J-1 Visa

The J visa program is actually an "exchange program" and not necessarily a student-based program. However, by far, students seeking their medical degrees in the United States are the most frequent users of the visa. The J visa is preferred over the F by some students since the spouse of the J-1 is allowed to work in the United States (albeit in a limited capacity). Conversely, the J visa is disfavored by many students due to the foreign residency requirements imposed on certain J-1 visa-holders. You may enter the U.S. in J-1 status if you are going to participate in a USIA program as a bona fide student, scholar, trainee, teacher, professor, research assistant, specialist, or leader in a field of specialized knowledge or skill. Foreign medical graduates seeking further training in the U.S. may only do so via the J-1.

  1. Basic Requirements
    1. Participants must have sufficient funds to cover all expenses or must have a sponsoring organization that will provide full support;
    2. Participants must have the required education for the particular program they are entering;
    3. Participants must have a good understanding of the English language, or must be entering a program for non-English speakers;
  2. Application Requirements for the J-1 Visa
    • Applicants should apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where they reside and bring:
      1. Form OF-156, completed and signed;
      2. A passport with a validity date of at least six months from the end of the intended stay;
      3. One photograph 1.5 inches square;
      4. Completed form IAP-66;
      5. Demonstrable ties to a residence in a foreign country; and
      6. Promise/statement that they are coming to the United States for a temporary period.


  • Visas for your Dependents - the J-2
    1. Your spouses and minor children may apply;
    2. They must present your form IAP-66 as well as other basic documentation;
    3. They must demonstrate sufficient financial resources to support themselves while in the United States.
  • Employment While in the United States as a J-1
    1. Employment options are dictated by the nature of your particular program.
    2. You may accept employment if your program involves paid employment like on-the-job training, teaching, research or other such activities.
    3. If your program does not inherently involve paid employment then you may not accept outside employment.
  • Employment of Your J-2 in the United States
    1. Your J-2 dependents may work in the United States for either the duration of your J-1 or four years - whichever is shorter;
    2. The work authorization is valid only if the J-1 is maintaining status;
    3. Application for work authorization may be made by using the form I-765 and submitting the appropriate fees; and
    4. The J-2's income may not be used to support the J-1.
  • Additional Requirements for Medical Education Participants
    • Additional requirements for persons entering the program for graduate medical education or training include:
      1. Must have passed the FMGEMS;
      2. Must have demonstrated competency in English;
      3. Subject to limits on duration of program; and
      4. Subject to two year foreign residence requirement.
      5. Exception to two year foreign residence requirement for physicians coming to the U.S. for observation, research, teaching and consultation where there is minimal or no patient care.
    • The Foreign Residency Requirement
      1. The foreign residency requirement applies to you if:
        1. Your program was financed by your government;
        2. Your program was financed by the U.S. government; or
        3. Your country has been designated by the USIA as requiring your particular skills.
      2. If the requirement does apply to you then you must:
        1. Return to your country of nationality or last residence;
        2. Reside there for two years.
      3. Only when these requirements have been satisfied may you apply for a temporary worker visa or permanent residence.
      4. The only way to avoid the foreign residence requirement is by obtaining a waiver.
    • You May Be Eligible for a Waiver If:
      1. Departure form the U.S. would impose exceptional hardship upon your spouse or child;
      2. Return to the country of nationality/last residence would subject you to persecution;
      3. Your admission to the U.S. is in the public interest according to the Attorney General; or
      4. A no-objection statement from the home country (FMGs subject to additional requirements).