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J-1 Visas: Sharing Oregon With the Rest of the World
by Nick Beleiciks
Published May-20-2013

The U.S. Department of State J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program is designed to foster global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges. The program provides non-immigration visas to foreign nationals who are approved to participate in work- and study-based exchange programs in the United States. While in the U.S., participants teach, study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills, or receive on-the-job training that lasts from a few weeks to several years.

There were 297,527 participants in the J-1 Visa Program in 2012, according to figures from the State Department. Oregon welcomed 3,082 of those participants. While staying in Oregon, J-1 Visa holders participated in one of 14 different program categories and were sponsored by one of 12 Oregon-based sponsors or by an out-of-state sponsor.

Colleges and Universities are Oregon's J-1 Visa Sponsors
The U.S. State Department designates sponsors from government, academia, and the private sector to conduct educational and cultural exchange programs. These entities then sponsor foreign participants who receive J-1 Visas. These sponsors are responsible for selecting foreign participants and monitoring their stay in the United States.

There are 12 designated sponsors based in Oregon. However, sponsors with addresses outside of Oregon are still able to place participants in the state. According to the State Department's website, Oregon's J-1 Visa sponsors are all colleges and universities (Table 1).

Table 1
J-1 Visa Sponsor Organizations
Lewis and Clark College
Linfield University
Oregon Heath & Science University
Oregon State University
Pacific Northwest College of Art
Pacific University
Portland State University
Reed College
Southern Oregon University
University of Oregon
University of Portland
Willamette University
Source: U.S. Department of State, http://j1visa.state.gov
Most Visas for Student and Scholar Programs
J-1 Visa holders must participate in one of 14 programs. Each program has a set of requirements for visitors, their program sponsors, and their employer if the participant is working during their stay.

The programs offered and the number of participants by program in Oregon during 2012 are shown in Table 2. The length of time that exchange visitors are allowed to stay in the U.S. varies depending on the program.

More than two-thirds of J-1 Visa participants were involved in student or scholar programs.

The secondary school student program allows students ages 15 to 18 years old to travel to the U.S. and attend school while living with an American host family or at a boarding school. Secondary school exchange students are not allowed to work part-time or full-time jobs or live with relatives.

The college and university student program allows foreign students to study at American post-secondary institutions or participate in a student internship program that fulfills educational objectives in the student's home country. College and university students may work part-time if they are in good academic standing.

Table 2
Oregon Participants by Program, 2012
Total J-1 Visa Program Participants 3,082
Secondary School Student 1,096
College and University Student 773
Professor and Research Scholar 258
Intern 248
Short-Term Scholar 213
Summer Work Travel 134
Government Visitor 98
Trainee 72
Au Pair 67
Camp Counselor 49
Teacher 31
Specialist 29
Physician 8
International Visitor 6
Source: U.S. Department of State, http://j1visa.state.gov
J-1 Waivers for Physicians
The physician program allows foreign physicians to participate in graduate medical education programs or training at U.S. schools of medicine. The Physician Visa Waiver program was created to allow international medical graduates who complete their residencies or fellowships in the United States to remain after their J-1 Visa expires so they can practice medicine in federally designated shortage areas. According to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) the program has placed physicians in 34 cities within 20 counties in Oregon. The counties with the most placements have been Lane, Jackson, and Marion counties.

States are allowed to submit up to 30 physician waivers to the State Department each year. The OHA's Oregon's Physician Visa Waiver Program report states that 18 physicians were placed in designated shortage areas within the state during 2012, following a record setting 27 placements in 2011. During the past decade, 206 physicians originating from 43 different countries worked in Oregon under the waiver. Home countries with at least 10 physicians receiving an Oregon waiver were India (54 participants), Philippines (30), Canada (12), Romania (12), Pakistan (11), and Syria (10). Of the 206 physicians who started work in Oregon, 114 were still actively practicing medicine in Oregon in 2012.

J-2 Visas Available for Family Members
J-1 Visa exchange visitors can sometimes include their spouses and dependents during their educational and cultural experiences in the United States. The J-2 Visa can be issued to accompanying spouses and unmarried children of J-1 Visa holders. However, the exchange categories of au pair, camp counselor, secondary school student, and summer work travel do not permit J-2 Visas. In most cases, J-2 Visa holders can seek employment in the U.S.

Of Course, There's a Lot More to It
Those interested in being a J-1 Visa participant, sponsor, or interested in hiring a participant can find more information on the State Department's website: http://j1visa.state.gov/.

More information about the Physician Visa Waiver program in Oregon is available from the Oregon Health Authority Primary Care Office website: www.oregon.gov/oha/OHPR/Pages/pco/index.aspx.