J-1 Visas for Exchange Scientists, Researchers, and Academic Professionals
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Nonimmigrant Visa category is in and of itself one of the most diverse categories available to foreign nationals. However, depending on the specific category among the twelve eligible categories within the J-1 classification, some foreign nationals might encounter substantial time and effort in order to be granted favorable J-1 approval by the U.S. Department of State.
However, in the case for many foreign scientists and researchers, the J-1 is an ideal visa option, and, moreover, one that may not require too much time or energy to have adjudicated favorably.
Having developed its proficiency and skill by the J-1 category through assisting foreign scientists and researchers earn their J-1status as well as through assisting biotechnology and other scientific companies earn "J-1 Designation," the law firm of Immigration Law Associates, PC is well versed and experienced in preparing special J-1 Immigrant applications on behalf of scientists and researchers and their respective petitioners who are seeking research and/or training in the U.S.
J-1 research scholars mainly conduct research, observe, or consult in conjunction with research projects at research institutions, corporate research facilities, museums, libraries, post-secondary accredited educational institutions or other similar institutions. Research scholars may also teach or lecture unless specifically restricted to do so by the program sponsor. The Department of State (DOS) has not established minimum educational qualifications for J-1 research scholars. Generally, the DOS will consider a bachelors or masters degree combined with extensive experience to be sufficient.
- A J-1 Researcher May Only Accept DOS-Qualifying Employment: Both J-1 researchers and professors may be hired only for temporary positions, not for permanent or tenure track positions. This makes certain that program sponsors are not using the J-1 program to bring exchange visitors to their institutions to prepare them for permanent employment. Please remember that J-1 exchange visitors must intend to return to their home country upon completing their exchange program participation. Research scholars and professors are generally allowed to work only at the location listed on the Form IAP-66, which is either the sponsor’s location or the location of a third party facilitating the exchange. Occasional consultations and lectures may be conducted at other locations, but such activities must meet three requirements:
- The lectures or consultations must be directly related to the goals of the exchange visitor’s program;
- The lectures or consultations must be incidental to the exchange visitor’s primary activities in the program;
- The lectures or consultations must not delay the completion of the exchange visitor’s program.
- J-1 Research Scholars and Professors May Stay in the United States for Up to Six (6) Months Upon Initial J-1 Visa Approval: For a research scholar or professor, the issued Form IAP-66 may grant up to a three-year initial period of stay. The sponsor has the discretion to extend this time period for up to six (6) months past the three-year period by merely submitting the new Form IAP-66 to the DOS. After this initial extension, only the DOS has the authority to extend the J-1 visitor’s stay up to three years from the initial expiration date. A sponsor may request this extension by submitting a request to the DOS at least 60 days before the initial three- year period ends. However, the 60-day requirement is waived when it is impossible due to extraordinary circumstances.
- There Are DOS Specifications for J-1 Trainees and Their Respective J-1 Training Programs Regarding What Activities May Be engaged In While in the J-1 Status: According to regulations, a J-1 trainee is an individual who comes to the U.S. to participate in a structured training program conducted by the selecting sponsor. The program should be intended to enhance the participant’s skills in his or her specialty or non-specialty occupation and to improve the participant’s knowledge of U.S. techniques, methodologies, or expertise.
The training program should not duplicate prior training that trainees may have received, and must not be meant to recruit and train foreign individuals for employment in the U.S. Please remember that J-1 exchange visitors must intend to return to their home country upon completing their exchange program participation.
- J-1 trainees are allowed to stay in the U.S. for the duration of the program as described in the sponsor’s program designation: However, the length of stay may not surpass 18 months (24 months for aviation training programs).
- The DOS specifies clearly what activities a J-1 Specialist may engage in: An individual who is an expert in a field of specialized knowledge or skill coming to the United States to observe, consult, or demonstrate special skills can be deemed a J-1 specialist. The J-1 specialist category is a very flexible one that includes experts in MANY fields outside of university teaching, the natural sciences, and medicine who are coming to the United States to observe institutions and methods of practice in the United States and to share specialized knowledge with colleagues in the U.S.
- J-1 Specialist programs are limited to a maximum of one (1) year.
It is important that an immigration attorney be consulted to verify whether or not the specific skill that the foreign national was engaged in will trigger the Two-year Home Country Requirement. Please feel free to contact our offices if you require immigration counsel regarding the J-1 visa.
- The spouse and child of a J-1 visa holder (J-2 visa class) may apply for work authorization.
Our firm is dedicated to addressing the specific immigration issues facing the biotechnology sector. If there is a subject that is not discussed or addressed on our site, please email us and let us know how we can answer key immigration questions facing the Life Sciences sector. By addressing the strategic considerations for both companies and researchers/scientists, we hope to serve as a valuable resource for the Illinois Life Sciences community.