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Hi everyone,

I am a European student currently enrolled at a UK institution. I will be applying for graduate school in the U.S. after having spent 3 months as a J1 scholar there last summer. I got engaged last week and I am planning to move with my fiance, we will get married in June. I've already had some of my questions answered by the consulate however a few remain open.

1. How can I make sure that the university will allow me to get a J1 visa instead of a F1? Because if I get F1 my partner will not be able to work at all.

2. My partner has a non-violent, not drug related, criminal conviction. I could not find any information on eligibility for J2 visas in such cases. Does anyone have any experience with J2 visas and criminal conviction, and whether it could get declined?

Thanks for any helpful comments!

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Hello! I had some similar concerns because I also needed to be on a J1 so that my spouse can work. Here are the answers as best as I know:

1. First, check their international student program website. At schools that support students on both F1 and J1, there will be information on students on F1 and J1 status. At schools that only support student F1, you won't find the J1 information. Note that many schools that don't support J1 students will still support J1 postdocs, researchers and professors, so ensure that you are reading the student page.

Also note that lack of J1 support info online doesn't really mean there's no J1 support. Instead, if you can't find any information, and you want to know before spending your time applying, make sure you ask the school before you apply. Ask the international student program office, not the department you are applying to.

Finally, when you do get an offer, before you accept it, confirm that you can be on J1 status.

2. For this question, I have no experience. When it comes to criminal convictions, I don't think J2 are any different than any other US visa but I'm not an expert. I think your best bet is to consult an immigration lawyer.

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What is the conviction precisely? How long ago did it occur? What was his age at the time of commission? Was it considered a misdemeanor or felony equivalent in his country? Would it be a misdemeanor or felony in the US? What was the punishment EXACTLY (fine - how much? jail time - how long? community service - how many hours? etc). These are all important factors.

As to first Q, ask the international student advisor, the program advisor, and a faculty member you're already in touch with at the school, whether they issue forms for J-1 or F-1 visas, and whether they have any flexibility in choosing. I recommend asking all three point of contact, at least, because you will likely get different answers. 

Edited by jujubea

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Anyone have any ideas if master's students are allowed to be on a J-1 visa? 'Cause from what I've read, it's usually for doctoral/PhD students.

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Often not, but this is a question for the specific university you plan to attend, because regardless of whether it's common or not at the end of the day all you need to care about is if this one school allows it. 

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6 hours ago, WildeThing said:

I am studying an MA on a J1 visa so it is definitely possible.

Oh, good to know that it's a possibility! If you don't mind me asking, where's your funding coming from? Personal / university / scholarship? Because I was under the assumption that J1 is usually for university funded or government funding?

On 12/14/2016 at 11:53 AM, fuzzylogician said:

Often not, but this is a question for the specific university you plan to attend, because regardless of whether it's common or not at the end of the day all you need to care about is if this one school allows it. 

Thanks! I've reached out to two of the universities that have accepted me for their programs, still waiting to hear back from them about it. One of them do not have any options on how to apply for a J-1 visa, but the other has a form for the visa documents and it has option for us to choose a F-1 or J-1 visa, so I wasn't sure if that meant they can still provide J-1 visa to MA students or not. Hopefully they do :/

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The requirement for J-1 status is that the "majority" of your income comes from sources other than personal funds. It does not have to be 100% university funded. And, it doesn't even have to be government funded. Note: Many government funded programs, such as the Fulbright, require you to also be on J-1 status (and they'll sponsor you rather than the school), however, this does not mean all government funding results in J-1 status (and the converse is also not true, i.e. being on J-1 status does not require government funding).

Since it's up to each school to decide whether or not to sponsor you as a J-1, some schools will set additional requirements on top of the minimum requirements determined by the US Department of State. For example, I remember seeing some schools that count "majority" funding as greater than 50%, but other places will only sponsor J-1 if at least two-thirds of the funds comes from non-personal sources. Other schools will only sponsor J-1 postdocs but not J-1 students. 

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2 hours ago, syazanazura said:

Oh, good to know that it's a possibility! If you don't mind me asking, where's your funding coming from? Personal / university / scholarship? Because I was under the assumption that J1 is usually for university funded or government funding?

