The biggest mistake I see many J1 visa holders make is waiting too long to apply for their J1 waiver. Why is this an issue?
First, processing times with USCIS are unpredictable and change frequently. Although many of our J1 Hardship waiver cases are approved within four to six months processing times can exceed this time period. This could be a result of the officer reviewing your case or a change in USCIS policy. For instance, we recently had a case that took nine months to receive an approval. This was due to an irrational RFE (Request for Evidence) from USCIS asking for divorce certificates from the J1 waiver applicants even though they had never been married!
Second, if your J1 waiver is approved it does not provide you with lawful status. This means that you will either need to adjust status to lawful permanent residency or apply for a visa to remain in the US lawfully after your J1 waiver is approved. Many of our clients need to apply for a H1B visa in order to lawfully work in the U.S. If you apply for a H1B visa you need to keep in mind that if you are subject to the H1B cap you must apply for your H1B on April 1st for an October 1st start date.
Thus, there are many considerations beyond mere J1 waiver processing times to consider when applying for a J1 waiver. If you can apply sooner rather than waiting to the last few months before your J1 visa expiration you will face less stress in the immigration process.
Please do not hesitate to call our office at 916-613-3553 if you have questions or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.