In this blog, we’ll be looking in detail at the J-1 visa .
Whenever you have to apply for any visa, you require details. You need the information to know which forms are required, their cost, and, most importantly, their processing time. Let’s move on to the details.
What is the Processing Time For a J-1 Visa?
From applying to receiving your visa, the processing time for J-1 Visa can range from 8 weeks to 13 weeks. Each stage of the process has different wait times. The processing time for the DS-2019 can be anywhere from 2 and 3 weeks by the Office of International Services. You might have to wait 2 weeks to over a month to make an appointment with the U.S. Consulate or Embassy, depending on how busy the agency is. If the interview goes well, then it will take around 1 week for the agency to add the visa to your passport.
What Are The Steps And Processing Times For J-1 Visa?
There are several steps to be followed for the application process for the J-1 exchange visitor program. The complete processing time will be based on how you and the organization sponsoring you, work together to speed up the application process. Another component is the waiting time at the consulate or embassy that will process your visa. The processing steps for the J-1 visa are as follows:
- Finding an authorized sponsor: timespan may vary
- Time for DS-2019 and SEVIS ID processing: 2 to 3 weeks
- Attending your visa interview: timespan can vary
- Obtaining your visa: 7 business days
- Time for completing the DS-160 and scheduling the interview: 2 to 4 weeks
Now let’s move on to the processing steps in detail.
Step 1: Find An Authorized Sponsor
The J-1 visa is not sponsored by a family member or employer, unlike other visa categories. Instead, it is sponsored by an organization that is accredited and authorized by the U.S. government. You must select a sponsor that is offering your program of choice compared to the numerous other authorized organizations. Next, you must contact the organization directly to get more information about the program and the application requirements. The program-sponsoring organization is accountable for selecting candidates as well as supervising them during their entire stay. It is advised that you submit the necessary documents to the sponsor as early as you can.
Step 2: Processing For DS-2019 and SEVIS ID: 2 – 3 Weeks
Once you are selected for the program, the sponsor will provide you with a DS-2019 Form. The DS-2019 is the formal document that verifies your qualification to apply for a J-1 visa. Make sure you read it carefully. If you are uncertain about something in the form, you can contact the organization sponsoring you or contact an immigration expert.
Your DS-2019 will be printed along with your SEVIS. You will get an email that includes a specific identifier known as SEVIS ID along with information on how to obtain the fee payment receipt for SEVIS. The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) contains data on exchange visitors and foreign students in the U.S. The processing for DS-2019 takes around two to three weeks on average.
Step 3: Complete the DS-160 and Schedule An Interview: 2 – 4 Weeks
Now that you have been accepted for a J-1 program and have your SEVIS ID, you must finish the online DS-160 application. The purpose of this form is to request a nonimmigrant visa to travel to the U.S. You have to give all the necessary information and documents in the form. It is also essential that you fill out the form accurately.
Not providing the necessary information or documents or making false claims in your DS-160 form will lead to processing delays or even rejection. Once you have completed the form, you will schedule your visa interview with the consulate or embassy. The waiting period for an interview after making the appointment may differ based on the embassy or consulate. In some cases, it can be as early as 2 weeks. While for others, the candidates may have to wait for a month or even more. It is best to make an appointment for an interview as soon as you get approval for your DS-2019.
Step 4: Attend Your Visa Interview
After scheduling the interview, the consulate or embassy will inform you about the date, time and place of the interview. Make sure to read the message properly to understand what you will be required to bring for the interview, and be sure to prepare before the date.
Step 5: Obtain Your Visa Within 7 Days of the Interview
If your J-1 visa application is approved, the consulate or embassy will require a few days to ready the visa sticker for your passport. You will get the visa and all the required items you need to travel to the U.S., including your DS-2019 form, In around 3 to 7 business days.
To extend your J-1 visa, your program sponsor must provide you with a second DS-2019 form that shows that you have been granted an extension. Per the Department of State, the candidate can only extend their visa which exceeds the maximum limit for their program under specific circumstances. Based on your unique conditions, your sponsor and an immigration lawyer can give you more accurate information on eligibility requirements for an extension.
Like the first application, once you submit the new DS-2019 form, you should expect to wait for 2 to 3 weeks. Your waiting period will depend on the caseload of your specific service center.
Premium Processing For J-1 Visa
Premium processing is the service that reduces the application processing time to just 15 days This service is only available for specific visas and green cards that use the I-129 and I-140 forms. Unfortunately, this service is unavailable for J-1 visa applications because the J-1 visa requires the DS-2019 form, which is not qualified for this service.
But, because the J-1 processing is started by the specified organization, some of these organizations will have the right to speed up the processing. You can get more information about this from your sponsor.