Thanks! I've reached out to two of the universities that have accepted me for their programs, still waiting to hear back from them about it. One of them do not have any options on how to apply for a J-1 visa, but the other has a form for the visa documents and it has option for us to choose a F-1 or J-1 visa, so I wasn't sure if that meant they can still provide J-1 visa to MA students or not. Hopefully they do :/

It's the Fulbright scholarship,

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On 01/12/2016 at 10:18 PM, jujubea said:

What is the conviction precisely? How long ago did it occur? What was his age at the time of commission? Was it considered a misdemeanor or felony equivalent in his country? Would it be a misdemeanor or felony in the US? What was the punishment EXACTLY (fine - how much? jail time - how long? community service - how many hours? etc). These are all important factors.

As to first Q, ask the international student advisor, the program advisor, and a faculty member you're already in touch with at the school, whether they issue forms for J-1 or F-1 visas, and whether they have any flexibility in choosing. I recommend asking all three point of contact, at least, because you will likely get different answers. 

Hi, thanks for your response. I never got any notifications regarding this post so I now just found it with a random Google search.

We're now married and I've been admitted into my dream school, happy days! I deferred entry to 2018 so now I'm again looking for information on J-2 visas with criminal convictions. We're both Europeans, and both been living in the UK for over 5 years.

My husband has a conviction for "burglary" in the UK from 2009 when he was 18. He helped someone get into their house because the person told him he had locked himself out, when in reality it was someone else's flat. My husband was convicted for burglary, not trespassing, because the guy he helped gave him a few cigarettes as thanks for his help. The court recognized that my husband had not planned a burglary, and therefore, despite pleading guilty, he was given only 120 hours of community service, and no jail time. Since then he's graduated college and has been in a stable job, never again any trouble with the law.

In 2016 I was invited to work at a US institution over the summer months, and my husband applied for a tourist visa to visit me. Due to his criminal conviction this was declined, however later a waiver of ineligibility was approved and he holds a B1 visa now.

What do you think? I'm a little scared that he might never get into the US because of this. But the university I am going to is a really highly regarded Ivy at the east coast and it would be crazy for me not to go. Surely they can't make me choose between such an opportunity and leaving my husband behind for 5 years?

Thanks for your help.


 

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6 hours ago, MAGDALENASOPHIE said:

In 2016 I was invited to work at a US institution over the summer months, and my husband applied for a tourist visa to visit me. Due to his criminal conviction this was declined, however later a waiver of ineligibility was approved and he holds a B1 visa now.

What do you think? I'm a little scared that he might never get into the US because of this. But the university I am going to is a really highly regarded Ivy at the east coast and it would be crazy for me not to go. Surely they can't make me choose between such an opportunity and leaving my husband behind for 5 years?

I would personally highly recommend getting a good lawyer to help you and your husband get this visa. Since you have deferred to 2018, this gives you some time to get everything sorted out, which is good. Talk to your school first and see how soon they can process your J-1 paperwork (not sure how early you can start it). It's up to you to decide when in the process you want to start getting legal help. It's promising that your husband was able to appeal and eventually get that B1 visa. Since J2 is also temporary, it might be okay too. But the sooner you start the process, the sooner you can get legal help if necessary to get a decision in your favour. In addition, is there a process in your country to remove / erase past criminal history?

To your very last question, unfortunately, yes, border officials can certainly refuse someone admission to the country even if it's a cruel and unjust thing to do. I know of at least one student with a very minor criminal conviction that prevented them from starting graduate program. This was for a program in Canada and the student arrived at the border to enter the country and was turned away due to their history. They had to withdraw from the program and reapply to US graduate programs. Since then, they have gotten that criminal record expunged so now they can enter Canada for conferences etc. but there was not enough time to do this before their Canadian graduate school. This person is now a successful postdoc after attending a great US program.

Again, we're not experts here and I don't know what will happen in your husband's case. But seeking legal help might be a good idea.

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17 hours ago, TakeruK said:

I would personally highly recommend getting a good lawyer to help you and your husband get this visa. Since you have deferred to 2018, this gives you some time to get everything sorted out, which is good. Talk to your school first and see how soon they can process your J-1 paperwork (not sure how early you can start it). It's up to you to decide when in the process you want to start getting legal help. It's promising that your husband was able to appeal and eventually get that B1 visa. Since J2 is also temporary, it might be okay too. But the sooner you start the process, the sooner you can get legal help if necessary to get a decision in your favour. In addition, is there a process in your country to remove / erase past criminal history?

