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Exchange Visitor (J-1)

The United States makes visas are available to students (F-1 and M visas) and participants in exchange programs (J-1 visas). Varying rights and obligations attach to the different types of visas. For instance, recipients of certain types of student visas are allowed to work for a certain period of time while recipients of certain exchange visas are required to return to their country of origin for two years after their visa expires. For this reason, it is important that each visa applicant carefully consider his / her visa options.


Exchange visas (J-1 visas) are available for those foreign nationals approved to participate in certain exchange visitor programs in the U.S. Exchange visitor categories include:


  • Au pairs;

  • Camp counselors;

  • College and university exchange students;

  • High school (secondary school) students;

  • Interns;

  • Physicians who come to the United States to participate in graduate medical education programs or training at accredited U.S. medical schools;

  • Professors and research scholars;

  • Short-term scholars (e.g. professors who travel to the United States on a short-term visit to lecture, consult or train at research institutions, museums or libraries);

  • Specialists in a field of specialized knowledge or skills;

  • Trainees who come to the U.S. to receive training in U.S. business practices in their chosen occupational field.


Under certain conditions, persons granted a J-1 visa are required to return to their home country for two years at the end of their exchange visitor program. This requirement is stringent and must be met by exchange visitors to whom it applies before they can change or adjust their immigration status. The two-year home country stay requirement may be waived by the U.S. government under the following limited circumstances: (i) the exchange visitor’s home country issues a “No Objection Statement” indicating that it has no objection to the waiver of the requirement; (ii) an interested U.S. federal government agency requests a waiver; (iii) the exchange visitor indicates a fear of persecution in his/her home country based on race, religion or political opinion; (iv) the exchange visitor can demonstrate extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child; or (v) certain circumstances in which a state public health department requests a waiver for foreign medical graduates.

How We Can Help

We help our clients select the type of visa that is appropriate to their circumstances and guide them through the petition process. Upon expiration of student or exchange program visas, we can counsel our clients regarding changes in their visa status. We can also provide services with respect to the CPT and OPT process and waivers of the two-year home stay requirement for J-1 visa holders. In addition to our legal expertise, our language skills in Spanish and Portuguese make us particularly helpful to our Latin American, Spanish, and Portuguese clients.

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