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Transitioning from J1 to H1B Visa: What the Process Entails
May 9, 2022
5 mins
A close-up view of a document - an approved J1 (Exchange visitor) type visa for the USA

In this blog, we have discussed the following topics:

  • An introduction to the J1 Visa
  • Difference between J1 and H1B
  • How to transition from J1 to H1B?
  • How to apply for a J1 waiver?

Before you start reading to know more about the J1 to H1 change of status, read to know about the H1B Change of Status Fact-sheets.

An Introduction to the J1 Visa

The J1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued to exchange visitors in certain categories to enter the US. These visitors visit the US to further their education or work in temporary jobs. The J1 Visa was originally introduced in 1961under the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act. The program's objective is to encourage better relationships between the USA and other nations. The J1 visa was originally issued by the US Information Agency. Currently, it is overseen by the US Department of State.
One of the main contingencies for acquiring a J1 visa is for the applicant to gain acceptance to a program conducted by an approved foreign agency, organization or educational institution. Given below are some interesting aspects of the J1 Visa:

  • The J1 visa is program-based rather than employment-based.
  • Only a limited list of occupations is listed under the J1 Visa.

The J1 visa holder's stay in the US depends on the program they are enrolled in.
As we know, the H1B visa is one of the most popular non-immigrant visas issued to foreign employees. Given its immense popularity, it is no surprise that many J1 holders seek to transition to the H1B. Also, applying for a Change of Status (COS) from a J1 exchange visitor to an H1B worker offers many benefits. Some of the reasons why people apply for J1 to H1B Change of Status is because the H1B allows:

  • To work in the US for three years and further extend the stay by another three years as long as the holder has a valid job under an H1B sponsoring employer.
  • Dual Intent or the opportunity to have temporary employment in the US while applying for a permanent residency.
  • Holders to apply for a Green Card remain in the US with a legal job for the 6-year maximum period allowed under the H1B visa.
  • The spouse, children, and parents of H1B holders to accompany them with an H4 visa. The H1B holder's spouse can also apply for employment or H4 Employment Authorization Document and work in the US.

Differences Between J1 and H1B Visas

In this section, we analyze the difference between the J1 and the H1-B visas because many first-time applicants think they are quite similar.

The J1B Visa is:

  • A program-based visa for individuals who want to exchange their skills, expertise, and learning with the US and return to their home country to implement what they've learned.
  • For college students, scholars, medical graduates, professors, scientists, etc.
  • Based on programs sponsored by educational institutions and research organizations.
  • It will likely expire once the program ends, and the holder must return to their home country.

The H1B Visa is:

  • An employment-based visa issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Issued to foreign employees who work for US-based employers in specialty occupations.
  • Valid for an initial period of three years. It can be extended for another three years.

If you want to switch from your J1 to H1B visa, you must first find an employer in the US who will file your H1B petition and bear the visa expenses. This is a major and mandatory requirement as per the USCIS regulations. If your H1B employer is not Cap-Exempt, they must enter your H1B petition into the annual H1B lottery. To acquire an H1B visa, you need to have a bachelor's or master's degree and a specialty job specified under the USCIS regulations.

Given below are the steps in J1 to H1B visa change:

Step 1: Bag a job offer from an H1B sponsoring employer.

Step 2: Employer submits the Labor Condition Application or LCA, the first step in the H1B process. The LCA should be filed with the US Department of Labor.

Step 3: Employer submits Form I-129, also known as the petition for a non-immigrant worker, and the approved LCA to the USCIS.

Step 4: The applicant must visit the US Embassy or Consulate in their home country to complete the application and get the visa processed and approved.

Processing time for J1 to H1B COS

There are rigid time frames to follow when applying for a Change of Status to the H1B category. Since the filing time frame is fixed, you may have to wait for at least six months before commencing your job with a valid H1-B visa. You may also opt for Premium Processing for an H1B petition, which will cost you an additional fee but expedite the process to 15 days.

Also Read: H1B Consular Processing Versus Change of Status

The J1 Waiver: Why you will Need it & How to Apply for it

Another major contingency for the J1 visa is the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement under the Immigration and Nationality Act Sect. 212(e) is codified at 8 US Code § 1182(e). As a J1 holder, you must leave the US for this period before filing for your COS to H1B. However, you can obtain a J1 Waiver and exempt yourself from this home residency requirement.

A waiver may be granted on the following statutory grounds:

  • A No Objection Statement from USCIS or other US governmental agencies stating that they have no objection to a waiver being granted.
  • A Sponsorship by an interested Government Agency in the US, a request made by a Government agency on your behalf.
  • Claim of Persecution, which states that you will face persecution is your return to your home country and therefore seek asylum in the US.
  • Claim of Exceptional Hardship, which is a statement by you that if you return to your home country, a US permanent resident spouse or child, or a US citizen spouse or child depending on you, will face considerable hardships.
  • Request from Designated State Health Agency which is made by a designated state health agency on your behalf, to remain in the US because you are a physician.

The process to apply for a J1 Waiver:

  • Download Form DS-3035.
  • Fill, print, and mail it along with Form DS-2019 and two self-addressed and stamped envelopes.
  • Pay the application fee of $120 to the Department of State.
  • Filling out the online form generates a barcode and a SEVIS number. You need to print the barcode and mail it along with your application. You can check the status of your waiver application online by using the number.

Get Expert Guidance from TechFetch H1B

We recommend you weigh your pros and cons with both J1 and H1B visas and give it ample thought before going ahead with the Change of Status procedure. You may also check TechFetch H1B for more information.

**Disclaimer: All H1B processes are subject to change. Kindly refer to the USCIS official website for the latest updates.

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Article by Techfetch H1B team

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