H-1B for Teachers: Are there any downsides to hiring K-12 International Teachers on the J-1 visas?

What is a school’s ultimate goal in hiring a teacher? The School wishes to find the most qualified teacher to educate their student body. The higher-skilled the teacher, the better the education is taught and the better student scores would become. It does not matter if the teacher was educated in the United States or on the other side of the world. 

Highly skilled teachers, those with masters and doctorates, are difficult to find from US Institutions. However, the J-1 Visa program invites teachers (with Masters and Doctorates) from all over the world, and the better the experience and education of the foreign teacher, the more likely the teacher would be hired and receive a J-1 Visa.

While the J-1 visa provides a great opportunity for K-12 schools/school districts to hire qualified foreign-trained teachers to come teach at their schools in the United States, it only gives a short-term solution to the issue of a highly-skilled teacher shortage. This might be an unusual statement, but there are teacher shortages in the United States. Low teacher salaries have led to teacher strikes and protests in our home state of NC.

In order to streamline the acquisition of highly qualified foreign nationals, J-1 Sponsoring agencies like Participate, EPI, Global, Faces, and Cultural Vista (to name a few), screen and coordinate the hiring of J-1 Teachers in many rural and big city areas. The groups of teachers generally fall within two categories:

  1. Math and Science Teachers
  2. Spanish Teachers

With the aid of the J-1 Sponsoring Agencies, schools and school districts can find ideal candidates. However, the J-1 Visa comes at two costs:

  • First, the J-1 Sponsoring Agency charges up to $25,000 per teacher that is hired by a Contracted J-1 School or School District.
  • Second, the J-1 visa often contains a two-year home residency requirement that requires the international teacher to return to their home countries for two years at the end of the contract term. 

In a nutshell, these two “costs” are the downsides of the J-1 Visa and Program.

Now, the J visa is only good for 3 years plus an optional 2-year extension. Many J-1 Sponsoring Agencies may provide the first 3 years in a 3-year grant, in 1- year increments, or something in between. 

Most J-1 Teachers are subject to the two-year foreign residency requirement since their usual skills fall within the special skills list of INA 212(e). Being subject to this restriction creates a difficult hurdle for schools and school districts to rehire these suitable and qualified teachers.

Remember, schools are generally always looking for highly-skilled teachers. Generally, the more rural a school is, the harder it is to acquire highly-skilled teachers. 

The H-1B Visa is a solution to the J-1 shortcomings. How? you might ask. 

The Ultimate Goal of any school is to acquire the best teachers for the students. The J-1 program invites international teachers to a region, and the H-1B Visa can be the next move to keep the teacher in the region permanently. The H-1B might be a “temporary visa” having a max life of 6 years. However, different from the J-1 Visa, the H-1B Visa permits a school to start plans to provide a teacher with Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card) and it does not have a “restriction” for the teacher to return home for 2 years.

If a school and teacher build a strong relationship and the teacher places roots in a community, that teacher might be a lifelong contributor to the local education system. A highly-skilled school teacher for 10 or 20 years, is much better than a temporary teacher for 5 years under the J-1 or 6 years under the H-1B.

Please contact Fickey Martinez Law Firm to set up a consultation to review your immigration issues and options. 

See More of our H-1B For Teachers Blog Post Series:


Visit our H-1B Page:

H-1B Visa and Status


Disclaimer: This Blog is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Leave a Comment