Exchange Visitor Visa

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.

As a former exchange visitor, you may not be issued an immigrant, fiancé(e), temporary worker or intracompany transferee visa until you have resided and been physically present in your country of nationality or last residence for at least two years following the completion of your exchange visitor program if one or more of the following conditions applies:

  • The program was financed by the United States government or the government of your country of nationality or last residence.
  • You are a national or resident of a country which the Secretary of State has designated as clearly requiring the services of people in the field of specialized knowledge or skills in which you were engaged during the exchange visitor program (no skills are listed as being required for Japan). For details about skill list, please visit State Department site.
  • You are a physician who entered the United States to receive medical education or training (except for programs involving exclusively teaching research or consultation).

Training Program

While the J-1 training program may contain a small portion of productive work normally performed by a regular employee, the primary focus of the program must be training and skill development. The trainee may not replace or augment the regular staff by filling a position that would otherwise be held by a regular employee. Providing a detailed training plan is helpful to determine eligibility.

Internships

If you wish to pursue practical training through an internship with a U.S. based employer you will require either an exchange visitor (J-1) or trainee (H-3) visa. Such activities cannot be conducted on a B-2 visa or visa free under the Waiver Program, even if you will receive no payment from a U.S. source.

Entry and Length of Stay

The holder of an exchange visitor J-1 visa may enter the United States up to 30 days before the designated start date on the DS-2019 (the 30 day entrance limitation does not apply to those returning to continue with the program) and remain for up to 30 days after the completion date on the DS-2019.

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.

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 information.

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 web page 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 color photograph 2"x2" (5cmx5cm) taken within 6 month against white background (Please attach your photo upside down on the upper left corner of DS-160 confirmation page). This web page has information about the required photo format. *Starting November 1, 2016, applicants are not permitted to wear eyeglasses in photos.
  • An interview appointment letter confirming that you booked an appointment through this service.
  • An approved DS-2019 from your U.S. program.
  • A DS-7002(Trainee/Intern only): J1 applicants under "trainee" or "intern" categories will be required to submit a fully completed and signed Form DS-7002 from the program sponsor if Form DS-2019 was issued after July 19, 2007.
  • 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. For quick reference, click here (PDF)!

Non-Japanese applicants must also include:

  • Photocopy (both sides) of the Japanese Alien Registration Card or “Zairyu” card

NOTE: You should have your DS-2019 with you at your appointment. It is important that you schedule your appointment well in advance. Please select a date on which you expect to have your DS-2019. If your program starting date is a month or less away, you may come to your appointment without your DS-2019 and mail it directly to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate as soon as it arrives.

In addition to these items, please also bring whatever supporting documents you believe support the information provided to the consular officer. 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.

How to Apply

  • Application procedures vary between consular posts. Click here for complete details.
  • J program sponsored by the U.S. Government has a program code beginning with a G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-7 printed on the Form DS-2019: Those applicants are required interviews but not required to pay the visa application fees and SEVIS fee (Fulbright scholar program, for example).  For details, please see Diplomats and Other Government Officials.  For applying at Tokyo, you may come for interviews on Monday afternoons without an appointment.

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 Embassy or Consulate in a sealed envelope. The Embassy or 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. English translations must be attached to all documents which are in a foreign language

  • 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.

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).
  • A copy of the principal applicant's visa if dependents apply for their visas at a later date.
  • 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.

Supporting Documents for Applicants Seeking Visas to Attend Science and Technology Courses

Applicants going to the U.S. to follow a science or technology-related course of study must bring the following documentation in addition to the documents listed above:

  • Complete CV or resume
  • Complete list of publications, if applicable
  • A letter of acceptance/invitation from the school

More Information

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