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USA VISA and Clinical Electives

After you have received your acceptance for an elective at a US based medical institute, the next most important step is to obtain a VISA from your local US Embassy in your country. Recognize that issuance of visa is in itself an independent issue, different from an elective. Your institute can only "assist" you in obtaining a visa. In other words, even your acceptance from the University for an elective position does not gaurantee that you will be able to participate in an elective. The US embassy has an absolute authority to grant or reject your visa based on whether or not you are able to satisfy their independent requirements, in addition to evidence of acceptance from the University where you will be doing your elective. In most situations the eligible visas for electives are B1,F1,J1, see below for details.

Given below are some useful official links, with specifc information that I anticipate will be useful to you & are worth sharing. Before interpreting information on this page also note that rules & regulations keep changing periodically, & 100% accuracy about all facts is not possible. Further, based on your specific situation, application of various recomendations may be different in your specific situation. Therefore I advise that you use this website instructions as a resource rather than as definitive course of action.

If you feel that any info requires update based on your experience, we would be happy to make the changes, provided they are relevant & true. We would be happy to receive your input at admin@electives.us

US department of state official website:This website's home page has info or links to US embassys all over the world. By visiting this website you will be able to locate the link to your 'Local/in your country' embassy, where you will go to get your respective visa (details below) stamped.

In general Canadian nationals are not required to obtain visa for entry in US, their paper work is processed at the port of entry. And ofcourse if you are a US citizen or a Green card holder, you are spared from the visa hassal altogether.

BEFORE you start reading any further, you should know EXACTLY what the difference is b/w VISA & VISA STATUS. The first thing they are NOT the same. When you get acceptance, you go to your local embassy-At that time you are applying for a visa NOT for a status. the embassy will implant a sticker on your passport. This sticker is a VISA, NOT a Visa status. Then you finally travel to US & land at a US airport, At that time BASED on your visa, the immigration officer will put a stamp on your passport, next to the page where your visa sticker is. This stamp is your status, This will have the dates that indicate the duration you are allowed to stay in US.

Elligible visa types for doing Electives: Principally there are 3 visas on which you can do your elective/clerkship. B1/B2, F1, J1. Each of these have their specific pros & cons.

Remember if you are doing an elective, I asume that you plan on pursuing your residency training in US in future, & subsequently you will be taking or have taken(some) USMLE exams that includes USMLE step 2 CS & USMLE Step 3, both of which can only be taken while within United states. Therefore your preference should be to obtain a visa that can also help you in the long run & not just with the elective. For sake of conclusion, from my experience, overall I think B1/B2 is more favorable compared to other visas, & has more long term benifits compared to others in most situations. Unfortunately, you are limited to the type of visa your 'elective institute' wants you to obtain. And as you know, securing electives in itself is very demanding & competitive, you dont have a lot of freedom to make all decisions in your favor. But I am giving you this background information to educate you so that you can make best decisions in your favor with respect to your specific situation, given you have more options. For example: if you are fortunate to get elective acceptances from two places with similar repute, & same dates & you come in a situation where you need to decide which one to choose or refuse then If I were you I would choose the place that accepts you on B1 vs others. See below for pros & cons for all visas, & evaluate for your self, which one suits best in your specific situation.


B1/B2:

Application process summary: The first thing to do is locate your 'Local Embassy' from the website then go to the non-immigrant visa section, & read for the requirements. In general, you will have to fill out an online form: DS-160, this mainly asks about information related to your purpose of visit, history of foreign travel/prior US travel, biographic details of your parents/siblings, your employment & educational history & some other details. It also requires that you submit an electronic photo. All non-imigrant visas(also including F1/J1) will require that you fill in the same form(DS-160). Once you have completed the form you will be able to receive a confirmation letter, you will have to print it & take it to the local 'American Express' or other mailing/appointment service-probably in your city(see your country's local US embassy website for specific details), which will then admit your appointment, & schedule you an interview date(usually a week to 10 days later), to your local embassy, visit the official website that gives an estimate on current Interview time from an appointment select the city at the botom of the webpage. They will also require you to submit a copy of your official acceptance letter to support your purpose of visit. You will have to deposit a Visa application fee of $ 140 or currency equvilant for B1/B2. Check the link for updates.


