For persons who would like to pursue their studies or become involved in cultural or educational exchanges may be eligible for one of the following visas:
- F1: For academic students. To learn more, please see the Students and Exchange Visitors page on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement website. The F2 visa is the companion visa for children and spouses of F1 visa holder.
- M1: For vocational students. To learn more, please see the Students and Exchange Visitors page on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement website. The M2 visa is the companion visa for the children and spouses of the M1 visa holder.
- J1: For educational and cultural exchange programs. Many J1 visa holders are required to leave the United States for two years after the expiration of the J1 visa (“the two-year rule”). For more information, please see the Exchange Visitor Visa page on the Department of State website. The J2 visa is the companion visa for the children and spouses of the J1 visa holder.
The J program is one of the biggest visa programs available. It is a non-immigrant visa that has been designed to foster global understanding through cross-cultural exchange. The program generally involves letting an American organization sponsor a foreign national who then works or studies in the United States for the short term and upon completion of the program return home.
The organization would generally need to be designated as a sponsor of the program or they can apply to be a sponsoring organization. You can find a list of pre approved sponsors here and the programs available cover a wide range of topics including coming to the US as an Au Pair, Camp Counselor, College or University Student, Government Visitor, Intern, an International Visitor, Physician, Professor or Research Scholar, Secondary School Student, Short Term Scholar, Specialist, for Summer Work Travel, Teacher or a Trainee.
Some J-1 visas are granted on the condition that you return home for two years before you are eligible for an immigrant visa or certain types of nonimmigrant visas (namely an H or an L). You may still be able to qualify for other nonimmigrant visas while still being subject to INA 212(e), that two year home requirement. For instance, if the U.S. government or the home government funds the exchange program, or if the participant gains specialized knowledge or skills needed in the home country, or if the participant receives medical training. Normally it is indicated on the DS-2019 or on the visa itself but occasionally those notations are incorrect. If you are subject to INA s.212(e) there are five ways in which you may be eligible to apply for a waiver of that rule thus allowing you to get an immigrant visa or a nonimmigrant H or L. They are:
- No Objection Statement;
- Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency;
- Exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen (or lawful permanent resident) spouse or child of the exchange visitor; or
- Request by a Designated State Public Health Department or its Equivalent (also known as the Conrad State 30 program).
For a full analysis of whether you are subject to the two year home rule and how best to waive that requirement I would recommend speaking with an immigration attorney.