J-1 Exchange Visitor Program

The Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa category is for foreign individuals approved to participate in approved work-and study-based exchange visitor programs for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training to promote the interchange or persons, knowledge, and skills, in the fields of education, arts, and science. 


The Department of State designates public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors to carry out the responsibilities of the Program and thus, J-1 nonimmigrants are sponsored by an exchange program that is designated as such by the U.S. Department of State. 

The J-1 Programs includes, but is not limited to:


Au Pair Qualifying applicants must be 18-to-26-years-old, proficient in spoken English and must complete at least six hours of academic credit or its equivalent at an accredited U.S. post-secondary educational institution. Au Pairs live with a family for 12 months, with the option to extend 6, 9, or 12 more months.  They should also receive a minimum of 32 hours of childcare training before starting work.  Childcare is limited to no more than 10 hours per day, and to a maximum of 45 hours per week. Au pairs are compensated for their work according to the Fair Labor Standards Act as interpreted and implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor. They receive up to $500, including room and board, toward the cost of required academic course work.


Camp Counselor – Qualifying foreign individuals must be at least 18-years-old, proficient in spoken English and a bona fide youth worker, student, teacher or other specially qualified individual. Camp counselors must receive pay and benefits commensurate with those offered to their American counterparts at the camps.


College and University Student – Foreign university/college students may engage in degree-granting programs until completion or non-degree granting programs for no more than 24 months. Students may also engage in part-time employment under certain conditions, including good academic standing at their host institution or in academic training with or without wages or other remuneration during their studies with the approval of the academic dean or adviser and the responsible officer at their sponsor organization.


Intern Qualifying foreign individuals currently enrolled in and pursuing studies at a foreign degree- or certificate-granting post-secondary academic institution outside the United States; or who have graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to their exchange visitor program start date. In 2013, there were over 20,000 J-1 interns.


Summer Work Travel – Qualifying foreign individuals are college and university students who are enrolled full time and pursuing studies at post-secondary accredited academic institutions located outside the United States and participating in the program to share their culture and ideas with people of the United States through temporary work and travel opportunities. The Summer Work Travel program provides foreign students with an opportunity to live and work in the United States during their summer vacation from college or university to experience and be exposed to the people and way of life in the United States.


Trainee – Qualifying foreign individuals who have a degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution and at least one year of prior related work experience in his or her occupational field outside the United States; or have five years of work experience outside the United States in the occupational field in which they are seeking training. The Trainee program enhances the skills and expertise of exchange visitors in their academic or occupational fields through participation in a structure and guided training-based program. Over 9000 people participated in the Trainee program in 2013.


Before foreign individuals can apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a J-1 visa, they must first apply for and be accepted into an exchange visitor program through a designated sponsoring organization. Exchange visitors who are citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) participating countries are not permitted to travel without a visa on the VWP or travel on business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, if their purpose of travel is to participate in an exchange visitor program. All exchange visitors must travel to the United States with exchange visitor (J-1) visas.


If you have questions about the J-1 nonimmigrant classification, please contact Sujin Kim, Esq. at (251) 379-8065/ (251) 387-2544 or skim@gcimmigration.com