This article provides a general overview of the J1 visa, including how to obtain the visa and an outline of the application process. Also included are brief descriptions of the most popular program categories and information on both studying and working in the US on the J visa.
A J1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa issued to individuals who would like to visit the US as part of a work and travel program, or as a short-term international student or scholar. While there are many categories available, the J1 visa program is one of the most unique, allowing individuals to both study and work at the same time.
First you must find a designated sponsor, approved by the US Department of State, and receive acceptance into their program. As mentioned above, there are many different programs that you could be a part of, all issuing a J1 visa and offering hands-on experiences that may be unavailable in your home country.
Don’t forget to submit additional DS-2019 forms for any dependents who may accompany you to the US.
After you’ve been accepted into the program of your choice you must then submit a “DS-2019 Form,” also known as the “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1_ Status”. This form will include a short description of the exchange program that you’ve chosen (including the start and end date of your program), an estimated cost of your program and the category of exchange. Be sure to complete this two page form honestly, as it will help you get an interview with the US consulate and ultimately be granted your visa.
The next step is to pay what is called a “SEVIS I-901” fee to the Department of Homeland Security as part of your application. Along with a few additional forms, you will also need to submit a valid passport (with validity for at least six months after your intended period of stay in the United States) and a colored photograph of yourself as part of your J1 visa application.
As the final step of the J1 application process, you will most likely be required to interview at a local US embassy or consulate. Generally applicants 13 and younger, along with adults over 80, don’t require an interview unless specifically requested by the consulate.
Upon the completion of your exchange program, J1 visa holders have a 30 day “grace period” to leave the United States. Keep in mind that you cannot travel outside of the US during your current exchange program, or after your visa has expired. Unfortunately, if you would like to leave the States at any point during your program you will be required to apply for a brand new J1 visa in your home country in order to continue your program.