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An Insight on Awareness of the 5-Year J-1 Visa at AILA AC24

Last month, I, along with my colleague at Cultural Vistas, attended the annual conference of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) in Chicago, IL. It was a worthwhile learning experience and a great opportunity to strengthen our current partnerships as well as establish new connections.

Our main purpose for attending the conference, as a J-1 visa sponsor for the BridgeUSA Exchange Visitor program, was to understand the issues that are consequential to the business immigration attorney community and to gauge awareness of the J-1 Research Scholar visa program, an up to 5-year visa program that is available to the private sector and is being promoted as another option to access top global STEM talent through the Department of State’s Early Career STEM initiative, an initiative in support of the CHIPS for America Act and the president’s EO on AI. After conversations with several attorneys in attendance, we found that more awareness is expressly needed to ensure that the business immigration attorney community has enough information and resources to consider the J-1 Research Scholar as a viable option for global mobility.

What is the J-1 Research Scholar Visa?

There is evidence to suggest that there is an enormous need for the J-1 Research Scholar program, especially with the result of this year’s H-1B lottery, which saw a whopping 470,342 applicants during the initial registration period in April with only 120,603 selected for 65,000 to 85,000 spots allocated for the visa. One of our goals is to raise awareness that some of these applicants could be better suited for the J-1 Research Scholar visa, a simple option that would provide these U.S. companies quicker access to the essential global talent critical to their competitive success.

The J-1 Research Scholar visa provides U.S.-based companies, especially those in STEM, an additional option other than the H-1B visa to access the top research and development talent from across the world that is necessary to drive innovation and gain competitive advantage. This J-1 visa provides up to five years of stay in the U.S., which allows these researchers to maximize their impact and contributions to these companies’ growth strategies and bottom lines. U.S.-based companies, from startups to Fortune 100, engaging in STEM research that are seeking top talent are able to leverage this visa program to access STEM research talent from more than 130 countries in less than eight weeks. Cultural Vistas is one of a very small number of J-1 sponsors designated to sponsor the J-1 Research Scholar program for the private sector.

Photo by ThisisEngineering on Unsplash

Why Business Immigration Attorneys Should Consider the J-1 Research Scholar Visa?

With initiatives supported by the Department of State and the Biden administration, several actions have recently been implemented to facilitate the J-1 Research Scholar program and the J-1 visa application process including:

Of course, it would be prudent to note that there are some drawbacks to the J-1 Research Scholar that do need to be acknowledge for full transparency. This J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa, so the candidate is expected to leave the U.S. upon completion of their visa program. In addition, some candidates might be subject to the 212e Rule, which may complicate the company’s or candidate’s future plans. However, it is important to note that per the latest BridgeUSA report, the top sending countries for the J-1 Research Scholar were China, India, South Korea, and Brazil. It is also important to note that not all research or STEM fields are subject to this rule. Therefore, these should not inhibit attorneys from recommending the J-1 Research Scholar visa to the companies they represent. The advantages far outweigh the risks.

Photo by ThisisEngineering on Unsplash

So, now that you know, what are the next steps?

  1. Review the eligibility requirements here.  
  2. Identify the foreign nationals your clients would like to bring onboard to do research (J-1 visa duration is up to 5 years).
  3. Email us at bd@culturalvistas.org to initiate the application process.  

Eligible candidates must have at least a bachelor’s degree and the demonstrated knowledge and skills necessary for the project. Host companies must have a U.S.-based location, be engaged in research and development, and have the resources to host a J-1 Research Scholar candidate.