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How do I obtain J-1 Status?

Before a foreign national can apply for a J-1 visa, he or she must have been accepted to  one of the Exchange Visitor Program categories and must have a sponsoring organization.  The following are the criteria for a non-immigrant visitor who wishes to take advantage of the J program:

  • Falls under one of the J-1 visitor categories (professor, college student, au pair, etc).
  • Has sufficient funds to cover expenses for the trip and is fluent in English.
  • Maintains sufficient medical insurance for accidents and illnesses for themselves and any family members in the J-2 category.
  • Has a residence abroad that they have no intention of abandoning.

In order to obtain a J-1 Visa, the applicant needs to apply for the visa at a United States embassy or consulate abroad. Once they have been granted a J-1 visa they may enter the United States no more than 30 days before the start of their program and be on valid J-1 status. Part of the application process includes an interview at the embassy consular section for applicants between the ages of 14 and 79. An interview appointment and visa wait time varies for each country, but can be found on the State Department website.

The procedure for obtaining a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is as follows:

  1. Submit Form DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status. This form will be a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) generated Form DS-2019 that your sponsor should have provided you with.

  2. Submit Form DS-156 Nonimmigrant Visa Application

  3. Submit Form DS-157 Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application, which provides information regarding your travel plans. Note: All male applicants between 16-45, as well as applicants from state sponsors of terrorism (North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan, Iran, and Libya) over the age of 16 must complete this form.

  4. Submit Form DS-158 Contact Information and Work History

  5. A passport valid for travel to the US, which will be valid six months beyond the end date of the J-1 visa.

  6. One 2x2 photograph

  7. Non-refundable application processing fee of $160.00 US per visa.

In addition to the visa processing fees, J-1 program participants should be aware of the other fees they will encounter. Unless they are in a federally funded exchange program, sponsor organizations will charge participants program fees. When you are accepted into an exchange visitor program, the program sponsor will issue you a form DS-2019 to turn into the State Department. The program sponsor will tell you if you must pay a SEVIS I-901 fee to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or if this fee is already a part of your program fees.

Additionally, a J-1 participant may be charged a visa reciprocity fee. This occurs only if the country they are residing in when they applied for the J-1 charges U.S. citizens for that type of visa.For example the United Arab Emirates (UAE) charges $52 for a U.S. citizen to get a J-1 Visa to travel to the UAE.. Therefore, if a citizen of the UAE receives a J-1 visa to the U.S., he or she will be charged a visa issuance reciprocity fee of $52.

For more information on how to obtain a J-1 visa and the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program in general, please refer to the Department of State’s J-1 web page.

For more information about J-1 visa, please refer to the following links:

J-1 General Issues

Specific Information on J-1 Waivers