Details about the B1/B2 Visa:

Here is what the official website describes, as to for what purposes the B1 visa can be obtained. Briefly: B1: business associates, travel for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention,YOU CAN DO ELECTIVES UNDER B1. B2:tourism/recreation-non-scientific/business purpose- YOU CANNOT DO ELECTIVES UNDER B2. Even though not clearly mentioned on the website, you are eligible to do electives/Clerkship/Observership/Externship etc on B1.Here is what the OFFICIAL US department of state foreign affairs manual(FAM) has to say about eligibility of Clerkship/elective on B1 visa.

"9 FAM 41.31 N10.4-1 Medical
(CT:VISA-701; 02-15-2005)
An alien who is studying at a foreign medical school and seeks to enter the United States temporarily in order to take an "elective clerkship" at a U.S. medical school's hospital without remuneration from the hospital. The medical clerkship is only for medical students pursuing their normal third or fourth year internship in a U.S. medical school as part of a foreign medical school degree. (An "elective clerkship" affords practical experience and instructions in the various disciplines of medicine under the supervision and direction of faculty physicians at a U.S. medical school's hospital as an approved part of the alien's foreign medical school education. It does not apply to graduate medical training, which is restricted by 212(e) and normally requires a J-visa.)
"

The condition is that you MUST NOT receive remuneration(salary/stipent/scholarship etc)in ANY form, from the institute. Even though the website says that 'students' should apply for a different visa, by student they mean if you plan on taking course that lasts >6months, & you are officially enrolled as the 'student ' of that institute or you will receive a degree upon completion ! where as these rotations are not more than 4-8 weeks at most places, you dont get paid, & you dont receive a degree upon completion, & you are still the student at your parent institute, while at the same time a 'visiting student' at the 'elective institute' during the period of enrollment. In general the embassy has the following requirements that you will have to satisfy, before they will consider granting you a visa:

1-Purpose of visit: In your case your acceptance letter specifying your period of enrollment at their institute is ENOUGH solid proof to justify your purpose of visit to US.

2-Non-immigrant intent: You have to proof to the visa officer(VO) that you do NOT intend to immigrate to US, or that you will COME BACK to you home country once your purpose is completed. This aspect is rather somewhat tricky to satisfy, but still not so difficult for a medical student. All you need to do is proove to the VO that electives are final year medical student rotations that are undertaken during the course of final year, & after you complete them in US you HAVE to COME BACK to your country to complete your final year/internship to get your degree. Your Dean's letter from your medical school that verifys your status as a final year medical student is very useful, it is also preferrable if somewhere in b/w the lines in the letter there is a mention that 'you are expected to return after completion of your elective & then take your final year exam inorder to be eligible for your degree"

Most visas are rejected, due to faliure to satisfy this condition-more known in legal terms as: Section 214(b) :"Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status..."This basically means that if the Consular officer is not convinced that your travel intent is not immigration, then he/she can reject your visa on this basis. This fact implies independently whether or not you have an acceptance letter from the Univerisity.

3-Sufficient funds to support your stay: If you are a medical student not currently employed then you will have to obtain an affidavit of support from whoever is supporting you finantially, in most cases your parents. Click here to see how a sample affidavit of support should look like. Along with the affidavit you may also be asked to show a bank statement reflecting liquid finances. The statement does NOT necessarily have to be in US dollars, but as your country will have its own local curreny, an equvilant of $8-10 thousand is considered 'safe', but again thats just my estimate from experience. It all depends on the VO, I was not even asked to provide evidence of financial proof, & I am sure there are many people who would have obtained visa by showing lesser amount in statement. But conclusively as a general rule, I would say the more the safer. Also note that the factors mentioned before are more important than statement, if you fail to satisfy those, even your $10billion statement will not help in obtaining visa.

Other 'mythical requirements' that you will find floating around in forums/websites: Affidavit of return, Itinarary, Sponsor from a US citizen(unless he/she is funding your trip), Income tax return. From my experience, YOU DONT NEED TO SWEAT YOUR HEAD WITH ANY OF THESE. Trust me they will only creat more anxiety, consume your hardwork worthlessly & can even go potentially against your application, so my advise to you is to refrain from these things. And dont fall for some random guy at xyz forum projecting it as 'necessary' because he/she did so. Bottom line is: they are not required, & they wont help ! This is my experience, however to do it or not is certainly your choice !

