To enter the United States as a non-US citizen, you will almost always need a visa. If you are participating in one of the J1 Visa programs, you can get a J-1 exchange visitor visa and come to the United States for a brief stay. If you want to participate in one of these programs, you must first identify a sponsoring organization and then apply for the J1 visa.
In this article, we’ll learn more about J1 visas and how to get one, but first, let’s discuss the US exchange visitor program.
About the US Exchange Visitor Program
The US Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program promotes cultural exchange between Americans and people from all around the world.
Each program provides participants with a one-of-a-kind, intensive learning experience in an academic, professional, or cultural sector.
Participants in the US Exchange Visitor Program can share their own culture while learning about American culture.
It also allows participants to hone the language, professional, and interpersonal skills that will help them in their future employment.
There are 15 categories in the exchange guest program.
Each category has its own set of J-1 visa criteria and rules for participation.
If you fall into one of the following categories, you may be qualified to participate in an exchange program:
Academics who facilitate the interchange of ideas and research
Academics who collaborate with American universities to do research and share ideas.
Achieved scholars who plan to lecture, observe, consult, or train at institutions in the United States.
The professionals obtaining exposure and job experience in the United States
Students or recent graduates completing an internship in the United States
College & University Students
Students enrolled in a degree program at a recognized post-secondary institution.
Full-time employment in a primary or secondary school
Secondary School Students
High School Exchange Students
Specialists visiting the United States to offer their experience
Doctors who are watching, consulting, teaching, studying, or pursuing additional medical training in the United States
Youngsters’ workers, instructors, and students who travel to camps to connect with American youth
Young people who provide in-home childcare while attending classes at a recognized school.
Summer Work Travel
Post-secondary students acquiring work experience in seasonal or temporary roles
What is a J1 visa?
The J-1 visa is a non-immigrant US visa that permits people to work and study in the United States at the same time.
Individuals who desire to visit the United States as part of a work and travel program are granted a temporary visa.
Individuals can apply for a variety of J-1 Visa categories based on their needs and qualifying criteria.
The candidate will need to identify a sponsoring organization to carry out the application procedure, depending on the kind of J-1 Visa program.
J-1 Visa versus F-1 Visa for Students
Both the J-1 exchange visitor visa and the F-1 student visa let high school and college or university students study in the United States. International students, especially study abroad students, are often eligible for F-1 student visas.
Here are some of the key distinctions between F-1 and J-1 student visas:
- Primarily supported by a university or the government
- For on- or off-campus work, clearance from a program sponsor is required.
- Spouses or dependents on a J-2 visa may be eligible for employment privileges and may study in the United States part-time or full-time.
Any type of financial assistance is acceptable.
University students are permitted to work on-campus but not off-campus.
Spouses or dependents on an F-2 visa are not permitted to work and may only enroll in recreational academic programs or non-full-time academic programs (however, children are allowed to attend full-time primary or secondary school)
Eligibility to Apply for a J-1 Visa
The application criteria for a J-1 exchange visitor visa differ depending on the category.
You may find complete listings of J-1 visa criteria for each program on the Exchange Visitor Program’s website.
Two prerequisites, however, apply to all exchange program participants:
- Language proficiency in English
- Adequate medical insurance that satisfies the insurance criteria of the J-1 visa
All J-1 visa candidates must show English language competency.
The majority of participants can do so by completing an English proficiency exam for non-native speakers, such as IELTS, TOEIC, or TOEFL.
Candidates must additionally have medical insurance that fulfills the following minimum benefit levels:
- Medical coverage of at least $100,000 is provided for each accident or illness.
- The cost of repatriating remains is USD 25,000.
- Expenses for a medical evacuation for $50,000
- A $500 maximum deductible per accident or sickness
- Your main medical insurance policy may not cover accidents or illnesses that occur while studying abroad in the United States.
- To satisfy the J-1 visa insurance requirements, you may need to obtain travel medical insurance.
Before Applying for a J-1 Visa
Before you can begin the J-1 visa application procedure, you must first find a J-1 program sponsor and enroll in an exchange visitor program. You must then pay two fees.
These fees vary depending on the specifics of your program.
You should get a breakdown of these expenses from your sponsor.
Participants enrolled in a federally supported exchange program are free from program fees.
The SEVIS charge is used to pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) (SEVIS). This cost may be paid on your behalf by your sponsor.
If they do, they must give a payment receipt. This receipt will be required during the J-1 visa application procedure.
If your sponsor fails to pay the SEVIS charge, you must pay it yourself at the official website. The charge might range from $35 to $350, depending on a variety of criteria.
