Question on J1 visa for postdoc

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Question on J1 visa for postdoc

Postby DLB » Sun Mar 01, 2015 5:46 pm


I am an international graduate student working in the field of biophysics. I am finishing my PhD and will be defending soon. A couple of months ago, I applied for a few postdoctoral positions and got some interviews.

One of the interviews was at a very good HHMI lab and it went out very smoothly. I was offered a position at the end of the interview. During some small talks, the PI told me that her postdocs were often sponsored H1B visa. She told me that the formal letter from HHMI will come after I defend successfully and obtain an OPT status. The lab is very good and everyone seems to be nice. So, I accepted the offer and rejected the others.

After a few months of preparing for the defense and filing the OPT application, I contacted them back, informed about my progress, and asked again about the visa procedure. The PI told me that after looking into the procedure, she realized the case is more complicated and because of my country of origin, I will be getting a J1 instead which is sponsored by the university the lab is located in. This seems to be a letdown to me since I heard about the 2-year home residency subject that a J1 holder might get. And I was informed that the J1 will start after my 1-year OPT.

My question is what are the possible options that I am having now? Is this possible to know if the J1 that they sponsor will have the 2-year subject or not? Should I ask them directly? Since I still enjoy doing research and getting good publications, I really want to work there.

Thank you for your advice.

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Re: Question on J1 visa for postdoc

Postby M.A. » Tue Mar 03, 2015 3:41 pm

I can tell you what I learned from being on a J-1 visa many years ago (I went from F-1 to OPT to J-1 to H1 to green card). Things might have changed, of course.

The international scholars office at your new institution should be able to help you with some of your questions. The 2 year home residency requirement typically depends both on your country of citizenship and the source of your funding. If your home country does not impose the 2YHRR, the funding source might - for example, if you are getting federal funding directly, as in being a Fulbright scholar or similar, you may have the 2YHRR. If the federal funding goes to the institution as a grant and gets paid to you as a salary, you may not have the 2YHRR. The office that deals with visas will be able to give you a pretty good evaluation of the particulars of your position.

If I remember correctly, the final determination whether to impose the 2YHRR is made by the consular officer at the time of visa interview. However, it should be possible to get a fairly reliable answer ahead of time.

If there is no risk of 2YHRR, then J-1 visa is not any worse than the H-1B, and it gives you some extra time before you have to make decisions regarding your green card application.

Hope this helps.
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:30 pm

Re: Question on J1 visa for postdoc

Postby SDA » Tue Mar 03, 2015 6:38 pm

As someone who has done the same..F1-OPT-J1-H1B-GC,
1) This is typical these days with many institutions wanting to do J-1s

2) It does buy you more time, especially if you are inclined to compete in the academic market, 6 years can fly very quickly. Also, you can go to a different lab within same university easily or get another J-1 from a different univ pretty easily. H-1 constrains you more in terms of exact work that you were hired to do.

3) The determination of whether you are subject to the 212 (e) HRR is made solely by the Department of State (Not the consular officer, although they can stamp something on the visa). To know if you are subject or not, irrespective of what the visa itself says, I would ask the department of state for an advisory opinion. Despite the semantics, this is neither advisory nor an opinion, it is the definitive statement of whether you are subject.

4) The trick is to see if the subject code on your DS2019 form falls in the exempt subjects list for your country. This list can be googled and if you are lucky your subject code is not there you can mention that in your request for advisory opinion.

5) While 212(e) waiver is painful and labor intensive, it is not a big deal and most countries give that out in~6 months-1 year time.

In hindsight, when I look at the decision making process for my postdoc, I feel like I should not have given as much importance to an H-1B sponsorship as I did. So I would suggest that you pick the lab that gives you best options for multiple career tracks and in doing so dont worry if you are stuck with a J-1.

Good luck,
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Re: Question on J1 visa for postdoc

Postby M.A. » Tue Mar 03, 2015 8:12 pm

SDA is, of course, correct regarding the Advisory Opinion from the Department of State. My personal experience was that I did not have the 2YHRR on my visa, there was no reason for me to have a 2YHRR, and I did not seek the Advisory Opinion when applying for the H1B or the green card. However, I know that obtaining the Advisory Opinion is often the only way to find out for sure.

I also just came across this old thread that may be helpful (and has some more good info from SDA!)
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