The J-1 Visa or Exchange Visitor Program was first implemented in 1961 as part of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. The idea behind this act was to promote the understanding of other cultures by the people of the United States and likewise the understanding of the America culture by people of other countries through educational and cultural exchanges.
The J-1 Visa is a non-immigrant, cultural exchange visa issued through the Exchange Visitor Program.
The J-1 classification (exchange visitors) is authorized for those who intend to participate in an approved sponsor program for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training.
Individuals who qualify for J-1 status if sponsored through an accredited Exchange Visitor Program include:
- Au Pair
- Camp Counselor
- College or University Student
- Government Visitor
- International Visitor
- Professor and Research Scholar
- Secondary School Student
- Short-Term Scholar
- Summer Work Travel
Here are some guidelines on how to apply for a J-1 Visa.
Before you can apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a J-1 visa, you must first apply for and be accepted into an exchange visitor program through a designated sponsoring organization. For more information visit the Department of State J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program website. After participants decide on a program they are interested in, the next step is to find a sponsor. The Department of State has the official list of designated sponsor organizations here.
After you’ve been accepted into the exchange visitor program you may apply for a visa. There are several steps to apply, so, what are they?
Step 1: Gather all the documents you may need:
- Passport valid for 60 days beyond the expiration date of the visa;
- Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. Your photo must be in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements;
- Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, Form DS-2019 – a SEVIS generated Form provided to the applicant by your program sponsor;
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 – Learn more about completing the DS-160. You must: 1) complete the online visa application and 2) print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview;
- Application fee payment receipt;
Additional documents may be required, such as purpose of your travel; ability to pay for the trip; your intent to depart the U.S. after your travel; evidence of the employment; and/or your family ties.
Step 2: Schedule Your Visa Interview
After you’ve paid the required fees you should schedule your visa interview. Wait time for the interview appointments may vary location, visa category, so it’s always wise to apply well in advance.
Step 3: Attend Your Visa Interview
During your visa interview, a consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a visa, and if so, which visa category is appropriate based on your purpose of travel. You will need to establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive the category of visa for which you are applying.
Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.
All these may seem confusing, but don’t worry! The best way to figure it all out is to find an qualified immigration lawyer, who will help you with your visa application, and all other documents that may be required. Legal Bistro is here to help you! It is a free on-line community, where you can find local immigration lawyer to assist you with your case.
Additionally, you are more than welcome to watch Legal Bistro video and get all the answers on Visa Application Process, Exchange Visitor Program, SEVIS, all the fees required, etc.