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J - Exchange Visitors

New Waiver Procedure with Dept of State

The J nonimmigrant visa category is for foreign nationals coming to the United States for a temporary period pursuant to an exchange program. Specifically, a J nonimmigrant is:

an alien having a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning who is a bona fide student, trainee, teacher, professor, research assistant, specialist, or leader in a field of specialized knowledge or skill, or other person of similar description, who is coming temporarily to the United States as a participant in a program designated by the Director of the United States Information Agency, for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, or receiving training and who, if he is coming to the United States to participate in a program under which he [she] will receive graduate medical education or training, also meets the requirements of section 212(j), and the alien spouse and minor children of any such alien if accompanying him [her] or following to join him [her]. INA Section 101(a)(15)(J), 8 USC 1101(a)(15)(J).

In general, the J nonimmigrant visa category is extremely complex due to the numerous subcategories contained within it. The United States Information Agency (USIA) was the U.S. government agency responsible for overseeing the implementation, monitoring and termination of certain specially designated exchange visitor programs.

For example, the exchange visitor programs that are best known to the public, which are administered by the DOS, are the au-pair, camp counselor and/or research scholar programs. These programs are administered by the DOS and designated on the Form IAP-66, which Form is endorsed by the program sponsor.

While a discussion of each particular USIA exchange visitor program is beyond the scope of this guide, it is important for any J nonimmigrant visa holder to be familiar with the two (2) - year foreign residency requirement limitation that may be placed upon the J nonimmigrant.

The initial admission of an exchange alien, spouse and children may not exceed the period specified on the Form DS-2019, plus a period of thirty (30) days for the purpose of travel. The regulations of the USIA which are published at 22 CFR 514.23 give the general limitations on the length of stay for each of the various classes of exchange visitors.

Dependents of the J-1 nonimmigrant are covered by J-2 nonimmigrant visas. Unlike many other nonimmigrant dependent categories, the J-2 may accept employment in the United States with authorization by the USCIS, but such authorization may not be approved if the income is needed to support the J-1 principal alien. 8 CFR Sec. 214.2(j)(1)(v).

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