J-1 Visa: Exchange Visitor Program

What is a J-1 Visa?

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.

To apply for a J-1 visa, an applicant must first be accepted into an exchange visitor program that is sponsored by an accredited educational or other nonprofit institution or organization. The program sponsor will provide the applicant with the necessary forms and information to apply for the visa.

What programs are included in 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

Who Qualifies for J-1 Visa?

To qualify for a J-1 visa, an applicant must meet the following criteria:

  1. They must have been accepted into an exchange visitor program that is sponsored by an accredited educational or other nonprofit institution or organization.
  2. They must have the necessary qualifications and background to participate in the program they have been accepted into.
  3. They must be able to demonstrate sufficient financial support to cover the expenses of their program and stay in the United States.
  4. They must not have a criminal record or pose a security threat to the United States.
  5. They must not have previously violated the terms of a U.S. visa or immigration laws.
  6. They must not have any communicable disease or be otherwise inadmissible to the United States.
  7. They must be able to show ties to their home country that they do not intend to abandon and intend to return after their J-1 visa expired.

How to Apply for J-1 Visa?

  • Apply to a designated sponsoring organization for exchange visitors.
  • Once accepted, complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS 160
  • 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

What are the Required Documents for J-1 Visa?

The applicant will need to provide the following documents:

  • A valid passport
  • DS-2019 form, issued by the program sponsor
  • A completed and signed online visa application form (DS-160)
  • A 2×2 inch photograph that meets the requirements for passport photos
  • Proof of financial support
  • Additional documents may be required depending on the specific program, such as educational certificates or proof of professional qualifications.

What is the J-1 Interview Process?

The J-1 visa interview process typically includes the following steps:

  1. Scheduling an interview: After submitting your online application (DS-160) and paying the visa application fee, you will need to schedule an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The availability of interview slots may vary depending on your location and the time of year.
  2. Gather required documents: Before the interview, you will need to gather all required documents, including your valid passport, a photo, proof of financial support, the DS-2019 form issued by your program sponsor, and any additional documents that may be required by the program sponsor or the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
  3. Attend the interview: During the interview, a consular officer will ask you questions about your background, your exchange visitor program, and your plans while in the United States. You will also need to provide the consular officer with all of the required documents.
  4. Wait for a decision: After the interview, the consular officer will review your application and make a decision. It may take several days or even weeks for the decision to be made.
  5. Get the Visa: If your visa is approved, you will need to pay a visa issuance fee (if applicable) and then you can pick up your visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, or have it sent to your address.

What is the J-1 Visa Fee?

The J-1 visa fee is currently $160.00 for most applicants. This fee is subject to change and can vary based on the applicant’s country of origin and other factors. In addition, some exchange visitor programs may have additional fees associated with them, such as application fees or program fees. It is important to check with the program sponsor and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be applying for the most current fee information.

What is the J-1 Processing Time?

The processing time for a J-1 visa can vary depending on a number of factors such as the applicant’s country of origin, the time of year, and the workload of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the application is being processed. It’s difficult to give a general processing time as it can depend on the specific program, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and the applicant’s individual circumstances. It’s always good to apply as early as possible, but it’s also recommended to check with the program sponsor and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be applying for the most current processing time information.

J-1 Visa Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about J-1 visas:

  1. What are the eligibility requirements for a J-1 visa?
  • The J-1 visa holder must be coming to the US to participate in an exchange program that falls under one of the J-1 program categories, such as academic training, research, or internship. They must also have a valid Form DS-2019 issued by a program sponsor.
  1. Can a J-1 visa holder work in the US?
  • Yes, J-1 visa holders are allowed to work in the US as part of their exchange program, but they must have written authorization from their program sponsor.
  1. Can a J-1 visa holder study in the US?
  • Yes, J-1 visa holders can study in the US, but the primary purpose of their stay must be to participate in an exchange program.
  1. How long is a J-1 visa valid for?
  • The J-1 visa is valid for the duration of the exchange program, as specified on the Form DS-2019, but it can be extended if necessary.
  1. How to apply for a J-1 Visa?
  • The J-1 visa holder must submit a completed Form DS-2019, along with other required documents such as a valid passport, proof of financial support, and a completed Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) to a US embassy or consulate.
  1. Is there a two-year home country physical presence requirement for J-1 visa holders?
  • Some J-1 visa categories are subject to the two-year home country physical presence requirement, which means that the J-1 visa holder must return to their home country for two years before being eligible for certain immigration benefits like H-1B visa or permanent residence. The J-1 visa holder should check with the program sponsor or the nearest US Embassy or Consulate before apply to confirm if they are subject to this requirement.