The question “how to convert J1 Visa to Green Card” has always been the main question for exchange students and J1 visa holders who wish to stay in the United States permanently. 

The United States, the fourth largest country in the world, has always been viewed as the land of opportunity. As such, it is the first choice for many people to live, work, and study. 

With some of the world’s leading universities in the United States, many academics choose this country for their research to participate in work-related exchange programs. 

The J1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for visitors who wish to participate in j-1 exchange visitor programs in the United States. And a Green Card, also known as a Permanent Resident Card, is for immigrants who want to permanently live in the United States and become U.S. citizens. 

As a J1 visa holder, you may wonder:

Is it Possible to Transfer From J1 to Green Card Status in the U.S.?

The answer to this question is tricky because only some are eligible to do so. There are specific terms and conditions that you must follow to be eligible to apply to transfer your J1 visa to Green Card. 

For one, J1 visa holders should prove that they don’t have the intention of immigration and that they are not looking for permanent resident status; by providing the Consular officer with documents that strongly indicate financial, family, or employment ties with their home country. Otherwise, applying for a Green Card will affect their nonimmigrant status, forcing them to leave the country at once.

J-1 Visa Holder Two-Year Home Country Rule

In certain conditions, the J1 visa holder falls under the two-year home country residence requirement. This requirement is set under section 212(e) of the Immigration and

Nationality Act means that the exchange nonimmigrant visa holders have to go back to their home country for two years before they can apply for a Green Card for permanent residence. 

However, it is fair to mention that J1 visa holders can apply for other nonimmigrant visas while fulfilling their exchange program. Otherwise, tąhey have to wait after the two-year home country residence before they can apply to change or adjust their status and receive an immigrant or temporary worker visa. 

J1 visa holders would fall under the two-year home country residence requirement in case the following conditions apply to them: 

● The U.S. Government or a foreign government directly or indirectly funded Exchange Visitor’s participation in the exchange program. 

● Skills that an exchange visitor wishes to develop or practice belong to areas her government has requested to be included in her DOS-defined “skills list.” 

● An exchange visitor has come to the United States to pursue medical training or training in the Foreign Physician category. 

What Is a J-1 Waiver Status?

Many J1 visa holders cannot or do not want to go to their home country for two years. The two years can be very stressful for those who wish to stay in the United States for different reasons. In this case, they can apply for a J1 waiver status if they can’t fulfill the two-year home country residence condition. 

For your request for a visa waiver to be eligible, you may choose one of the five bases below for a waiver application: 

● Your government has to send a No Objection statement through its embassy in the U.S. to state that it has no objection to you not returning to your home country or becoming a permanent resident in the United States. The embassy then has to send the No Objection statement to the waiver review division for a recommendation. 

● In case you’re working on a project for a U.S. government federal agency, then the agency may request a National Interest Waiver on your behalf, which proves that your departure would be unfavorable to its interests.

● In case you expect to be persecuted if you return to your home country, you can apply for a persecution waiver. 

● If you can prove that your two-year departure would cause exceptional hardship to your child or spouse who is a U.S. citizen, then you can apply for an exceptional hardship waiver. 

● If you’re a medical graduate and you have the offer to work full-time at a healthcare facility in an area with a shortage of professionals, you may apply for a waiver based on the request of the healthcare facility. This waiver is also called the Conrad State 30 Program. 

J1 visa to Green Card for Medical Graduates

If the J-1 holder is a physician who wants to have a Green Card, the applicant must first submit for a J1 waiver also known as the Conrad State 30 Program. Once the J1 waiver is approved based on the request of a U.S. government agency stating that: 

● The physician’s departure may conflict with the National Interests of the agency. 

● The position cannot be fulfilled by a professional U.S. citizen 

The physician then has to become a full-time employee as a professional worker with an H-1B visa, or an immigrant visa, for three years in an area that’s facing a shortage of healthcare professionals or in a Veterans Affairs Medical Center appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The employment must begin within 90 days of obtaining the waiver. 

Note that if you can’t follow the requirements for the waiver, you may be subjected to the two-year home-residence rule again. 

J1 Visa to Green Card Marriage Option

In case you’re not subject to the two-year rule, or you could successfully obtain a waiver, you can move forward to converting your J1 visa to a Green Card marriage option to become a permanent citizen in the United States.

Marrying a U.S. Citizen

If you choose to get married in the United States, you can apply for a marriage-based Green Card, which require you to file the following forms: 

● The I-130 Form, also known as the Petition for Alien Relative form, must be filed by your spouse, who introduces you as their direct relative. This form is necessary to transfer your J1 visa to Green Card to obtain permanent residency status. 

● The I-485 Form is a form for Adjustment of Status or applying for Permanent Residency. Once your J1 waiver is obtained, you are now an exchange visitor with a J-1 status who can adjust your status to become an immediate relative of an American citizen. You are required to fill out this form (not your spouse). 

When married to an American citizen, you will be submitting the I-485 form along with your spouse’s I-130. In case you’re married to a lawful Green Card holder in the United States, then your spouse has to submit the I-130 form first and wait for the form to be approved before you can submit your I-485 form. 

J1 Visa to Green Card Marriage Option Timeline

You can expect the I-130 form processing time by the USCIS to take about a year or even more and the I-485 form to take an average of six months. Unfortunately, there is no way to speed up the process, as it is available for most visas and Green Cards. Because it might take a long time for your forms to be processed, make sure to extend your status while waiting for the result.

J1 visa Green Card Transfering Options

Once your J1 waiver is obtained, you have three options to obtain a Green Card. There is no such thing as the best option; rather, it all depends on your status, your two-year home country residence subjection, and proof that you never had the intent of immigration. J1 visa Green Card Transfering Options include: 

● Submitting the J1 waiver and the immigration petition simultaneously and proof that the exchange visitor never intended to stay in the United States permanently.

● The exchange visitor can submit a J1 waiver, and after they have obtained the waiver, they can submit an immigration petition. 

● The exchange visitors can submit their immigrant petition which is applied by the employer stating that the noncitizen employee is eligible to become a U.S. citizen (The I-140 Form), wait for approval, and then submit their J1 waiver. 

However, it is fair to say that since the J1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, requesting an immigration petition alongside or afterward may potentially cause you to violate your J1 status. 

Because of the danger of jeopardizing your J1 visa, changing your status to a different nonimmigrant visa but with dual intent is advisable. Visas like H-1B, L-1, or O-1 are some of the popular options available for visas with dual intent. 

J1 to H-1B Visa Transfer

The H1B visa is a dual intent visa that has to be submitted by the employer to hire foreign specialists. Although both the J1 and H1B visas are non-immigrant visas, the H1B visa, unlike the J1 visa, is dual intent, which allows you to have a temporary job in the United States as well as a Green Card application at the same time without jeopardizing your status, something that might happen with the J1 visa. 

An H1B visa holder has the permission to stay up to three years in the United States, with no two-year home country residence requirement, and with the ability to be extended up to six years, which makes it a good option for people who want to obtain a Green Card to become a permanent U.S. resident. 

Transferring a J1 to an H1B Visa

You have to have a job offer from a U.S. employer so that the employer can apply for a Labor Condition (from ETA-9035) to the U.S. Department of Labor. 

The Labor Condition Application is an agreement stating that the U.S. employer will pay the foreign specialist a wage similar to the wage that would be paid to a U.S. citizen and that the employee would be treated equally as other U.S. workers in terms of job conditions and location.

After obtaining the LCA (Labor Condition Application) certification, the U.S. employer must then submit a non-immigrant petition to the USCIS. The H1B visas are limited in number, which is why a cap is specified, and in case the number of registrations exceeds the cap, the rest would be selected randomly by an annual Lottery. 

The employment takes place on October 1st every year once the H1B petition is approved. The J-1 visa holder can then apply for a non-immigrant worker petition, also known as the I-129 form, online through the non-immigrant visa application system. 

The process for applying to change your status from J1 to H1B could take about two weeks, but thanks to the existing bureaucracy, it could take months before you can start your employment. Since the H1B visa requires the employer to pay fees, you don’t actually need to pay any fee for this type of visa. 

J1 visa to Green Card Processing Time

The processing time of transitioning your J1 visa to Green Card varies in different cases, depending on the route you choose to take. 

For example, if you choose to get a dual intent visa, the type of the dual intent visa varies based on the visa you choose and other circumstances regarding your case. 

For instance, if you choose to the application process of changing your status from J1 to H1B visa, you’d have to wait till the annual lottery starts along with the waiting time and the processing of the H1B visa, which could take months before you’re employed, which is why the process cannot be exactly estimated. 

In case you choose to get a Green Card through the PERM Labor Certification. The J1 visa holder can go for EB2 Green Card or EB3 Green Card, which requires the employer to post ads regularly in the newspaper to ensure that an American citizen professional could not be found to occupy the required job position and that by employing a foreign employee, the job would not be taken from a qualified American citizen. 

This process through the PERM Labor Certification can take about sixty days with the ongoing recruitment. Then another six months to a year and sometimes even more have to pass before the Department of Labor decides whether or not the application is accepted. 

There are special cases where the government would watch over the employment process closely and investigate recruitment, which would cause the process to take even longer.

If you’re applying for a Green Card through marriage, you would expect to wait about ten to thirteen months before you can have your Green Card. 

