J-1 Visa Characteristics

Unlike other visa types, the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program has multiple purposes and categories.

The Exchange Visitor Program is regulated by the US Department of State to foster mutual exchange and to support the health and well-being of its participants.

Visa Type Overview

This section serves as an overview of J-1 regulations relevant to professors and researchers, not to J-1 Student Interns. To learn more about J-1 Student Interns, visit our J-1 Student Intern overview.

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J-1 Scholar (Professors and Researchers) Categories

Within the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, there are two categories commonly used at Columbia. Each particular category governs the terms and duration of the exchange.

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J-1 Regulations

The following regulations apply to both J-1 categories:

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12 and 24 Month Bars

There might be a wait time before a professor or scholar may begin their program at Columbia if they have been in the U.S. in a J-1 category. The category is listed is section 4 of the DS-2019. These wait times are referred to as the 12 and 24-month bars. The J-1 Exchange Visitor program supports its underlying premise of fostering mutual exchange by preventing immediate repeat participation through these bars.

The bars do not apply to anyone coming from or to a short-term scholar category.  

The 12-Month Bar

An individual is not eligible for the J-1 category of professor or research scholar if he or she has been physically present in the United States in J-1 or J-2 status for all or part of the twelve-month period immediately preceding the intended start date of a program unless:

The 24-Month Bar

Those who complete a J-1 or J-2 program, regardless of the duration of their program, are barred for two years from beginning a new J-1 research scholar/professor program.

This bar does not apply to those who are in the J-1 short term scholar category. 

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Two-Year Home Residency Requirement

This requirement, also known as 212(e),  does not apply to all J-1s. If subject, it means the J-1 individual (and J-2 dependents) are required to fulfill this requirement by returning to the country of nationality or last legal permanent residence for a cumulative period of at least two years (24 months) before being eligible to obtain H-1B, L, Permanent Residency status or changing visa status within the U.S.

The two-year home residency requirement applies for one or more of the following three reasons: 

  1. Government Funding – If the scholar is receiving home government or third-country government funding or are named in a U.S. government grant or award designed to facilitate exchange.
  2. Skills List– If the area of expertise and training is determined by home country as being in short supply and is listed on the U.S. government’s skills list.
  3. Graduate Medical Training – If your J-1 program is sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

Being subject to this requirement does not prevent a return in another visa status (for example as a tourist or F-1 student) at any time without a waiting period.  Such a change of visa status, however, can occur only through international travel and re-entry and not within the U.S.

FAQs

Generally, you are subject to 212(e) if there is a notation on the J-1 entry visa and/or on the lower section of your DS-2019, but sometimes it may be unclear if the requirement applies.

In such situations, the J-1 may request an Advisory Opinion from the Department of State. An Advisory Opinion is a review of your exchange visitor program documents to determine if you are subject to this requirement. Learn more on the Advisory Opinions webpage.

  • The J-1 may be able to obtain a waiver of the requirement by applying to the Waiver Review Division. The Waiver Review Division will review the request and will make a recommendation to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) either for or against a waiver. It is the DHS which makes the final decision, although in most cases it will accept the recommendation of the Waiver Review Division. See instructions for applying for a waiver on the Department of State website.  

If the J-1 is subject to the 2-Year Home Country requirement, any J-2 dependents are subject as well.

If the J-1 obtains a waiver, J-2 dependents are included.

No, marriage to a U.S. citizen does not suffice for a waiver. The J-1 still needs to apply for a waiver if eligible under any of the criteria.

After a waiver has been granted

Once the J-1 has obtained a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement, they are no longer be eligible for a J-1 extension or transfer, or for a new J-1 entry visa to be issued by a consulate abroad. Please discuss your future plans with an adviser before beginning the process of applying for a waiver.

  • A waiver alone does not extend one's stay in the U.S.
  • All waiver application procedures are time-consuming. The J-1 Exchange Visitor needs to be aware that it may take up to a year or longer to obtain a waiver.