J-1 Visa: Exchange Visitor Program

J1 Visa Basics

A J-1 Visa grants non-immigrants into the U.S. for the purposes of promoting cultural exchange, while obtaining training, especially in the fields of medicine and business. The J1 status of a non-immigrant exchange visitor is specified on Form DS 2019 which is issued by an specified sponsored exchange program and allots a certain duration the status is eligible for.

Before applying for a J1 Visa, you must first apply for and be accepted by an exchange visitor program designated by the Department of State. You will then be added into the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is run by the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that all necessary information on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors are available for the government to track. You will also need to pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee.

Please note that J1 Visas are for exchange programs while F-1 Visas are for full-time, educational programs and M-1 Visas are designated for vocational programs. Please make sure you are applying for the appropriate visa type depending on your program.

What programs are included for the J-1 Visa?

  • Au pair or Educare
    • Providing care for the children of a host family
    • Must be between 18 to 26 years old and able to pass a background check
    • Can stay in the U.S. for a year with options to extend
  • Camp Counseling
    • Work for a U.S. summer camp only for the duration of summer
    • Must be 18 years or older and can remain in the U.S. for 4 months
  • Government Visitor
  • Intern
    • Internship program related to applicant’s area of study
    • Must be enrolled in a university outside of the United States or have graduated within 12 months of the start date of the internship
    • Maximum length of stay is 12 months
  • Physician
    • Medical students who seek education from medical training from U.S. accredited schools
    • Must prove they have passed some sort of medical exam in home country
    • Maximum length of stay is 7 years
  • Professor or Research Scholar
    • Consultant, researcher, or student of a U.S. university project
    • This category is for temporary placements or assignments, not tenured positions
    • May stay in the U.S. for a maximum of 5 years
  • Specialist
    • Expert in his or her field and is going to the U.S. for a temporary assignment or project
  • Student in Higher Education
    • Accepted into an accredited university or college for a post-secondary degree
    • Length of stay depends on the degree program or 24 months for non-degree programs
  • Student in secondary school
    • Short term exchange study program that requires the foreign student to stay with a host family
    • Minimum length of stay is 1 semester and maximum is 2 semesters
  • Summer Work/Travel
    • Allows post-secondary students enrolled in foreign universities to work temporary or summer jobs in the U.S.
    • Maximum stay is 4 months
  • Teacher
    • For current or former teachers with at least 2 years of full-time education experience within the past 8 years who will be teaching full-time in the U.S.
    • May stay up to 3 years with options to renew with sponsor
  • Trainee
    • For professional degree holders who wish to attend a structured training program in a related field
    • Maximum length of stay is 18 months except in the field of hospitality which is limited to 12 months

Steps to Obtaining a J1 Visa

  • Apply to a designated sponsoring organization for exchange visitors.
  • Once accepted, complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS 160
  • Pay the $160 visa application fee
  • Schedule an interview with a U.S. Consulate or Embassy
  • Gather the required documents for the interview
    • Passport
    • Form DS 160 confirmation page
    • Fee payment receipt
    • Photo
    • Form DS 2019, Certificate of Eligibility of Exchange Visitor Status from SEVIS
    • Training/Internship Placement Plan Form DS 7002 if applicable
  • Attend the visa interview
  • Wait for your passport with the J1 Visa to be returned to you if admitted