J1 Visa Extension: What It Is, How to Get One, and How It Can Help You

Posted by Frank Gogol

As a J1 visa holder, the last thing you want happening is nearing the completion of your academic program just to have your visa expire before you’ve finished, but it happens. Luckily, you can apply for a J1 visa extension.

Below we’ll explain what a J1 visa extension is and how the J1 visa extension process works.

J1 Visa Overview

A J1 visa is a non-immigrant program-based visa (as opposed to being employer-based, like the H-1B visa). You will apply to a specific government-approved sponsorship program which will provide you with a completed DS-2019. You must file this form with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

In short, the requirements for a J1 visa are:

  • You have to qualify for the program you are applying to according to its criteria
  • You must maintain a foreign residence and have no intention of abandoning it
  • You must be able to finance your whole trip
  • You must have sufficient medical insurance for yourself and your family
  • Must have a good understanding of the English language

With the J1 visa, you get allotted a specific amount of time you are allowed to be in the U.S. If this time is not enough, you can apply for a J1 visa extension under certain conditions.

What is a J1 Visa Extension

A J1 visa extension is when you apply for the time allotted to your J1 visa to be extended. To apply for a J1 visa extension, your program and program sponsor must consent to your J1 visa extension. The time period that your J1 visa will be extended will depend on the standards and conditions of your specific program.

Your total length of stay for your specific program won’t be extended beyond the time period required and indicated by the program on the IAP-66 (Certificate of Eligibility).

J1 Visa Extension Requirements

The requirements you have to meet in order to have your J1 visa extension approved is very simple. You must currently be on J1 status and your program sponsor must have filed a DS-2019. There are, however, quite a few documents you’ll have to submit for your J1 visa extension application.

Documents Needed for a J1 Visa Extension

You will need to submit the following documents with your DS-2019 in order to apply for a J1 visa extension:

  • Your Form DS-2019 and IAP-66
  • Your passport
  • Your Form I-94
  • Proof of your J1 Visa health insurance (this insurance must cover you for the length of your extension, as well as all your family members on J2 status)
  • Evidence of financial capabilities (only if your program is unable to fund you)
  • A valid explanation for the extension with supplementary documentation

Fortunately, you will not have to pay a SEVIS fee again when you apply for your J1 visa extension.

J1 Visa Extension Process

The J1 visa extension process is quite straightforward. Your program sponsor will have a specific officer who will determine your eligibility for a J1 visa extension. If you are eligible, the application will be made.

If your extension is approved you will be issued a new DS-2019 form which has a new expiration date. The good news is, if you have a spouse or children with you in the U.S. on J2 status, your extension will cover them as well.

Make sure you apply for your J1 visa extension before the expiration date on your current DS-2019. It is strongly recommended that you apply for your J1 visa extension as soon as you know you won’t be able to complete your program in time—even if it is a few months in advance.

Change of Category

You can also apply for a change of category when you apply for a J1 visa extension. If you want to apply for a change of category, you will have to demonstrate clearly that this change is closely related to your original exchange objectives. You will also need to indicate it is necessary as a result of extraordinary circumstances.

To achieve a change of category, the officer of your program will have to submit a request in writing to the U.S. Department of State. If the request is accepted, you will be issued an updated DS-2019.

What if Your J1 Visa Extension is Denied?

If your J1 visa extension application is denied, you will have to go back to your home country. You have a 30 day grace period from the date of completion indicated on your original DS-2019 to do this. If you stay in the U.S. after this 30 day grace period, you may be regarded as “out of status.” This can have serious consequences if you try to apply for a green card or visa in the future.

Travel and J1 Travel Grace Period

If you are applying for a J1 visa extension, you can still travel outside of the U.S., you just need to make sure you have a valid J1 visa stamp on your passport. If this visa stamp has expired, you must get a new visa before you travel. If you travel on an expired stamp, you will not be allowed back into the U.S.

As mentioned above, you have a 30 day grace period after the completion date as indicated on your original DS-2019. This is regarded as a travel grace period. You are not allowed to work on any exchange activities during this grace period. The purpose of the grace period is to allow you to get your arrangements together to leave the U.S.

Additional Extensions

Once you have been granted a J1 visa extension, it is very difficult to be granted any additional extensions. Those are typically only granted in exceptional circumstances. In order for any additional extensions to be authorized, your program sponsor will have to send a request directly to the Department of State.

This request will have to contain an in-depth explanation of the petition and will also have to provide supplementary documentation. If this petition is submitted, you will have to pay an additional fee of $246, which is nonrefundable.

Special J1 Visa Extensions

If you are a J1 professor or research scholar, you can be granted a J1 extension of up to 6 months by your program sponsor without requiring the U.S. Department of State’s approval. This can, however, only be granted if the extension is necessary to complete a specific research project or program.

J1 Visa Waiver

If your J1 visa has expired, you will be required to return to your home country for at least two years before being allowed to apply for any additional visas. This is not always possible and can sometimes simply be impractical. If this is the case, you can apply for a J1 visa waiver which will waive this requirement.

You can apply for a J1 visa waiver based on:

  • A No Objection Statement from your home country’s government
  • Exceptional hardship would be experienced if you were forced to leave the U.S.
  • Risk or fear of persecution in your home country
  • A statement from an Interested Government Agency requesting your continued presence in the U.S.

Conclusion

If your J1 visa has expired but you still have work you need to complete in the U.S., you don’t need to be concerned. You can apply for a J1 visa extension. The J1 visa extension process is simple and straightforward, and if you have good enough reasons, your J1 visa extension will more often than not be approved.

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