A J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States to provide educational and cultural exchange programs, and to promote the sharing of individuals, knowledge, skills in education, the arts and sciences, and especially to obtain medical or business training within the U.S. This visa allows people to participate in an exchange visitor program/internship program in the United States. All applicants must meet the eligibility criteria and be sponsored either by a private sector or government program.
The J-1 visa creates great opportunities for those students who need practical training that is not available in their home country to complete their academic program. The training must be exactly related to the academic program. The J-1 visa constrains the student to return to their home country for a minimum of two years after the end of their studies in the U.S. before being qualified to apply for an immigrant (permanent) visa.
Note: J-1 visa holders include students, trainees involved in on-the-job training, visiting scholars, researchers, and consultants. Although many J-1 visa holders come to the U.S. for paid on-the-job training, exchange students who visit the U.S. under this status are not permitted to work.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is very specific about the requirements, which must be met by applicants to qualify for the exchange visitor (J-1) visa. The consular officer will conclude whether you qualify for the visa. Applicants must formally judge that they properly meet the requirements to be issued an exchange visitor visa, including the following:
- Applicant plans to stay in the U.S. for a temporary, specific, and limited time period.
- Sufficient funds required to stay and cover all their expenses in the United States.
- Based on necessitating social and economic ties abroad, and other binding ties which will assure their return abroad at the end of the visit.
Each visa applicant must submit to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate the following:
- A SEVIS (Student Exchange and Visitor Information System) generated Form, DS-2019, is provided by your program sponsor to you (for each family member), after that sponsor enters your information and your family members information in the SEVIS system. Under the 2011 Pilot Summer Work Travel Program participants’ Form DS-2019, certificate of eligibility for exchange visitor status will be sent by your U.S. program sponsor directly to the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will apply for your visa. All pilot program participants will be placed in jobs in the United States by the appointed U.S. sponsor before the DS-2019 is emitted.
- All exchange visitors (J visa), trainee or intern visa applicants, must also present training/internship placement plan when applying for a visa, Form DS-7002. If your Form DS-2019 is issued prior to July 19, 2007, a Form DS-7002 is not required.
- Fill the DS-160 (online nonimmigrant visa electronic application) for yourself and each family member you have. After finishing the form filling process you must print the confirmation page with a good printer (laser is preferred) as it contains a bar-code. Prefer Internet Explorer to print properly all the DS-160 form pages. Visit the DS-160 website to learn more about the DS-160 online process.
- A valid passport with a validity date of at least six months needed to enter the U.S. and beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the U.S. (unless country-specific agreements provide exceptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person who needs a visa must complete an application for that.
- One 2 x 2 photograph is needed. See photograph requirements for more information.
- Applicants must show to the consular officer that they have binding ties to a residence in a foreign country which they have no purpose of relinquishing and that they are coming to the U.S. for a temporary duration. It is difficult to define the exact form of evidence that should be taken since applicants’ circumstances change greatly.
An interview as a part of the visa application process is required visa applicants from age 14 through 79 at the embassy consular section. Generally, persons, younger (age 13) and older (age 80), do not need to go through an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can fluctuate, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. Visa Wait Times for interview appointments and processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available at Visa Wait Times and on most embassy websites. If you are officially recognized by your sponsor to be accompanied by your spouse (husband or wife) and children, they will also be provided a Form DS-2019 that they can also apply at the same time.
At the time of visa application process, commonly at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be taken quickly. Some applicants will need additional screening and will be informed when they apply. You may request for your visa at an Embassy or Consulate any time before the beginning of your exchange program. See Bureau of Consular Affairs for a comprehensive overview of the Exchange Visitor (J-1) Visa.
How to Apply
- Visit U.S. embassy website and start to apply for a visa. You will receive a user and password that will enable further procedures.
- Fill form DS-160 for yourself and each family member you have. Make a print of confirmation page for your evidence at the end of the process.
- Must get Form DS-2019 from your host for each family member and a letter of invitation. The first thing you do after receiving these files is paying SEVIS, best with the electronic version as you get the receipt immediately http://www.ice.gov/sevis.
- You might also have to fill some other document in your user’s environment. You will see that when you log in.
Duration of Stay
J-1 visitors may stay in the United States until the end of their exchange program, as specified on form DS-2019. Upon ending of J-1 visitor’s program, he/she may stay in the United States for an additional 30 days, often referred to as a ‘grace period,’ in order to get prepared for departure from the country. Once a visitor departs from the United States in between these 30 days, the visitor may not be allowed re-entering with the J-1 visa.
The minimum and maximum duration of stay are decided by the specific J-1 category under which an exchange visitor is admitted into the United States. As with other non-immigrant visas, a J-1 visa holder and their dependents have to leave the United States at the end of the duration of stay.
Spouses and Children
Your spouse and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 may apply for entry under J-2 status. Spouses and/or children may come along or join the principal exchange visitor (J) visa holder in the United States for the duration of his/her stay need exchange visitor visas (acquired J visas). Dependents of J-1 visa holders may work in the U.S. if they can prove that they are able to provide for their own expenses. The application procedure remains same as that for a primary visa applicant.
The sponsor must acknowledge the attendant of the spouse and/or children, and each will be issued their own Form DS-2019. This form is used to get the required visa, which allows spouses and dependents to enter the U.S. at the same time as the principal exchange visitor or at a later date.
Employment while in ‘J’ exchange visitor status totally depends upon the terms of the program. Under this exchange program, candidates may provide for on-the-job training, research, teaching, or other activities which involve paid employment may accept such employment. Candidates in exchange programs which do not include work may not accept outside employment. The ‘Q’ international cultural exchange program particularly approves paid employment as a part of the program.