The J-1 exchange visitor visa classification is intended to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) oversees and approves Exchange Visitor Programs to administer J-1 exchange visas for au pairs; camp counselors; college, university or secondary students; government or “international” visitors; physicians; professors; research or short-term scholars; specialists; summer work or travel visitors; specialists; teachers; and trainees/interns.

Foreign nationals coming to the U.S. in J-1 status must prove that they have sufficient “home ties” which will compel them to return to their home country upon completion of their J-1 program. J-1 visa holders may be subject to a requirement that they return to and reside in their home country for two years before they may be granted an H or L visa status or permanent residence, unless they first obtain a waiver of this requirement from the U.S. Government. Duration of a J-1 program may be a few weeks to several years, dependent on the category. Employment may be permitted for J-1 status holders in limited circumstances, also dependent on the category. Those employers who wish to sponsor a J-1 should keep in mind that federal regulations require that each J-1 exchange visitor, and his or her dependent spouse and children, have insurance in effect which covers them for sickness and/or accident throughout the duration of their stay.

Spouse and children, under the age of 21, of a J-1, are eligible for a J-2 visa. J-2 spouses may apply to USCIS for an open-market work permit upon their arrival in the U.S.