Application processing fee –
All applicants seeking a non-immigrant visa must pay the non-immigrant visa application processing cost.
A receipt is required for the interview procedure once payment has been paid.
Applicants in the G-1, G-2, G-3 or G-7 categories using the form DS-2019 are exempt from paying the visa fee.
How to Apply for a J-1 Visa?
The sequence in which you must complete the processes to get a J-1 exchange visitor visa varies per US consulate or embassy.
The application procedure mentioned below follows a standard sequence of procedures.
Before commencing the application procedure, you should consult with your local institution to establish the particular sequence of activities required by your consulate or embassy.
Step 1: Find a Sponsor.
When applying for a J1 visa, you must locate a designated sponsor who will accept you into their program.
Many of these sponsoring organizations may deploy individuals around the United States, regardless of their actual location.
The official list of recognized sponsor groups may be found on the website of the United States Department of State.
Keep in mind that many organizations check their participants and aim for people with strong English language abilities.
Your sponsoring organizations can also advise you on how to apply for a J1 visa.
Step 2: Fill out the DS-2019 application.
After you have applied for and been authorized by a designated sponsor organization, you must submit the DS-2019 Form, also known as the “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status.”
This form is one of the official documents used by the US Department of State to obtain an interview with a US embassy or consulate.
If your spouse or child(ren) will accompany you, they will be handed a separate DS-2019 form.
This two-page document is supplied by your chosen sponsoring organization and includes a summary of the exchange program, including the start and conclusion dates, as well as the program fee (with a breakdown of financial support).
Step 3. Pay Your Fees
As part of your J-1 visa application, you will be required to pay a SEVIS I-901 fee to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or this charge may already be included in your program costs to your sponsoring employer.
It is critical to establish with your sponsor if it will be paid by you or for you.
If your sponsor pays the SEVIS fee on your behalf, make sure to obtain a receipt as proof of payment.
Another cost you must pay is the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Processing Fee of $160, which may be paid by visiting the Department of State’s Fee for Visa Services.
Participants in a U.S. Government, Department of State, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), or a U.S. Government financed cultural and educational exchange program are free from the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Fee as part of their J-1 visa application.
Step 4: Schedule an interview with a US Embassy or Consulate.
Final approval by a consular officer at a US embassy or consulate is required for your J-1 visa application to be approved.
Waiting periods for appointments might vary depending on where you live, so it’s crucial to plan ahead of time to ensure you have enough time before your program starts.
If you are traveling with a spouse and/or a kid, you can make an appointment for those family members.
During the interview, you will be questioned about the program, your plans after the program, how you intend to finance your expenditures, and so on.
It is critical to emphasize that your objective is to complete the program and return to your native country if it is terminated.
Prepare to demonstrate your connection to your home country and bring any evidence that might further demonstrate your connection back home.
You must present the following documentation to the US Embassy or Consulate when applying for a J1 visa:
- Eligibility Certificate for Exchange Visitor Status (DS-2019 Form).
- A Training/Internship Placement Plan on Form DS-7002 (for exchange visitor trainees or intern visa applicants)
- The form DS-160, Electronic Application for Nonimmigrant Visa
- A passport is valid for travel to the United States that is valid for at least six months beyond the expected term of stay in the United States.
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Employment with a J-1 Visa
Although J-1 visa holders are permitted to work, they are not permitted to engage in any other paid activity unless it is indicated on their Form DS-2019.
This might result in the loss of J-1 visa status indefinitely.
You may, however, seek work from a company other than the J-1 program sponsor if the sort of employment is authorized under the exchange program category’s requirements.
You must also seek consent from the competent officer of your program sponsor.
J-1 visa holders are theoretically ineligible for a green card in the United States because they do not have a “dual intent” visa, which is a nonimmigrant visa that permits holders to pursue a green card without risking their nonimmigrant status.
However, applying for a green card is not impossible.
A J-1 visa holder must first determine his or her eligibility.
If you are qualified for a green card, you can file an immigrant visa petition without jeopardizing your present status.
The move will not be simple, but you can do your best with the assistance of an expert immigration attorney.
J-1 Visa Extension
The J-1 visa will be extended based on the norms and criteria of the applicant’s unique Visitor Exchange Program.
The IAP-66 or Certificate of Eligibility can be used to establish the applicant’s length of stay for the program.
The maximum length of stay cannot exceed the entire amount specified under the program.
The J-1 visa extension must be approved by both the program and the program sponsor.