Prognostic factors that support acceptance of visa: Provided you have satisfied the above requirements, from my experience The following things MATTER:

- Your Confidence/composure/personality/percision & Accuracy in responding to VO's questions. Always remember that the VOs primary concern is to evaluate that whatever you are saying is true, & you really mean what you are saying. Give precise complete Clear & to the point answers. DO NOT show any documents UNLESS ASKED. Be your self, Act mature & sensible. Trust me the VO most importantly will trust his own judgement, based on his/her preception derived from your answers, as the primary deciding factor in believeng that whatever you are saying is true, your supportive documents are secondary. Alot of it depends on the fact how you communicate. I know people who have had acceptance from Harvard, but got denial because of ineffective communication, & incomplete documentary evidence. All this may sound tough, but remember that you did your part, You know that YOU ARE RIGHT, & that YOU DESERVE it, all you have to do is to proove it.

-History of foreign travel: It helps, yes it does !! No clear reason why.

-Be neutral on subjects of religion/politics. Even though I dont think that you will ever be asked, but just incase.

- Keep record of your visa application for your self, for your reference, & in future when you are applying for other visas you will be required to fill info similar to what you filled in for your previous visa. Some times lawyers also ask for such info, that you otherwise forget if you dont have it in record.

-Make sure that the info you filled in your application form is accurate, like info about your parents/siblings, if anyone is a US citizen/green card holder etc.Remember that the embassy will have this information, & if this information is incorrectly filled out in your form or is missing then, it may refect your attempt to conceal what was required. double ceck important things like passport no, name spellings etc.

Click here to find out more about the interview day.

After the Interview: Visa Waiting time: The VO will clearly tell you whether or not you will be issued the B1/B2 visa. if its a "NO" then they will return your passport, & hand you a letter mentioning the reason for rejection. If its a "YES" then they will keep your passport, & probably mention it to you that it will require further adminstrative processing, & once thats completed, they will return your passport in the mail & contact you. This Furthur Adminstrative time is highly variable & extremely SPECIFIC to an individual case. THERE IS NO WAY TO GUESS OR ESTIMATE HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE IN YOUR CASE. It is HIGHLY variable, & I know several people in whome the adminstrative processing took as long as less than a week to months to even more than a year. In most cases it usually does not take more than 60days. Check the Official website for more details & current update. Some people say that if you have a recent history of travel to Saudia Arabia or countries like Iraq/ Afghanistan with a history or war zone or terrorist activity, then it may take longer time, but there is no conclusive evidence to its support, & I have mentioned it just to satisfy your appetite or anxiety. When you get your passport back the visa is usually 5-10 yr multiple entry in most cases, but exceptions are there, it could be less or with specific anotations such as single entry etc, again subjected to the specific situation in your case. Meanwhile, as you are waiting, you might want to see how a sample US VISA sticker looks like, Click the link to see the sample.

Entrying United States (USA) on a B1/B2 Visa:

People who seek to enter USA on a non-immigrant visa should be aware of the following facts.

History: till April 27, 2011

NSEERS (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System). After 9/11/2001, in 2002, citizens of following countries: Afghanistan,Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt,Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan,Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco,North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar,Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria,Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, were required to undergo special registeration at the time of entry into US & then had to get an exit stamp on their passport at the time of exit, aswell as registeration again at that time. The system was founded to trace foreign nationals, in an attempt to gauge against terrorism.

Today, April 28th 2011 onwards:

Apperantly, the 'manual' system did not contribute anyfurther to the information that could be generated by automated systems. On the contraray, lead to voilation by people who were unaware to comply with the rules, & numerous similar reasons facing unfair deportation in certain circumstances. Therefore, NSEERS has been dissolved on 28th April 2011

Nationals of the above mentioned countries are NOW no longer subjected to undergo NSEERS. Which means no special registration on entry or exit or exit stamp. Please refer to the Official website for more details.

My advise: rules keep changing, at the port of entry ask the officer if there is any specific protocol that needs to be followed on entry & exit, like'stamps' etc in compliance with the current regulation, they will certainly guide you in the right direction. If you feel you have useful information, feel free to update us at admin@electives.us

The uaual way: When you are air-travelling, the airline of your final flight, will hand you a blank form: I-94, You will have to fill this form no matter what non-immigrant visa you are using to enter USA-includes:B1/B2,J1,H1,F1 & so forth. It asks information pertaining to specific details on your passport like no, date of expiry etc, contact information. Click here to take a look at the sample.REMEMBER: I-94 is a VERY IMPORTANT FORM, IT should NOT get lost, make sure the information that you record on it is accurate. Most likely the immigration officer will ask you about the purpose of your visit, & how long you intend to stay. Based on that he will put an "ENTRY" stamp opposite the visa page of your passport, & will write the date before which you MUST leave US. If you stay beyond that date then it will be a serious problem, you will be classified as "OUT OF STATUS", & your visa becomes automatically Void, you must obtain a new one if you plan on re-entrying US, so be careful about that. Finally He will give you a Status ! This is separate from VISA. if you hold B1/B2 then you will receive either B1(if purpose scientific/ education/business) OR B2(if purpose tourism, other) status. The maximum duration that can be permitted is 6 months per visit, but the officer has absolute authority to permit stay for a lesser period. He will detach part of the form & then return it to you or staple it on your passport.

