The U.S. Department of State has a teacher-exchange program that allows educators from other countries to come to the U.S. on J-1 visas to teach in primary and secondary schools. Teachers who are granted these visas are allowed to work in accredited schools for a maximum of three years. However, they may be able to get an extension on their visa for up to two more years.
The purpose of the J-1 teacher exchange program
The program is considered a cultural exchange rather than a route to permanent residence in the U.S. The idea is that teachers can share their cultures, language and information about their countries with American children and teens while they are learning American teaching techniques as they live and work in communities across the U.S. They can then share their knowledge with students and others in their home countries when they return.
Who is eligible?
There are several qualifications that teachers must meet to obtain a J-1 visa. They must:
- Be qualified to teach in a primary or secondary school in their native country or country of residence
- Have the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree in either the subject they plan to teach or in education
- Be currently employed as a teacher OR completed an advanced degree (beyond bachelor’s) in the subjects noted above
- Have at least two years of teaching or related experience
- Be of “good reputation and character”
- Be proficient in spoken and written English
If someone meets the eligibility requirements, they then need to obtain a sponsor. A number of organizations sponsor teachers for their J-1 visas. The organizations that sponsor teachers on J-1 visas can help them find a school if they don’t already have one lined up.
People who are in this country on temporary visas like the J-1 need to be especially careful about following the terms of their visa, their immigration status and U.S. laws. If you or a loved one who is here on a J-1 visa needs legal assistance, an experienced attorney can be a valuable resource.