What is the purpose of the Exchange-Visitor Program in the United States?

The J-1 Visa Exchange-Visitor Program evolved through an amendment to the Mutual Education and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. Consequently, the main purpose of the J-1 visa program is to promote the exchange of information in different fields. In order for a program to be federally approved, it must be for the purpose of gaining experience, studying or doing research in the visitors' respective fields. Common areas of exchange programs include areas like education and the arts. Although these are common areas, the exchange-visitor program does not limit sponsorship to these programs or any particular profession within one of these fields. For example, if an individual is a teacher in a new area of science, they may be eligible for a J-1 visa, even if the area of science or their profession is not specifically stated on the list. The program can also be used by graduate students to expand their studies. Despite being a government sponsored program, J-1 visa programs are not limited to public sector programs. Private businesses, schools, or organizations may also participate in the visitor exchange.

J-1 Visa Exchange Programs vs. Work Permits

Though the emphasis of the J-1 visa exchange program permits individuals to work for a school or organization, it should not be confused with an employment authorization document, otherwise known as a work permit. If your goal is to work for a particular employer full time or to receive permission to work anywhere in the United States, you should review information on obtaining a work permit. A J-1 visa is for a limited period. A work permit provides more employment and status options. For example, you may be able to expand your status to include permanent residency status. A J-1 visa, however, is for a limited or temporary exchange period.

Returning to Country of Origin

Since the goal of the program is to promote the exchange of information, an individual who receives a J-1 visa is expected to return to their country of origin at the end of the program so that they can share the information and experiences gained during their stay. If you stay beyond the time frame permitted, you run the risk of being denied entry or adjustment of status at a later date.