The Exchange Visitor Program is also known as the J-1 Visa program. It is for individuals who want to travel to the United States for the purpose of teaching, conducting research, studying as a student or to gain on-the-job training and experience. Depending on the program, an exchange visitor visa participant may stay for as little as a few weeks or as long as several years.
Exchange Visitor visas are extremely popular with more than 300,000 participants from over 200 countries who come to the United States annually under a J-1 visa. Of these, about 80 percent are under 30 years old. There are also in excess of 1,400 U.S. profit, non-profit and government sponsors who are designated as approved by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Whether you’re a student, physician, scholar, teacher or summer work participant or any other qualified participant in one of the 14 programs under the Exchange Visitor Program visa umbrella, you might be a bit intimidated by the requirements and unique characteristics of each of the programs. Navigating through the visa process can be a bit intimidating because there are several forms to keep track of and timeframes to be kept.
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That’s where Eligibility.com can help you. In most instances, you can access the information you need by reading this guide or through our website. But if you want more help, we’re standing by and ready to assist.
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Visitor Exchange Program Categories and Descriptions
|College and University Student||
|Professor and Research Scholar||
|Secondary School Student||
|Summer Work Travel||
Exchange Visitor Program Details
In most cases, J-1 visa applicants are sponsored by a United States based organization or hosted by American families or employers. Sponsors will screen candidates to make sure they are eligible for a particular program, and all participants must prove they are proficient in English and have medical insurance for the duration of their stay in the United States.
Sponsors will issue a Certificate of Eligibility of Exchange Visitor Status, Form DS-2019 after J-1 applicants have registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
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Sponsors must make sure program participants have adequate information and understand contractual obligations before a participant leaves their home country. Sponsors must also conduct an orientation for participants after they arrive in the U.S.
In some instances, when your exchange visitor program ends, you will be required to return to your home country for two years. Depending on the program, J-1 Visa holders may also be able to extend their visa and visitor status beyond what is listed on their Form-2019.
Applying for an Exchange Visitor Program Visa
There are several steps you must take to apply for a J-1 Visa. The exact steps will vary slightly depending on your country of origin, however, these are the general steps you must follow to apply.
- Once you have secured a sponsoring organization, complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160.
- When you have done so, print the application confirmation page and be prepared to bring it to an interview that will be scheduled at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence.
- As part of completing the application you will need to upload a photo of yourself as well. Photos must be in color, taken within the last six months, and meet other requirements.
- Applicants must prove they meet all criteria during an interview by a U.S. consular official. If you are 13 or younger, or 80 or older, an interview will generally not be required, however, officials reserve the right to interview anyone no matter what their age is.
- Applicants must also pay a nonimmigrant visa application fee. Currently, the application fee is $160, but is subject to change.
For families and spouses of J-1 Visa holders
Spouses and dependents who are unmarried children under the age of 21 of J-1 visa holders can apply for a J-2 visa. This gives them the right to travel with or later join a J-1 visa holder in the U.S. Eligibility varies by program, and some programs do not allow for a J-2 visa at all.
For more information
Go to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs website page for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa.
Visit the Department of State’s J-1 Visa home page.
View our Ultimate Guide to Visas.