Visa status termination is a significant setback that no J-1 exchange visitor wants to experience. However, a J-1 visa withdrawal may be something that you are considering. Bear in mind that there is a difference between withdrawal and termination. Termination can affect your education, career, and future admission to the U.S. and becomes even more detrimental when you consider the application rigor involved in the J-1 visa application and the time and money spent.
However, early termination happens for many J-1 visa holders and places their statuses in jeopardy. If your J-1 visa has been terminated and you were wondering about what steps to take next, this article presents you with various options you can explore.
J-1 Visa – Brief Overview
The J-1 visa classification is designed for foreign nationals who wish to participate in an approved exchange visitor program in the U.S. The program is overseen by the United States Department of State (DOS). Unlike other temporary visas, the J-1 is not sponsored by a family member or employer, but rather an exchange visitor sponsoring organization. There are many DOS-designated organizations eligible to admit people through J-1 exchange visitor programs.
These include schools, research institutes, and several other reputable organizations. There are various program categories covering different fields such as lecturing, studying, teaching, instructing, demonstrating special skills, or observation. It is also available to those who wish to receive medical training or education. Typically, J-1 visa eligible candidates include: professors or scholars, research assistants, students (secondary school, college, or university), teachers, trainees, au pairs (nanny or caregiver), physicians, specialists, camp counselors, and interns.
Participants from all programs and occupations are expected to abide by the rules guiding their program and immigration status. Failure to do so may lead to your J-1 visa early termination.
J-1 Visa Withdrawal vs Termination
When talking about J-1 withdrawal, we are referring to voluntarily notifying the USCIS and your sponsor that you are canceling your visa. On the other hand, J-1 termination is usually initiated by the USCIS or your sponsor to revoke your visa.
If you choose to withdraw your J-1 visa, you will have a 30-day grace period to leave the country. On the other hand, terminations are usually done because you have violated U.S. laws or immigration regulations and will usually have to leave the country immediately. Note that, unauthorized withdrawal, when you leave without telling anyone, can also have implications on your future entry to the U.S.
Reasons for J-1 Visa Early Termination
The J-1, just like all other U.S. visas, has its regulations that exchange visitors must comply with in order to maintain their status. Your status could be terminated for any of the following reasons:
1 – Violation of the Travel Rule
While your J-1 visa allows you to be away from the United States during your program, you must strictly adhere to the travel regulations guiding your program. Before leaving the U.S. on J-1 status, you must get a travel validation authorization signature on your Certificate of Eligibility (DS-2019). You must also ensure you don’t stay beyond the authorized travel time approved by your program sponsor. Failure to maintain travel validation can affect your re-entry into the country and your status.
To work under your J-1 status, you will need an employment authorization document. The U.S. labor law is very strict on this point, and there are serious consequences for its violation. If you engage in any paid job without authorization, or you do a job you are not authorized to do, you stand a risk of having your status terminated.
3 – Failure to Maintain Adequate Health Insurance
Every J-1 exchange visitor is required to have health insurance coverage that meets the standard of their program sponsor. The plan should adequately cover you and your J-2 dependents’ sickness and accident insurance needs for the duration of your program. Failure to maintain the regulatory health insurance plan may lead to the termination of your J-1 status.
4 – Changing J-1 Sponsor Without Approval
As a J-1 holder, there is no limit to the number of times you may transfer from one sponsoring organization to another. If, for instance, you realize that your current host company cannot provide the agreed training or there is an unforeseen issue, you can simply request a transfer. However, your transfer must be approved by your current host before you can make the switch.
5 – Conviction of Crime
Being convicted of a crime is a very serious case in U.S. immigration law. In your J-1 visa application, you will have come across the question asking whether you have ever been convicted of a crime or arrested in the past. This is because some past crimes can automatically make you inadmissible to the U.S. If, after your visa has been granted, you are found to have engaged in any of the following crimes, your visa may be terminated and you will be removed from the U.S.
- Marriage fraud
- Involvement in moral turpitude
- Aggravated felony
- Drug trafficking
- Human trafficking
- Money laundering
- Sex-related crimes
- Persecution, torture
- Violating program sponsoring organization rules
Consequences of J-1 Early Termination
The early termination of your J-1 status results in many negative consequences which may affect your education, career, and stay in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of State (DOS), if your sponsor terminates your participation in the exchange program for a “just cause,” the termination information will be entered into the government system, and that will adversely affect you in a number of ways. “Just cause” here indicates you are found to have violated immigration law, labor law, or gone against the rules and regulations of your program sponsor. Some of the consequences are as follows:
It Affects Your Current Status
It automatically translates to you becoming “out of status,” meaning you have lost your legal status to continue staying, studying, working, or engaging in any J-1 activity in the United States. In this case, you are expected to depart the United States immediately.
No Post-Completion 30-Day Period
It doesn’t matter what stage you were in before the termination, an exchange visitor whose program was terminated would not be entitled to the post-completion period because you did not successfully complete your program. Your program sponsor does not have the authority to extend your stay or give you a grace period after your termination.
