Teacher FAQ

What is a J-1 Visa and Cultural Exchange?
The J-1 Visa is a special nonimmigrant visa type which enables foreign nationals the opportunity to participate in the U.S Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program (“EVP”). The EVP provides opportunities for around 300,000 foreign visitors per year to experience United States (U.S.) society and culture and engage with Americans. There are fifteen different categories under the J-1 visa program. Exchange visitors may study, teach, do research, share their specialized skills, or receive on-the- job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years. EVP participants are young leaders and entrepreneurs, students, fledgling and more seasoned professionals eager to hone their skills, strengthen their English language abilities, connect with Americans, and learn more about the U.S.

Most individuals choosing to come to the U.S. on a J-1 visa exchange program are funded privately. J-1 visa exchanges include a cultural component that gives participants the opportunity to engage more broadly with Americans and share their own cultures with their U.S. host communities. They return home eager to stay connected, to expand their networks, and to explore future exchange opportunities as “citizen ambassadors.”

What role does Teachers Council play in the J-1 Visa Process?
Teachers Council is a sponsor for the J-1 Teacher Category, designated by the U.S. Department of State. Only designated sponsors are authorized to issue the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (the DS-2019) which is the basic document to support an application for the J-1 Visa. Teachers Council screens and selects prospective exchange visitors based on the criteria set forth in the governing regulations of the Exchange Visitor Program.
What is the Certificate of Eligibility (DS-2019) document?
The Form DS-2019 or Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status; is the basic document used in the administration of the exchange visitor program. This form permits a prospective exchange visitor to seek an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in order to obtain a J visa to enter the United States. The Form DS-2019 identifies the exchange visitor and their designated sponsor and provides a brief description of the exchange visitor’s program, including the start and end date, category of exchange, and an estimate of the cost of the exchange program.
Who is the sponsor when participants are in the United States?
Teachers Council is the participant’s sponsor throughout his or her time in the United States, up to the end date listed on the DS-2019. Teachers Council is available to participants throughout their programs to help with general questions about life and procedures in the United Sates, or about their Program. In case of emergency, Teachers Council offers an emergency contact line which is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Teachers Council also collects periodical evaluations from participants and their host schools to ensure that the experience is positive and that outlined objectives of the program are being met.
How do I get my J-1 Visa?
In order to obtain your J-1 Visa, you must engage in a full application and review process with Teachers Council. Teachers Council will assess your application, supporting documents, and intended host school for eligibility and compliance with the Exchange Visitor Program. We also offer a placement program for qualified teachers to assist in finding interested host schools in the U.S. If your application is approved, Teachers Council will issue your DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility and provide further instruction on how you will then apply for a J-1 Visa appointment at your home country’s U.S. embassy or consulate. Issuance of the J-1 visa, like all non-immigrant visas, is at the discretion of Consular Officers viewing visa applications at U.S. embassies and consulates. This means that even if you are accepted to an exchange visitor program and have received your DS-2019, the Consular Officers decide if you receive the J-1 visa.
How much does the program cost?

The cost of participation in the program will vary, depending on the length of time you plan to work in the U.S., if you will bring any dependents, and if you select any premium processing options. Program costs may be paid by you, your U.S. host school, a third party (such as an attorney or a government organization), in any combination. To calculate your costs, please refer to our fee and refund policy.

Please note: Teachers Council does not work with 3rd party recruiters and therefore there are no additional 3rd party fees associated with our J-1 Programs.

What is the two year home country physical presence requirement?
Some J-1 exchange visitors* may be subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement which requires you to return to your home country for at least two years at the end of your exchange visitor program. This is also known as the foreign residence requirement under U.S. law, Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212(e). As a J-1 Exchange Visitor, United States law requires a two-year period of home residency before an individual applies for non-immigrant visas, (i.e. B-1 and B-2) as temporary workers (i.e. H-1B), or for permanent residency in the United States (i.e. EB-2). This requirement does not prevent you from reentry into the United States within the two-year period to attend conferences, tourism, or for further study nor does this requirement prevent you from going to a third country after leaving the U.S. The U.S. Department of State reserves the right to make final determination regarding 212(e).

*Note, if the J-1 is subject to the two year home physical presence requirement, their accompanying J-2 Dependents are also automatically subject.

