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Visa Types

Exchange Visitor (J)

Exchange visitor (J-1) visas are appropriate for persons going to the U.S. as part of officially approved programs sponsored by educational or other nonprofit institutions. These programs include post graduate students, medical students coming to the United States as residents or interns, foreign scholars sponsored by universities as temporary faculty, and some business trainees. There are also several exchange visitor programs for young people, including summer employment programs, intern programs for university students, and au-pair programs.

Qualifying for an Exchange Visitor Visa

To be eligible for an exchange visitor visa, the applicant must:

  • Be accepted by a designated exchange visitor program which will issue a SEVIS  (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) compliant form DS-2019 "Certificate of Eligibility". The form must be completed and sent to the applicant by the sponsoring organization in the United States. It will bear a "program number," have a bar code on the right-hand side and must be completed in full.

    Note: You should have your original valid Form DS-2019 when you come to your visa interview appointment. We cannot process your visa application until you submit your original form DS-2019.
  • Payment of $180 SEVIS fee. You must pay this fee before applying for a visa. The SEVIS fee must be paid at least three business days prior to the visa interview date if paying electronically. If submitting payment through regular mail, the SEVIS fee must be paid at least 15 business days prior to the scheduled visa interview. Additional information about SEVIS fee procedures is available on the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website.
  • Demonstrate that they plan to remain in the U.S. for a temporary, specific, limited period;
  • Provide evidence of funds to cover expenses in the U.S.;
  • Provide evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.

Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence (Foreign Residence) Requirement

When you agree to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program and your program falls under the conditions explained below, you will be subject to the two-year home-country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement. This means you will be required to return to your home country for two years at the end of your exchange visitor program. This requirement under immigration law is based on Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, and Title 22 Part 40 and Part 41 in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Two-year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement Conditions - An exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home country physical presence requirement if the following conditions exist:

  • Government funded exchange program - The program in which the exchange visitor was participating was financed in whole or in part directly or indirectly by the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitor's nationality or last residence;
  • Graduate medical education or training - The exchange visitor entered the U.S. to receive graduate medical education or training;
  • Specialized knowledge or skill: Skills List - The exchange visitor is a national or permanent resident of a country which has deemed the field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of the country, as shown on the Exchange Visitor Skills List. Review the Exchange Visitor Skills List 2009.

Change of Status and Waivers of Requirement - If the exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home-country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement, he or she cannot change his/her status to that of H, L, K, or immigrant lawful permanent resident (LPR) until he or she has returned to his/her home country for at least two-years or received a waiver of that requirement. Such waivers may be requested and if approved, obtained under these five separate bases:

  • No Objection Statement;
  • Exceptional Hardship;
  • Persecution;
  • Conrad Program, or
  • Interested Government Agency


Only spouses and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 can qualify for J visa to accompany or join the principal visa holder in the U.S. for the duration of his/her studies. Spouses and/or children who do not intend to reside in the U.S., but who wish to only make short visits, may be eligible to apply for a visitor visas (B). The spouse and children can also apply for visas after the principal applicant has already traveled.

In general, they must present the following:

  • Form DS-2019, SEVIS generated, and approved by the sponsor
  • Proof that the principal applicant (the person who received the DS-2019 or IAP-66) is maintaining his/her J visa status
  • Copy of the principal applicant J-1's visa
  • Proof of relationship to the principal applicant
  • Proof of sufficient fund to cover all expenses in the U.S.

Spouses and children of exchange visitors may not enter the U.S. before the principal exchange visitor entered for the first time.

Visa Fees

The current machine readable visa application fee for J visa is $160.00.

Additional Information

  • You may not apply for your exchanged visitor visa more than 120 days prior to the start date on your Form DS-2019.  You may not enter the United States on exchange visitor visa more than 30 days before the designated start date on the DS-2019 (the 30 day entrance limitation does not apply to those returning to continue with the program) and remain for up to 30 days after the completion date on the DS-2019.
  • No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore, final travel plans or the purchase of non refundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.
  • Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport. You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.