Exit from US: 2 Important things: 1) Leave before your status expires, 2) Detach your I-94 & return it to the Airline on departure, they will hand it over to the immigration. This is important, as that is how the immigration will record your exit in their system. If you dont do it then the system will label your as "out of status" once the date is passed.

if unfortunately you forgot to return your I-94 on departure, even though problematic but, its not the end of the world, If you have your Bording pass then you are fine, you can return the form later to the immigration office, along with the evidence in form of boarding pass to prove that you exited before the expiration date. Click here to vist the official website of US customs & border protecion, with instructions on what you should do if you forget to return your I-94 on exit.


F1:

Before starting discussion about the F1 visa, it is advised that you read about the B1/B2 visa as well, even if you are not required to obtain it. There is a considerable overlap in terms of procedural details/travel information etc for both visas which are essentialy similar. It is also very likely that in near futute, you might have to obtain B1/B2 as well, so I think all that info is worth reading.

If the University requires you to obtain an F1 visa inorder to participate in elective then along with the application forms you will also have to fill in for the F1 Visa form, which would be the I-20 form or similar.Unlike for B1/B2 which is not sponsored by the institute & you have to obtain it on your own, the University DOES sponsor your F1 visa, & communicates with the department of homeline security on your behalf via SEVIS (see below). Here is a sequence of steps that you need to undertake inorder to obtain F1:

1- Apply to the institute that sponsors F1 Visa for Elective. Example: Baylor/mount saini etc By filling the application forms. These forms might include " specific F1 Visa info " where you will fill in the required information.


2- If the University accepts you for an elective rotation, It will send you an acceptance letter, It may also ask you to fill in some other forms pertaining to F1 Visa(if not previously asked) so that it can forwad your approval to SEVIS(see below) which can then approve a form called I-20.


3- Before the University can file in your sponsor to SEVIS, it requires proof of Financial support. Usually this can be obtained by showing the proof of Afidevit of support from parents (or who so ever is financing you), You may also be required to show a minimum balance in form of your supporter's financial Bank Statement. This limit on balance is dependent on the "duration" of your elective, more if you want to do electives for longer periods. The University will provide you with specific details on the minimum balance requirement in your case.

4- Provided you satisfy those requirements, the University forwards your application to SEVIS for I-20 approval. Click here to see a Sample I-20. The botom portion of this pdf is form I-20. SEVIS approves your I-20 while updating the online system of department of homeline security, & sending the approved I-20 back to the University.

5- The University sends the original approved I-20 to you, & tell you to pay the SEVIS fee, keep its receipt.

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS): Briefly, this system plays the "middle man "roll between the University & department of home Line security(DHS). The University that accepts you as a student for enrolling into an elective rotation approves your acceptance, The University then forwards your Approved application to SEVIS, which then identifies your case & determines your eligibility for F1 visa, & sends back Form I-20, to the University & also updates the system in the Department of homeline security, acknowledging your approval. For all the process, they charge a fee called the "SEVIS I-901 fee" For F1 Visa(at this time) the SEVIS fee is $ 200 & can be paid online via credit card or via Western Union. Click here for more details. Once paid keep your reciept, it will be required for visa application. This fee is usually paid AFTER you have received your I-20.

6- When you have the SEVIS Fee payment receipt & I-20, then you fill in for the non-immigrant visa application.You will now have to apply for F1 visa at your local embassy, for that you will have to fill out an online form: DS-160, this mainly asks about information related to your purpose of visit, history of foreign travel/prior US travel, biographic details of your parents/siblings, your employment & educational history & some other details. It also requires that you submit an electronic photo.

