J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa – Teachers

1. Definition of J-1 Exchange Visitor Teachers. 22 C.F.R. § 62.4 (d).

A J-1 Exchange Teacher is an individual teaching full-time in a primary or secondary accredited educational institution.

2. Purpose of J-1 Visiting Teacher Program. 22 C.F.R. § 62.24 (a).

J-1 Visiting Teacher Programs promote the interchange of American and foreign teachers in public and private schools and the enhancement of mutual understanding between people of the United States and other countries.

The J-1 teacher programs provide foreign teachers opportunities to teach in primary and secondary schools in the United States and to participate in cross-cultural activities with Americans in schools and communities. The objective of the J-1 Visiting Teacher Program is for the exchange visitor to return home to share his or her experiences of the United States. The programs also seek to enhance American knowledge of foreign cultures, customs, and teaching approaches.

3. Criteria for J-1 Exchange Visitor Teacher. 22 C.F.R. § 62.24 (c) and (e).

A foreign teacher may be eligible to participate in a J-1 exchange visitor program as a full-time teacher if the individual:

  • Meets the qualifications for teaching in primary or secondary schools in his or her country of nationality or last legal residence;
  • Satisfies the standards of the U.S. state in which he or she will teach;
  • Is of good reputation and character;
  • Seeks to come to the United States for the purpose of full-time teaching at a primary or secondary accredited educational institution in the United States;
  • Has a minimum of three years of teaching or related professional experience; and
  • Has received a written offer of a teaching position from a primary or secondary accredited school in the U.S., which the foreign teacher has accepted in writing.

4. Location. 22 C.F.R. § 62.24 (g).

The J-1 Exchange Teacher can only teach at the primary or secondary school listed on his or her Form DS-2019 and at locations where the schools are involved in official school activities (e.g., school field trips and teacher training programs).

5. Duration. 22 C.F.R. § 62.24 (h).

The J-1 Visitor Teacher may be authorized to participate in the Exchange Visitor Program for the length of time necessary to complete the program, which may not exceed three years.

6. Foreign Teacher Alternatives

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Teachers category should be compared with the H-1B temporary worker category. The exchange visitor category may be a better fit for some due to the often lengthy application and petition process for professionals seeking H-1B classification. However, J-1 visa applicants must be aware of the potential applicability of the two-year home country residence requirement.