Exchange Visitors (J-1)
As an exchange visitor, you will follow the same pre-arrival and arrival processes as international students on an F-1 visa, including checking in with the Office of International Affairs (OIA) upon your arrival.
However, to stay in compliance with your J-1 visa, please be aware of these additional requirements.
You are required to spend an aggregate of 2 years in your home country before coming back to the United States for a long-term stay.
As an exchange visitor, you are coming to the U.S. for a specific reason, such as a program of study or a research project. The intent of the requirement is to have your home country benefit from your experience in the United States. This requirement prevents you from staying longer than needed to meet your objective.
Terms of the requirement
Until you either comply with, or are granted a waiver of the 2-year requirement, you are:
- Not eligible to obtain an H or L visa at a U.S. consulate
- Not eligible for lawful permanent resident status
- Not eligible to change status from J to any other nonimmigrant status from within the U.S., except to A (diplomatic) or G (employee of an International Organization) status. In most cases, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will also not approve a change from J-2 to J-1 or vice versa.
Please note: you may still leave the U.S. and apply for a new visa category other than H or L. For example, you may leave may leave the U.S. with your J-1 and apply for an F-1 visa overseas, even though you may not change status to F-1 within the U.S. Entering the U.S. with a new visa, however, does not relieve you of your obligation to fulfill the 2-year requirement at a later date.
Who is subject to this requirement?
You are subject to the requirement if:
- Your J-1 participation is or was funded in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of exchange, by your home government or the U.S. government.
- As a J-1 exchange visitor, you are acquiring a skill that is in short supply in your home country, according to the Exchange Visitor Skills List.
- You have participated as a J-1 in a graduate medical education or training program, i.e., residency, internship, or fellowship, sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).
- You are a J-2 dependent of an exchange visitor who is subject to the requirement.
If you have ever been subject to the requirement in the past, and have neither obtained a waiver nor fulfilled it by spending 2 years in your country, it still holds—even if a more current Form DS-2019 (formerly IAP-66) reflects no basis for such a requirement.
The visa stamp in your passport, your Form DS-2019 (labeled "preliminary endorsement"), or both may show an indication by a consular officer or a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector that you are or are not subject to the requirement.
Exchange visitor should understand that this is only a preliminary opinion and that these determinations are sometimes wrong.
If you are unsure if you are subject
See an international student advisor. Be sure to bring your passport, all copies that you have of Forms DS-2019s (formerly IAP-66s), and your Form I-94.
If the international student advisor determines that the preliminary endorsement is incorrect, they will write to the Department of State (DOS) for an Advisory Opinion. The DOS is responsible for the administration of the Exchange Visitor program and the 2-year requirement.
Waiver of the requirement
If you are an exchange visitor subject to this rule and do not wish to fulfill the requirement, you may be able to obtain a waiver. If the waiver is approved, it is as if the 2-year requirement never existed. See the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) International Center website for more details.
A word of caution
This information summarizes some very complex and sensitive issues. It is intended only to help you understand the nature of the requirement, not to serve as a legal reference.
Do not assume from reading this sheet that you are subject to the requirement, or that you are not. Please see an international student advisor for more information.
When your program is finished, you must check out at the OIA. The OIA is required to report the program end date to the federal government. This could be the end date on the DS-2019 or it could be a prior date if the program is completed early.
Reinstatement to legal status will rarely, if ever, be granted in the U.S. to exchange visitors who lose their status. If you are out of status, you must return home with no guarantee of being issued a visa to return. We recommend that you make an appointment with an international advisor to discuss your individual circumstances
Inappropriate advice given to exchange visitors by a faculty member, academic advisor or international advisor that results in loss of legal status is not accepted by USCIS as grounds to reinstate exchange visitors to legal status.