As a non-US citizen, you will generally need a visa to enter the United States. The J-1 exchange visitor visa allows participants to come to the United States for a temporary stay, if participating in one of the J1 Visa programs. If you are interested in pursuing one of these programs, you will need to find a sponsoring organization and apply for the J1 visa. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to apply for a J1 visa:
Step 1. Find a J Sponsor
When applying for a J1 visa, you will need to find a designated sponsor to accept you into their program. Regardless of their physical location, many of these sponsoring organizations can place participants throughout the United States. The United Stated Department of State has the official list of designated sponsor organizations here. Keep in mind that many organizations screen their participants and look for those with proficient English language skills. Your sponsoring organizations can also help you with how to apply for a J1 visa.
Step 2. Apply for the DS-2019
Once you have applied and been approved by a designated sponsor organization, the next step is to submit the DS-2019 Form, also known as the “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchanger Visitor (J-1) Status”. This form is the official documents used by the US Department of State that will permit you to get an interview with the U.S. embassy or consulate. If you will be accompanied by your spouse or child(ren), they will also be given a separate DS-2019 form. This two-page form is issued by your designed sponsoring organization and will include a description of the exchange program, including the start and end date, as well as the cost of the program (with a breakdown on financial support).
Step 3. Pay Your Fees
You will be required to pay a SEVIS I-901 fee to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as part of your J-1 visa application - or this fee may already be part of your program fees to your sponsoring organization. It’s important to check with your sponsor to confirm whether it will be paid by you, or for you. If the sponsor pays the SEVIS fee on your behalf, be sure to get a receipt confirming payment.
Another fee you will be required to pay is the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Processing Fee, which is $160 and can be paid by visiting the Department of State’s Fee for Visa Services. Those participants who are part of a program with the U.S. Government, Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), or a U.S. Government funded educational and cultural exchange program are exempt from the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Processing Fee as part of their J-1 visa application.
Step 4. Interview with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate
In order to have your J-1 visa application accepted, you will need to have final approval by a consular officer at a US embassy or consulate. Depending on where you are located, waiting times to get an appointment can vary so it’s important to schedule early to ensure that you have sufficient time before your program begins.
If you will be traveling with a spouse and/or child, you can schedule an appointment for those family members who
will be accompanying you. At the interview, you will be asked about the program, your intentions after the program,
how you plan to cover your expenses, etc. It is important to stress that your intention is to complete the program
and return to your home country upon termination. Be prepared to show your binding ties to your home country and
bring any documentation that can further show your ties back home.
When applying for a J1 visa, you will need to submit the following documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate:
- DS-2019 Form, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status
- DS-7002 Form, A Training/Internship Placement Plan (for exchange visitor trainees or intern visa applicants)
- Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application
- A passport valid for travel to the U.S with validity six months after the intended period of stay in the US
- One 2x2 photograph
It’s important to check with your particular embassy or consulate to confirm the necessary documents when applying for a J1 visa. How to apply for a J-1 visa will be determined based on your embassy or consulate, as well as your personal situation, so it’s important to make sure you’ve read about what you need to do prior and during your interview.