How to Get the Most Value from Your J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa
Having a US J-1 Exchange Visitor visa is an incredible opportunity to live, work, and travel in the United States as a student or recent graduate of a foreign university.
But there are some essential things you need to know about the visa before applying. This can help you plan your trip, have the best experience possible, and save yourself time and money.
What is the J-1 Visa?
J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for people who want to take part in the exchange visitor programs. You cannot take part in these programs if you are on the Visa Waiver Program or with a Visitor Visa.
An exchange visitor program enables students and young professionals worldwide to live and work in the U.S. It allows an international student or recent graduate to come to America and experience American culture while also having a paid position during their stay.
Some of the most popular programs include teaching English in America, participating in an internship, or traveling as a tourist or trainee for a temporary period.
The J-1 visa has strict regulations regarding eligibility requirements and the activities that participants can engage in while in America.
Who is Eligible?
To apply for a work & travel J-1 visa, you must first be accepted into an exchange visitor program through a designated sponsoring organization in the United States. Learn more about the programs here.
If you are accepted, your designated sponsor will issue a DS-2019 form, which contains information about the participant, and sponsor and describes the exchange visitor’s program, including the start and end date, category of exchange, and an estimate of the cost of the exchange program.
Form DS-2019 is the basic document required to support an application for an exchange visitor visa (J-1). It is a 2-page document. The Form DS-2019 makes you eligible to apply for a J-1 visa.
If you are accepted under an exchange program, you will be registered on the website. Then you must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. The fee is $220. In some cases, you are not obliged to pay, but generally, it is compulsory.
J-1 Visa Requirements
- Legal status in your home country (you cannot currently be in the US);
- Hold a valid passport that is valid for at least 6 months;
- A valid US visa photo of 600×600 pixels (online) or 2×2 inches (offline)
- DS-2019, which is given by your designated sponsor;
- I-901 SEVIS Fee ($220)
- Not planning to immigrate to the US;
- No criminal record.
How to Apply for a J-1 Visa?
The J-1 visa is often referred to as a cultural exchange visa because it aims to improve international relations through mutual understanding.
Apply as early as possible. If you miss the deadline, you’re out of luck.
Here are the steps to take:
- Take a 600×600 pixel (2×2 inch) photo for your US visa
- Complete the DS-160 form online, which is needed food all non-immigrant visas
- Schedule an interview at a US consulate in your country
- Pay fees for your interview
You will have to pay an application fee of $160 at the time of application. If you are accepted, you will get permission to enter the United States no earlier than 30 days and no later than 60 days before the start date on your Form DS-2019. Once here, you will be authorized to stay for up to one year, with extensions possible.
Where can I Get Help with My J-1 Visa?
Who will help you? Of course, it is your future employer. Your designated sponsor is responsible for assisting and advising you on all matters regarding your exchange visitor program.
How Long Can I Stay in the USA with a J-1 Visa?
You can stay in the US during your visitor’s program, which length is specified on your DS-2019 form. Generally, you stay for additional 30 days after the course ends.
Will a J-1 Visa Improve My Chances of Immigration to the US?
If you are talking about the nearest future, the answer is no. Generally, you need to stay in your home country for 2 years before you can come to the USA again. There are some exceptions, though, but the main rule is this one.
The J-1 Exchange visa is designed to allow you to gain meaningful work experience, enhance your professional skill set, and enjoy living abroad in the United States for a short period.
Preparation and planning will help ensure that your J-1 experience is the best it can possibly be. Many things, from obtaining emergency medical care to making international friends and allies, many things are more easily done when you know in advance what you’re getting into. After all, the more time and thought you put into your exchange experience, the better it will go.