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1) Do I have to go back to my home country for my J1 visa? Can I stay in US while waiting for the petition to be submitted and approved?
You can stay in the U.S. while processing as long as there is no gap in-between.
2) How long does it take for USCIS to process the petition sent from my husband's company? During that period of time, can we stay in US? Is it called "grace period"? How long is the "grace period" generally?
Depending on the category and your citizenship
, it can take a number of years. But if a visa is available, then it should be around 5 to 7 months. There is no longer a "grace period" nor any period for someone in an H-4. Students maybe, but H-4s no.
3) Can I apply for my J1 and my husband's J2 at the same time? My husband currently has a criminal case pending in US. Will that affect his visa petition? If we file the visa changing request together, will that affect my visa application?
Yes, BUT he would not be approved normally until he closes the criminal case. So there is at the very least, that problem.
4) Based on your experience, is it particularly time consuming for USCIS to process/approve a H4 to J1 transition? How long does it take for them to process it generally?
No, it is not. I would say about 3 to 6 months at the max.
5) Is J1 holder exempt for federal tax? For how long? If I am already a resident alien, can I still be exempt for federal tax?
No. Once the J-1 has more than 180 days, it passes the sufficient connections test. So the IRS will want their taxes.
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