The J-1 Visa category is for Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs designated by the US Department of State, Exchange Visitor Program and Designation Staff. The J-1 Visa Program is designed to promote the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences.
There are various types of J-1 Visa programs. The J-1 Visa program type we most often deal with are for professional development and training of foreign visitors to the US. These programs are sponsored by various organizations who then place trainees at a US company for up to an 18 month training period.
One issue to be aware of when considering the J-1 Visa is if the Exchange Visitor has a strong possibility of being charged with a 2 year home residence requirement under §212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act because their particular area of expertise appears on the J-1 Skills List, a list of skills that various countries have identified as being in shortage (or if the home residency requirement attaches for any other reason, such a direct or indirect government funding or medical training).
If a particular profession or area of emphasis appears on the J-1 Visa Skills List, the home residency requirement attaches, and the J-1 visitor must then seek a waiver of that requirement. Skills List based waivers are often easy to waive. (Note that the most recent J-1 Visa Skills List went into effect on June 28, 2009. The previous version of the J-1 Visa Skills List applies to J-1 Visa Visitors who entered the US prior to June 28, 2009, the effective date of the latest version of the J-1 Visa Skills List.) However, J-1 Visa visitors from some countries and/or in certain occupations will have an extremely difficult time obtaining a J-1 waiver based on a No Objection statement.
So before obtaining a J-1 Visa, one should carefully consider whether the home residency requirement will apply, and if so, how difficult that will be to complete or to waive. Many J-1 Visa programs receive either US or other government funding, or funding from an international organization. This funding can be either direct or indirect. In such a situation, particularly with regard to US government funding, a J-1 Waiver of the two year home residency requirement can be nearly impossible to obtain, as are waivers for physicians who have received training in the US.
In addition to training and professional development programs, there are many other types of J-1 Visa programs. Participants include students at all academic levels; trainees obtaining on-the-job training with private companies, institutions, and agencies; teachers of primary, secondary, and specialized schools; professors coming to teach or perform research at institutions of higher learning; research scholars; professional trainees in the medical and allied fields; and international visitors coming for the purpose of travel, observation, consultation, research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs.