The J-1 classification is a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa issued to foreign nationals who intend to participate in an approved exchange visitor J-1 program in the United States. This could be for the purpose of teaching, lecturing, studying, instructing, conducting research, demonstrating special skills, or observing. It is also available to those who want to receive medical training or education. You may qualify for an exchange visitor program if you are a/an:
- Professor or scholar
- Student (secondary school, college, or university)
- Research assistant
- Au Pair (Nanny or caregiver)
- Camp counselor
You will need to choose the one you intend to participate in among the approved programs and apply for a J-1 visa following the guidelines for the program you have chosen.
How to Apply for a J-1 Visa
The J-1 exchange visitor program involves three parties: the participant (you), the sponsoring organization, and the United States government. It may also involve a fourth: your home country’s government. Being a temporary visa, the application process requires every applicant to complete a DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application.
This usually involves both extensive documentation and an interview. However, before proceeding, it is essential first to know the eligibility criteria and be sure you are qualified for the program and can pay the required fees.
Step 1: J-1 Visa Eligibility Criteria
The eligibility criteria vary for a J-1 visa vary widely depending on the program chosen. However, the general requirements for all participants are:
- English Proficiency: All J-1 participants must demonstrate that they possess sufficient English language proficiency. Some of the required documents or certificates of proficiency for this include the IBT, IELTS, TOFEL, PTE, CAE, CPE, or TOEIC. You may need to have at least one of these to apply for the program.
- Medical Insurance: You are required to carry medical insurance with the minimum benefit level of coverage as stated in the J-1 program guidelines. If you have any dependents (spouse and/or minor unmarried children under the age of 21) accompanying you, the same insurance requirement applies to them. J-1 dependent applicants are officially referred to as J-2 dependents.
Step 2: Locate a Designated Sponsoring Organization
A J-1 program organization is any private or public entity approved by the DOS to act as an exchange program sponsor. There are many of them offering different categories of programs, so you will need to choose the one that relates to your intended program. The addresses and official locations of all the approved J-1 program sponsor organizations are listed here.
Every J-1 applicant must find an organization to accept them into their program. The sponsors usually screen their applicants before admitting them. You can send an application to the organization requesting for a chance to participate.
Step 3: Complete the DS-2019
Once you have been chosen, a designated official from the sponsoring organization will issue you a DS-2019. These officials are usually referred to as Responsible Officers (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officers (ARO). You should work closely with your RO because you will most likely need his or her guidance all throughout the application process.
The officer will tell you the required documents to submit with your DS-2019 form and may assist you on how to fill your J-1 visa application according to the rules guiding your specific program.
The primary function of the DS-2019 form is to schedule a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. It will be printed with a unique identifier known as a “SEVIS number.” It is also used to:
- Identify the beneficiary participant (you)
- Identify the sponsor – name, signature, telephone number and address of the designated responsible officer by the sponsor
- Give a brief description of the J-1 program including the activity to be completed
- State the start and end dates of the program and its J-1 category
- Give a breakdown of the total estimated financial support to be given to you during your stay.
After completing the DS-2019, you can proceed to apply for your J-1 visa.
Step 4: Complete the DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application
The DS-160 is for all temporary visa applicants, including the J-1. Through this form, you will submit an online request for a J-1 visa to travel to the United States for your exchange program. Technically, this is your personal J-1 visa. Each visa applicant, including dependent spouses children (if any), must complete theirs. The form has a barcode which you must print out and keep as part of the items to take to your interview later.
J-1 Visa Documents
Other J-1 forms and documents include:
DS-7002 Training/Internship Placement Plan
This form has four major sections where you will be required to fill your biographic information and answer some important questions about the program you are applying for. The last section of the form will be filled by the sponsor organization.
Evidence of Ties to Your Home Country
The J-1 visa is a temporary visa, which requires all participants to return to their home countries upon the completion of their programs. It does not have dual intent, a designation that allows the adjustment of status to permanent residence, as other visas may allow. You will need to provide evidence of ties to your home country to prove that you aren’t intending to abandon your country or overstay your visa after completing your program.
There is no general rule to this requirement as applicants have varied circumstances. Some of the acceptable ties include having your immediate family members, employment, business, or a large sum of money back home. The stronger the ties are, the more convincing they will appear to the immigration officers.
Demonstrate Financial Ability to Pay for Your J-1 Program
Most J-1 visitor programs require the payment of fees. The only exception is if your program is going to be funded by the U.S. government, your country’s government, or an organization. As part of your application process, you may be asked to provide proof that you have the capacity to pay the fees and your general financial needs throughout your stay.
This may require submitting your bank statements, tax returns, financial aid, or scholarship paperwork (if any). If you are to be sponsored by a relative or any other individual, that person will need to provide some financial documentation as well.
You will need to have a passport that will be valid for at least six months beyond the period of stay for your J-1 program
The photo must meet these DOS requirements for passport photographs.
Attend J-1 Visa Interview
All J-1 visa applicants will need to attend an immigration interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their country. After completing all the above documentation, the embassy will send you a message indicating the date, time, and location of the interview. It is crucial to attend the interview on the date scheduled as missing your interview will lead to delay, which might affect your resumption date for the program.
Your J-1 visa interview performance will be assessed by the immigration officer and will be part of what determines your J-1 visa application approval or otherwise. It is, therefore, important to prepare well and answer all the questions accurately and truthfully. See examples of J-1 visa interview questions you can expect at the embassy.
J-1 Visa Processing Fees
The J-1 visa processing fees include:
J -1 Program Fees
J-1 visa applicants are required to pay certain fees. This amount varies from sponsor to sponsor. Your sponsor will give you a breakdown of the fees for your program. If your program is going to be funded by the federal government, you may not need to pay program fees.
SEVIS Fee $180
The SEVIS I-901 fee is paid to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Some sponsoring organizations include it as part of their program fees while others keep it as a separate payment. You will be informed by your sponsor if you are to pay it separately. If your sponsor has made the payment on your behalf, they will need to provide you with a receipt for the payment as it will be asked for during your interview.
Visa Fees $160
Every nonimmigrant visa applicant must pay the DS-160 visa application processing fee. This payment will be made online while filling your DS-160 form. Ensure that you print out and keep the receipt as you will need to provide evidence of the payment at the interview. Applicants sponsored by the U.S. federal government, those participating in federal government-funded educational and cultural exchange programs, and those whose programs are in certain U.S. agencies will not need to pay for this.
Visa Issuance Fee
Applicants from certain countries may need to pay a visa issuance fee after their J-1 visa has been approved. Check the visa reciprocity tables to know if you will need to pay for this, and what the required amount will be.
Learn more about Visa Reciprocity.
J-1 Visa Validity
Your J-1 visa validity period will be dependent on the amount of time it takes to complete your program. For instance, J-1 visas for camp counselors and summer workers visitor program may not last beyond 4 months, while some students or researchers might require up to 5 years to complete theirs.
One certain thing, however, is that you will be given enough time to complete your program. There is also a provision for a J-1 visa extension if you need to stay longer than the initial validity period. The maximum length is usually seven years, except in certain rare circumstances. Again, an extension request will be reviewed based on each applicant’s case, which will determine if the extension will be granted or denied.
How VisaNation Law Group Can Help
The J-1 visa application is a complicated process due to the several documents and different parties involved. Any error in the documentation may lead to delay or denial, which can adversely affect the whole process. However, with the help of a professional, you will ultimately increase your approval chances.
VisaNation Law Group has highly experienced J-1 visa immigration lawyers who have helped countless applicants process and obtain their exchange visitor program visas. They will help you prepare your forms and supporting documents to maximize your chances of approval. Whether you are just about to apply for a J-1 visa or you want to request for an extension, you can always count on them for the best immigration legal services. You can schedule a consultation with us today by filling out this contact form.
Need More Info About J-1 Visa?
We give you everything you need to know. Click the links below for more information on the exchange visitor program.
- J-1 Forms and Documents
- J-1 Visa Interview
- J-1 Visa Employment
- J-1 Visa
- J-1 Visa Waiver
- J-1 Visa Persecution
- J-1 Visa Waiver for Physicians
- J-1 Waiver Green Card Process
- J-1 Waiver IGA
- J-1 Waiver-IGA for Physicians
- J-1 Waiver-No Objection Statement
- J-1 Visa Waiver-Exceptional Hardship
- Foreign Residency Requirement