I am currently in the U.S. on a different type of visa. Can I change status to a J-1?
Teachers Council is unable to change your status directly from one U.S. visa to another. In order to be eligible to apply for the Teacher Exchange Program, the applicant must currently be working as a teacher in his or her home country or country of legal residence*. Therefore, you are not able to apply for the Teacher Exchange Program if you are currently in the United States on a different type of visa. Additionally, all applicants must complete their nonimmigrant J-1 Visa appointment outside of the United States in their home country’s American embassy. You will need to be able to demonstrate strong ties to your home country as well as non-immigrant intent to the United States during this appointment.

*The only exception is if you have within the past 12 months completed an advanced degree beyond a bachelors degree, in education or related teaching area, and also have worked as a teacher for at least 2 years within the past 8 years.

Can Teachers Council place me with a U.S. host school for this program?
Teachers Council does offer a Teacher Placement Program for those teachers who wish to have assistance in finding employment at a U.S. host school. The Placement Program involves an in-depth application and interview process, and there are additional fees for placement beyond regular processing fees.
Can I work a second job while in the U.S. on my program?
No. The only work you are permitted to do while in the U.S. on a J-1 Visa is at your designated host school indicated on your DS-2019. You must be able to demonstrate your ability support yourself financially throughout your time in the United States as a part of your application process, so you should not have any need to work a second job. Any unauthorized work outside of your J-1 host school is forbidden and is grounds for cancellation of your J-1 visa status.
Can I use my own health insurance?
The U.S. Department of State requires that all individuals engaging in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program be covered by a health insurance policy that meets minimum standards of coverage. Most health insurance policies from outside of the United States, and/or those offered by U.S. host companies to regular employees, do not meet these minimum standards of coverage. Teachers Council has therefore arranged for an accident and illness health insurance policy for all of our participants in compliance with Department of State standards, which is mandatory for the duration of the program. You may still utilize coverage from outside of the U.S. or from your U.S. host school that can be used in combination with the Teachers Council insurance to give you additional coverage.
Can I bring my family members?
Yes. You may apply for Teachers Council sponsorship and issuance of DS-2019 documents for your legal spouse and/or unmarried children that are under the age of 21 at time of your J-1 application. Your dependents will be termed J-2 Dependents, and will be linked to all aspects of your J-1 Visa and associated responsibilities. Please let us know during your application process if you would like to bring along any dependents.
Can my spouse work in the U.S.?
Yes. J-2 Dependents are eligible to work in the United States once they file for and obtain an Employment Authorization Document, often called an “EAD Card”, from USCIS. This cannot be obtained until you and your dependents have arrived in the country. Teachers Council can file for the J-2 EAD card on your behalf if you wish. Please let us know if you would like this service. The process takes approximately 1-3 months from initiation.

*Note that wages from J-2 dependent work in the U.S. are not to be used to support the J-1 visa holder while in the United States, and will not be taken into consideration as we assess your application for financial stability.

Can I arrive early to the U.S. before my program?
Yes. You may arrive to the United States on your J-1 or J-2 Visa up to 30 days prior to the start date indicated on your DS-2019 document. Many participants choose to do this in order to find housing and get settled and acclimated to their new town prior to starting their training experience.

Similarly, there is a 30 day post-program grace period also. If you wish to engage in tourism activities while still on your J-1 visa after the end date of your program indicated on your DS-2019 document, you are permitted to utilize a 30 day grace period to do so. Past 30 days, your J-1 visa expires and you must depart the country. You would need to obtain a Tourist Visa after departing the country if you wish to re-enter as a tourist.

Can I change to an H-1B visa during or after my program?
As the J-1 Visa program is a nonimmigrant cultural exchange program, the expectation is that you will return home to share your experiences with friends and colleagues in your home country after the program is complete. Therefore, Teachers Council will not advise, assist, or permit any change of visa status to an H-1B.
I am currently on OPT in the United States. Can I apply for a J-1 Program?
If you are currently on OPT after completing a master’s degree in education or related teaching field within the past 12 months, AND have also worked as a teacher in your home country for at least 2 years after the completion of a bachelor’s degree, then you may be able to apply for the J-1 Teacher Exchange Program. A full application will need to be collected and reviewed, and you will not be able to change status directly to the J-1. You will need to depart the U.S., ending your F-1 or other current student visa status, and then make a new nonimmigrant visa appointment at the American embassy in your home country for a J-1 Teacher visa. Keep in mind that you will need to demonstrate strong ties to your home country and nonimmigrant intent at the J-1 visa appointment.