Understanding the J Visa a.k.a Exchange Visa

by neville

A broad category of student visa is the J visa. It is a multi-purpose visa for exchange visitors and not necessarily designated for students only. The J-visa, in some ways offer greater opportunities than the F, but can also have some serious restrictions.

The most notable restriction associated with “exchange visitors” regardless of the purpose for which the J visa is used, is the attachment of a two-year, home country return requirement.

In effect, before you as  a J visa holder can apply for any further immigration benefit to remain in the USA, you must spend at least two years in the country of origin after completing the program in the USA. While that requirement can be waived by the original sponsor, it is nonetheless tedious.

J Visa Requirements and Process

Unless you are part of a structured or sponsored program, funded by an organization such as the Organization of American States (OAS) or the World Bank, or through Fulbright or some US government program, it is unlikely that you will be applying for a J-visa.

If you are, however, then the process is similar to the F visa. The sponsor (OAS for example) will indicate the amount of funding, and the host institution (US University for example), working with the sponsor, will define the limits of the program.

You can often be place in cooperative programs that would allow part time off campus and full time summer employment. In addition, the post completion training, or academic training, can be as long as 18 months as opposed to the 12 months allowed on Optional Practical Training (OPT).

The document used to obtain this visa is form DS-2019, the I-20 counterpart. The DS indicates Department of State. The Bureau of Cultural Affairs in the State Department is responsible for all exchange programs that offer the J-visa.

With all documents in hand the next step is to visit the US Consulate for your country or region for the Visa Interview.

Learn about the F Visa (Student Visa) here, or move on to the Student Visa Application Process.

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