Information about the J1/J2 Visa for Exchange Visitors.
J-1 and J-2 visas apply to non-immigrant participants in exchange visitor programs. Applicants can apply at the consular section of a U.S. Embassy or a U.S. Consulate for J visas. However, before doing so, applicants be accepted into one of the Exchange Visitor Programs. There are organizations that operate as designated sponsors for these programs. Accepted sponsors provide their participants with the necessary documentation for the J visa application.
The Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs administers the Exchange Visitor Program. Click here to learn more about this program and its requirements. Program participants are expected to apply the lessons learned and experience gained in the program to their contributions to their home country after the program is over.
The State Department has selected public and private organizations to act as sponsors of exchange visitors. These organizations help the visitors meet objectives by falling into one of multiple approved categories, which each have their own requirements, including:
- Research scholar
- Government visitor
- International visitor (designated by the State Department)
- Au pair
- Secondary or college/university student
- Foreign physician
- Summer travel/work
Meeting the Qualifications for Exchange Visitor Visas
Applicants for the J visa, also known as the exchange visitor visa, must meet very specific requirements set forth by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). U.S. consular officers make the determination as to whether applicants qualify for a J visas. The requirements for the J visa include:
- The intention of the applicant to stay in the United States for a temporary and specific time period;
- Proof of financial resources necessary to support living in the United States;
- Demonstration of economic and social ties abroad and ties that will ensure that the applicant returns abroad following their stay.
SEVIS and SEVP
SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is Internet-based and was created to assist the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State keep track of non-immigrant students visiting the U.S. on F and M visas, exchange visitors with J visas, and the dependents of these visa holders possessing F-2, M-2, and J-2 visas. This system allows program sponsors and schools to send the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State event notifications and mandatory information during the entire stay of the visa holders. Click here to learn more about SEVIS.
SEVP, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, was created to assist the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State oversee exchange and school programs and M, F, and J visa holders.
When exchange visitor applicants are applying for their visa, they must submit a DS 2019 that is generated by SEVIS and issued by a State Department-designated sponsor. The DS 2019 record is then verified by a U.S. consular officer via the online SEVIS system. Participants in the exchange visitor program, unless they are otherwise found to be exempt, who have a SEVIS-generated DS 2019 that was issued on or after September 1, 2004, must pay a fee, a SEVIS I-901 fee, to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Each individual program requires its own separate fee payment. Payment can be made by mail, through Western Union, or via a special website. Click here to learn more about the SEVIS-901 fee or here to learn about fee information provided by SEVIS.
Interviews as Part of the Visa Application Process
Applicants for visas aged 14 through 17 must be interviewed at U.S. Consulates or the consular sections of U.S. Embassies. It is recommended that visa applicants apply early to account for a potentially long wait time. Click here for information on visa wait times. Applicants can also check the websites of most U.S. embassies for such information. If an applicant’s sponsor approves his or her spouse and children to travel with him or her, these family members can apply at the same time as the main applicant via Form DS-2019.
Applicants should be prepared to have their fingerprint digitally scanned during the interview process. Additional administrative processing may be needed for certain visa applications. This may cause there to be a longer wait time following the interview process. All visa applicants must submit the required forms, documents, and fees. Read on for more information.