How to Apply for a J1 Visa

Individuals planning to participate in a work and study based exchange visitor program in the United States must apply for a J1 visa. When applying for a J1 visa, applicants must first select an exchange visitor program and determine their eligibility for that J1 visa program. The J1 visa application involves completing Form DS-2019 and sending the appropriate filing fees. For the complete details on how to get a J1 visa, read the following steps for the J1 visa application process below.

J1 Visa Application Process

Step 1: Choose an Exchange Visitor Program

The first step of how to apply for a J1 visa is to choose a J1 exchange visitor program. There are multiple exchange visitor programs, which include the following J1 visa programs.

  • Au Pair
  • Camp Counselor
  • College and University Student
  • Government Visitor
  • Intern
  • International Visitor
  • Physician
  • Professor & Research Scholar
  • Secondary school Student
  • Short Term Scholar
  • Specialist
  • Summer Work Travel
  • Teacher
  • Trainee

Step 2: Determine Eligibility

Once you select your J1 visa program, but before you apply for a J1 visa, you should determine your eligibility for that program. There are different J1 visa eligibility criteria depending on the program, but all programs require that the participant fulfill an English Language proficiency test such as TOFEL, IBT, IELTS, PTE, TOEIC, CAE, or CPE. When applying for J1 visa, applicants should remember that they must have medical insurance for themselves and their dependents on J2 visa.

In short, anyone applying for J1 visa must have the following in order to be eligible for an exchange visitor program in the US.

  • Proficiency in the English language; and
  • J1 health insurance.

Sponsors are responsible for providing pre-arrival information and a post-arrival orientation for all participants, as well as ensuring that their program is consistent with the J1 program category.

Step 3: Find a Sponsor

Once the participant chooses from one of the above programs, he/she needs to contact a designated sponsor. A designated sponsor is a state department approved sponsor who is authorized to supervise the application process, they also stand as a single point of contact for participants willing to apply for J1 visa. J1 visa applicants can choose different state department designated sponsors on the basis of their program and choice of the state they wish to travel to in Unites States. For example, an applicant can choose an Intern program in the state of Illinois from the listed sponsors and contact them.

Step 4: Complete Form DS-2019

A program sponsor will review the application of the J1 visa applicant and issue Form DS-2019 to prospective applicants selected for the J1 visa program. Form DS-2019 consists of detailed information such as:

  • Participant identification
  • Sponsor identification
  • Brief description of the program activity to be completed by participant
  • Duration of stay including the start and end dates of program
  • Category of exchange
  • Estimated cost of the exchange program

Participants should bring Form DS-2019 to the US Embassy or Consulate they are visiting to obtain their J1 Visa.

Step 5: Pay Application Fees

There are three kinds of J1 visa application fees participants must provide when applying for J1 visa.

  • Program Fee: The program fees vary from sponsor to sponsor. This fee is excluded for federally funded programs.
  • SEVIS Fee: Post acceptance into a program, sponsor will issue Form DS-2019. The sponsor will inform the participant if he/she needs to pay separate SEVIS fee or if it is included in the program fee. If the sponsor has paid on the behalf of applicant, then the applicant will receive a receipt confirming payment.
  • Visa Fee: A nonimmigrant visa processing fee is charged at the US Embassy or Consulate, which may vary from time to time.

J1 Visa Required Documents

J1 applicants for all J1 exchange visitor programs must submit the following documents with their applications.

  • DS-2019 Form, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status. Form DS-2019 briefly describes the exchange visitor program and allows the J1 applicant to schedule an interview at the US Embassy or Consulate in their country.
  • Form DS-7002, Training/Internship Placement Plan, for J1 visa trainee and intern applicants.
  • Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application.
  • Passport valid for travel to the United States. Passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the end date of the applicant's intended stay in the US.
  • Photograph.

Additional documentation may be required, so be sure to check the US Embassy website for your specific requirements.

J1 visa applicants must also demonstrate ties to their home country, showing the US Embassy or Consulate that they have no intention to stay in the US after the completion of their exchange visitor program. Specific evidence for this requirement varies depending on the applicant.

J1 Visa Interview

Applicants ages 14 to 79 are required to interview at a US Embassy or Consulate. J1 visa applicants should submit their visa application early, since the wait time for a visa interview appointment can take a while.