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J Visa - Exchange Visitor

The U.S. Department of State has provided a specially-designated website with in-depth information regarding the J-1 visa. We strongly encourage you to visit that website for the best and most up-to-date information regarding the J-1 Visa type. Please click here to visit that website now:

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides the exchange visitor (J) nonimmigrant visa category for persons who are approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States.  This means that before you can apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a J visa you must apply to a program, meet the requirements, and be accepted for one of the Exchange Visitor Program categories through a designated sponsoring organization.  If you are accepted as a participant in an exchange program, the sponsor will provide you with information and documents necessary to apply for the J visa to enter the United States.

Qualifying for an Exchange Visitor Visa

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is very specific with regard to the requirements, which must be met by applicants to qualify for the exchange visitor (J) visa.  The consular officer will determine whether you qualify for the visa.  Applicants must demonstrate that they properly meet the requirements to be issued an exchange visitor visa, including the following:

  • That they plan to remain in the U.S. only for a temporary, specific, limited period;
  • Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States;
  • Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.

What is SEVIS and SEVP?
What should you know about it?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is designed to help the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State better monitor school and exchange programs and F, M and J category visitors.  Exchange visitor and student information is maintained in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).  SEVIS is an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students (F and M visa), exchange visitors (J visa), and their dependents (F-2, M-2, and J-2).  SEVIS enables schools and program sponsors to transmit mandatory information and event notifications via the Internet, to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State (DOS) throughout a student or exchange visitor's stay in the United States.  Select SEVIS to go to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Internet site and learn more.

All exchange visitor applicants must have a SEVIS-generated DS-2019 issued by a Department of State designated sponsor, which they submit when they are applying for their exchange visitor visa.  The consular officer will need to verify your DS-2019 record electronically through the SEVIS system in order to process your exchange visitor visa application to conclusion.  Unless otherwise exempt, participants with a SEVIS DS-2019 issued on or after September 1, 2004 must pay a SEVIS I-901 Fee to the Department of Homeland Security for each individual program. The fee may be paid either through a special web site, via Western Union, or by mail. See SEVIS-901 Fee or SEVIS for further information on how to pay the fee.

When Do I Need to Apply for My Visa?

Exchange visitor visa applicants are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing.

Required Documentation

As part of the visa application process, an interview at the U.S. Consulate General is required for almost all visa applicants.  The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged.  If you are authorized by your sponsor to be accompanied by your spouse (husband or wife) and children, they will also be given a Form DS-2019 and they can apply at the same time.  As part of the visa interview, a quick, ten-digit, ink-free fingerprint scan will be taken, as well as a digital photo.  Some applicants will need additional screening, and will be notified when they apply.

In addition to the documents and fees explained in visa application process, each exchange visa applicant must submit the following:

  • DS 2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.  You will need to submit a SEVIS generated Form, DS-2019, which was provided to you by your program sponsor.  All exchange visitors, including their spouses and dependents must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors and their dependents (J-2 visa holders).  Your program sponsor is responsible for entering your information for the DS 2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status into SEVIS.  Exchange visitors not part of a U.S. Government-sponsored program will also have to pay a SEVIS I-901 fee for each program.  Questions regarding your exchange program should be directed to your program sponsor.

If the visa is approved, the consular officer will determine a maximum validity for the visa.

Depending on their nationality, visa type and visa length, some applicants are required to pay a reciprocity fee per application, per year or partial year of validity.

Please refer to visa application process for additional visa application information and requirements.

Do not make travel plans until you receive your visa.