A J visa holder needs to understand what they need to do to keep their visa in good status. This includes requirements to:
Maintain Adequate Health Insurance.
Comply with the 2 year home residency requirement.
Before a person who came to the US with a J1 visa can change to a visa with a permanent residency status (like H-1B, or L1) they generally need to comply with the two-year home residency requirement. To comply the J1 visa holder must either return to their country of residence for two years or qualify for a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement.
Understand limitations on their ability to work while in the US as well as limits on their spouse with a J2 visa.
A J1 visa holder may only perform the activity listed on his/her Form DS-2019. Different categories of J visa holders have different rules. Each DS-2019 sponsor will have a Responsible or Alternate Responsible Officer. That officer can tell you more about the rules that apply to you.
A J2 visa holder can apply for a work permit (Employment Authorization Document or EAD) if they would like to work while in the U.S. They can not work in the U.S. until the Department of Homeland Security approves the EAD.
Residency and Taxes
J1 visa holders do not pay FICA (Social Security and Medicare) tax when they are nonresident aliens for tax purposes. If you are in the student category of J visa, this is usually five calendar years. For teachers or trainees you have two calendar years. Two years is generally the minimum period you would not be a resident for tax purposes. J1 visa holders are subject to other federal, state, and local tax. Non-residents still need to file federal taxes if they earned any income. You will need to use the non-resident 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ federal tax forms.
It’s important to note that if you are a non-resident for tax purposes, then you do not need to comply with Obamacare Health insurance requirements. Health insurance plans that comply with Obamacare are much more expensive than plans that comply with J visa requirements. Most J visa holders prefer to maintain non-resident status and save on their health insurance costs.
Because this is complicated, you may need to consult a tax advisor.
J visa holder may be required to pass English Proficiency
The US Department of State requires that J1 exchange visitors (including short term scholars, research scholars, lecturers, and professors) have English language skills necessary in their program and to function in the US. Each sponsor will determine their requirements based on the demands of their program.
There is also an address reporting requirement.
All exchange visitor’s have a SEVIS generated DS-2019 issued by a DOS designated sponsor. They submit this when applying for an exchange visitor visa. The consular officer checks the DS-2019 record electronically through the SEVIS system to process the exchange visitor visa application. Unless exempt, exchange visitor applicants pay a SEVIS I-901 Fee to DHS.
Electronic records are kept in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) by their sponsor. J1 visitors are required to report within 10 days;
-a change in legal name;
-a change of address;
Failure to report is a violation of immigration status. This could result in termination of the visitor’s exchange program.