7- Once you have completed the online form you will be able to receive a confirmation letter, you will have to print it & take it to the local 'American Express' or other mailing/appointment service in your city(see your country's local US embassy website for specific details), which will then admit your appointment, & schedule you an interview date(usually a week to 10 days later), to your local embassy, visit the official website that gives an estimate on current Interview time from an appointment select the city at the botom of the webpage. They will also require you to submit a copy of your official acceptance letter and/or form I-20. You will have to deposit a Visa application fee of $ 140 or currency equvilant for F1. Check the link for updates.4 important documents to take with you to the interview: I-20, Acceptance letter, SEVIS fee reciept, evidence of financial support.

Specific features of F1: Relative advantages & disadvantages:

1- Provided that you have your I-20 & proof of financial support, the chances of visa acceptance are high.

2- On F1 Visa, you can enter up to 30 days prior & stay up to 60 days beyond the start & completion of your elective dates respectively.

3- You are also eligible to work part time with some limitations(interms of work hrs etc), which means if you wish you can obtain a social security number. This is a big advantage. You can also receive stipend/scholarship etc on F1. Not so on B1

4- The duration is fixed the visa expires after the elective period is complete compared to B1/B2 which is usually valid for 5-10yrs.

5- In B1/B2 you cannot stay for more than 6mo/visit, on F1 if your elective(s) are for more than 6 months then you can stay for as long through the entire length of period, w/o worrying that you might have to cross border-visit some other country & come back.

6- You cannot use F1 for other purposes, besides studies.

7- Unlike B1/B2 you have to pay the SEVIS fee. & the processing takes time.

8- If you want to do an elective at some other institute as well then you will have to inform the department of homeline security to "transfer" your I-20 to the other institute- takes time costs money.

9- Like B1/B2, F1 is also subjected to non-immigrant status, which means that you might have to prove it to the VO that you intend to come back to your country upon completion of the course.

10- Unlike B1/B2 you will not be able to make a future visit to US take CS on F1 as your sole purpose. But however, if you take CS while you were doing electives then you can do so. Once you finish your elective, your F1 expires, so you cannot come back on F1 to do CS, you will have to obtain a new visa most likely B1/B2.

Entrying United States (USA) on F1 Visa:

People who seek to enter USA on a non-immigrant visa should be aware of the following facts.

History: till April 27, 2011

NSEERS (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System). After 9/11/2001, in 2002, citizens of following countries: Afghanistan,Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt,Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan,Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco,North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar,Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria,Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, were required to undergo special registeration at the time of entry into US & then had to get an exit stamp on their passport at the time of exit, aswell as registeration again at that time. The system was founded to trace foreign nationals, in an attempt to gauge against terrorism.

Today, April 28th 2011 onwards:

Apperantly, the 'manual' system did not contribute anyfurther to the information that could be generated by automated systems. On the contraray, lead to voilation by people who were unaware to comply with the rules, & numerous similar reasons facing unfair deportation in certain circumstances. Therefore, NSEERS has been dissolved on 28th April 2011

Nationals of the above mentioned countries are NOW no longer subjected to undergo NSEERS. Which means no special registration on entry or exit or exit stamp. Please refer to the Official website for more details.

My advise: rules keep changing, at the port of entry ask the officer if there is any specific protocol that needs to be followed on entry & exit, like'stamps' etc in compliance with the current regulation, they will certainly guide you in the right direction. If you feel you have useful information, feel free to update us at admin@electives.us

The uaual way: When you are air-travelling, the airline of your final flight, will hand you a blank form: I-94(this is different from I-20), You will have to fill this form no matter what non-immigrant visa you are using to enter USA-includes:B1/B2,J1,H1,F1 & so forth. It asks information pertaining to specific details on your passport like no, date of expiry etc, contact information. Click here to take a look at the sample.REMEMBER: I-94 is a VERY IMPORTANT FORM, IT should NOT get lost, make sure the information that you record on it is accurate. Most likely the immigration officer will ask you about the purpose of your visit, & how long you intend to stay. Based on that he will put an "ENTRY" stamp opposite the visa page of your passport, & will write the date before which you MUST leave US. If you stay beyond that date then it will be a serious problem, you will be classified as "OUT OF STATUS", & your visa becomes automatically Void, you must obtain a new one if you plan on re-entrying US, so be careful about that. Finally He will give you a Status ! This is separate from VISA. if you hold F1 then you will receive an F1 status. The maximum duration that can be permitted depends upon your period of enrollment for elective, usually you can enter 30days prior to the start of your elective on F1 & remain for another 60 days beyond the completion of your elective. The officer will detach part of the form & then return it to you or staple it on your passport. Once permitted entry you will be required to visit the department of international student affairs of your Elective University (usually the elective coordinators provide that information) or its counterpart to report, before starting your elective & they will update your I-20.

