If you are currently in the U.S. on a visa status other than J-1, there are two ways to obtain J-1 Status to start a J-1 Exchange Visitor Program. Scholars who are eager to begin their research or begin teaching may wish to apply for a J-1 Exchange Visitor entry visa at a U.S. Embassy outside the US. Although there is the risk of having the visa application denied, many scholars do not want to wait several months for the USCIS to make a decision regarding their application. While there are no guarantees regarding a scholar's successful application, some have gone to a U.S. Embassy and successfully obtained a new entry visa. This allowed them to begin their research upon entry into the U.S. in J-1-1 status.
If you chose to try to travel to Canada or Mexico to apply for a J-1 visa, you need to know if you need a visa to enter the respective country. To do so you can visit the following websites:
Traveling Outside the U.S. to Apply for a J-1 Entry Visa
Change of Status in the U.S.
If you have violated your non-immigrant status because you have overstayed your visa you are not eligible to apply at a border post. In other words, if you have remained in the U.S. longer than the period authorized by the Immigration Officer when you entered the U.S. in any visa category, you must apply for a visa in your home country. You should be aware that you may encounter difficulties at the time of interview when you apply for a visa outside of your home district.
Consular officers at border posts will deny visas when they believe there are fraud indicators present or when their lack of knowledge of local conditions and familiarity with documents in the third country prevents them from properly adjudicating the case.
Please consult with your immigration attorney if you have a green card application pending.