J-1 Visa Extension

For those working or studying in the U.S. under a J-1 visa, the visa validity period may not be enough to get everything done before leaving the country. Because of this, the J-1 visa rules allow J-1 visa extensions, but only under certain conditions. Keep reading to learn more about renewing your J-1 visa, the J-1 grace period, extension requirements, and more.

J-1 Visa Overview

Let’s start with a brief rundown of the J-1 visa. This nonimmigrant category is for program-based immigration rather than employer-based. A government-approved sponsorship program will provide you with a completed DS-2019 form to be filed with the USCIS.

Requirements

Overall, the requirements for a J-1 visa are relatively simple. All you need to do is:

  1. Qualify for your program according to its specific criteria
  2. Maintain a foreign residence that you have no intention of abandoning.
  3. Be able to finance your entire trip, and you must also have sufficient medical insurance for you and all family members that are coming with you under J-2 status.
  4. Have a strong understanding of the English language

Here is a quick list of some of the more popular occupational categories for these J-1 programs:

  • Physician
  • Camp Counselor
  • Au Pair/Nanny
  • Government Visitor
  • Professional International Visitor
  • Professor or Researcher
  • Summer worker
  • Teacher
  • Intern
  • Trainee
  • College Student
  • Secondary School Student

You will need to contact the program directly to determine the eligibility requirements and learn how to get your DS-2019 from them.

Validity Period

The amount of time you can stay in the U.S. under your J-1 visa depends on your specific program. However, the maximum is usually seven years except under certain circumstances. Here are the validity periods for some of the J-1 programs:

J-1 Program

Validity Period

Teachers, Scholars, Researchers, and Professors

5 years

Medical Grad Students

7 years

Professional Trainees and Government Visitors

18 months to possibly 2 years

Camp Counselors and Summer Workers

4 months

Nannies and Au Pairs

1 year

Employees of the International Communications Agency

Possibly 10 years or more

J-1 Visa Extension

Extension of the J-1 visa will vary depending on the standards and conditions of the applicant’s specific Visitor Exchange Program. The IAP-66 or Certificate of Eligibility can determine the applicant’s length of stay for the program. However, the maximum time of stay cannot go beyond the total amount indicated by the program. The program and program sponsor must consent to the J-1 visa extension.

Frequent J-1 Visa Extensions:

J-1 Program

Extension Period

Au Pair

6, 9, or 12 months

Business Trainees

18 months

Bachelor’s & Master’s Degree Students

18 months 

Post-Doctoral Degree Students

36 months

College Professors

36 months

Flight Aviation Trainees

24 months

Government Visitors

12 months

International Visitors

12 months

Medical Residents/Interns

7 years maximum

Primary & Secondary School Teachers

36 months

Research Scholars

36 months

Specialists

12 months

Summer Work/Travel

4 months

To request the J-1 visa extension, the applicant must review the mandated requirements and documentation lists to avoid potential delays.

J-1 Visa Extension Requirements

Like the initial requirements for the J-1 visa, these criteria are relatively simple:

  • Currently on J-1 status
  • Program sponsor must have filed form DS-2019

J-1 Visa Extension Documentation

To apply for your J-1 extension, you will need to submit the following documents:

  • If the sponsoring program can’t fund the applicant, the applicant must provide evidence of financial capability to pay for fees such as tuition and living expenses for one year.
  • Form DS-2019 and IAP-66
  • Passport
  • Form I-94
  • Evidence of J-1 visa health insurance. The insurance must be able to cover the length of extension and dependents on J-2 visa status.
  • Supplementary documentation with valid explanations for an extension.
  • A SEVIS fee is not required to be paid again.

J-1 Visa Extension Process

The program sponsor has a specific officer who can determine the applicant’s eligibility through documentation. If the government accepts J-1 visa extension, the applicant must obtain a new DS-2019 form with a new expiration date. This date will be recorded with SEVIS. If the J-1 visa holder has children or a spouse on J-2 status, the extension will also cover them.

The newly issued DS-2019 will have a new end date, and SEVIS will also record the new expiration date. If you have dependents (spouse and/or children) on a J-2 visa, your dependents need their own DS-2019.

J-1 Visa Extension Change of Category

Suppose you are seeking a change of category related to your J-1 visa extension. In that case, you must demonstrate that it is closely related to your original exchange objectives and necessary due to extraordinary circumstances.

You should consult your program officer. They’ll then need to submit a request in writing to the DOS on your behalf, and will need to submit a corresponding payment (fee). Should your request be accepted, the officer will issue an updated DS-2019.

Other J-1 Extensions

Research scholars have a different extension process compared to various categories of J-1 visa beneficiaries. Because the J-1 visa covers a wide range of professions, the validity period differs among applicants. While a government visitor, an au pair, or a camp counselor may not stay beyond the validity period for their category, a research scholar may do so.

This is because research scholars and professors don’t have to follow the usual protocol as others. Scholars and professors can request a six-month extension from their sponsor program rather than the Department of State. With this, they can stay longer than the designated three years in the United States. However, you must note that the extra time requested must be necessary to complete a specific research program or project. Again, the request is subject to approval, and there is no guarantee that DOS will grant it.

What If I Need More Time?

As a research scholar or professor, you may find the extra six-month extension insufficient to finish everything you need to do in the U.S. In this situation, you can ask for additional time. This additional extension will not be as easy as the first one. You must prove that the circumstances warranting the request are exceptional.

You will also need to provide documentation to support your claim. Otherwise, your request will not be granted. Your second extension is between you, your program sponsor, and DOS.

