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Someone I know (nationality French) has accepted a six-month post-doctoral fellowship in the United States. The hosting institute will sponsor a J-1 visa; my understanding is that J-1 visas are much quicker to process than H-1B visas, and since she should start as soon as possible, they opt for J-1. A J-1 Research Scholar visa has the following limitations:

Professor and Research Scholars must:

(...)

Not have participated in a J-Visa program for all or part of the 12-month period immediately preceding the start date of a professor or research scholar program unless they meet one of the following exceptions:

(...)

The participant's prior physical presence in the U.S. on a J-visa program was less than six months in duration

If she physically leaves the United States one week before the end of her contract (having been in the US for 5 months, 3 weeks), for example to attend a conference in Europe or for working from home, can she still apply for a new post-doctoral fellowship (NB: I'm not talking about an extension of the existing post-doc) at a new J-1 research scholar visa, or will a H-1B visa be the only route still accessible for a new post-doc?

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As a person who have gone through enough visa paperwork, I have to say that the only valid answer to that question is what the person in question will get from the non-immigrant visa department of the U.S. Embassy. Any other answer will most likely be irrelevant when/if it turns out that the embassy thinks different from whatever answer(s) you might get here (or anywhere else for that matter). –  posdef Feb 1 '13 at 13:51

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Yale University has a very nice explanatory page for those 12 and 24-month rules, which are more complicated than the excerpts you quote:

           enter image description here

This seems to contradict your quote. Note that it says specifically “for any amount of time (one day to five years)”.

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Oh, right; I missed to quote an earlier part Not have participated in and completed a professor or research scholar program within the last 24 months preceding the beginning date of their new program’s commencement. I guess my quote relates to J-1 visas that are not Research Scholar visas... –  gerrit Feb 1 '13 at 13:39
    
I have been in that situation with a short-term visiting scholar and I could get a new J-1 but I had to leave the country and apply for a new visa. Maybe it might have been possible to transfer the SEVIS fee to the new visa without paying it again. –  user4050 Feb 1 '13 at 15:49

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