The Immigration and Nationality Act provides a non-immigrant visa category for persons to participate in exchange visitor
programs in the United States.
The “J” exchange visitor program is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields
of education, arts, and sciences.
Participants include students at all academic levels; trainees obtaining on-the-job training with firms, institutions,
and agencies; teachers of primary, secondary, and specialized schools; professors coming to teach or do research at
institutions of higher learning; research scholars; professional trainees in the medical and allied fields; and
international visitors coming for the purpose of travel, observation, consultation, research, training, sharing,
or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs.
Financial Resources: Participants in the “J” exchange visitor program must have sufficient funds to cover all
expenses, or funds must be
provided by the sponsoring organization in the form of a
scholarship or other stipend.
Scholastic Preparation: “J” exchange visitors must have sufficient scholastic preparation to participate in the
designated program, including
knowledge of the English language, or the exchange program
must be designed to accommodate non-English speaking participants.
Medical Education and Training: Exchange visitors coming under the “J” program for graduate medical education
or training must meet
certain special requirements. They include having passed the
Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in Medical Sciences, demonstrating
English, being automatically subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement, and being subject to time
the duration of their program. Physicians coming to the United States on
exchange visitor programs for the purpose of observation,
consultation, teaching, or
research in which there is little or no patient care are not subject to the above requirements.
Foreign Residence Requirement:
Many exchange visitors entering the United States are subject to a requirement that they return to their home country
to share with their countrymen the knowledge, experience and impressions gained during their stay in the United States.
Unless the BCIS approves a waiver for this requirement, exchange visitors must depart from the United States and live
in their country of residence for two years before they are allowed to apply for an immigrant visa, permanent
residence, or change to a new nonimmigrant status.
You are subject to the foreign residence requirement, if you are a (J-1 visa status) participant in the Exchange
Visitor Program and:
Any part of your participation in the exchange program was paid for, directly or indirectly, by your government
or the United States
You are from a country which has been designated by Bureau of Consular Affairs as requiring your skills; or
You arrived in the United States on or after January 10, 1977 to obtain graduate medical education or training.
If you fall into one of the above categories, your dependent spouse and child are also subject to the foreign
Waiver of Foreign Residence Requirement:
You may be eligible to apply for a waiver of the foreign residence requirement if:
You have a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or child and you can provide evidence that
returning to your country would
impose exceptional hardship on your spouse or child;
You cannot return to your country because you would be subject to persecution because of your race, religion,
or political opinion;
A U.S. government agency requests a waiver directly from the Bureau of Consular Affairs for you because you are
engaged in a project
of official interest to the agency;
Your country provides a written statement to the director of the Bureau of Consular Affairs stating that your
country has no objection to a
waiver. (If you came to the United States as an exchange
visitor to receive graduate medical education or training, you are ineligible to
a waiver on this ground.); or
A state of the United States, through the state office of public health or its equivalent, sponsors you to work
as a physician in a health
man power shortage area within the state for three years as a
nonimmigrant in H-1B status (temporary worker in specialty occupation).
If you are granted
the waiver, you must agree to begin your employment with the state within 90 days of receiving the waiver. This
state request is submitted to the director of the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
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