Getting started on the immigration journey can be an investment of time, effort, and money. The J-1 visa is an advantageous visa for those that are eligible, and it pays to understand all of the details before getting started, including how much it will cost. Don’t get caught off guard by the J-1 visa fees, read up on what you can expect and what you can do to lower the overall cost of your visa.
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa
The J-1 is a nonimmigrant visa classification that was created for certain workers, students, and special visitors to live, work, and study temporarily in the U.S. The sentiment behind this visa is to allow people from all over the world to come and learn new skills in the U.S. before taking those skills back to better their home countries.
In contrast to other nonimmigrant work visas, J-1 holders are not sponsored by employers. Rather, they are sponsored by programs that are partnered with the Department of State. Students are among the most common J-1 visa applicants, but there is also a designated list of occupations that falls among these approved programs.
Here are the occupations that could be considered eligible for a J-1 visa:
- Au pair
- Camp counselor
- Government visitor
- International visitor
- Research scholar
- Secondary school student
- Summer work travel visitor
Outside of falling into one of these categories, you must also maintain a permanent residence outside of the U.S. and make clear your intentions to return there after your J-1 validity period is over.
The first step to getting a J-1 visa is to find a program to sponsor you. It could be an employer, a service, or a university. However, it must be one of the DOS designated sponsors. That sponsor will be your main point of contact throughout the J-1 application process. Be sure to reach out to them for the details on how to move forward.
If you are accepted into the program, your sponsor will obtain and send you a DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status. It will be your sponsor’s responsibility to fill out this form for you. All you need to do is use the DS-2019 to fill out a DS-160 Nonimmigrant Online Visa Application and schedule a consular interview with the U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country.
Keep in mind that, just because you have been accepted into the program and have a DS-2019, doesn’t mean that your J-1 is secure. The consular officer can still deny your case during the interview.
J-1 Visa Waiver
One of the main drawbacks of the J-1 visa is the foreign residency requirement, which states that you must return to your home country for at least 2 years after the end of your J-1 visa validity period before coming back to the U.S. under a different visa or green card. The only way to avoid the foreign residency requirement is to obtain a J-1 visa waiver.
There are four statutes that can qualify a candidate for a waiver:
- Getting a statement of “no objection” from the government of your home country
- Having a U.S. government agency be interested in having you remain in the U.S.
- Demonstrating that returning to your home country would result in exceptional hardship for you or your family.
- Showing that there is a high likelihood that you would suffer persecution in your home country should you return.
J-1 Visa Fees
Most sponsors will charge you a program fee unless they are federally funded. Because these fees vary widely from sponsor to sponsor, you should check with them to see what the J-1 visa fee will be. However, there are some costs that are the same regardless of which J-1 visa program you choose.
Cost Without Waiver
If you are planning on returning to your home country and adhering to the home residency requirement, then you will just be responsible for the DS-160 fee of $160 and the SEVIS fee of $180. This means a total of $340 for the J-1 outside of the program fee. However, ask your sponsor if the SEVIS fee is included in your program fee. You will also need to factor in the cost of traveling to the U.S. consulate or embassy as well as a possible $85 biometrics fee.
Cost With Waiver
Getting a J-1 visa waiver requires you to obtain a DS-3035 Application for Recommendation of a J-1 Waiver, which incurs a fee of $120. Add that to the cost of a J-1 without a waiver, and the total fees go up to $480—not counting the program fee.
J-1 Visa Extension Fee
Your J-1 validity period will be dependent on your program. Some are only six months long while others last for more than 10 years. If you would like an extension beyond the usual amount and your sponsor approves it, you will need to have them obtain a new DS-2019 and pay an extra fee of $367.
Can I Use Premium Processing For My J-1?
Unfortunately, premium processing is only available to certain visas that utilize the I-125 and I-140 forms. Because the J-1 does not use either one, you are not able to expedite the J-1 processing time with this option.
J-1 to Green Card Cost
Officially, the J-1 is not a visa that has dual intent, meaning that you are not able to have the intent to immigrate to the U.S. through the J-1. This can be a difficult thing to prove and is usually judged on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, you will have to get a J-1 visa waiver in order to even consider going straight from a J-1 visa to a green card. Otherwise, you will need to wait for the two years in your home country before applying for a green card. Speak with your immigration attorney to determine if you are eligible to adjust your status.
There are several steps to getting a green card, and each one carries the potential for an additional cost. You will have to decide if you are applying for a green card through a marriage to a U.S. citizen or if you are having an employer sponsor you. The costs will vary depending on which route you are taking.
For a marriage-based green card, your U.S. citizen spouse will need to file an I-130 petition with the USCIS. This comes with a $535 filing fee. Once the I-130 is approved, you will have to file an I-485 form in order to change your status. The I-485 fees vary depending on your age, so here is the breakdown:
- For applicants under the age of 14 who are co-filing with a parent, the fee is $750
- For applicants under the age of 14 who are not filing with a parent, the fee is $1,140
- For applicants between 14 and 78, the fee is $1,225
- For applicants over the age of 78, the fee is $1,140
If you are between the ages of 14 and 78, you will likely be asked to make a biometrics appointment, which costs $85 to perform. This is included in the $1,225.
For an employment-based green card, you will need to find a U.S. employer to sponsor you for a green card such as the EB-2 or EB-3. This employer will have to obtain a PERM Labor Certification from the Department of Labor to ensure that there are no available U.S. workers for the position. Fortunately, this does not incur a fee, though it will cost your employer to go through the PERM recruitment process.
Next, your employer will file an I-140 petition with the USCIS, which will require a filing fee of $700. This phase of the J-1 to green card process can be sped up significantly by using the optional premium processing service. For an additional fee of $1,440, you can have your I-140 processing time reduced from the six-month average to just 15 calendar days. However, this will not increase your chances of being approved.
Lastly, once your priority date is current, you will need to file the I-485 form to adjust your status.
How VisaNation Law Group Can Help
As we mentioned earlier, your visa is an investment. The best way to protect that investment is to put it in the hands of qualified experts. An immigration attorney can help you make sure that your forms are in order, that your case is sound, and that your J-1 visa fees are correct and sent to the right places.
VisaNation Law Group has a team of dedicated J-1 visa lawyers that treat each case with the care and respect it deserves. They help you gather necessary documentation, file petitions, and submit fee payments to give you the best chance at J-1 visa approval.
To get in touch with one of their immigration attorneys, you can fill out this contact form and schedule your consultation today.