For those that are working or studying in the U.S. under a J-1 visa, the time allotted by your visa may not be enough to get everything done before leaving the country. Because of this, the USCIS allows you to get a J-1 visa extension, but only under certain conditions. Keep reading to learn how you can extend your J-1 visa and how we can help you.
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.
Overall, the requirements for a J-1 visa are relatively simple. All you need to do is:
- Qualify for your program according to its specific criteria
- Maintain a foreign residence that you have no intention of abandoning.
- 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.
- 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:
- Camp Counselor
- Au Pair/Nanny
- Government Visitor
- Professional International Visitor
- Professor or Researcher
- Summer worker
- College Student
- Secondary School Student
You will need to contact the program directly to find out what the requirements for eligibility are and to learn how to get your DS-2019 from them.
The amount of time that you can stay in the U.S. under your J-1 visa is dependent on your specific program, though the maximum is usually seven years except under certain circumstances. Here are the validity periods for some of the programs listed above:
- Teachers, scholars, researchers, and professors – five years.
- Medical grad students – seven years.
- Professional trainees and government visitors – 18 months. Some instances allow you to stay for up to two years.
- Camp counselors and summer workers – four months.
- Nannies and au pairs – one year.
- Employees of the International Communications Agency are an exception, as they are sometimes able to remain in the U.S. under J-1 status for ten 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 applicant’s length of stay for the program can be determined by the IAP-66 or Certificate of Eligibility. 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:
- Au Pair: 12 months. The Au Pair category has the option for an additional extension of 6, 9, or 12 months.
- Business Trainees: 18 months
- College and University Students: Depends on the education level of the student. (Bachelor’s/Master’s degree: 18 months & Post-Doctoral degree: 36 months).
- College Professors: 36 months
- Flight Aviation Trainees: 24 months
- Government Visitors: 12 months
- International Visitors: 12 months
- Medical Residents/Interns: Maximum of 7 years
- Primary and Secondary School Teachers: 36 months
- Research Scholars: 36 months
- Specialists: 12 months
- Summer Work/Travel: 4 months
To request for the J-1 visa extension, it is important for the applicant to 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
In order to apply for your J-1 extension, you will need to submit the following documents:
- If the sponsoring program is unable to fund the applicant, the applicant must be able to provide evidence of financial capability to pay for fees such as tuition and living expenses for one year.
- Form DS-2019 and IAP-66
- 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 is able to determine the applicant’s eligibility through documentation. If the J-1 visa extension has been accepted, 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 cover them as well.
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, each of your dependents must be issued their own DS-2019.
J-1 Visa Extension Change of Category
If you are seeking a change of category related to your J-1 visa extension then you must clearly demonstrate that it is closely related to your original exchange objectives and necessary as the result of extraordinary circumstances.
You should consult the officer of your program. They’ll then need to submit a request in writing to the DOS on your behalf and corresponding payment (fee) will need to be submitted. Should your request be accepted, the officer will issue an updated DS-2019.
Other J-1 Extensions
Compared with various categories of J-1 visa beneficiaries, research scholars have an extension process that is different. 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 his or her category, a research scholar may do so.
This is because research scholars and professors don’t have to follow the usual protocol as others. They are permitted to 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. It must be noted, however, that the extra time requested must be necessary in order to complete a certain research program or project. Again, the request is subject to approval and there is no guarantee that an applicant will be granted it.
What If I Need More Time?
As a research scholar or professor, you may find the extra six-month extension not enough to finish everything you need to do in the U.S. In this situation, you are allowed to ask for additional time. This additional extension will not be as easy as the first one and you will be required to prove that the circumstances that warrant the request are considered exceptional.
You will also need to provide documentation to support your claim. Otherwise, your request will not be granted. For your second extension, it is no longer just between you and your program sponsor—the DOS must be involved.
The request will cost you another $246, which is nonrefundable. Before you can make the request, you must have used up at least three of the six months granted by the first extension. If this second extension is granted, you will be given 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 his or her status terminated before the end of his or her program in the United States. Every exchange visitor is subject to the U.S. government as well as their program’s sponsors. This means a violation of any of the rules set by either of these two 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 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, which will affect your re-entry attempts in the future. For this and many more reasons, we strongly recommend that you do whatever it takes to avoid status termination, which can be done by strictly adhering to all the rules surrounding your program and immigration status.
J-1 Minor and Serious Infraction 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 type of payment.
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 infractions, your responsible officer will need to seek the authorization of the DOS before your record could be adjusted. You will have to pay a nonrefundable reinstatement fee of $367 to the DOS.
What if it is Denied?
Should your request be denied, then you’ll need to return to your home country in the 30 day grace period from the date of completion indicated on your original DS-2019. 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 serious consequences in the future if you attempt to apply for another visa or green card.
The J-1 visa extension applicant is able to travel outside the United States, however, it is essential for the applicant to have a valid J-1 visa stamp in his/her 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 which may be important 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 the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Be aware that you may not continue to work on any 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.
It is very difficult for an applicant who has already received an extension and to request for additional time. This is only allowed under remarkable and exceptional situations. To authorize a further extension, the program sponsor officer is obligated to 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. In order 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 special extensions available for professors and research scholars who are on the J-1 visa program. After the initial three-month maximum duration period, eligible individuals can extend their stay for an added six months to complete their designated research or program. Remember the granting of this extension is completely 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 go back 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:
- A No Objection Statement from the government of your home country
- A statement showing that you would experience exceptional hardship if you were forced to leave the U.S.
- A statement showing that you would experience persecution by returning to your home country.
- A statement from an Interested Government Agency (IGA) that requests your continued presence in the U.S.
How to Request J-1 Visa Waiver
To request a J-1 visa waiver, you will need to 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 ever issued to you as well as 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 will be able to track its processing status by visiting the J-1 Visa Waiver Online Tracker. You will have access to your case by clicking “Check the Status” and then 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. 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 are capable of verifying if you are eligible for a J-1 visa extension.
To speak with one of VisaNation Law Group’s attorneys schedule a consultation today.