Exchange Visitor Visa

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Overview

The United States welcomes foreign citizens who come to the U.S. 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.

Dependents

Spouses 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 or to travel on the Visa Waiver Program.

The spouse and/or child of an exchange visitor in the U.S. 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 details.

Application Items

To apply for a J visa, you must submit the following:

  • A Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) Form. Visit the DS-160 webpage for more information about the DS-160.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date 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.
  • One (1) 2"x2" (5cmx5cm) photograph. This web page has information about the required photo format.
  • Unless your J program is sponsored by the United States Government (with a program code beginning with a "G"), you must present a receipt showing payment of your US$160 non-refundable nonimmigrant visa application processing fee, paid in local currency. This web page has more information about paying this fee. If a visa is issued, there may be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, depending on your nationality. The Department of State's website can help you find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is.
  • An approved DS-2019 from your U.S. program.
  • You must pay your Form I-901 SEVIS fee. The SEVIS website has more information. Applicants participating in a U.S. Government sponsored program (programs whose codes begin with G-1, G-2, G-3, G-7) are not required to pay the SEVIS fee.

In addition to these items, you must present an interview appointment letter confirming that you booked an appointment through this service. You may also bring whatever supporting documents you believe support the information provided to the consular officer.

How to Apply

Step 1
Pay the visa application fee.

Step 2
Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.

Step 3
Schedule your appointment on this web page. You will need three pieces of information in order to schedule your appointment:

      • Your passport number
      • The date you paid your fee (either at Australia Post or online by credit card)
      • The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page

Step 4
Visit the U.S. Consulate on the date and time of your visa interview. You will need to bring a printed copy of your appointment letter, your DS-160 confirmation page, one recent photograph, your current and all old passports, and the original visa fee payment receipt. Applications without all of these items will not be accepted.

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 Consulate in a sealed envelope. The Consulate will not make your information available to anyone and will respect the confidentiality of your information.

You should bring the following documents to your interview. Original documents are always preferred over photocopies and you must bring these documents with you to the interview. Do not fax, email or mail any supporting documents to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate.

  • 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 U.S. 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.), and diplomas.

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 U.S. with you as the principal holder of an exchange visitor visa, or to join you in the U.S. at a later date.

Australia Summer Work Travel Pilot Program

What kind of visa do I need in order to enter the U.S. on the 12-month Student Work and Travel Pilot Program?

The 12-month Student Work and Travel Pilot Program, falls under the existing exchange visitor category. Under this visa category, international visitors experience and contribute to U.S. culture by participating in programs approved by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Student Work and Travel Pilot Program allow participants to combine work, and travel in the United States for up to 12 months.

What is the difference between the B-1/B-2 business and tourist visa and the Student Work and Travel Pilot Program visa?

Australian participants in the Student Work and Travel Pilot Program may work and travel in the U.S. for up to 12 months. The B-1/B-2 business and tourist visa allows short stays to conduct business meetings, attend conferences, visit family, or engage in other temporary business or tourist activities. B-1/B-2 visa holders may not work or study in the U.S.

What are the eligibility requirements for the visa?

The Student Work and Travel Pilot Program is based on the existing Exchange Visitor Program. In addition to the requirements for other exchange visa programs, participants traveling to the U.S. on the Student Work and Travel Pilot Program must also:

  • Be a citizen of Australia;
  • Be a bona fide post-secondary student or recent graduate, and provide evidence from post-secondary institution to this effect; and
  • Not be accompanied by dependents.

Unlike participants in the Summer Work and Travel Program, Student Work and Travel Program participants are not required to return home in time for the academic school year to begin.

What is the first step in the application process?

As with all exchange visitor visas, you must obtain sponsorship from an exchange visitor program approved by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Why do I need a sponsor? Who are the sponsors?

Sponsorship is a standard U.S. visa requirement for exchange visitor applicants. Participants must secure sponsorship from an approved Student Work and Travel Program Sponsor.

Further information on program sponsorship for the Student Work and Travel Pilot Program can be obtained by contacting the individual sponsors. Additional information on exchange visitor programs is available on the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Website.

