J-1 visas are available for individuals participating in an internship or other type of training. To qualify, an applicant must be a professor or research scholar, a short-term scholar, a bona fide trainee or intern, a college or university student, a teacher, a secondary school student, a nonacademic specialist, a foreign physician, an international visitor, a government visitor, a camp counselor, an au pair, or a student in a summer work and travel program. For purposes of corporate immigration, the most relevant categories are bona fide trainees or interns and summer work and travel programs.
To be eligible for this visa, the individual must fit into one of the above categories and be in school or recently graduated and wish to enter the United States to gain experience and training that is not available to them abroad.
Individuals applying for this visa must be sponsored by a public or private entity that the Department of State has designated as an approved exchange sponsor. Therefore, individuals applying for these visas must go through two levels of applications. First, they must apply to an approved exchange sponsor, which will screen them based on its program’s specific requirements, as well as some generic English language proficiency and insurance requirements.
Once a sponsor has approved an applicant, he or she then must apply for a visa through the Department of State. To be approved by the Department of State, the applicant must: (i) fit into one of the qualifying categories; (ii) have sufficient funds to support his or her trip; (iii) be fluent in English; (iv) maintain sufficient medical insurance for accidents and illnesses for him or herself as well as their family members, with a minimum coverage amount of $50,000.00 per accident or illness; and (v) maintain a residence abroad in the country in which he or she intends to permanently reside.
A J-1 visa will granted only for the duration of the internship or training program, and will not be granted for more than 18 months total. Extensions are not available for J-1 visas beyond 18 months.
A J-1 visa holder’s spouse and children under the age of 21 are entitled to J-2 classification. Spouses and children may also apply for employment authorization under J-2 non-immigrant status. The income gained in the United States by spouses and children, however, may not be used to support the J-1 visa holder.