A J-1 visa is a type of US study and exchange visa that you can obtain for a temporary stay during an exchange visitor program in the United States. To qualify for a J-1 visa, the first thing you need to do is apply for an exchange program (study or work) through an assigned sponsor in the United States. Only after you have been accepted into a program can you apply for a J-1 visa.
How to apply for a J-1 visa?
To apply for a J-1 visa, you must follow the steps listed below, but note that the order in which you follow the steps will change based on where you are applying from:
- Fill out the visa application form.
- Arrange an interview with the embassy/consulate.
- Pay the registration fee.
- Prepare the required documents.
- Attend the visa interview.
- Enter the United States.
1. Fill out the visa application form:
For your J-1 visa, you must complete the online application form and print the application form confirmation page – you can find the form here. You must carry the confirmation page with you when you go to attend the visa interview.
While applying online, you also need to upload your visa photo, in case the upload fails, carry a copy of your photo with you.
2. Arrange an interview with the Embassy/Consulate:
After completing the application form, you need to make an appointment with the local embassy or consulate to attend the visa interview – you can find the nearest visa office here. The waiting time to schedule an interview date varies depending on many factors such as the influx of candidates, available staff, season and location.
3. Pay the registration fee:
There are some cases where you may be required to pay the visa fee before attending the interview, in these cases you must bring the receipt with you to the visa office. However, you need to check with your sponsor about the program before paying the fee as sometimes the program will also cover your visa fees.
4. Prepare your required documents:
Before attending the visa interview, you need to prepare several documents (see the full list below). All your documents must be in English and, if required, have an apostille stamp.
5. Attend the visa interview:
You must attend the interview at a consulate or embassy, where a consular officer will determine whether you qualify to receive a J-1 visa. At this point in the application process, you may be asked to provide your fingerprints, but this may vary from country to country. Before leaving you must make arrangements to receive your passport and visa.
Once your visa interview is complete and your visa is granted, you may also be asked to submit an issuance fee. However, keep in mind that not all nationalities need to pay this fee, especially if your program covers all costs.
6. Enter the United States:
You can visit the United States of America now that you have your J-1 visa. However, the visa does not always guarantee entry into the country. At the airport, Department of Homeland Security agents may decide to deny you entry into the country.
At the Border Patrol, you will be asked to present your passport, visa, and Form DS-2019, and if you are allowed to enter the country, you will receive an admission stamp or paper Form I-94.
J-1 Visa Requirements:
When applying for a J-1 visa, you must prepare the following documents:
- Passport: Your passport must be valid for at least six months after you leave the country, unless there are specific exemptions depending on your place of origin.
- Photography: You must submit your photograph when completing the online visa application form. If your photo does not upload, please bring a physical copy but be sure to follow the instructions on how to take your visa photo.
- Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form: You must fill out Form DS-160 online and bring the confirmation page with you to the embassy/consulate.
- Visa fee receipt: If you are asked to pay the visa fee before the interview, bring the receipt with you.
- Form DS- 2019: After being accepted into your exchange program, your sponsor registers you in the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). You will then receive this DS form and may be required to pay a fee for the form – you need to check with the program sponsor as they may cover the fees.
- DS-7002 module: If you participate in the J-1 intern and intern categories, you will also need this form.
- Health insurance for J1 visa: You must have health insurance coverage and it is the sponsor’s responsibility to ensure you have purchased one.
Please note that sometimes other documents may be required, you should contact your local visa office to see a detailed list of required documents.
How much does a J-1 visa cost?
A J-1 visa costs around $185. However, this fee is not the same for all countries and will most likely change depending on the category of J-1 visa you have applied for.
How long can I stay on a J-1 visa?
You can stay on a J-1 visa for up to two or three years. However, the length of stay in the United States on the J-1 visa varies depending on the program for which you applied.
For example, if you are a university student, your visa is valid for the duration of your study program, but with a short-term scholar you can only stay for six months. Typically, all J-1 visa holders are given a 30-day grace period after their visa expires to make travel arrangements home.
J-1 Visa Extension:
You can get your J-1 visa extended by requesting an extension to your program. Your sponsor officer, who is responsible for you, can extend your program up to the maximum regulatory period, a period that varies from program to program. You will receive a new Form DS-2019 indicating the extension period.
To obtain an extension beyond the maximum period allowed, your official will need to send a request/petition on your behalf to the Department of State justifying the request. You (or your sponsor) are required to pay a $367 non-refundable fee for this kind of extension.
What is the two-year home residency requirement?
A J-1 visa is issued with several conditions attached, one of which is that once the program ends and the visa expires, you must return to your home country and live there for two years. You are subject to this condition if you are part of:
- Government-funded exchange program.
- Specialized knowledge or skill.
- Graduated in Education/Training in Medicine.
During this period it is not possible to apply for the following visas:
- An immigrant visa.
- A temporary worker (H).
- An intracompany transferor (L).
- A visa for the boyfriend.
How to apply for a two-year residency exemption request?
You may request a waiver of the two-year residency requirement by submitting a waiver request to the Department of State, Waiver Review Division. You can only request a waiver if you have valid reasons why you cannot meet this requirement, which include the following:
- You have a statement of no objection from your country.
- You have a job request from an interested U.S. federal government agency.
- You may be persecuted if you return to your country.
- Your U.S. citizen spouse and children may face exceptional hardship if you go back.
- You have a stay request from the Conrad State 30 Program.
Can I bring my dependents on a J-1 visa?
Yes, but you are limited to bringing your spouse and children. When you travel to the United States, your family members will need to apply separately for a J-2 visa in order to join you.
Can I change my category to a J-1 visa?
Yes, you can change your category as long as you have valid reasons for changing category and still remain close to your original goal for the exchange program.
To change your category, the officer in charge of you must electronically request it from the Department of State. The Department will charge $367 for the approval of this request.
Can I change my exchange program?
You can change programs as long as you stay in the same category. You must also have a new sponsor who will submit a transfer request to the State Department and pay a fee of $367. To be qualified for the transfer, your former officer must release you from your prior program.