Cost of Transforming a J-1 visa to Green Card

The cost of transitioning from a J-1 visa to Green Card varies based on the route you choose to apply for a Green Card, also whether you choose to have a professional counselor to help you with the process. 

When trying to transfer a J-1 visa to Green Card, the employer and the employee should expect to pay for one or more of the following fees: 

● I-140 Form: this form is for noncitizens who want to obtain EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 employment-based visas to become permanent residents. Filing this form would cost $700. 

● I-485 Form: This is an Application to Adjust your status after submitting the I-130 form, and based on your age, it can cost between $750 and $1225.00. 

● I-130 Form: the filing fee for this form, also known as the Petition for Alien Relatives in        case you want to apply for a Green Card by marrying a U.S. citizen, would cost $535. 

● DS-260 Form: this is an application for an immigrant visa and alien registration that would cost $230. 

Getting a Personal Loan to Cover Your J1 to Green Card Fees

Living in the U.S. can be expensive for foreigners, especially when they want to become permanent U.S. citizens. The process can exceed their budget, which is why finding a lender would greatly help them with the process. 

However, many non-American citizens would face a problem when they apply for a loan because lenders do not trust immigrants and non-citizens to lend them money in the first

place; because there is a risk that the person borrowing the money might leave the country soon and never repay the lender or the bank. 

This is why it is of great importance for permanent residence visa applicants to apply for a loan to build credit. Having good credit results in the lenders trusting the non-citizen for a loan. For instance, lenders typically expect the applicant to have a visa or Green Card with at least six months or proof of their occupation or education in an official institution or office when they apply for a loan. 

Building your credit is extremely important when you want to apply for a loan as a non-U.S. citizen; however, having a U.S. citizen or a permanent U.S. resident as your cosigner when applying for a loan to give you credit could speed everything up. 

Working and traveling while your Green Card is pending

To work in the United States, you’d have to change your visa status to an employment-based visa before you can have a job. You can apply for these visas either by yourself or through your employer. Visas like H-1B and E-2 are employment-based visas you can obtain to work in the United States. 

In order to be able to travel outside the United States, you must obtain a travel/ re-entry permit by filing the I-131 form, which allows you to travel abroad and return to the United States without facing any obstacles. Sometimes this form is filed through the AOS (Adjustment of Status) process, which in that case you don’t need to pay any fee to travel outside the U.S. Nevertheless filing this form would cost you $575, unless you are 14 to 79 years old and need a Biometric Service that costs $85 in addition.

Final Thoughts

Transitioning your J1 visa to Green Card and becoming a permanent U.S. citizen through changing your status to a marriage-based Green Card or an employment-based Green Card through an EB1, EB-2, or EB-2NIW, or EB-3 can be a complex procedure and cost a lot of time and money, which is why having a counselor and financially preparing yourself is extremely important. 

Another piece of advice is gathering information; everybody knows that information is key to success. Gather as much information as possible about the required documents, recruitment

time and deadlines to keep up with the requirements of obtaining a Green Card and becoming a permanent U.S. citizen. 

FAQ

  • Is it Possible to Transfer from J1 to Green Card Status in the U.S.?

    Yes, transitioning your J1 visa to Green Card is possible, although it has a complex process. The process begins by obtaining a J1 waiver, changing your visa status, and applying for a Green Card. Read the article to learn about the details.
  • What Is a J1 Waiver?

    A J1 waiver is for exchange students with special conditions restricting them from fulfilling the two-year home country residence requirement, allowing them to stay in the United States instead of returning to their home country for two years.
  • What are the options for transitioning your J1 visa to Green Card?

    You can submit the immigration petition simultaneously, before or after applying for a J1 visa. However, there’s always the risk of jeopardizing your J1 visa, which is why changing your status from a J1 to dual intent visa is advisable.
  • How much is a J1 to Green Card Processing Time?

    The J1 to Green Card processing time depends on your path for applying for permanent residence in the United States. Obtaining a J1 visa lawyer can help speed things up.
  • What is the Cost of Transitioning from a J1 Visa to Green Card?

    Once again, it is worth emphasizing that the process you choose to go through decides the amount of time and money you would be spending when applying for a Green Card·
  • How to Get a Personal Loan to Cover Your J1 to Green Card Fees?

    Try looking for a personal lender accepting non-citizens, and try reaching them for a loan. Try to beware of fee harvesters.
  • What about traveling or employment while waiting for a Green Card?

    To be able to work in the United States, you must change your status to a dual intent visa or visas that are employment-based. And to be able to return to the United States after exiting the country, you should have a travel/ re-entry permit.
  • What to do if J1 status expires while waiting for a Green Card?

    To stay in the United States after your J1 visa expires, you’d have to submit to change your status to non-immigrant or a dual-intent visa like H-1B, L-1, or O-1 or you can try to extend your J1 visa.

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