Exit from US: 2 Important things: 1) Leave before your status expires, 2) Detach your I-94 & return it to the Airline on departure, they will hand it over to the immigration. This is important, as that is how the immigration will record your exit in their system. If you dont do it then the system will label your as "out of status" once the date is passed.

if unfortunately you forgot to return your I-94 on departure, even though problematic but, its not the end of the world, If you have your Bording pass then you are fine, you can return the form later to the immigration office, along with the evidence in form of boarding pass to prove that you exited before the expiration date. Click here to visit the official website of US customs & border protecion, with instructions on what you should do if you forget to return your I-94 on exit.


J1:

Rules & regulations pertaining to the J1 are the most twisted. It is the rarest form of visa sponsored by institutes for elective/clerkship, but it is the most common type of Visa sponsored by most institutes for residency or fellowship. Regardless, there are specific rules & regulations that are different for different countries. This means that if there is a certain disadvantage that does not mean that it will apply to your country as well. For example, one of the characteristic of J1 visa that is considered a 'potential disadvantage' is the '2 year home country requirement." which means that upon completion of your training for whatever(elective/residency/fellowship/research) for which the visa was sponsored, you will have to go back to your country of permanent residence & stay there for atleast 2 years upon completion of your course( irrespective of the course duration-be it few months or max 7 years), before you can ontain a new work Visa or an immigrant status. However, this rule applies for most courses for residents of most countries. However there are a few countries for which in SOME situations(not all), this rule may be exempted. Inorder to confirm that the 2 year home country "physical presence" requirement rule appplies in your specific situation, then you need to do an extensive research or consult the lawyer. This website will guide you through the "Basic Rules" pertaining to J1 visa, specific to the electives.

Application procedure:

The application procedure is somewhat similar to that of F1 visa. The University or Institute that accepts you for an elective position for a given period will sponsor & on your behalf creat a SEVIS genetated form called MS-2019. It is a little similar to form I-20 that is generated for F1 visa but is NOT the same. Based on the information that is provided on MS-2019 the Department of State officer will conclude that whether or not you will or will not be subject to the 2 year home country physical presence requirement(for detail see below). Click to see how a Sample MS-2019 looks like.

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS): Briefly, this system plays the "middle man "roll between the University & department of home Line security(DHS). The University that accepts you as a student for enrolling into an elective rotation approves your acceptance, The University then forwards your Approved application to SEVIS, which then identifies your case & determines your eligibility for J1 visa, & sends back Form MS-2019(if you will be coming on J1), to the University & also updates the system in the Department of homeline security, acknowledging your approval. For all the process, they charge a fee called the "SEVIS I-901 fee" For J1 Visa(at this time) the SEVIS fee is $ 180 & can be paid online via credit card or via Western Union. Click here for more details. Once paid keep your reciept, it will be required for visa application. This fee is usually paid AFTER you have received your MS-2019.

Once your MS-2019 is complete, it is sent to your University, it bares the validity period for the dates during which you can stay in US & undertake the elective. The University will then send the MS-2019 original to you by post. Once you receive it You will be required to:

1) Pay the online SEVIS fee, which at the current time is $180. In specific situations you will be exempt from it. Click to find out if you will have to pay the fee. In general, if its the 1st time you are applying for the visa or there is no government funding then you will have to pay it.

2) Fill the online form online form: DS-160, this mainly asks about information related to your purpose of visit, history of foreign travel/prior US travel, biographic details of your parents/siblings, your employment & educational history & some other details. It also requires that you submit an electronic photo.

3)- Once you have completed the online form you will be able to receive a confirmation letter, you will have to print it & take it to the local 'American Express' or other mailing/appointment service in your city(see your country's local US embassy website for specific details), which will then admit your appointment, & schedule you an interview date(usually a week to 10 days later), to your local embassy, visit the official website that gives an estimate on current Interview time from an appointment select the city at the botom of the webpage. They will also require you to submit a copy of your official acceptance letter and/or form MS-2019. You will have to deposit a Visa application fee of $ 140 or currency equvilant for J1(as of this day). Check the link for updates.4 important documents to take with you to the interview: MS-2019, Acceptance letter, SEVIS fee reciept, evidence of financial support (youself or University or your institute/government).

 

The Million $ Question: will I be subject to the 2 yr home country physical presence requirement (Section 212(e)) if I do electives on J1?

