Dispelling Myths about the J-1 Program

In pursuing its goal of restricting immigration, the Trump administration is reportedly seeking to reduce or eliminate parts of the J-1 nonimmigrant visa program. The administration has not taken any concrete steps to change the J-1 program yet, but as we expect changes in the coming months, we want to dispel myths and ensure you’re prepared.

What is the J-1 Program? The J-1 program is primarily an exchange program. It was created as a diplomatic tool to provide young foreign nationals training and/or educational opportunities in the U.S. that they can then share with their home countries. Within the J-1 program, there are several different categories, including categories for scholars and researchers, doctors, interns, trainees, students, au pairs, summer camp counselors, teachers, and summer work travel.

What are the requirements of the J-1 Program? All applicants must meet the specific eligibility and English language requirements, in addition to being sponsored by either a university, private sector or government program. The specific duration and eligibility requirements vary by category. In addition to the eligibility requirements, many J-1 visas are subject to a two-year home residency requirement, which ensures that, with some exceptions, the visitors return to their home countries to share the skills they have gained.

How many J-1 exchange visitors come to the US each year?  According to the Department of State, the J-1 program admits approximately 300,000 foreign visitors from 200 countries per year. (85% of the participants are 30 years old or younger, and 55% are women or girls.)

What are the most popular J-1 categories? The SWT (Summer Work Program) program  allows foreign students an opportunity to live and work in the U.S. during their summer vacation to work in seasonal, temporary jobs in the U.S. Several seasonal industries such as the resort and hospitality industries, rely on J-1 SWT employees. The Au Pair program allows foreign graduates to live with a host family in the U.S. to attend schooling and provide childcare for the host family. The Au Pair provides childcare to the host family and may also take courses at an accredited college or university.

What changes are expected to the J-1 program? The administration has announced plans to review several categories, with the Summer Work Travel and Au Pair programs facing the most scrutiny. These programs could be reduced or eliminated. The administration is not seeking to reduce or eliminate the educational categories of the J-1 program.

Why is the administration targeting these categories? In furtherance of the Buy American, Hire American, the administration is looking to cut these specific programs as it claims that they bring in cheaper, foreign workers that are reducing jobs for Americans and driving down wages.

What has changed already? Nothing, so far. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available.