J-1 visas are issued to students and exchange visitors. For exchange visitors performing an internship or working as a trainee, the validity of the visa is generally 18 months.
Many individuals on a J-1 are subject to the 2 year foreign residency requirement. This usually applies to internships sponsored by the government of the United States or the alien's home country.
Most trainees or J-1 visitors on private internships are not subject to the 2 year foreign residency requirement.
In July of 2007, new regulations went into effect changing the requirements for J-1 Interns and Trainees. The requirements are summarized below.
Must be post-secondary students currently studying outside of the United States or university graduates who have been out of school for no more than 12 months. This program can be repeated as long as they maintain student status or begin the internships within 12 months of graduation. Internships must be related to the participant's field of study.
Must have a university degree or professional certificate from a foreign institution AND at least one year of additional related experience outside of the U.S. after graduation or five years of experience outside of the U.S., in the field of training. Trainees will be allowed to stay in the U.S. for up to 18 months, with the exception of Hospitality trainees who are limited to programs of 12 months or less. Exchange Visitors who will be pursuing training in business management at a hotel will be allowed to train for up to 18 months. For example, training programs in Human Resources or Marketing at a hotel, resort, or restaurant would be considered as 18 month business training as long as the trainee had prior management experience.