Exchange Visitor Visa

FAQ

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Overview

The United States welcomes foreign citizens who come to the United States to participate in exchange programs. Before applying for a visa, all exchange visitor applicants are required to be accepted and approved by an authorized program sponsor.  When accepted, the applicant will receive from the educational institution or program sponsors the necessary approval documentation to be submitted when applying for a visa.

The exchange visitor program's J visa is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences. Participants include students at all academic levels; trainees obtaining on-the-job training with firms, institutions, and agencies; teachers of primary, secondary, and specialized schools; professors coming to teach or do research at institutions of higher learning; research scholars; professional trainees in the medical and allied fields; and international visitors coming for the purpose of travel, observation, consultation, research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs.

How to Apply

Step 1
For Nonimmigrant Visa applicants:Determine your visa type by reading Common Nonimmigrant Visas. Each visa type explains the qualifications and application items. Choose the visa type that applies to your situation.

Be sure to also review the Visa Waiver Program. If your country participates in the Visa Waiver Program, you do not need to apply for a visa if you are travelling for business or pleasure and will only be staying in the Unites States for 90 days or less.

Note: If you are under 14 or over 79 years old, or if you previously received a U.S. visa that expired within the last 48 months or 12 months and you are returning to the United States for the same purpose of travel, you may be able to obtain a visa without coming to the consulate for an interview. Click here to learn more

Step 2
The next step is to complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.Be sure to read the Guidelines for Completing the DS-160 Form carefully. All information must be correct and accurate. Once the form is submitted, you cannot make any changes. If you need assistance, please consult an immigration lawyer or translator. The call center cannot help you complete your DS-160. You will need your DS-160 number to book your appointment.

Note: If denied visa previously please complete a new Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.

Step 3

Once you have determined the correct visa type and completed the DS-160, you must pay the visa fee. The visa fee page lists the visa types and correlating visa fee in US dollars and native currency.

To pay your visa fee, read the Bank and Payment Options page. This page explains how to make your visa fee payment. You will create a profile and must keep your receipt number to book your visa appointment

Step 4

You are almost ready to schedule your visa appointment! Now you will need to login to your profile with the same credentials you used to pay your visa fee. Once you are in the system, you will see your dashboard.Click on Schedule Appointment on the left-hand side menu. This will start the process for scheduling your appointment.

You must schedule two appointments, one for the Visa Application Center (VAC) and one for the visa interview at the Embassy or Consulate.

First, schedule your visa interview appointment at the Embassy or Consulate.

Second, schedule your appointment at a Visa Application Centre. This appointment will allow you to go to one of the five Visa Application Centre locations to have your fingerprints and photo taken. This appointment must be at least 1 day before your visa interview appointment at the Embassy or Consulate.You will need three pieces of information in order to schedule your appointment:

  • Your passport number
  • The date you paid your fee
  • The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page

As you go through the process you will be able to select your visa type, enter personal data, add dependents, select your document delivery location, confirm visa payment, and schedule your appointment.

Step 5

For your Visa Application Centre appointment, you will need to bring:

  • A passport valid for travel to the United States with validity dates at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person desiring a visa must submit an application.
  • Your DS-160 confirmation page.
  • Your appointment confirmation page.
  • One photograph as per U.S. visa specifications if the applicant is under 14 years of age. See the Photos and Fingerprints page for more details.

Step 6
Following your visit to the Visa Application Centre to have your photo and fingerprints taken,you will then visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate on the date and time of your visa interview. You must bring : 

  • A printed copy of your appointment letter,
  • Your DS-160 confirmation page 
  • Your current and all old passports
  • An approved DS-2019 from your U.S. program
  • Unless your J program is sponsored by the United States Government (with a program code beginning with a "G"), you must present your Form I-901 SEVIS fee receipt indicating you paid the SEVIS fee. The SEVIS website has more information.
  • Supporting Documents as per your visa type

Applications without all of these items will not be accepted.

Note: Children under 14 years of age are not required to attend the appointment at the Visa Application Centre or visa interview at the Embassy/Consulate. Accompany/Guardians/Parents can carry the above documents

Supporting Documents

Supporting documents are only one of many factors a consular officer will consider in your interview. Consular officers look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors during adjudication. Consular officers may look at your specific intentions, family situation, and your long-range plans and prospects within your country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.

Caution: Do not present false documents. Fraud or misrepresentation can result in permanent visa ineligibility. If confidentiality is a concern, you should bring your documents to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in a sealed envelope. The U.S. Embassy/Consulate will not make your information available to anyone and will respect the confidentiality of your information.

You should should bring the following documents to your interview:

  • Documents demonstrating strong financial, social, and family ties to your home country that will compel you to return to your country after your program of study in the United States ends.
  • Financial and any other documents you believe will support your application and which give credible evidence that you have enough readily-available funds to meet all expenses for the first year of study and that you have access to funds sufficient to cover all expenses while you remain in the United States.
  • Photocopies of bank statements will not be accepted unless you can also show original copies of bank statements or original bank books.
  • If you are financially sponsored by another person, bring proof of your relationship to the sponsor (such as your birth certificate), the sponsor's most recent original tax forms and the sponsor's bankbooks and/or fixed deposit certificates.
  • Academic documents that show scholastic preparation. Useful documents include school transcripts (original copies are preferred) with grades, public examination certificates (A-levels, etc.), standardized test scores (SAT, TOEFL, etc.), diplomas, and information about your intended program of academic study.

Dependents

Spouses, including same-sex spouses, and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal visa holder of a J-1 visa to the United States for the duration of his/her stay must have J-2 visas. Spouses or children who do not intend to reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but who will visit for vacations only, may be eligible to apply for visitor (B-2) visas.

The spouse and/or child of an exchange visitor in the United States may not work while holding a J-2 visa unless they have filed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must have reviewed the Form I-765 and given permission to the J-2 holder to work. The USCIS website has a PDF document titled "Employment Authorization" that has more information.

Supporting Documents for Dependents

If you have dependents, you must also provide:

  • Proof of your relationship to your spouse and/or child (e.g., marriage and birth certificates).
  • Each spouse or child must have their own Form DS-2019. This form is used to obtain the visa required for the spouse/child to enter the United States with you as the principal holder of an exchange visitor visa, or to join you in the United States at a later date.

More Information

For more information about visas for exchange visitors, visit the Department of State's website.