The request will cost you another $246, which is nonrefundable. Before making the request, you must have used up at least three of the six months granted by the first extension. If DOS grants the second extension, you will get an additional six months to complete your project or research. Keep in mind that the adjudication is solely dependent on the DOS decision.

J-1 Visa Early Termination

A J-1 visa holder may have their status terminated before the end of their program in the United States. Every exchange visitor is subject to the U.S. government and their program’s sponsors. A violation of any of the rules set by either of these entities could mark the end of an applicant’s stay in the United States. Other reasons that can lead to J-1 visa early termination include:

  • Failure to pursue the activities for which you were admitted to the United States
  • Inability to continue your program
  • Willful failure to maintain adequate insurance required for your case
  • Engaging in an unauthorized employment
  • Conviction of crime

Why You Should Avoid J-1 Visa Early Termination

Having your J-1 status terminated before the end of your program has many immediate and future consequences. Aside from being unable to finish your program, your status termination will also be recorded in the government data as a labor or immigration law violator, affecting your future reentry attempts. For this and many more reasons, we strongly recommend you do whatever it takes to avoid status termination. This can be done by strictly adhering to all the rules surrounding your program and immigration status.

J-1 Minor and Serious Infraction Rules

Under the J-1 visa, some rules are categorized as minor rules and others as substantive rules.

Minor rules include the requirements to:

  • Extend your program before the end date stated on your DS-2019 if you need to stay longer than the earlier issued date.
  • Process your program transfer before the end date on your DS-2019.
  • Get the required approval before accepting an honorarium or any other payment type.

Substantive rules include the requirements to:

  • Maintain valid status for more than 120 days after the end date stated on your DS-2019.
  • Maintain a full course of study as a J-1 student unless you have the permission of your responsible officer to do otherwise.

Reinstatement After Infractions

If you commit a minor infraction, your responsible officer may be able to correct your record without having to notify the DOS. However, for substantive violations, your responsible officer will need to seek the authorization of the DOS before there can be an adjustment to your record. In addition, you must pay the DOS a nonrefundable reinstatement fee of $367.

What if it is Denied?

Should your request be denied, you’ll need to return to your home country in the 30-day grace period from the completion date indicated on your original DS-2019. In addition, remaining in the U.S. after your J-1 visa extension has been denied can result in you being considered “out of status,” which can have severe consequences if you attempt to apply for another visa or green card.

Traveling

The J-1 visa extension applicant can travel outside the United States. However, the applicant needs to have a valid J-1 visa stamp in their passport. If the visa stamp has expired, it is critical to get a new visa before traveling. Applicants traveling with an expired stamp will not be allowed to re-enter the United States.

J-1 Traveling Grace Period

There is a travel grace period that may be essential for you to understand. As indicated on DS-2019, there is a grace period that USCIS allows for individuals completing the United States to depart the country. The 30-days following the completion of your J-1 program is considered the grace period, and you’ll no longer be under J-1 status but now under the overall jurisdiction of USCIS.

Be aware that you may not continue to work on exchange activities during your grace period. Also, take note that you can travel in the U.S. However, if you travel beyond the borders, you will most likely not be permitted reentry.

Beyond Extension

It is tough for an applicant who has already received an extension to request additional time. This is only allowed under remarkable and exceptional situations. To authorize a further extension, the program sponsor officer must send a request to the Department of State.

The request would involve an in-depth explanation of the petition and supplementary documentation. The Department of State also demands a nonrefundable fee of $246. To receive an extension for the 30-day voluntary departure status period, it’s advised to contact the USCIS.

Summary of J-1 Visa Extensions

There are particular extensions available for professors and research scholars on the J-1 visa program. After the initial three-month maximum duration period, eligible individuals can extend their stay for six months to complete their designated research or program. Remember that granting this extension is entirely under the discretion of the State Department.

J-1 Visa Waiver

Once your J-1 extension has ended, you will need to return to your home country under the home residency requirement, which mandates that all J-1 holders must return to their home countries for a total of two years before returning to the U.S. under a different visa.

The only way to get around the home residency requirement is to get a J-1 visa waiver based on your circumstances. The waiver can be granted based on:

How to Request J-1 Visa Waiver

To request a J-1 visa waiver, you must file a DS-3035. The form must be completed with relevant information, which includes your SEVIS number, the date you entered the U.S. under J-1 status, and information about your J-2 dependents (if any). You will also need every DS-2019/IAP-66 issued to you and supporting evidence to prove that you meet the requirements for the waiver. The J-1 visa waiver filing fee is $120.

After submitting the waiver application and fee, you can track its processing status by visiting the J-1 Visa Waiver Online Tracker. You will access your case by clicking “Check the Status” and entering your case number. If the DOS needs more supporting documents from you, this will be stated on the website. The processing time for a properly filed J-1 visa request will depend on the type of waiver you are seeking:

  • No Objection Statement: 12 to 16 weeks
  • Persecution: 12 to 16 weeks
  • Interested Federal Government Agency: 8 to 12 weeks
  • Exceptional Hardship: 16 to 24 weeks
  • State Public Health Department: 12 to 16 weeks
  • Advisory Opinion: 4 to 8 weeks

How We Can Help

Like most immigration processes, getting a J-1 visa extension without negatively impacting your current status is easier said than done. However, getting your applications and petitions done correctly the first time will save you time, effort, and money so that you can focus on your work or studies in the U.S.

VisaNation Law Group’s attorneys can verify your eligibility for a J-1 visa extension.

Schedule a consultation today to speak with one of VisaNation Law Group’s attorneys.

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