J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

The J-1 exchange visitor visa is a nonimmigrant visa that is appropriate for aliens accepted into a exchange visitor program in the United States. The applicant must be accepted into the program before they apply for the J visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. In order to apply for the J-1 visa you must therefore find an organization willing to sponsor you for the J-1 visa. 

J-1 Visa Requirements

To qualify for the J-1 exchange visitor visa you must show that you plan to remain in the United States for a specific and temporary amount of time. You must show that your ultimate purpose of entering the U.S. is not to take up permanent residence.  In order to do this you must show that you have the available funds to cover your expenses while living in the U.S. and you must provide evidence of strong ties to your country of permanent residence. You should show both economic and social ties, including the number of close relatives in your country of permanent residence as well as any jobs waiting for you when you return. 

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Application Process

  • You must find an organization willing to sponsor you for the J-1 visa
  • You must file DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status. This form will be given to you by your sponsoring organization. Your sponsoring organization will enter your information as well as your spouse and your dependents’ information into the SEVIS system (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System).
  • All J-1 exchange visa applicants must also submit form DS-7002 (Training/Internship Placement Plan) at the time of applying for the visa.
  • File the online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, DS-160. This form collects all the necessary information needed from aliens applying for nonimmigrant visas. This is submitted electronically to the Department of State. After filing DS-160, you should contact your local U.S. embassy or consulate to find out if you need to schedule an interview. Interviews are generally required for those between ages 13-79.
    • DS-160 must be completed in English. It will be rejected if you use your native language
    • Make sure you have your passport, resume, dates of your last 5 trips to the U.S., a list of travel and lodging arrangements, and SEVIS ID, which can be found on your DS-2019
  • Your passport must be valid for an additional 6 months after the expiration of your exchange visitor visa
  • You must provide a 2x2 color photograph of yourself, and your spouse and dependents if they will accompany you while in the U.S.
  • Please note that visa wait times vary so it is important to apply for your J-1 exchange visitor visa as early as possible
  • At the interview, a digital fingerprint scan will be taken, as required for entry to the U.S.


J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Application Fee:  The application processing fee is currently $140.00 USD 

Exchange Visitor Visa Issuance Fee: Exchange visitor visa applicants are not required to pay a visa issuance fee. 

Date of Entry of Exchange Visitor Visa Holders:

Exchange visitor visa holders and their spouses may enter the United States up to 30 days in advance from their program start date as noted in their Form DS-2019. Your spouse and dependents may enter at the same time under J-2 status. 

Spouse and Children of J-1 Visa Holders

Spouses and dependent children under 21 years of age may accompany the J-1 exchange visitor visa holder in the United States as long as the sponsor approves of this on Form DS-2019. Spouses and dependent children may enter at the same time the J-1 visa holder enters the U.S., or at a later date, as long as they are on DS-2019. Upon approval and entry, the will be given the appropriate J-2 status.

Entry to U.S. Under J-2 Status

In order to enter the United States, the spouse and children of J-1 visa holders must show that their names appear on DS-2109 (the sponsor must have approved your entry with the J-1 applicant). In addition, you must provide proof that the J-1 visa holder is currently under J-1 status and by providing a copy of the J-1 visa of the principal applicant. As with all other nonimmigrant visas, you must also provide evidence of the appropriate funds to cover all expenses while in the U.S.

J-1 Visa Foreign Residence Requirement

If your J-1 visa was financed in part by the U.S. government or government in your country of permanent residence, or your exchange visitor visa was for medical education or training, or the skills learned in the U.S. fall under the USCIS’s Exchange Visitors Skills List, then you will be temporarily barred from the U.S. for 2 years from the date of expiration of your J-1 visa. You may not obtain any visa within this time period.

J-1 Visa FAQ

Are J-2 Visa Holders Allowed to work in the United States?

J-2 visa holders are not normally allowed to work in the United States. In order for a J-2 visa holder to obtain lawful employment, they must file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. The USCIS must approve the I-765 in order for the J-2 visa holder to obtain employment. 

Are J-2 visa holders allowed to study while in the U.S.?

J-2 visa holders are to study at schools, colleges, universities and other for-credit institutions without obtaining separate student visas (F-1 visas).

Can spouse and children of approved J-1 visa applicants enter the U.S. before the J-1 applicant?

 The spouse and children of J-1 visa holders may not enter the U.S. before the J-1 visa holder has entered. 

What if the J-1 sponsor cannot authorize my spouse or children to enter?

If the J-1 sponsor cannot authorize your spouse and children to accompany you while in the United States, your spouse and children may obtain visitor visas for vacationing purposes only. Specifically, they may apply for a B-2 visa.

Written by:Mark Carmel