Will the sponsoring organization find me a job? Do I need to have guaranteed employment to participate?

Designated sponsors are obliged to offer job placement, but it is not mandatory for the applicant. For those participants for whom employment has not been pre-arranged, sponsors must:

  • Ensure that participants have sufficient financial resources to support themselves during their search for employment;
  • Provide participants with pre-departure information that explains how to seek employment and secure lodging in the United States;
  • Prepare and provide a job directory that includes as many job listings as the number of participants entering the United States without pre-arranged employment; and,
  • Undertake reasonable efforts to secure suitable employment for participants unable to find jobs on their own after one week.

Once I have a sponsor, how do I apply for my visa?

Once you have obtained approval from a designated U.S. program sponsor, you may then apply for your visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Evidence of your acceptance into a designated program is Form DS-2019, issued to you by the program sponsor. For comprehensive information on how to apply for a visa at U.S. Consulates in Australia, including the documents necessary to complete the application process, click here.

Do all program sponsors require fees?

Individual sponsoring organizations set their administrative fees based on the nature and extent of the services included in the program. Please direct any inquiries regarding program fees to the sponsoring organization you are considering.

What is "post-secondary education" for the purposes of this program?

To be considered a bona fide post-secondary student, the potential participant must have completed his/her freshman (first) year of a post-high school program such as a Bachelor's degree program or other course which will lead to the issuance of a degree.

Can students who study online or through distance learning be eligible for this program? Can the study be conducted part time?

No. In order to qualify for the 12 month program, the study must be completed on a full time basis in a classroom.

What is meant by the term "recent graduate" for the purposes of this program?

A recent graduate is an Australian citizen who has graduated from a post-secondary college/university in his or her home country within the last 12 months. The applicant must provide evidence of student status. For further guidance, please refer to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Website.

Are students attending vocational schools eligible for participation in this program?

The requirements are that an Australian citizen wishing to travel to the United States must qualify as a student; that is, someone who is currently enrolled in a bona fide post-secondary course of study or who has completed/graduated from a bona fide post-secondary course of study within the last 12 months. Evidence to this effect must be provided.

Students attending vocational studies at TAFE are also eligible to participate in the Student Work and Travel Program. The U.S. State Department has determined that TAFE meets the educational requirements of the Student Work and Travel Program.

Refer to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Website.

How long may I stay on the Student Work and Travel Pilot Program?

A valid U.S. visa allows a traveler to arrive at a port of entry in the United States any time during the validity of the visa. Permission to enter the United States, and the length of stay granted on each visit, is at the discretion of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), part of the Department of Homeland Security. The initial visa may be valid for up to twelve months from the date of issuance, and participants will generally be granted permission to remain in the United States for the entire duration of their status as a program participant. Participants will need to apply for new visas at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas if they depart the United States after their initial visa expires and they wish to return to the United States.

Can I adjust to a different visa status once I am in the United States?

Once you are in the United States you are responsible for maintaining the correct immigration status with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For further information on changing to a different visa status once in the United States, you may visit the USCIS website.

Is there an age limit for the Student Work and Travel Pilot Program?

No.

Is there a limit on the number of visas issued?

The Student Work and Travel Program can only be entered into once, so only one visa can be issued for this particular program. However, applicants may complete other J1 programs afterward or before the 12 month program.

Are there any restrictions on the type of work that can be accepted on the Student Work and Travel Pilot Program?

Participants may accept a professional level position; however they may not be employed as domestic employees in U.S. households (E.g. child care, chauffeurs, gardeners, etc.); in positions requiring them to invest their own money for inventory (such as door-to-door sales); or in any employment involving any type of patient care (dentists, doctors, vets, nurses, physical therapists, etc.). Most participants typically work in non-skilled service positions at resorts, hotels, restaurants, and amusement parks. Summer internships in US businesses and other organizations (i.e., architecture, science research, graphic art/publishing and other media communication, advertising, computer software and electronics, and legal offices, etc.) are allowed.

More Information

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