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Exchange Visitors (J-1)

J-1 Visas:

The J-1 category is a general category that is utilized to allow a foreign national to come temporarily to the United States to gain work experience, engage in cultural activities or participate in an educational experience. The application for the category must demonstrate that they have a residence abroad, which they do not intend to abandon. As in the case with the F-1 Student visa or B-2 visitor visa, applications for the J-1 visa must prove to the US Consulate that they have strong enough family, economic and social ties to their own country that they will not immigrate to the United States, but will depart to their home country at the conclusion of their stay.

J-1 Training program:

The J-1 category is available to workers to promote educational and cultural exchange. In offer to obtain a J-1 visa for an employee a company must either become designed by the Department of State as a qualified J-1 visa program sponsor or must initiate an application through an approved third party training sponsor organization.

For large publicly traded corporations, or for those companies that utilize foreign workers temporarily in internships or serve as trainers for their subsidiaries abroad, it may be worthwhile to apply for the designation as a J-1 sponsor. The application is made through the Department of State in Washington and once granted is effective for the purpose and period stated in the grant. Once the program designation is granted the company may simply issue a form IAP-66 to the prospective worker or trainee and the individual may then travel to the US Consulate in his or her country and apply for the J-1 visa. The processing time in bringing foreign nationals to the US is therefore greatly reduced.

For those who do not have the need for a grant to act as a sponsor of multiple individuals, an application can be made through an existing third party organization that has been granted the authority to act as a training sponsor. There are dozens of organizations that have been authorized by the Department of States. These organizations review and approve the application made by the individual and the proposed employer and then issue a form IAP-66, which is the Certificate of Eligibility for the J-1 training program. Each of the authorized program sponsors has different requirements, filing fees and procedures. Almost all programs however, require that the employer submit a detailed training program and the purpose of the training. The program application must spell out in detail the type and chronology of training and whether on the job training is required. Once the third party sponsor approves the application the sponsor will send the completed Form IAP-66 form to the foreign national. The foreign national will then submit the IAP-66 to the US Consulate together with supporting documentation and will be issued the J-1 visa. Canadians and British Commonwealth nationals that are also Canadian landed immigrants need not obtain a visa but may process the application directly at the border crossing point.

Requirements :

The minimum requirements that a foreign national must possess for the issuance of the J-1 will vary according to the requirements of the third party training sponsor organization. Some require that the applicants have at least a Bachelor's Degree, while many require only a High School Diploma or a minimum amount of experience in the field of the work to be trained in. Many sponsors have age requirements or other requirements.

Dependents :

Spouses and unmarried children under age 21 of the J-1 principal are also able to come to the United States on a J-2 visa for the period of the training program. Spouses may obtain employment authorization from the US INS once in the United States. However, a J-2 employed spouse may only use his or her income to support the family’s customary recreational and cultural activities and travel. The INS will not authorize employment for J-2 dependents if the income is needed to support the J-1 principal alien. Employment for the spouse is however not restricted and the J-2 spouse may find employment on the open market.

Other benefits :

J-1 employees are exempt from FICA with holdings. 7.65% of the earnings of a USA employee and holders of other non-immigrant visas are normally withheld from earnings for Social Security and Medicare. In addition the employer of a US worker pays another 7.65% of the earnings as a match to the employee contribution. Neither the employer nor the employee is required to pay to the US these taxes.

Two-year home residence requirement :

Nationals of certain countries who will be obtaining training in areas listed on the Department of State’s Skills List are not allowed to come to the United States on a J-1 visa and then change to any other non-immigrant status in the US or to immigrate to the United States until they have returned to their home country for a minimum of two years. The Skills List is published by the Department of State and is organized by country. It contains several skills groups, each of which contains numerous categories of skills. It is difficult to obtain a waiver of the requirement of returning to the home country for the two-year duration. It is therefore important to check the Skills List before applying for the IAP-66 form. Mosrebet Asian and European countries do not fall under the Skills List. You can check the link here to see if your occupation falls within the Skills List.

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