What is a J-1 Visa?

The general rule is that if an intending visitor to the United States wants to enter this country, he or she must be a citizen of a nation that participates in the visa waiver program or obtain an appropriate visa first. Those visas might include a nonimmigrant temporary visa or an immigrant visa for lawful permanent residence. J-1 visas are not an immigrant visa. They’re for people who are approved to participate in exchange visitor programs here in the United States.

Foreign nationals are not permitted to study while in the United States on a tourist visa or even through the visa waiver program. As per U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), here are just a few categories of individuals who might qualify for the exchange visitor program:

  • Au pair or EduCare participants who are between 18 and 26 years of age and secondary school graduates or have the equivalent experience.
  • Foreign physicians who are enrolled in U.S. graduate medical education program.
  • Foreign students who will study at U.S. degree granting post-secondary accredited educational institutions or participate in student internship programs.
  • Internships for recent foreign college graduates to obtain working experience in U.S. business practices in their degree area.
  • A secondary school student who will attend an accredited public or private high school and reside with an American family.


The U.S. immigration attorneys at Maison Law Immigration Lawyers in Bakersfield, CA are available to consult with you on applying to the designated sponsoring organization of your choice in the United States. Assuming that you’re accepted into the exchange visitor program, you’re enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), and the $220 fee must be paid. If you’re above the age of 14, an interview at a United States embassy or consulate in your home country will be required. Upon gaining entry to the United States, stays can generally be extended.

Am I Eligible to Change My Status from J-1?

Even the most sincere plans can be changed. Should you marry a U.S. citizen or otherwise become eligible for conditional or permanent residency in this country, you may be eligible for a change of your visa classification.

If you’re contemplating a J-1 visa, contact us at Maison Law Immigration Lawyers in Bakersfield, CA for your visa needs. The J-1 process is complicated and confusing. Our objective is to get you through it the first time. If your intentions change while you’re here in the United States, we’ll be pleased to be of further help to you.