This condition applies that upon conpletion of a course (irrespective of length) on J1 via in USA, you may or may not be subject to the 2 year home country physical presence requirement. This means that upon completion of the course you will have to go back to your home country of residence & be physically present there for atleast 2 years in agregate. If you dont do it then you wont be able to apply for an immigrant visa or a work visa like H1/L1. But you can apply for B1/F1.

According to the [Code of Federal Regulations] [Title 22, Volume 1] [Revised as of April 1, 2010] From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access [CITE: 22CFR41.63]

You May be subject to the 2 year home country physical presence requirement if any of the 3 conditions below applies to you if you enter US on J1:

1) If During the course you will sustain your costs(tuition fee/University fee or other relevant costs-can be anything) that will be paid by your home country Government/US government/some government agency/US organization. If the University pays you from its own pocket (and the University's pocket if not filled with government funds from which they will be paying you) then this rule DOES NOT apply to you. comments:If you have been accepted for an elective position at a place that accepts you on J1 then there is a 99.9% chance(from my experience)that they will not be paying you anything, so when there is no pay & you are on your own then there is no question of government funding. So in most situations this rule will not apply to you. However, if the University does pay you then YOU REALLY NEED TO ASK THEM IF YOUR SALARY/STIPEND will come from government funds, If it does then you WILL be subject to the 2 year home country requirement rule

2) If you participate in a GRADUATE MEDICAL EDUCATION course/training. This means post graduate clinical course like Residency/Fellowship that involves contact with patients. Electives are NOT graduate medical education courses, they are undergraduate as you do it in your Final year of medical training BEFORE graduating. So this rule does not apply on you automatically. Even if you have graduated(you are an alien physician) & You are entrying US for purpose of Research or Observation then that is NOT considered ' Graduate Medical Education' unless your activities do NOT contribute towards the provision of health care to patients, or there is no direct patient contact.

3) If Your country is enlisted on the skills list AND your specialty of elective is included in the skills list of your country. The department of state has issued a list of countries that have a skills list and each of these countries have their own skills list-this list is comprised of skills in different specialties medical as well as non-medical that are considered in shortage or in need for that country. Now the 1st thing to do is to establish if your country is enlisted in the skills list,(click to visit the official department of state website inorder to find out)if it is NOT enlisted then You will NOT be subject to the 2 year home country requirement based on this rule. If your country is enlisted then the next step is to find out that in your country's skill's list is the specialty in which you are going to do your elective enlisted? if not then you will not be subject to the 2 year home country requirement. Contrarily if your Country is enlisted in the 2009 skills list AND the specialty of your elective is included in the skills of the skills list of your country then YOU WILL be subject to the 2 year home country physical presence requirement.

Truths & Myths about J1 visa:

Truth: Once you come to US on J1 for any course/training/job & according to your MS-2019 you are subject to the 2 yr home country physical presence requirement, You cannot convert to green card & this condition will not reverse even if you marry a US citizen. However in some situations you may be elligible for a waiver to this requirement, & these situations are not easy to proove. They include:

For further details on ways to obtain a J1 Waiver please visit the Official Department OF STATE website by clicking the link to know more about the procedural details & elligibility criteria for J1 Waiver.

Myth: If you are subject to the 2 year home country physical presence requirement & you complete your course & leave to your home country then you wont be able to re-enter USA untill the 2 years are over. THIS IS NOT TRUE. However it depends, The rule is that you wont be able to obtain a green card or any other type of immigrant viasa like K1 Or a work visa like H1 or L, & you cannot convert to these statuses even while within US under J1 status. You will be able to do so if you go back to your home country & complete your 2 years there. This is one thing. The second thing is that Even if you were subject to the 2 year requirement, & that your 2 year period starts after you finish your training in US & go back to your home country, you can Still visit US on other type of non-immigrant visa like B1/B2(for tourist reason or whatever), F1(for a short term student course etc). But however if you are in US under other eligible status (like B1/F1) during the 2 year, Your length of stay outside your home country WILL NOT contribute towards those 2 years. For example if you were subject to the '2 year' rule you finished your course & went back to your home country when your 2 year clock starts, if you stay there for 1.5 years & then you come to US again on F1/B1 or go to some other country say Germany & stay there for 6 months then You did NOT Complete those 2 years in your home country. You will still have to go back to your home country & stay for another 6 months before your '2 yr requirement clock ' will be complete.

