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.

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 or 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 (1) 2"x2" (5cmx5cm) photograph taken within the last six months. 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.
  • 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.

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 need three pieces of information in order to schedule your appointment:

  • Your passport number
  • Your MRV fee payment receipt
  • The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page
Step 4

Visit the U.S. Embassy on the date and time of your visa interview. You must bring a printed copy of your appointment letter, your DS-160 confirmation page, one photograph taken within the last six months, 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 Embassy in a sealed envelope. The Embassy 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:

  • 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.

More Information

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

Interview Waiver for F, M, J (academic) visas

The Department of State (the Department) has waived, through December 31, 2021, the in-person interview requirement for F, M, and J visa applicants qualifying as secondary and university students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (“academic J visa applicants”) who were previously issued any class of visa, subject to certain conditions.  

The Department has also waived the in-person interview requirement for first-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) participating countries, subject to the same limitations described above. 

The Department has also exempted from the requirement for collecting fingerprints, through the end of 2021, first-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of VWP participating countries who qualify for this proposed interview waiver.  

The Department authorized waiving the visa interview requirement for nationals of all countries, except for the People’s Republic of China and Nigeria. 

F, M, and academics J visa applicants that may benefit from the waiver are: 

  • Applicants who were previously issued any class of visa and who have never been refused a visa, unless such refusal was overcome or a waiver of ineligibility has been obtained. For example, if an applicant was previously refused under INA section 214(b) but subsequently issued a visa, they would be considered having overcome the prior 214(b) refusal.
  • First-time and returning student applicants who are citizens or nationals of VWP participating countries and who have no derogatory or potentially derogatory information and no prior ESTA denials.

 Interviews cannot be waived:

  • If an applicant was previously refused, unless such refusal was overcome or a waiver of ineligibility has been obtained.  As noted above, applicants previously refused under INA section 214(b) and subsequently issued a visa at a later interview would be considered as having overcome their prior refusal; 
  • If an applicant was previously denied ESTA as part of the VWP;
  • If there is any indication the applicant may be ineligible or potentially ineligible for a visa based upon derogatory information the officer has at post that the officer cannot resolve without an interview, including if the applicant is associated with an adverse lookout in the Consular Lookout and Support System that you cannot rule out;
  • If the applicant is not a national or resident of the country in which s/he is applying;
  • If the applicant is a national of a country designated by the Secretary of State as a state sponsor of terrorism; 
  • If a student IW applicant has a SEVIS hit, follow guidance at 9 FAM 303.3.  If you are not able to overcome the hit using the available records, you must interview the applicant to resolve the hit and the applicant does not qualify for interview waiver.  Document the decision as detailed in the existing guidance; or
  • If the adjudicating consular officer otherwise believes the applicant should be interviewed, for any reason.

The interview waiver process is not available for J visas for Summer Work & Travel, Au Pair and language training.

Drop box for F, M and J(academic) interview waiver: 

1. Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form and print the confirmation page. 

2. Pay the visa application fee here.

3. Use the online appointment system https://ustraveldocs.com/cr/index.html to register (Create Account), click on New Application/Schedule Appointment and enter the information requested. If you meet the F,M J (academic) qualifications, print the Appointment Confirmation Letter and take it to the branch of Correos de Costa Rica on the date indicated on the confirmation letter. You will also have to attach the following documentation:

    • Current, valid passport. ​​
    • If the applicant's current or previous visa was issued in another passport, include that passport as well. ​​
    • DS-160 electronic application form confirmation. ​​
    • Current 5cmx5cm photograph taken within the last six months on a white background with no glasses. For information on photo requirements, please visit: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/photos.html ​​
    • Visa fee receipt. ​​
    • If the applicant is not a citizen of Costa Rica, include a copy of the applicant’s Costa Rican residency card.
    • Form I-20 or DS-2019 (please make sure that the form is signed by the applicant is the appropriate space).
    • Receipt of SEVIS fee payment (if applicable). Please see www.fmjfee.com for more information.

4. The documentation for the application will be forwarded through Correos de Costa Rica to the U.S. Embassy. Applications with missing items will not be accepted.

5. If your visa is approved and you are a F visa applicant (with Costa Rican nationality), you will be required to pay the $68 F reciprocity fee at the Consular Section’s cashier. The F reciprocity fee cannot be paid in advance. If your F visa is approved, you will be contacted by the Consulate through e-mail with the instructions on how to pay the reciprocity fee.

Please note that consular officers always have the prerogative to require applicants to appear for interview. If the applicant requires an interview, the passport will be returned through Correos de Costa Rica with instructions to schedule an appointment. Additionally, applicants who do not meet the criteria to forward the documentation as interview waiver will be refused. The Consular Section will provide the instructions to the applicant to proceed with the regular appointment scheduling.

​If you need assistance with your visa application or want to learn more about obtaining a visa to travel to the U.S., please contact our customer service at: Callers in Costa Rica: Call 4000-1976, Callers in the United States 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time Monday through Friday: (703) 745-5475.  To reach a customer service representative via email, please write to support-costarica@ustraveldocs.com. ​