Exchange Visitor Visa
Exchange Visitor Visa (J)
Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Exchange visitor (J) visas are nonimmigrant visas for individuals approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States.
Exchange Visitor Categories Include:
Exchange Visitor Pilot Programs:
Exchange Visitors cannot travel on the Visa Waiver Program or with Visitor Visas – An exchange visitor visa (J) is required to participate in an exchange visitor program in the United States. Foreign nationals may not study after entering on a visitor (B) visa or through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) For more information on the VWP, see Visa Waiver Program.
Acceptance in Exchange Visitor Program – The first step is to apply for and be accepted into an exchange visitor program through a designated sponsoring organization in the United States. Visit the Department of State J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program website to learn about program requirements, regulations, and more.
After the exchange visitor program accepts your participation, you will be registered for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee (except in certain cases – consult your exchange visitor program sponsor). Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) website to learn more about SEVIS and the SEVIS I-901 Fee.
How to Apply
There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary by U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Please consult the instructions on the embassy or consulate website.
Complete the Online Visa Application
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 – Learn more about completing the DS-160. You must: 1) complete the online visa application and 2) print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.
- Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. Your photo must be in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
Schedule an Interview
Interviews are generally required for visa applicants with certain limited exceptions below. Consular officers may require an interview of any visa applicant.
If you are age:
Then an interview is:
13 and younger
Generally not required
14 – 79
Required (some exceptions for renewals)
80 and older
Generally not required
You should schedule an appointment for your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live. You may schedule your interview at another U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but be aware that it may be more difficult to qualify for a visa outside of the country where you live.
Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early.
Prepare for Your Interview
- Fees – Pay the non-refundable visa application fee, if you are required to pay it before your interview. If your visa is approved, you may also need to pay a visa issuance fee, if applicable to your nationality. Fee information is provided here.
- Review the instructions available on the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply to learn more about fee payment.
- NOTE: U.S. government sponsored exchange visitor (J visa) applicants and their dependents are not required to pay application processing fees if participating in a Department of State, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), or a Federally funded educational and cultural exchange program which has 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. U.S. government sponsored exchange visitor (J visa) applicants and their dependents are also not required to pay applicable issuance fees.
Gather Required Documentation
Gather and prepare the following required documents before your visa interview:
- Passport valid for travel to the United States – Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements). Each individual who needs a visa must submit a separate application, including any family members listed in your passport.
- Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page.
- Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview.
- Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
- Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, Form DS-2019 – Your program sponsor will provide you a SEVIS-generated Form DS-2019 after the sponsor enters your information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) database. All exchange visitors must be registered in SEVIS. Your spouse and/or minor children, if they intend to live in the United States with you, will each receive a separate Form DS-2019.
- Training/Internship Placement Plan, Form DS-7002 – In addition to the Form DS 2019, participants in the J-1 Trainee and Intern categories require Form DS-7002 (based on Box 7 on Form DS-2019). Learn more about the Trainee and Intern programs.
Additional Documentation May Be Required
A consular officer will interview you to determine your qualifications for an exchange visitor visa, and may request additional documents, such as evidence of:
- The purpose of your travel;
- Your intent to depart the United States after your travel;
- Your ability to pay all travel costs.
Evidence of your employment and/or your family ties may be sufficient to show the purpose of your travel and your intent to return to your home country. If you cannot cover all the costs for your travel, you may show evidence that another person will cover some or all costs for your travel.
Attend Your Visa Interview
A consular officer will interview you to determine whether you are qualified to receive an exchange visitor visa. You must establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive a visa.
Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans are taken as part of the application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.
After your visa interview, the consular officer may determine that your application requires further administrative processing. The consular officer will inform you if this is required.
After the visa is approved, you may need to pay a visa issuance fee (if applicable to your nationality), and make arrangements for the return of the passport and visa to you. Review the visa processing times to learn more.