Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Exchange Visitor Visa’

5th July 2018

It would appear that Thailand is not the only jurisdiction which is tightening immigration regulations and enforcement. In recent weeks, an announcement from the agency which oversees immigration matters is likely to have a significant impact upon future immigrants and non-immigrants alike. For example, in a recent press release from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) it was noted that certain non-immigrants such as J-1, F-1, and M-1 visa holders will no longer be granted an effective reprieve from accruing unlawful presence in the USA through use of so-called “duration of status” exemption.

What is “duration of status”? Duration of status (also referred to as “DS”, “D of S”, or D/S in certain immigration circles) refers to the status by which certain non-immigrant are admitted into the United States. In this blogger’s opinion it was designed to streamline immigration functions as certain exchange visitor programs and course curricula do not necessarily have a definite end date (this is especially the case with so-called practicum courses following after a more organized academic schedule). Due to the fact that it is somewhat difficult to nail down policymakers allowed for “duration of status” to act as a sort of floating grace period. In the past, those admitted in this status were unable to accrue unlawful presence once admitted even where a course or other reason for admission had clearly terminated. This lead to what some would describe as abuse of the system. This was simply a “loophole” in the rules that allowed such individuals to obtain later immigration benefits without the need to worry about an finding of inadmissibility for overstay since unlawful presence could not ever be determined. Pursuant to a recent announcement from USCIS this appears to be changing. To quote directly from the USCIS website:

Individuals in F, J, or M status who fail to maintain their status on or after Aug. 9, 2018, will start accruing unlawful presence on the earliest of any of the following:

  • The day after they no longer pursue the course of study or the authorized activity, or the day after they engage in an unauthorized activity;
  • The day after completing the course of study or program, including any authorized practical training plus any authorized grace period;
  • The day after the I-94 expires; or
  • The day after an immigration judge, or in certain cases, the BIA, orders them excluded, deported, or removed (whether or not the decision is appealed).

This change in policy will have a significant impact upon those who have been admitted to the USA in one of the above categories. Moreover, those previously admitted in duration of status who are no longer pursuing the program for which they were admitted are well advised to consult an immigration attorney soon in order to understand their options. Obviously, failure to remain in lawful status could harm future applications for further immigration benefits pursuant to the forthcoming rule change. It seems logical to infer that more findings of accrued unlawful presence are likely to be made in future immigration cases and in that case such matters will only be remedied through use of an I-601 waiver petition.

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24th May 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has made an announcement regarding issuance of US student visas to Iranian nationals. To quote directly from the Still4Hill blog:

I am very pleased to announce a big step forward in the Obama Administration’s support of the Iranian people. Under our old visa policy, Iranian students and exchange visitors were eligible for visas that lasted for only three months and could be used to enter the country just one time. As of today, that has changed. They are now eligible for two-year, multiple entry visas. This gives young Iranians the opportunity to return home for family events, to participate in internships, to travel outside the United States—and they won’t need to get a new visa every time. I’ve heard from many Iranian students and Iranian Americans that you wanted this change. So I want you to know that we are listening to your concerns. We want more dialogue and more exchange with those of you who are shaping Iran’s future. We want to be able to share with you what we think is great about America…

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks above to learn more about this story.

The US Student Visa, also referred to by the categorical title of F-1 visa, is a very popular travel document among foreign nationals who wish to travel from their home country to the United States in order to undertake a course of study. This visa category is akin to the US tourist visa (B-2 visa) insofar as both visas require the adjudication of a visa application at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad. The US student visa is also a non-immigrant visa. It is important to note this fact because it implies that any application for such a visa must survive scrutiny pursuant to section 214(b) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. Not all non-immigrant visa applications are scrutinized pursuant to 214(b), most notably the L-1 visa, but many popular categories require such scrutiny.

Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act creates the rebuttable presumption that a non-immigrant visa applicant is actually an undisclosed intending immigrant to the United States. This presumption can only be overcome by the applicant providing affirmative proof that they have a strong incentive to leave the United States rather than remain. For many, overcoming such a presumption can be difficult, but it should not be viewed as impossible as many US non-immigrant visas are issued each year.

For related information please see: J-1 visa.

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25th February 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Department of State has proposed a final rule which would raise some of the costs and fees associated with the J-1 visa, a travel document designed for exchange visitors wishing to visit the United States of America. To quote directly from the Federal Register’s official website FederalRegister.gov:

§ 62.17 Fees and charges.

(a) Remittances. Fees prescribed within the framework of 31 U.S.C. 9701 must be submitted as directed by the Department and must be in the amount prescribed by law or regulation...

(b) Amounts of fees. The following fees are prescribed...

(1) For filing an application for program designation and/or redesignation (Form DS-3036)—$2,700.00…

(2) For filing an application for exchange visitor status changes (i.e., extension beyond the maximum duration, change of category, reinstatement, reinstatement-update, SEVIS status, ECFMG sponsorship authorization, and permission to issue)—$233.00.

The administration of this blog highly recommends that those interested in this issue click on the links above to read the Federal Register entry in its entirety.

Those who are unfamiliar with the J-1 visa should also note that this visa category is sometimes utilized by foreign nationals wishing to act as Au pairs in the United States of America.

Pursuant to the provisions of section 214(b) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Consular Officers at every US Embassy or US Consulate abroad are required to make the presumption that the applicant for a non-immigrant visa is actually an intending immigrant unless the applicant can provide evidence to overcome this presumption. This triggers a “strong ties” vs. “weak ties” analysis in the mind of the interviewing Consular officer. During such an analysis, the Consular officer will weigh the ties that the applicant has to their home country and compare these with the applicant’s ties to the United States. If the offficer feels that the applicant has stronger ties to a country abroad than to the USA, then the visa will likely be granted.

In some cases, applicants for a United States visa are denied. This would seem to happen more frequently in non-immigrant visa cases than immigrant visa cases, but this can, at least partially, be attributed to the stringent analysis that all Consular Officers must make during the adjudication of certain non-immigrant visa applications. Should a visa be denied, then it may be possible to request reconsideration of that decision. That said, appealing visa denials, especially denials pursuant to section 214(b), is difficult, if not impossible, pursuant to the doctrine of Consular Non-Reviewability (sometimes referred to as Consular Absolutism). This doctrine states that, with exceptions in rare and highly extreme circumstances, a Consular Officer’s discretion regarding the issuance of a visa is virtually absolute.

Some have pondered whether the provisions of section 214(b) applies to applicants for a K-1 visa. In point of fact, although the K-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category similar to the J-1 visa; the K-1 visa applicant is not scrutinized subject to section 214(b) of the INA as the applicant for said US fiance visa is entitled to have immigrant intent at the time of the K-1 application.

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16th August 2010

The J1 visa can be an effective travel document for those seeking admission to the United States for cultural and educational exchange. It was recently announced that certain changes will be implemented which may have a significant impact upon J1 visa applicants. The American State Department has made rule changes which may effect J1 visa processing, to quote a recent press release distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

On June 19, 2007, the Department published an interim final rule amending its regulations regarding Trainees and Interns to, among other things, eliminate the distinction between “non-specialty occupations” and “specialty occupations,” establish a new internship program, and modify the selection criteria for participation in a training program.

This document confirms the Interim Final Rule as final and amends the requirements to permit the use of telephone interviews to screen potential participants for eligibility, to remove the requirement that sponsors secure a Dun & Bradstreet report profiling companies with whom a participant will be placed and also amends this provision to provide clarification regarding the verification of Worker’s Compensation coverage for participants and use of an Employer Identification Number to ascertain that a third-party host organization providing training is a viable entity, and to clarify that trainees and interns may repeat training and internship programs under certain conditions.

It would appear that the US State Department is making these changes in order to better enjoy the benefits of technological advances. The use of telephone interviews for eligibility screening purposes will likely decrease overall processing time. Furthermore, repealing the Dun & Bradstreet report requirement will likely save individuals as well as companies time and resources when they opt to file for J-1 visa benefits on behalf of a foreign national.

The J-1 visa is often utilized by those who travel to the USA as exchange visitors. Often, those applying for such a travel documents do so at a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad. As the J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa, the Consular Officer adjudicating the application must ascertain whether the applicant should be granted the visa notwithstanding the provisions of section 214b of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act which requires that those seeking a non-immigrant visa show “strong ties” to their home country and “weak ties” to the United States. Some are under the mistaken impression that a J-1 visa is a “dual intent” travel document akin to the L1 visa. Due to the provisions of section 214b of the INA, the applicant for a J1 visa should not maintain an intention to remain in the USA indefinitely.

For related information please see: US Tourist Visa.

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9th January 2010

For a more detailed look at the J1 visa please see our main J1 visa page at: J1 visa Thailand. For further information about United States Immigration in general please see: US Visa Thailand.

