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The J-1 visa classification is available to aliens who come to the United States to participate in an approved exchange visitor program to teach, study, receive training or demonstrate special skills. J-1 visa holders join courses which are not available in their home country. Unlike other student visas, J-1 visa holders are allowed to work and travel during their stay in the United States. J-1 visa has to be sponsored by a public or private agency but must be accredited through Exchange Visitor Program designed by U.S. Department of State. A Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (DS-2019) has to be obtained from the program sponsor prior to obtaining the visa.

There are different programs within the J-1 category, including trainees, college or university students, secondary school students, professors and research scholars, short-term scholars, specialists, foreign medical graduates, international and government visitors and summer work / travel students. Certain types of J-1 exchange visitors require that the alien return to another country for a period of two years after the completion of J-1 status. However, there are certain circumstances in which they can be waived. The Department of State maintains a complete and updated list of all sponsoring organizations which can be found here.

Spouses and unmarried children below the age of 21 can apply for J-2 visa. Spouses of J-1 visa holders may be employed provided employment is not for the support of the J-1 and the spouse is not a J-1 visa holder themselves. Employment may be authorized for the duration of the J-1 validity or 4 years, whichever is shorter.

J-1 Waivers

If the J-1 visa holder is subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement, but is not able to fulfil the requirement, then he or she may apply to the Department of State, Waiver Review Division for a recommendation that USCIS grant a waiver under any one of the five applicable bases set forth.

1. No Objection Statement

The home country government may issue a No Objection Statement to the Waiver Review Division that it has no objection to the J-1 visa holders not returning to his or her home country and no objection to the possibility of their becoming a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. Foreign medical physicians who are on J-1 visa status for the purpose of receiving graduate medical education or training are not allowed to use this option.

2. Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency

If the J-1 visa holder is working on a project for or of interest to a U.S. federal government agency, and that agency has determined that the departure for two years would be detrimental to its interest, then that agency may request a Waiver on behalf of J-1 visa holder. The Interested Government Agency request must be signed by the head of the agency or his or her designee and submitted directly to the Waiver Review Division.

3. Persecution

If the J-1 visa holder believes that he or she will be persecuted based on race, religion, or political opinion when they return to their home country, they may apply for a persecution waiver by submitting Form I-612 directly to USCIS.

USCIS will forward its decision directly to the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division. The Waiver Review Division will proceed with the waiver recommendation under this basis only if USCIS makes a finding of persecution.

4. Exceptional Hardship to a U.S. Citizen (or Lawful Permanent Resident) Spouse or Child of an Exchange Visitor

If the J-1 visa holder can demonstrate that departure from the U.S. would cause exceptional hardship to their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or child, then that person may apply for an exceptional hardship waiver.

Please note that mere separation from family is not considered to be sufficient to establish exceptional hardship. Form I-612 must be submitted directly to USCIS.

USCIS will forward its decision directly to the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division. The Waiver Review Division will proceed with the waiver recommendation under this basis only if USCIS makes a finding of exceptional hardship.

5. Request by a Designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent (Conrad State 30 Program)

If the J-1 visa holder is a foreign medical graduate who obtained exchange visitor status to pursue graduate medical training or education, then request for waiver of the two-year home-country physical presence requirement could be based on the request of a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent, if all of the following criteria is met. This waiver category is also known as the Conrad State 30 Program. There must be:

  • Offer of full-time employment at a health care facility in a designated health care professional shortage area or at a health care facility which serves patients from such a designated area.
  • Agreement to begin employment at that facility within 90 days of receiving a waiver.
  • Signed contract to continue working at that health care facility for a total of 40 hours per week and for not less than three years.

We, at the Law Offices of Aditya Surti, LLC can help you in applying for change of status/extension/adjustment of status to a different visa and in applying for Waivers. To schedule your appointment contact us at 201-518-6642201-518-6642 (Jersey City Office), 732-750-1269732-750-1269 (Woodbridge Office). You can also email us at