Student Visa Student Visa (J1, Q1) Requirements, Application, Information

  1. This article will answer common questions about the J1 and Q1 student visa, also known as the exchange student visa. You will learn more about how to obtain a J visa and Q visa, become familiar with forms DS-2019, IAP-66, OF-156 and I-797, obtaining sponsorship and the requirements of an exchange program visa.

    What is a J-1 Visa?

    Exchange students wishing to attend a college or university in the United States will be allowed entry if they have applied for and received a J-1 visa.

    What is the exchange or “J” visitor program?

    This is a program that allows the interchange of students between countries. Those who can participate can be in the following groups:
    • 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
    • International visitors who come for the purpose of travel, observation, consultation, research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs

    How long can the J-1 student remain in the U.S.?

    That is determined by the category of study and the time needed to complete it. There will be an ending date on their Form DS-2019. An additional 30 days is allowed when filing for an extension of stay or a change of status.

    What is a Q visa?

    The Q visa is for the international cultural exchange program. It allows practical training and employment in the U.S. for the sharing of history, culture and traditions of the home country of aliens with the U.S. Research Scholars and Professors can not stay more than 3 years and Short Term scholars are allowed up to 6 months.

    Do “J” exchange and “Q” exchange program members have financial requirements?

    Yes, both exchange programs require that the participants have enough financial resources to cover all expenses. The financial resources can come from sponsoring organizations that provide scholarships or stipend for the “J” student exchange program. The financial resources can be from wages that will be earned by the “Q” exchange participant. The employing sponsor is required to pay the same rate as other citizen workers would be.

    What are the scholastic requirements for the “J-1” and “Q” visas, if any?

    Exchange students wishing to participate in the “J” program must have enough earlier preparation that will qualify them to participate in their designated program. They must have enough knowledge of the English language or apply for an exchange program that accommodates non-English speaking students. “Q” exchange visitors are required to be at least 18 years old and able to effectively relay the cultural attributes of his or her country.

    What are the requirements for exchange medical students on the “J” program?

    Exchange medical students must meet these requirements:
    • Pass the Foreign Medical Graduate Exam in Medical Sciences
    • Be fluent in English
    • Be subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement
    • Be subject to time limits during their program

    Doctors coming in the exchange program to teach observe research or for consultation are not subject to the same requirements as the medical exchange students.

    What forms are needed for the “J” and “Q” visas?

    Form IAP-66 that has been completed by a sponsoring organization is needed for participants in the “J” program. A sponsoring organization must file form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

    Can those classified as ineligible for other visa types apply for a waiver for a “J” or “Q” visa?

    Yes, some applicants who are ineligible for other visas may be still be classifiable for an exchange visitor visa and can apply for a waiver.

    Where does one apply for a visa?

    You should apply at any U.S. Embassy or consulate but it will be easier if you apply at the one that has jurisdiction over the area where you have permanent residence.

    What are the required documents when making application for a “J” or “Q” visa?

    There is a non refundable fee of US $45 to be submitted along with a completed and signed Form OF-156. You must also have:
    • Current passport that is valid for alt least 6 months longer than the requested period of stay in the U.S.
    • One full face photo without head covering on a light background
    • “J” applicants need Form IAP-66
    • “Q” applicants need a notice of approval and Form I-797

    What do you need to prove in the interview with the consular officer?

    They will be looking for you to prove binding ties to relatives or to a residence or employment in your home country to show that you have no intention of remaining in the U.S.

    What is the foreign residency requirement?

    Upon completing their “J” program in the United States, the exchange visitor must return to their homeland and physically live there for two full years before they can apply again for an immigrant or temporary worker visa. Furthermore, “Q” exchange visitors must remain abroad for 1 full year before they can take part in another “Q” program.

    Can family member come to the United States with a “J” exchange participant?

    Yes. A spouse or minor children can apply for the derivative “J-2” visa and either accompany or follow the “J” exchange visitor participant. They will need to show a copy of the foreign exchange spouse or parent’s Form IAP-66 and provide financial resources to cover all expenses during the stay in the U.S. A dependent can also apply for a work permit in the U.S. Application should be made to the USCIS. There is no provision made for the spouse or child of a “Q” exchange visitor.

    Who answers questions about the “J” or “Q” visas?

    The Department of State, Education and Cultural Affairs Bureau, Exchange Visitor Program Designation Staff in Washington D.C. can answer all questions about the “J” program. For any questions about the “Q” program qualifications, classifications and conditions on employment, contact the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigrate Services.
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    Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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