensions, within the maximum length of stay with a J-1 visa. However, they are usually only granted in exceptional circumstances.