Tag Archives: j2

Transfer to an H1B or E3 Work Visa From…

Ok this has to be one of the most common questions I get asked by everyone on this blog and is also in many of the comments I see so I thought it important to cover.

Now there are many issues with transferring and depending on the visa you want to transfer to there are different qualifying criteria so it is important to be aware  of those. I will cover this topic more in depth for specific visa classifications, particular cases like the F1 Student, J1 or H1B/E3 work visas as they tend to be the most common that people want to transfer too while still in the country.

A change of status is not automatically granted even if you qualify and the USCIS will also determine on your unique case how long to extend your visa period for even if it is granted. It is all very arbitrary sometimes but generally you will be successful if they deem your intentions to be genuine and you have not done anything wrong under your current status.

You should not that there are certain visa categories you cannot transfer from while in the US so you have no choice under these visas to leave the US to apply for a new visa.

This includes;
C Visa (aliens in transit)
D Visa (usually for flight/ship staff, etc.)
K1/K2 (fiancee visa and dependent of fiancee)
S Visa (witness or informant)
TWOV (transit without visa)
Tourist under waiver program classified when you receive GREEN I-94W form when you enter US
Also; to note;
J1 visa can’t transfer/extend if they are subject to the 2 year residency rule (unless they have followed the long government channels to get this condition revoked)
M1 vocational visa can’t transfer to F1 student visa. They also can’t transfer to H visa category where the training helped them qualify for the H visa.  ( the M visa is used for things like pilot training, etc.)

Essentially there are some other basic requirements you must meet to also change your status such as;
– Have entered the US legally
– Not have done anything in the US to immediately disqualify you from consideration
– No factor requiring you to leave the US prior to re-entry and admission under your new status (often determined by USCIS)
– You have submitted your application prior to the expiration date recorded on your I-94 form given to you and stamped/dated when you entered the US (usually stapled inside you passport near you current visa)

NB: Your passport must be valid for your entire stay of applied period for your new visa


You have to file form I-129 to the USCIS for the categories below and this approval for the change of status has to be approved before you can begin peforming the activities under your new non-immigrant visa category.
If you have a spouse/dependents they need to file form I-539 to change their status. It is a good idea if this is your case to file all together so they are judged at the same time. All dependents can be filed on the same I-539 form.

The is the list requiring the I-129 form filing:
E1/E2 (Treaty Traders and Investors)
E3 (Australian temporary worker)
H1B/H2A/H2B/H3 (Temporary Workers)
L1A/L1B (Intracompany Transferee)
O1/O2 (Aliens with Extraordinary Ability)
P1/P2/P3 (Athletes & Entertainers)
Q1 (International Cultural Exchange)
R1 (Religious Workers)
TN1/TN-2 (Canadians & Mexicans covered under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA))

To qualify for the visa categories below you have to file form I-539.

A (Diplomatic & Other Government   Officials, Immediate Family members, Employees)
B1/B2 (Visitors for Business or Pleasure)
E (Treaty Traders & Investors Dependents Only)
F (Academic Students & Dependents)
G (Foreign Government Officials & Certain Immediate Family Members)
H4 (Temporary Worker Dependents Only)
K3/K4 (Spouse of U.S. Citizen & Minor Child Accompanying)
L2 (Intracompany Transferee Dependents Only)
M (Vocational & Language Students and Dependents)
N (Parents & Children of Certain People  Who Have Been Granted Special   Immigrant Status)
NATO (NATO Representatives, Officials,  Employees, and Immediate Family Members)
O3 (Aliens with Extraordinary Ability Dependents Only)
P4 (Athletes and Entertainer Dependents Only)
R2 (Religious Worker Dependents Only)
TD (TN Dependents Only)

It is recommended by the USCIS to file about 60 days prior to your date on your I-94 expiring. You can still stay in the US while your case is pending even if this is beyond your expiration date on your I-94. However during this time you will be considered not under any non-immigrant status and not be able to perform any activities (i.e. study, work. etc.) until your case is approved.

To check the status of your case, you will be mailed a receipt with a number on it which you can input on the uscis.gov website to see what is happening with your application. There is a part on the website regarding how long each of the various centers take to process these applications but generally if everything is in order it can often be done in less than a few weeks.
For students there is usually some sort of early inital approval you can receive so you can begin studies at the start of a semester.

In your application you will send your current I-94 form and be mailed a new one with a new date if you are approved under your new status. If you are denied you immediately considered ‘out of status’ and legally are required to leave … although many of course decide now to illegally stay longer.

It can always be good (and at time frustrating but necessary 🙂 ) to call the USCIS in these situation so there number if you are calling within the US is 1800-375-5283

I hope this helped provide information helpful to you and let me know if you want to cover other general parts of the process.


J1 Visa – Work & Travel Program Background

The J1 visa, officially known as a “cultural exchange” visa is used for many purposes including;

– High School Exchange Programs
– Work and Travel Programs (WAT) for College Students (this is a strict requirement)
– Au Pair
– Camp USA Programs
Internship or Trainee Programs
– Some Government and Academic Programs

In other words it is a very versatile visa designed for many practical purposes as far as the US is concerned.

Today I will focus of the Work and Travel aspect of the visa as while I don’t have the data is probably by far the most popular use of this program. To note there is a spousal J2 visa associated with the J1, but generally that will only be awarded in the cases of the longer in period Internship, Government and Academic programs.

The Work and Travel program is designed for current University/College students in their respective long holidays (so usually their Summer) to visit and be able to work in the US for up to 4 months. The period of the visa is usually determined by a combination of how long their work period is, how long their college break is and how long the local US Consulate/Embassy is willing to give them which is based on the two earlier factors as well as what region of the world they come from.

Obviously depending on which part of the world you come from this means you may be in the US in Winter (South America and Africa), Spring (SE Asia) and Summer (Europe, China, India, Middle East) depending on when your long holidays are at your University or College.
Australia and NZ citizens recently have access to a 1 Year Work and Travel program which functionally works the same except they have a longer period.

Now I don’t want to be too controversial in this post about the J1 WAT program but there are definitely some practical differences in the way it is administered depending on what country you are from, even if that is not a stated official policy.

So what I mean by that is that, officially the Work and Travel program requires you to have organized a job with a US employer which has then been approved by a State Department approved sponsor organization. So unlike the regular working visas like H1B, E3, etc., where your employer directly sponsors your visa, here it these designated organizations that are your sponsor and responsible for ensuring you meet requirements on the State Department’s behalf.

Additionally in 2011, students are required by the U.S. State Department requires candidates to obtain a job offer with an employer prior to their visa interview. Furthermore residents of Eastern European nations; Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova must have that said job confirmed by their Sponsoring Organization with the employer as valid for the J-1 visa program.

For J1 WAT there are currently 71 approved sponsors listed on the State Department’s website including CIEE, Intrax and InterExchage among others.

Back to the controversial aspect of it all, as I mentioned you need to have organized a job prior to coming to the US. However this requirement is loosely administered for some nations and vigorously for others under the general unofficial guise of students of certain countries being a greater risk to stay longer than their visa allows.

I will discuss this point more in detail in another post as well as more a step by step guide process to getting employment and this visa.

So some students look at this program as mainly just an extended holiday with the ability to work. Where as others work a lot, travel very little, in the hope when then transfer money back home they will gain a lot from a strong US Dollar. As I said the earlier option is officially disallowed and can have your sponsor organization cancel your visa making you illegal in the country, but it administered loosely depending on where you are from.

I hope this helps provide a nice background context to better understand the J1 visa and what its benefits are. Like I said I will go into further details about many of the points raised here in future posts.