Why J-1 to H-1 is not good practice

Change of status from J-1 to H-1

At HTP, we often receive the question “what can I do to stay in the U.S.? Can I change to an H1 visa?”. While a change of visa status is sometimes appropriate, changing from a J to an H visa undermines the integrity of the J-1 visa program. Let me explain by providing some background info about the two visa categories:

J-1 visa program

The J-1 visa is part of the State Department’s educational and cultural exchange program. It allows individuals from all over the world to visit the U.S. and engage in a variety of activities. There are programs for scholars, students, trainee and interns, teachers, au-pairs, just to name a few. One of the main goals of the program is for foreign national to experience U.S. life and culture and to return home to share their experiences. Ultimately, the objective is to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries”. In this regard, the program is an important foreign diplomacy tool for the U.S. Department of State.

H-1 visa

By contrast, the H1 visa is an employment type visa: it is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in certain specialty occupations. The visa generally requires that the applicant has a bachelor degree or a number of years experience. The objective is employment; there is no cultural or educational requirement or component.

So why are J-1 to H-1 conversions not good practice?

Remember the goals of the J-1 visa program. Increasing mutual understanding can be best achieved when J-1 visa participants return home to share their experiences. The Department of State monitors J to H conversions and encourages J-1 visa sponsors to stop working with host organizations that facilitate a change of status. From the State Department’s perspective, such J to H conversions show a fundamental disregard for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program regulations and undermine the integrity of the program.

2 Responses to “Why J-1 to H-1 is not good practice

  • Mario,
    Are you aware of any real-world consequences of this practice? Has the Department of State ever levied sanctions or penalties on sponsors who have demonstrated this “fundamental disregard”?
    Brooke Stokdyk

    • Brooke, I am not aware of sanctions or penalties levied. However, the Department monitors J to H change of status and discourage the practice.