To your very last question, unfortunately, yes, border officials can certainly refuse someone admission to the country even if it's a cruel and unjust thing to do. I know of at least one student with a very minor criminal conviction that prevented them from starting graduate program. This was for a program in Canada and the student arrived at the border to enter the country and was turned away due to their history. They had to withdraw from the program and reapply to US graduate programs. Since then, they have gotten that criminal record expunged so now they can enter Canada for conferences etc. but there was not enough time to do this before their Canadian graduate school. This person is now a successful postdoc after attending a great US program.

Again, we're not experts here and I don't know what will happen in your husband's case. But seeking legal help might be a good idea.

Thanks for your reply. Getting a visa lawyer might be a good idea. In the meantime he has a B visa (until 2021 with multiple entries) which I presume he can use to stay with me until we sort out the J2.

In the case you stated, did the person get their visa approved (while declaring the criminal conviction) and STILL get turned away at the border? In our case we'll have to go through the whole visa process including a waiver application (which takes at least 6 months), can we still get turned away at the border at the whim of an official?

Many thanks!

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2 hours ago, MAGDALENASOPHIE said:

can we still get turned away at the border at the whim of an official?

Yes, every time you cross the border. It's rare and shouldn't happen without good cause, but it can. The border official has the final say, and doesn't even have to explain his/her decision. I think getting a lawyer would be a good move at this point. It should be possible for your spouse to enter on a B visa to visit you, but I'd caution against lengthy or repeated entries. Eventually someone will notice and they may get suspicious about your spouse's intentions. A B visa is for tourism, and if they think they may actually be living with you for prolonged periods of time, that may lead to revocation of the visa. Be careful with your next moves; consult a lawyer. 

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3 hours ago, MAGDALENASOPHIE said:

In the case you stated, did the person get their visa approved (while declaring the criminal conviction) and STILL get turned away at the border? In our case we'll have to go through the whole visa process including a waiver application (which takes at least 6 months), can we still get turned away at the border at the whim of an official?

The person was an American, and due to a treaty between US and Canada, Americans and Canadians do not apply for visas prior to arriving at the border---for pretty much all entries, we bring our paperwork to the border and the decision is made at the time.

So, at least in your case, you will have gone through at least one level of approval prior to crossing the border. However, as fuzzy pointed out, yes, your entry and your husband's entry completely depends on the border agent and this will be the case at every single entry. Everything you get before crossing (visas, waivers, etc.) should be thought of as "pre-approval" and basically "evidence" that you meet the country's entry requirements, but only the border agent has authority to review these materials and actually make the decision on whether you can enter the country.

You probably already know that a B visa generally only allow a stay of up to 6 months per year (not sure if it's a 12 month period or a calendar year, I think it's a 12 month period). One of the things the border agents always look for when admitting people on non-immigrant visas (e.g. B visas) is that there are significant ties at home and that you have the intention of departing and not overstaying your visa. Some examples of things you can provide to the border agent when you arrive to show that you intend to leave is a return ticket booked, a job waiting for you in your home country (i.e. you are only here for a temporary visit), family ties at home etc. Since you, the spouse, are in the US, the last thing is a little harder for your husband to show and as fuzzy said, they might get suspicious that your husband intends to stay with you in the USA under the B visa, which is not the intention of that visa.

So, I don't know what you mean when you say you want your husband to use his B visa to stay with you until you sort out the J2. While it is possible to apply for a "Change of Status" to go from B2 to J-2 after your husband enters the USA, this is not the intent of the B visa. If they find out that your husband used a B visa with the intention of joining you in the US and then applying for J-2, they could decide that your husband violated the terms of his visa and that could also be grounds for denying the change of status. But maybe not---after all, there is a pathway to apply for J-2 while on B-2 status. Seeking legal help is a good idea to navigate this.

However, if you mean that your husband will mostly remain in your home country and use the B-2 visa to just visit you for short periods while you sort out the J-2 status thing and eventually apply for J-2 status while in your home country, then you wouldn't have to worry about the above.

Either way, seeking legal help, either from a lawyer from your home country familiar with US immigration or from a US-based lawyer** would be a really good idea as they would know more about how the laws may be interpreted etc. (**i.e. after you have arrived as J-1, but this could mean significant delays before your husband can enter on J-2).

 

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