The J1 Visa in 2010

As the new year begins this author is presented with an opportunity to re-explain the J1 visa and how it can be used by those Thais thinking of traveling to the United States of America as an Exchange Visitor. It is also an opportunity to briefly discuss some of the recently proposed changes to the J-1 visa rules and the future of the J1 visa in its current form.

For those who are not familiar with the J1 visa this visa category was designed to allow foreign nationals to come to the United States for limited employment purposes, specialized education, or cultural exchange. Some of those who use a J-1 visa are required to remain outside of the USA for statutorily specified period of time after their initial stay in the United States. These people are subject to what is called the Foreign Residence Requirement and cannot reenter the USA within 2 years after their initial J-1 visa without first obtaining a waiver.

Recently the United States Department of State proposed a rule that may have had a major impact upon those applying for a J1 visa. In a previous post on this blog, the issues surrounding this proposed rule were discussed, but the American Immigration Lawyers Association is now reporting that this proposed rule is being withdrawn by the American State Department. To quote directly from the AILA website:

“On December 23, 2009 the State Department published in the Federal Register a proposed rule titled Exchange Visitor Program– Secondary School Students. The Department revised existing regulations to provide greater specificity and clarity to sponsors of the Secondary School Student category with respect to the execution of sponsor oversight responsibilities under the exchange visitor program. This rule is being withdrawn because it was submitted prior to OMB completing review. The proposed rule is withdrawn in its entirety.”

Since this rule has been withdrawn there have been those who have noted that the regulations regarding the J-1 visa did not need to be modified. The proposed rule was withdrawn because it was promulgated before a required review period had elapsed. Therefore, there is good reason to believe that this proposed rule may be re-promulgated in the future. It remains to be seen how this will affect those applying for a J1 visa, but it would seem likely that an adoption of any new rule would, at least at first, create some confusion as the new regulations are implemented.

Since the J1 visa is a non-immigrant visa similar to a US tourist visa, it may be possible to apply for, and hopefully obtain, it at both a US Embassy or US Consulate. In Thailand, one could apply for this visa at either the US Consulate in Chiang Mai or the US Embassy in Bangkok depending upon where the applicant resides.

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20th December 2009

In a previous post on this blog this author brought up the fact that the Department of State is raising the fees for non-immigrant visas such as the US Tourist Visa, the Exchange Visitor Visa, and the US Student Visa. However, it was not clear just how this proposed fee increase would effect other types of US visas. The Department of State recently promulgated a press release discussing the impact of the proposed rule change. This author came by this press release thanks to AILA. To quote this press release:

“Under the proposed rule, applicants for all visas that are not petition-based, including B1/B2 tourist and business visitor visas and all student and exchange-visitor visas, would pay a fee of $140.


Applicants for petition-based visas would pay an application fee of $150. These categories include:


H visa for temporary workers and trainees
L visa for intracompany transferees
O visa for aliens with extraordinary ability
P visa for athletes, artists and entertainers
Q visa for international cultural exchange visitors
R visa for religious occupations


The application fee for K visas for fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens would be $350. The fee for E visas for treaty-traders and treaty-investors would be $390. The Department will not begin collecting the new proposed fees until it considers
public comments and publishes a final rule.”

This author added the above italics for emphasis because this is a substantial fee increase compared to the current amount that must be paid in connection with K visas. At the time of this writing, the Consular processing fee paid at the US Embassy in Bangkok or the US Consulate in Chiang Mai is $131. The proposed rule would increase this fee to $350. The US State Department has noted that the increase in fees is necessary because the K1 visa and the K3 visa require more diligent adjudication on the part of Consular Officers. This author would generally agree with this statement as it has been his opinion that Consular Officers diligently investigate and judge these petitions in an effort to provide a fair, thorough, and efficient adjudication. That being said, this fee increase will probably have a major impact upon those who have already filed for K1 and K3 visa benefits. Hopefully, these fee increases will come into effect after a grace period whereby those who filed before the fee increase will be able to enjoy the previously lower fee while new applications will have the fee increase phased in. However, the logistics of this proposal may be cost prohibitive as keeping track of previously filed cases could be highly labor intensive.

For more information on this and other US Immigration matters please see: US Visa Thailand.

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13th December 2009

J-1 visas are meant for those who are entering an exchange visitor program or traveling to the USA for the purpose of doing specific types of work (most notably: Au pair child care). This visa has been in existence for many years and the rules regarding issuance have not be modified in a long while.

