IMPORTANT: The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program should not be thought of as an “employment visa.”

There are over a dozen categories of “exchange visitors” (i.e., individuals with J-1 immigration status) in the US participating in opportunities varying from au pair to medical scientist. Although individuals in J-1 status can be employees, many are not, and the Department of State (which specifically governs what it calls the “J-1 Exchange Visitor Program”) is quite clear that the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program should not be thought of as an “employment visa.” Employment happens to be a benefit incidental to holding J-1 immigration status, but the Department of State designed J-1 status expressly to allow internationals to visit the US for a specific time, participate in a specific activity, then return to their home country and share that knowledge. The J-1 status is appropriate for a training position such as postdoc or a temporary position.

J-1 is one of the most flexible immigration statuses as far as funding: J-1 exchange visitors can be fully paid by UAB, fully sponsored by their home country government, fully sponsored by their own personal funds or nearly any combination thereof. Conversely, J-1 is one of the most restrictive immigration statuses for the length of time in the US, participation in clinical activity, and repeat participation.