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J-1 (Student) Visa

International Exchange Program Summarized

  • Exchange program applicants may obtain a J-1 visa.
  • A DS-2019 and DS-160 must be filed by the applicant.
  • An interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy is required.
  • The processing fee is $160.
  • Approval takes up to six weeks.
  • An applicant’s spouse and children under 21 may apply for a J-2 visa.

What is the J-1 Visa?

The J-1 visa grants applicants entrance into the United States to participate in training or exchange programs. The purpose of this program is to promote goodwill internationally through cultural exchange. More than 170,000 foreign nationals visit the United States each month on this type of visa.

In the United States, J-1 visa holders can become involved in certain privately owned companies and in government or academic programs.

Varieties of J-1 Visa Programs

J-1 visa holders may participate in a variety of programs, serving as camp counselors, child or elder caregivers, government-agency visitors, and international visitors with the Department of State. J-1 visa holders may also participate in the medical field as interns, physicians, or medical specialists. The education field offers positions for J-1 holders as short-term scholars in secondary schools, colleges, and universities as well as teachers, trainees, research scholars, and professors.

The particular program exchange visitors participate in determines their length of stay. Extensions are sometimes permitted. To qualify for an extension, some J-1 visa holders may be required to return to their native country for two years. Programs with this requirement include the following:

  • Programs in which funding for the visa holder applicant was obtained from the U.S. government, an international organization, or the applicant’s home government.
  • Programs in which the applicant worked in a position that was listed on the Department of State’s Exchange Visitor List or was in demand in their home country.
  • Programs in which the applicant worked in the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates program.

Visa Requirements

For a foreign national to participate in the J-1 exchange program, a designated sponsor is required. Sponsors may be certain governmental offices, private companies, and universities. Each sponsored program has certain criteria for admission, but all require that J-1 applicants have English skills suitable for their program and sufficient medical insurance. Applicants must also provide the program fees, which may include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security fee, the sponsor program fee, visa insurance, and processing fees. Fees may vary for each particular program.

Application Process

Applicants must obtain Form DS-2019 from their program sponsors. The form includes the timeframe and purpose of the program, the fees, and an explanation of whether the applicant is subject to the two-year home residency requirement. The applicant can then apply for entry into the United States through a U.S. consulate or embassy.

Processing usually takes up to six weeks depending on the applicant’s country of origin. J-1 visas are granted for a certain period; however, J-1 visa holders may later apply for an additional visa that could allow them to gain permanent residency status.

Until an exchange visitor obtains a green card, he or she will not be allowed to travel; permission to do so must be granted along with the J-1 visa application. The visitor’s spouse and any children under 21 could receive J-2 dependent status, which would allow them to join their family member in the United States and apply for authorization to work.