Recently the American State Department has proposed making changes to the system whereby foreign nationals obtain the J1 Exchange visitor visa. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has recently promulgated comments on the proposed changes in an effort to provide a different perspective to those who will ultimately pass these rules. In a recent press release AILA stated:

“We commend the United States Department of State (the Department) for acting on its goals to update and improve the Exchange Visitor Program through the first significant proposed rulemaking since 1993. We also recognize and applaud the Department’s efforts to increase overall program oversight, but we urge the Department not to do so at the risk of weakening the very foundation on which the J-1 program rests.”

Not everything in this press release was laudatory as the Association also noted that some of the proposed rule changes might actually undermine the original intent of the J1 visa legislation:

“[W]hile we recognize that the Department [of State] must demand accountability on the part of sponsors of the J-1 program, we fear that it has used the medium of this proposed regulation as a means of eroding the range and number of opportunities for young men and women to learn about our culture and return to share important skills and insights with their compatriots. AILA recognizes the major role that the Fulbright-Hays Act has played for nearly 50 years to instill trust and promote understanding, education, and training among people of dramatically divergent cultures and for the mutual benefit of our people as well as the people of nations struggling to achieve financial and
cultural independence. It is crucial that the full range of these opportunities continues to exist.”

The J-1 visa is an example of a valuable method not only for providing advanced education to foreign nationals, but also for spreading American culture and American ideas to other countries. Undermining this system of cross-cultural exchange would indeed be detrimental. However, the US State Department does have an obligation to investigate candidates and sponsors for J-1 Exchange Visitor visas in an effort to be certain that the visa is being issued for appropriate reasons and to appropriate applicants. Hopefully, the American State Department can find a proper balance whereby the security needs of American Citizens are protected while cross-cultural exchange is still facilitated. As with many non-immigrant visas, both the US Embassy in Bangkok and the US Consulate in Chiang Mai can issue such travel documents to applicants in Thailand.

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10th July 2009

Many people around the globe long to travel to the United States. Thailand is no different as many Thai nationals seek entrance to the United States as either immigrants or non-immigrants. Those entering with non-immigrant status tend to be entering on a US tourist visa, US student visa, or an Exchange Visitor Visa. The Exchange Visitor Visa is often referred to by its Immigration category: the J1 visa. There are certain requirements for obtaining a J1 visa and it is a somewhat unique visa because it confers certain rights and restrictions not imposed upon non-immigrants entering the United States upon visas in other categories.

While the Department of Homeland Security is the primary agency with the mandate to facilitate the obtainment of exchange visitor visas, the Department delegates the task of exchange sponsorship to others, namely businesses, organizations, and other government agencies. Those organizations responsible for carrying out this Department of Homeland Security delegated mandate assist J1 applicants in entering the United states of America in order to engage in one of the following vocations:

1. Au pair (Nanny)

2. Camp Counselor

3. Student, college/university

4. Student, secondary

5. Government Visitor

6. International Visitor (reserved for U.S. Department of State use)

7. Alien physician

8. Professor

9. Research Scholar

10. Short-term Scholar

11. Specialist

12. Summer work/travel

13. Teacher

14. Trainee

For more information on each of these vocations please see the United States Department of State Website

Those wishing to engage in the above activity may be eligible to receive a J1 visa. That being said, documentation and interviews will most likely be required before the J-1 visa will be issued by the US Embassy in Thailand. As with any United States Visa, final visa application approval is provided by US State Department consular officers working at posts in Thailand. There are two diplomatic posts in Thailand which handle J1 visa petitions: the US Embassy in Bangkok (already mentioned) and the United States Consulate General in Chiang Mai.

As mentioned previously on this website, those seeking to bring a loved one to the United States on a J-1 visa because they wish to bypass comparatively longer processing times for family based visas should think twice before doing so. First of all, obtaining a non-immigrant visa when the applicant actually has immigrant intent is viewed by US officials as defrauding the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. Further, obtaining and entering the USA on a J1 visa may be a bad tactical decision for those wishing to bypass K-1 visa or K-3 visa wait times because a J1 visa entrant may have a 2 year foreign residency requirement imposed upon them before they may reenter the United States. As a general rule, if one wishes to bring a loved one to the USA on a Fiance visa or Marriage visa, then it is best to use those designated visa categories rather than the J-1 visa.

(Please be aware that none of the above is intended for any use other than education. This is not legal advice. For legal advice contact a licensed US Attorney. No attorney-client relationship shall be created between the author and any reader of this posting.)

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