J-1 Visa For Exchange Visitors
The J-1 visa for exchange visitors is a nonimmigrant visa that is based on approved programs that function as sponsors instead of employers. Some of the eligible programs you can apply for under the J-1 Visa are as follows:
- Au Pair (Nanny)
- Government Visitor
- Camp Counselor
- Secondary School Student
- University or College Student
- Summer Work Travel
- Professional International Visitor
Now let’s take a look at the specific requirements that must be fulfilled when applying for a J-1 Visa which are as follows:
- You must be proficient and have a strong command of the English language.
- You should be able to finance your trip and also have sufficient medical insurance for you and your family members that are accompanying you on a J-2 visa.
- You should have a residence abroad and make it clear that you do not have any plans to leave it. This can be proven by showing that you have a car, family, or some other asset that would encourage you to return home after completing your J-1 stay.
If you meet this criterion and have already secured a sponsor, then you can begin with the first step for the J-1 visa, which is submitting a DS-2019 – Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status to the Office of Immigration Services (OIS). This form will be created and completed by the organization sponsoring you.
Once you get the verification that your DS-2019 has been approved, you will have one of the following two options:
- If you are already under a different nonimmigrant visa status such as the F-1 visa, you can change your status, which will take place automatically as soon as you submit form DS-2019, or;
- Undergo consular processing, which includes completing a DS-160 – Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application and taking it to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your native country for a scheduled appointment. There you will be interviewed by a consular officer. Be sure to prepare for your interview beforehand and answer each question with honesty and confidence. It is better to tell the officer that you don’t know the answer to a question instead of lying.
Keep in mind that you may also have to submit the DS-157 – Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application to provide details about your travel plans to the USCIS.
The validity period of your J-1 visa is completely dependent on your sponsoring program. But, in very few cases, a J-1 visa bearer can stay longer than 7 years. Some of the general valid duration for a stay based on the more popular programs are as follows:
- Maximum 5 years stay for Teachers, scholars, researchers, and professors.
- Maximum 7 years of valid stay for Medical graduate students.
- 18 months for Professional trainees and government visitors, with some exceptions going up to two years.
- The maximum validity period of 4 months for camp counsellors and summer workers.
- The maximum duration of 1 year for Nannies and au pairs.
- One example of a program that permits its participants to stay for more than 7 years is the International Communications Agency, whose employees can stay in the U.S. for up to 10 years or more.
It is essential to contact the program sponsoring you to know the precise duration of your visa validity period. Exceeding the departure date on your I-94 could result in severe consequences, such as being deemed as “out of status”, which could prohibit you from applying in the future.
Grace Period For A J-1 Visa
J-1 visa has two grace periods which you should know about before travelling to the U.S. The first grace period starts 30 days before your official J-1 visa start date. You cannot work in the U.S during this time.
Similarly, there is also a 30-day J-1 grace period that begins as soon as your program ends. You can use this grace period to complete your unfinished affairs etc. But, if you depart the U.S. during this grace period, you will require a new visa if you want to re-enter the U.S. The reasoning behind this is that you will have exceeded the end date on your DS-2019. You are also not allowed to work during this J-1 grace period.
The key point is that you should leave the U.S. before your grace period expires. If you overstay, then you will be considered “out of status”, which could have severe repercussions if you try to get a visa or green card in the future.
There are some essential things that you should follow to avoid unnecessary delays. For instance, you should have an immigration lawyer go through the DS-2019 sent by your sponsoring program to make sure that all of the information is complete and accurate. If you fail to do so then it could result in your application getting rejected or denied.
If you get a rejection, then you might have to fix a simple error or add a missing detail before re-filing. But, if your application is denied, that means that the USCIS officer did not see your case as worthy of a J-1 visa and you might have to look for other means of working in the U.S.
Also, you must ensure that every payment is made in the proper amount to the correct department. Any error in the fee payments could severely cause delays in your J-1 visa processing time.
It is difficult to obtain a precise time frame because it heavily depends on the caseload of your service center.
Timeframe To Go From J-1 Visa to a Green Card
Once you have your J-1 visa, your first step toward a green card is to look for a sponsoring employer. Either it could be the same program that sponsored your J-1 visa or a different employer. You will also have to decide which green card is the most appropriate one for your situation. You might be eligible for the EB-2 If you have an advanced degree or exceptional skills. If you are a skilled worker, the EB-3 might be appropriate according to your qualifications.
It is pertinent to note that the J-1 visa is not a dual intent visa. This means that you are not legally allowed to apply for a green card while under J-1 status. You will have to return to your native country for the requirement of your home residency or change your status to some other nonimmigrant visa that is dual intent. To bypass the requirement for home residency, you will require a J-1 visa waiver.
Once you have obtained a dual intent visa status or are in your home country, your sponsor will have to get a PERM Labor Certification on your behalf. This is an important and lengthy step to transition from a J-1 visa to a green card because your sponsor will need to advertise for your position to make sure that no eligible U.S. workers are available for your job.
