The Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa category is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. All exchange visitors are expected to return to their home country upon completion of their program. This means that a J-1 visa holder is not expected to have intent to immigrate to the US. The wait time for an interview and processing for a J-1 Visa varies from country to country and is based on your individual circumstances.
A significant issue to consider when applying for a J-1 visa is whether the foreign national is subject to the “home-country” requirement. Certain exchange visitors are subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement which requires the foreign national to return to his/her home country for at least two years at the end of the exchange visitor program. If you are unable to return to your home country to fulfill the two-year requirement, you must obtain a waiver approved by the Department of Homeland Security prior to applying for a Green Card/Adjustment of Status or any visa that permits the visa holder to have an immigrant intent-like H-1B, L. It is important to remember that not all exchange visitors are subject to the home country requirement.
Many medical residents/interns (links to the review page with Ritu’s review) for whom the H-1B visa does not work consider a J-1 visa at some point. Before you decide on a J-1 exchange program consider alternative options like the O Visa. Contact us for more information/advice to evaluate your options, or to apply for a waiver, or to determine if you are subject to the home-country requirement.