J-1 Exchange Visitor Teacher Visa

The J-1 Exchange Visitor visa program, operated by the U.S. Department of State, allows foreign nationals (“FNs”) from any country to pursue a specific objective in the United States. A J-1 visa holder may enter the United States as a student, scholar, trainee, intern, teacher, professor, research scholar, specialist or leader in a field of specialized knowledge or skill, foreign medical graduate, summer student work/travel program participant, physician, international visitor, government visitor, camp counselor, or au pair. A J-1 Exchange Visitor must be coming to the United States for the purpose of instruction, observation, research, consulting, demonstrating specialized skills, or receiving training.

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program was designed to facilitate international exchange and is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. The primary purpose is to expose foreign visitors to American methodologies, expertise, and culture, and subsequently have those visitors return to their countries to share that learning with others.

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program has 14 types of cultural exchange programs. One of these is reserved for foreign teachers coming to the U.S. to teach in accredited primary and secondary schools.

Basic Requirements:

Applicants must:

  • be qualified to teach in primary or secondary schools in their home country or country of last legal residence.
  • show that s/he is working in his/her country of nationality or the country of his/her legal residence at the time of application. Otherwise, s/he will need to show that:
    • Within 12 months of application, s/he has obtained an advanced degree.
    • S/he has two (2) years of full-time teaching experience within the past eight (8) years.
  • show that s/he has a degree equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree in education or in the academic field in which s/he intends to teach.
  • have a minimum of two (2) years of teaching or related professional experience.
  • satisfy the U.S. state’s standards where s/he intends to teach.
  • be of good character and have a good reputation.
  • seek to enter the U.S. to be a full-time teacher of record at a primary or secondary accredited school.
    • The teacher may also teach in pre-kindergarten, provided that instruction is on a full-time basis, and only in language immersion.
  • be sufficiently proficient in English.
  • have medical insurance that meets the regulatory requirements.
Period of Stay:
  • The period for a teacher exchange is three (3) years.
  • Schools may apply to the sponsor for a one or two-year extension of the program.
    • There is no limit on the number of extensions that the Department of State can grant.
    • If the sponsor approves the request for extension, the sponsor must submit this approval and any other supporting documentation for the extension to the State Department at least three (3) months before the beginning of the teacher’s intended extension period.
  • A teacher on a J-1 visa may not enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the teacher’s exchange program begins.
Dependent Family Members:
  • Dependents, including spouses and children under 21 years of age are eligible for J-2 visas. J-2 spouses can obtain work authorization.
  • Once the J-1 teacher program finishes, teachers are eligible to repeat the program as long as they have resided outside of the U.S. for two (2) years.