This process can take around nine months, given that your sponsor is not assessed by the Department of Labor. In case they are, then it could prolong the processing time to bout a year and a half.
After you have your PERM, your sponsor will submit form I-140 for you. Through premium processing, the processing of form I-140 can be sped up to 15 days. But, you will still be determined by your application’s priority date, which may make the premium processing ineffective for your case.
The priority date is the day when your employer sends your application to the USCIS. You and your employer will have to compare that date with the “final action” dates provided in the visa bulletin of the Department of State.
When the dates match, your priority date will be deemed current, and a visa number will become available for you. This can take from no time to several years, as it is based on which green card you are applying for and your native country.
Then you either choose to adjust your status from J-1 to your new green card by submitting the I-485 application only if you are present in the U.S. or you can go to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country of origin to participate in an interview with an immigration officer. If you pass this interview, you will be allowed to enter the U.S. as a legal permanent resident.
The process of adjusting your status can vary. If it is prolonged, then it can take an average of six months, and premium processing is not available. Conversely, the U.S. Consulate or Embassy might be able to time your interview within a few weeks, depending on the number of cases.
If you want to transfer to another nonimmigrant visa or to a green card from a J-1 visa, you must have a waiver to bypass the condition for the 2-year home residency. Generally, there are five essential legal requirements that will make you eligible for this waiver which are as follows:
- Getting a “no objection” statement from your home country’s government.
- Having an Interested Government Agency (IGA) of the U.S. federal government request that you stay in the U.S., usually because you are working on a project that benefits from your participation.
- Being able to establish that you may experience oppression if you were to return to your home country.
- Providing evidence that a spouse or dependent would have to go through hardship if you were required to return to your home country.
- Being a physician who has obtained an offer for a full-time position in an area that has a shortage of medical professionals.
Time for J-1 visa waiver processing starts with you submitting an online application for your waiver recommendation. The processing time of your application for waiver is based on the caseload of the USCIS service center that has received your application and the type of legal basis you are applying under. For instance, an IGA waiver or a Persecution waiver may take more time to be processed than a No Objection waiver. In general, you can expect J-1 waiver processing time to take around 3 to 4 months.
It is important to note that if you are eligible, you can submit multiple applications at the same time so if one application is processed quicker than the other, you can move on to the next step as soon as the first one is accepted.
J-1 Visa For Spouse and Dependent Children
Your spouse and dependent children that are under the age of 21 and unmarried can join you or later accompany and stay with you in the U.S. for the duration of your exchange visitor program. For this, they have to apply for a J-2 visa. Regardless of age, each additional traveler should have their own approved J-2 visa.
Eligibility For J-2 Visa
There is a condition to be eligible for a J-2 visa, as not all J-1 visa categories have a requirement for this derivative visa. The eligibility of your relative for a J-2 visa will depend on the exact exchange program offered to you as a J-1 nonimmigrant by the organization sponsoring you. For instance, the J-1 categories of camp counselor, au pair, summer work, and secondary school student do not permit J-2 visas.
You should also know that even in the categories that permit the J-2 visa, some sponsoring programs do not allow it. Therefore it is essential that you get the proper information from the sponsoring organization and get the help of an immigration lawyer, especially if you have a spouse and/or dependent children you would like to take to the U.S. with you.
How Can A Dependent Get A J-2 Visa?
The process for a J-2 visa application is similar to the primary J-1 visa application. As a J-1 visa exchange visitor, you must permit your family members, who will each be granted their own DS-2019, to accompany you.
Can A J-2 Visa Bearer Work In The U.S?
Generally, J-2 visa bearers are permitted to apply for jobs in the U.S. But, they must acquire an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card or work permit by submitting Form I-765. The duration for an EAD processing usually takes from 90 to 120 days after submitting the application. A J-2 visa bearer will be asked to verify that the job they are doing is not intended to provide financial support to the J-1 holder.
Can A J-2 Visa Bearer Apply for a Social Security Number?
If a J-2 visa holder’s EAD is accepted, then they can also apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) which will be used by their employer to put them on a payroll. If, as a J-2 visa holder, you are given an SSN, you must make sure to keep the card and the number in a safe place. This is important because if in the future you decide to re-enter the U.S. for study or work purposes, the SSN will remain valid.
Is A J-2 Visa Holder Permitted To Study in the U.S.?
Besides employment, a J-2 visa bearer can also study in the United States. As long as they fulfill the requirements, the holder can partake in full-time or part-time education in any recreational or degree-awarding course per their choice. But, since the J-2 visa depends on the primary J-1 holder’s status, you cannot exceed your stay than the stay period provided to the primary J-1 beneficiary. If the J-1 beneficiary’s visa expires before the completion of the course then a J-2 visa holder can transfer to a student visa such as an F-1 to complete their study.
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