J1 exchange visitor visa guide

Learn how to apply for a J1 visa to study in the US

In this article,

What is a J1 visa?

If you want to do a work/study exchange programme in the US you need to get a J1 exchange visitor visa. This visa will permit you to enter the country and stay for the duration of your programme. You need to get a J2 visa for your dependents if you plan on bringing them along with you to the US. 

What are the eligibility requirements?

To be eligible to apply for a J1 visa, you need to be accepted for one of the following exchange programmes by a designated sponsor.

  • Trainee
  • Short term scholar
  • International visitor
  • College/University student
  • Intern
  • Secondary school student
  • Summer work travel
  • Teacher
  • Specialist
  • Professor/research scholar
  • Camp counsellor
  • Physician
  • Au-pair

Each type of programme has its own set of eligibility requirements like English language proficiency tests. Check your designated sponsor’s website regarding additional eligibility criteria for the programme of your choice. 

Document checklist:

    • Your valid passport
    • One passport size photograph
    • DS – 160 (online nonimmigrant visa electronic application)
    • DS – 2019 (certificate of eligibility for exchange visitor status)
    • DS – 7002 (training or internship placement plan)
    • SEVIS 1-901 fee payment receipt
    • Non-immigrant visa processing fee payment receipt

    How to apply?

    Step 1

    After a designated sponsor accepts you into an exchange programme, go ahead and fill out the following forms and submit them. 

    • DS-2019 (Your designated sponsor will issue this two-page form) 
    • DS-7002 
    • DS-160 

    You can find the last two forms on the US Department of State website.

    Step 2

    Pay the following processing charges.

    • SEVIS I-901. You need to pay this fee to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement website. Some designated sponsors might add this fee to the exchange programme’s fee. Check with your sponsor before paying and get a copy of the receipt if it is a part of your programme fee.
    • Non-immigrant visa processing fee. You need to pay this by visiting the Department of State’s Fee for Visa Services webpage. You will be exempt from paying if you are participating in a programme with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Government, Department of State or if you are participating in a US Government funded educational and cultural exchange programme.

    Take a print out of the payment receipts and keep the physical copy with you for verification during your visa interview.

    Step 3

    Book an appointment for a visa interview in your nearest US embassy or consulate. Plan in advance because the wait time for interview bookings can vary based on your location and your nearest embassy.

    Step 4

    Go to the visa interview with all the required documents. The visa officer will ask you questions about your background, your programme and the reasons behind your decision to travel.

    For more on US visa interviews, read, ‘How to clear your US visa interview?’ 

    You will be informed about the status of your visa application after your interview.