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J and Q visa for persons participating in exchange visitor programs in the United States.

The J visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs, and the Q visa is for international cultural exchange programs.

The J exchange visitor program.

The J exchange visitor program is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences. Participants include students at all academic levels, trainees obtaining on-the-job training with firms, institutions, and agencies, teachers of primary, secondary, and specialized schools, professors coming to teach or do research at institutions of higher learning, research scholars, professional trainees in the medical and allied fields; and international visitors coming for the purpose of travel, observation, consultation, research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs.

The Q international cultural exchange program.

The Q international cultural exchange program is for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the participant's home country in the United States.

Financial resources, and scholastic preparation of J1 and Q visa program participants.

Participants in the J1 exchange visitor program must have sufficient funds to cover all expenses, or funds must be provided by the sponsoring organization in the form of a scholarship or other stipend. Q exchange visitors will be paid by their employing sponsor at the same rate paid to local domestic workers similarly employed. The J1 exchange visitors must have sufficient scholastic preparation to participate in the designated program, including knowledge of the English language, or the exchange program must be designed to accommodate non-English speaking participants. The Q exchange visitor must be 18 years old and be able to communicate effectively about the cultural attributes of his or her country.

Medical education and training for the J1 visitors.

Exchange visitors coming under the J program for graduate medical education or training must meet certain special requirements. They include having passed the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in Medical Sciences, demonstrating competency in English, being automatically subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement, and being subject to time limits on the duration of their program. Physicians coming to the United States on the J1 exchange visitor programs for the purpose of observation, consultation, teaching, or research in which there is little or no patient care are not subject to the above requirements.

J and Q visa petitions and forms.

Participants in the J1 visa program must present a Form DS-2019 prepared by a designated sponsoring organization. Participants in the Q program must have the designated sponsoring organization file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with the USCIS. The USCIS will notify the sponsor on Form I-797 when the petition is approved. It should be noted that the approval of a petition does not guarantee visa issuance to an applicant found to be ineligible under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Visa waiver.

The nonimmigrant visa application Form DS-156 lists classes of persons who are ineligible under U.S. law to receive visas. In some instances an applicant who is ineligible, but who is otherwise properly classifiable as an exchange visitor, may apply for a waiver of their ineligibility and be issued a visa if the waiver is approved.

Exchange visitor visa applicants are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing. Applicants may apply for their visa as soon as they are prepared to do so.The consular officer may need to get special clearances depending on the course of study and nationality of the student. This can take some additional time.

Exchange visitors should note that Embassies and Consulates are able to issue your student visa 90 days or less, in advance of the course of study registration date. If you apply for your visa more than 90 days prior to your start date or reporting date as provided on the Form DS-2019, the Embassy or Consulate will hold your application until it is able to issue the visa.


Employment while in J exchange visitor status depends upon the terms of the program. Participants in programs which provide for on-the-job training, teaching, research, or other activities which involve paid employment may accept such employment. Participants in programs which do not involve work may not accept outside employment. The Q international cultural exchange program specifically authorizes paid employment as part of the program.

Foreign residency requirement.

Certain J1 exchange visitors who participate in programs which are financed in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by an agency of the U.S. Government or by the exchange visitor's government, or who are nationals or residents of a country which has been designated by the Exchange Visitor Program and Designation Staff as requiring the skills of the exchange visitor, must return to their country of nationality or last residence after completing their program in the United States, and reside there physically for two years before they may become eligible to apply for an immigrant visas or temporary worker visa. Q exchange visitors may not participate in another Q program until they have been abroad for one year.

Family members of the J1 visa holders.

The spouse and minor children of participants in J1 exchange programs may apply for derivative J2 visas to accompany or follow to join the principal alien by presenting a copy of the principal's Form DS-2019. They must demonstrate that they will have sufficient financial resources to cover all expenses while in the United States. Dependents may apply to the USCIS for authorization to accept employment in the U.S. The Q exchange program does not provide for the admission of the spouse or children of a participant in a derivative status.

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