May Jeopardize Your Future Re-entry
Depending on the gravity of the violation which led to your termination, having your name on the data as a law violator may impact your ability to file for a visa in the future.
Top 5 Tips on How to Avoid Early Termination
To avoid the early termination of your status, it is important to know all the rules surrounding your J-1 program. Ignorance of them isn’t an excuse. Thoroughly go through your petition and ensure you understand everything clearly. Also, as soon as you begin your program, you need to work closely with your Responsible Officer (RO), and ask questions about any area you aren’t clear on concerning the rules and regulations. Other tips include:
1 – Maintaining Valid Immigration Documents
Always check your J-1 visa documents and if any of them is due for renewal, you must do so on time. These include your passport, which must be valid for at least six months beyond your J-1 program end date, valid DS-2019 form, and valid I-94. If you have any J-2 dependent, ensure theirs too are always updated.
2 – Maintaining the Required Health Insurance
Proof of adequate health insurance is required to complete your immigration process with the DOS. Also, when requesting other services, such as requesting an extension during your program, you will always need to provide it. “Willful failure to maintain insurance coverage,” according to the DOS, will lead to termination.
3 – Updating Your Local Contact Information
If you change your address, you need to update your new address with your program sponsor within 10 days of the change. Also, changing your local phone number and/or email address must be updated.
4 – Report Withdrawal from Your Program
If you complete or withdraw from your J-1 program more than two weeks before the end date on your DS-2019, you need to update your sponsor.
5 – Report New or Additional Sites
If your J-1 activity is taking place in any location other than your primary host department, or at more than one location, you need to notify your sponsor so that the additional site of activity can be added to your record.
What Are the Next Steps After J-1 Early Termination?
While it is best to guard against early termination diligently, there are some actions that can help salvage the situation if your status is terminated:
Know the Specific Reason for Your Termination
Before taking any steps, you need to be sure of what caused the termination. Check to make sure that your program was not “shortened.” If you are sure it was a termination, this indicates that you must have violated federal law or program rule. In that case, you should contact an immigration lawyer immediately.
Contact a VisaNation Law Group Immigration Attorney
Working with an immigration lawyer will help you know the next line of action. If your status termination is related to federal, labor, or immigration law, there will be an explanation of the causes, implications, and possibly mediations available under that specific law.
This will be reviewed by your lawyer to advise you on how to salvage the situation or guide against worsening the implication. Your lawyer is in the best position to tell you which to pursue out of the following options:
Apply for Reinstatement
The J-1 visa has a provision for reinstatement of status for minor or technical infractions. If your case falls in such a category, your responsible officer may help you rectify it. However, for “substantive” and “non-reinstatable” cases, this will require the authorization of the DOS. Your immigration lawyer will be your best bet here.
Leave the U.S.
If your case is beyond reinstatement, then you must leave the United States on or before the date specified. Things will get worse if you don’t leave as required as you could end up accruing unlawful status, which is a more complicated offense, especially if you also engage in unlawful employment during this time.
Apart from being out of status, the termination may come with some penalties, depending on the cause. For instance, you may be barred from re-entering the United States for several years. If you are found to have stayed longer and/or have worked as an “out of status” nonimmigrant, the future bar may be made indefinite.
Apply for Another J-1 Visa
You may apply for another J-1 visa in the future after fulfilling the instructions given earlier on your first termination notice. For instance, if you were asked to wait for a year or two before petitioning again, make sure the period has passed before making another attempt.
However, in your next application, you may need to answer questions on what led to the first termination and how compliant you were after it. This is why you should follow the instructions carefully, as your actions today may have an impact on your next application.
Apply for Another Nonimmigrant Visa
Apart from the J-1, there are other visa options you can explore. You can check the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or DOS website for the most suitable classification for your qualification.
Can You Change Jobs on J-1 Visa?
Yes, you can change jobs when you are in the U.S. on a J-1 visa. However, your new position must be in the same field or area of practice as was intended on your original J-1 application. Although there are no restrictions on how many times you can change your sponsors, you must work in the same field. To initiate the process, you will generally need to request a transfer from your original sponsor and allow your new sponsor to initiate the transfer by issuing a new DS-2019. One important caveat to remember is that there can be no gap between your end of employment with your original sponsor and your start date with your new sponsor.
As with many other institutions, there can be differences in the process. It is crucial to contact relevant departments at your original sponsoring organization and the new one in order to facilitate a smooth and effortless J-1 transfer.
How A VisaNation Law Group Immigration Attorneys Can Help
J-1 visa early termination is a very serious case that can affect you substantially in several different ways if not handled correctly. Apart from the financial implications, it can be detrimental to your career and lead to a setback. This is why you need the service of an immigration attorney.
VisaNation Law Group J-1 immigration attorneys have extensive knowledge of the exchange visitor program. We will help you analyze your case and guide you on which route to take and how best to mitigate the future implications of your early termination. You can get in touch and schedule a consultation with us today by filling out this contact form.