Can a J-1 Trainee really remain in the U.S. for 20 months?!

Well… technically Yes.

But let’s differentiate between program participation, grace period and arrival time before program start.

Program participation: the duration of training depends on the J-1 category as well as the occupational category. According to section 62.22 (k) of the J-1 Visa Regulations, programs in the Trainee category have a maximum duration 18 months (except for training programs in agriculture and in Hospitality and Tourism, which are limited to 12 months). The program start date and program end date are listed on form DS-2019.

Grace period: participants who successfully complete their J-1 program are eligible to stay 30 days beyond their program end date only for the purpose of  domestic travel and/or to prepare for and depart from the U.S (they are not allowed to train after the program end date on form DS-2019).

Arrival before program start: DHS regulation requires that all beginning (initial) J exchange visitors, and J-2 spouse and dependents enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the program start date as shown on the Form DS-2019 (the J-1 is not allowed to start the trainee program until the program start date on form DS-2019).

So there you have it:  a J-1 participant could theoretically stay in the U.S. for 20 months: arrive 30 days before program start date and stay 30 days after program end date. But keep in mind that participation in the actual training program is limited to 18 months and is governed by the program start and end dates on form DS-2019.


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