Exchange Visitor Visa

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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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.

J visa: US Government sponsored exchange visitor (J visa) applicants and their dependents are not required to pay the non-refundable MRV application processing fee. Special application procedures are applicable for those participating in federally-funded educational and cultural exchange programs (denoted by a program serial number beginning with G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-7 printed on Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status).


If you are applying for an F, M, or "academic" J visa and are either (a) a passport holder from a Visa Waiver country (which includes New Zealand), or (b) a passport holder from a non-Visa Waiver country with a previous U.S. visa, please read the information below on F, M, and Academic J Visa Processing and Expansion of Interview Waiver During COVID-19.

If an applicant qualifies for visa application via interview waiver, cases are generally processed between 10 and 15 business days AFTER the Consular officer has reviewed the application package.


  • Academic J visa applicants include students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists who are participating in an approved exchange program. This does NOT include camp counsellors, summer work/travel programs, Fulbrights, au pairs, trainees, or any other category of J except those listed above.
  • The use of the mail-in service does not guarantee visa issuance.  In some cases, a consular officer may determine that an applicant may still be required to appear for an interview at the U.S. Consulate General in Auckland.
  • A business day is defined as a day between Monday and Friday (excluding U.S. and New Zealand public holidays observed in Auckland).


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) confirmation page. 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.
  • 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
Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.

Step 2
Pay the visa application fee.

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 MRV fee receipt number
      • 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 Confirmation letter, your DS-160 confirmation page (that you have completed and submitted online), one recent photograph (please refer to this link for specifications), your current and all old passports, and the original visa fee payment receipt (if you have paid at a New Zealand Post shop) OR appointment confirmation page (which has the receipt number printed on it). 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:

  • 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.

New Zealand Twelve-Month Student Work and Recent Graduate Travel Programs

The United States and New Zealand host a reciprocal work and travel program which allows post-secondary students or recent graduates from each country to work and travel in either country for up to 12 months. Eligible participants must be:

  • Be a citizen of New Zealand.
  • Be a bona fide post-secondary student or recent graduate. The potential participant must have completed his or her freshman (first) year. A recent graduate is defined as a New Zealand citizen who has graduated from a (post-secondary) college/university in their home country within the last 12 months. The applicant must provide evidence of student status.
  • Vocational students pursuing studies at a tertiary level accredited educational institution are eligible for participation.
  • Provide proof of sufficient financial resources, prior to coming to the United States, to support themselves during a search for employment or between breaks in employment.

For New Zealand citizens traveling to the United States, this program will operate under the current Exchange Visitor Program Summer Work Travel regulations and in accordance with the guidelines provided to each designated sponsor. A list of designated sponsors, as well as other information about the student work and travel program, is available from the following website, under the category Summer Work/Travel.

F, M, and Academic J Visa Processing and Expansion of Interview Waiver During COVID-19

Which student applicants qualify for an interview waiver?

Applicants seeking F, M or academic J visas may be eligible for an interview waiver.  The applicant must have previously been issued any type of U.S. visa.  In addition, an applicant’s most recent visa application cannot have been refused for any reason and there cannot be any indication of a visa ineligibility.

First-time F, M and academic J visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries and who have no indication of potential visa ineligibility may also be eligible. An applicant who has been denied for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is not eligible for interview waiver.

Who decides who is qualified?

 The decision to allow interview waiver will be made by embassies and consulates on a case-by-case basis.

Where can I apply?

An applicant must be a national of the country where he/she is applying.

Do I still need to make an appointment?

Please check your local embassy or consulate’s website for more information.  In some locations, applicants may need to make an interview waiver appointment to submit their passport, fingerprints, and accompanying documents.

What is the Visa Waiver Program?

The Visa Waiver Program enables most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.  Travelers must have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel and meet all requirements explained below.  Visit for more information.

What is an “academic” J visa?

Academic J visa applicants include students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists who are participating in an approved exchange program.  Please see here for more information on approved exchanged programs.

Does this mean I will be guaranteed a visa?

No. The new policy waives the in-person interview requirement for some F, M and academic J visa applicants.  A consular officer will review your visa application and may determine an interview is necessary.  All visa applications are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.  The consular officer may deny a visa application if an applicant is found ineligible under the Immigration and Nationality Act or other provisions of U.S. law.

Will my spouse and minor children be eligible for interview waiver for their derivative F, M and J visas?

Yes, derivative visa applicants may also qualify for interview waiver if the principal applicant qualifies.

Where can I find more information? and the website for your local U.S. embassy or consulate will have more information about whether you qualify and how to book an appointment.

Do I need to get my fingerprints taken?

If you have previously been issued a U.S. visa, you likely will not be required to provide your biometrics again.  In some circumstances, such as if the original visa was issued before the applicant was 14 years old, biometrics may be required.  For applicants from VWP countries, fingerprints will not be required prior to the F, M or academic J visa application.

How long will this policy last?

This policy is set to expire at 11:59 PM on December 31, 2022.

What if my prior U.S. visa is expired?

The new policy applies to those who previously were issued a U.S. visa regardless of whether the prior visa is expired.  Those whose most recent visa application was refused do not qualify.

What if I had a visa refused, but my subsequent visa application was approved?

If a subsequent visa was approved, and the applicant has no apparent visa ineligibilities, you may still quality for the interview waiver program.

I’ve previously been issued a U.S. visa in different category than F, M or academic J. Can I still qualify for the interview waiver program?

F, M and academic J applicants who have been issued any type of U.S. visa in the past may qualify for the interview waiver program, as long as they are not otherwise ineligible.

What is a National Interest Exception (NIE)?

A NIE allows a person who has been present in one of the 33 countries subject to COVID-19 travel restrictions to travel to the United States.

How do I apply for a National Interest Exception?

F and M applicants will automatically be considered for a NIE upon submission of their visa application. Academic J applicants should contact their local embassy or consulate for information on how to apply for a NIE.

More Information

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