Despite all these rules & regulations sometimes the counsuller offcer can errorously subject you to the 2 year home country physical presence requirement. Therefore it is important that you have all the information pertaining to the J1 visa, before you can find out if your decision was a result of an error. In which case you can write a letter to the department of state requesting reversal of decision explaining that according to the rules you are not subject to the 2 year home country requirement & that the counsullar officer may have subjected you to it errorously.

Entrying USA on a J1 Visa:

Once you enter USA on J1, you will have to fill out an I-94 form, at the port of entry the immigration officer will ask you for MS-2019/passport, can also ask for other documents like Acceptance letter from the institute. He/she will once again reassure whether or not you will be subject to section 212(e).

People who seek to enter USA on a non-immigrant visa should be aware of the following facts.

History: till April 27, 2011

NSEERS (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System). After 9/11/2001, in 2002, citizens of following countries: Afghanistan,Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt,Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan,Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco,North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar,Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria,Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, were required to undergo special registeration at the time of entry into US & then had to get an exit stamp on their passport at the time of exit, aswell as registeration again at that time. The system was founded to trace foreign nationals, in an attempt to gauge against terrorism.

Today, April 28th 2011 onwards:

Apperantly, the 'manual' system did not contribute anyfurther to the information that could be generated by automated systems. On the contraray, lead to voilation by people who were unaware to comply with the rules, & numerous similar reasons facing unfair deportation in certain circumstances. Therefore, NSEERS has been dissolved on 28th April 2011

Nationals of the above mentioned countries are NOW no longer subjected to undergo NSEERS. Which means no special registration on entry or exit or exit stamp. Please refer to the Official website for more details.

My advise: rules keep changing, at the port of entry ask the officer if there is any specific protocol that needs to be followed on entry & exit, like'stamps' etc in compliance with the current regulation, they will certainly guide you in the right direction. If you feel you have useful information, feel free to update us at admin@electives.us

The uaual way: When you are air-travelling, the airline of your final flight, will hand you a blank form: I-94(this is different from MS-2019), You will have to fill this form no matter what non-immigrant visa you are using to enter USA-includes:B1/B2,J1,H1,F1 & so forth. It asks information pertaining to specific details on your passport like no, date of expiry etc, contact information. Click here to take a look at the sample.REMEMBER: I-94 is a VERY IMPORTANT FORM, IT should NOT get lost, make sure the information that you record on it is accurate. Most likely the immigration officer will ask you about the purpose of your visit, & how long you intend to stay. Based on that he will put an "ENTRY" stamp opposite the visa page of your passport, & will write the date before which you MUST leave US. If you stay beyond that date then it will be a serious problem, you will be classified as "OUT OF STATUS", & your visa becomes automatically Void, you must obtain a new one if you plan on re-entrying US, so be careful about that. Finally He will give you a Status ! This is separate from VISA. if you hold J1 then you will receive a J1 status. The maximum duration that can be permitted depends upon your period of enrollment for elective, usually you can enter 30days prior to the start of your elective on J1 & remain for another 60 days beyond the completion of your elective. The officer will detach part of the form & then return it to you or staple it on your passport. Once permitted entry you will be required to visit the department of international student affairs of your Elective University (usually the elective coordinators provide that information) or its counterpart to report, before starting your elective & they will update your MS-2019.

Exit from US: 2 Important things: 1) Leave before your status expires, 2) Detach your I-94 & return it to the Airline on departure, they will hand it over to the immigration. This is important, as that is how the immigration will record your exit in their system. If you dont do it then the system will label your as "out of status" once the date is passed.

if unfortunately you forgot to return your I-94 on departure, even though problematic but, its not the end of the world, If you have your Bording pass then you are fine, you can return the form later to the immigration office, along with the evidence in form of boarding pass to prove that you exited before the expiration date. Click here to visit the official website of US customs & border protecion, with instructions on what you should do if you forget to return your I-94 on exit.

 

Hopefully this concludes the article on US Visas. I am sure there are numerous other factors that come into play when considering Visa issues. Different facts & rules can have different applicability if your specific situation. This article was is directed towads addressing most if not all issues of background information more specificaly for purpose of doing electives in USA.

If you have further questions, feel fee to write to us. You are also wellcomed to share any relevant information or an update regarding the topic that you think would be benificial. Do not hesitate to e-mail admin@electives.us

Hope you benifited from the article

 

 

Jahanzaib Idrees

Admin

 

 

last updated 8/6/2011