Every year thousands of university students come to the US during their summer break to work and travel in the United States. Students who are actively pursuing a degree or full-time course of study at an accredited post-secondary institution outside the US can travel to the United States on a J-1 visa and work, usually in low-paying jobs, for several months. As part of the program, called the Summer Work and Travel program, students get 30 days set aside for travel for both before and after their designated work period. The program is one of several US Department of State initiatives aimed at exposing foreigners to US culture. It also provides seasonal labor for US employers; this particular J-1 visa is a work visa, and participants in the program regularly work in popular tourist destinations such as national parks and on the coasts, as well as in large cities like New York and Los Angeles. Students participating in Summer Work and Travel program are expected to return to their home country after the program. Many, however, choose to seek to extend their stay in the US, most commonly by applying to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change of status to that of a B-2 tourist or in many cases an F-1 student. This article discusses the requirement that a program participant have at the time of their US visa interview "present intent" to return to their country at the conclusion of their stay on the J-1 visa, and examines the possible implications of staying in the US beyond their authorized J-1 Summer Work and Travel program stay. For assistance applying for a change of status or in seeking a US visa please contact a US immigration lawyer with the law firm Heartland Immigration. No matter where you are located, a Dallas
lawyer with our firm can provide guidance with respect to your US immigration matter. Call Heartland Immigration for a free immigration consultation:
J-1 Visa Programs - Present Intent to Leave the US At the Conclusion of the Program
All J-1 exchange programs, including the Summer Work and Travel program, require that the program participant intend at the time of their US visa interview at a US embassy or consulate abroad to leave the United States at the conclusion of their J1 visa program. They must have a "present intent" at their interview to leave US after the J1 work visa prgram ends. For the J1 visa Work and Travel program, the conclusion of the program is whatever date is stated as the formal end of the program on the participant's Form DS-2019, plus 30 days allotted for travel in the US after the program.
Since present intent to depart the US after the J1 visa program is required at the time of the US visa interview, an applicant for the J1 visa Work and Travel program who actually intends to try to stay in the US as either a tourist or a student - in which case they would need to apply to USCIS for a change of status to a B or F visa, respectively - would likely be denied a J-1 visa if they make this intent known to the interviewing consular officer. Most consular officers interviewing US work visa applicants who are seeking the J1 Summer Work and Travel visa do not specifically ask whether the US visa applicant intends to depart the United States at the conclusion of their J1 visa program - they simply assume the J1 work visa intends to do so as long as they are enrolled in university (a requirement for the J-1 Summer Work and Travel program).
In cases where the consular officer does explicitly ask about the J1 visa applicant's intentions for the end of the program, the US work visa applicant should be honest - it is better to possibly be denied the J work visa than to possibly later be found ineligible for a US visa because the consular officer believes you lied or otherwise misrepresented your intentions when you went on your J1 work visa program. This happens often where a person goes to the US on a J1 work visa and participates in the Summer Work and Travel program but then gets a change of status and stays as either a tourist or a student, and then later applies again either for another J1 work visa for the Summer Work and Travel program or for a B2 tourist visa. The interviewing consular officer will see the individual's immigration history and notes in the system from the last consular officer who interviewed the J1 work visa applicant, and may assume that they lied to the consular officer - they may believe the visa applicant intended all along to stay in the US after their J1 program, thus calling into question the person's credibility. This is the kind of thing that can lead to a US visa refusal under INA 214(b), which can make it very difficult to get a US visa for many years.
What About Students who Decide Once They are Already in the US that They Want to Stay?
Even where a person does not intend at the time of their J1 Summer Work and Travel visa interview to try to get a change of status once they are in the US, but rather makes this decision when they are in the United States, problems can still crop up for future US visa applications. This can be true even where the interviewing consular officer at the subsequent visa interview
believes that the applicant did
not have the present intent at the time of their initial J1 work visa interview to stay in the US beyond the end of their J1 visa program. This can occur where the US visa applicant changed from J1 status to that of a B2 tourist visa visitor and is now seeking another J1 Work and Travel program visa. They might not satisfy the consular officer that they meet the requirement of the J1 Summer Work and Travel program that the individual be actively pursuing their studies - a gap of several months in studies during which time the person was a tourist in the US can lead to a denial of a subsequent J1 work visa on this ground. The consular officer might not believe the person is a serious student, and that they are just seeking the J1 work visa to get back to the US at any cost and that they will likely try to get a change of status again and stay longer as a B2 visa tourist.
Persons going to the US on a J1 Summer Work and Travel program visa should bear this in mind; even if they do not have the intent at the time of their US visa interview to stay in the US after the J1 work visa program, applying for a change of status and staying longer as a tourist or student can make it tough to get a J1 work visa in the future. Getting a change of status once in the US, going from a J1 work visa to a B2 tourist visa or an F1 student visa, usually will not have a negative impact upon future applications for a
tourist visa or most other visa classifications,
as long as the consular officer believes that the applicant did not have the intent at the time of their J1 work visa interview to change status and remain in the US past the expiration of their J1 work visa program. Applicants for the J1 work visa under the Summer Work and Travel program should therefore go out of their way at the US visa interview to make it clear they in fact intend to return to their country after the J1 visa program.
To learn more about US work visa applications or change of status issues, do not hesitate to contact an immigration lawyer with the law firm Heartland Immigration. Our immigration attorneys can answer your US immigration law questions and represent you before USCIS or assist you in applying for a US visa. For an immigration
consultation please contact a Heartland Immigration lawyer; give us a call today: