What is A J-1 Visa?
The J-1 Visa (J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program) is a non-immigrant visa for foreigners who want to participate in a U.S. work-study exchange visitor program. The main purpose of the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program is for strengthening U.S. relations with other countries through the promotion and exchange of knowledge and skills in education, art, and science.
The J-1 visa program allows exchange visitors to live and work in the U.S. Exchange visitors fall into various categories. The J-1 visa categories include students, researchers, scholars, professors, visiting physicians, trainees and interns, as well as Au Pairs and camp counselors, among others. A J-1 visa also requires a sponsor, which is an agency or program that facilitates the pairing of a J-1 applicant with an appropriate program or course.
J-1 visa programs can range from a few weeks to several years in duration. However, most J-1 visas include a restriction called the “two-year rule,” which requires a J-1 visa holder to return to their home country for at least two years after the completion of their J-1 exchange program. This requirement may be waived in certain circumstances.
Waivers of the two-year rule may be granted if a J-1 visitor can provide a no-objection letter from their home country, demonstrate that they would experience persecution in their home country, or provide evidence that returning to their home country would result in extreme hardship to a US citizen immediate relative. In addition, a waiver may be granted to a limited number of doctors each year, who work in areas of the U.S. which are experiencing shortages in trained medical staff.
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Steps/Process in the Application for Extension of the J-1 Visa
The program sponsor shall determine the eligibility of the applicant through the submitted documentation.
Once the application for the J-1 visa extension has been accepted, the applicant must obtain a new DS-2019 form with a new expiration date from their sponsoring organization.The new expiration date will be recorded with SEVIS. A SEVIS fee is not required for the extension application. The J-1 visa holder’s minor children and/or spouse, who are on J-2 status, shall be covered by the application for extension. Each dependent must be issued their own DS-2019.
The amount of fees to be paid for extension and the maximum time the J-1 visa can be extended depends on the J-1 category.
What if a Visa extension is denied?
If a J-1 visa extensions request is denied, the individual and their dependents must return to their home country after their 30-day grace period (from the date of completion indicated on the original DS-2019) is complete. Individuals should not remain past this time period as it can have serious ramifications for future attempts to travel to or receive any other type of visa to the US.
Without this application/approval a person will be considered as having abandoned their TPS status when they left the US. Re-entry may therefore be denied and the TPS status revoked. It is important to note that extended travel outside the US, resettlement in another country and/or return travel to the TPS home country can threaten the TPS status of an individual. Consultation with an immigration attorney is recommended prior to any travel outside of the US for all TPS beneficiaries and applicants.
TPS beneficiaries who do travel with proper approval and documentation should, nonetheless, ensure that their travel is within permitted timeframes as indicated on the advance parole documentation. Breaching this time frame can result in losing TPS status and denial of re-entry to the US. Similarly, any official TPS related deadlines must be met regardless of approved travel plans.