All non U.S. citizens need to have a visa to enter the United States. The exchange visitor (J-1) visa permits individuals who want to participate in one of the exchange programs to enter the U.S. for a temporary stay. You have to find an organization that is willing to sponsor you for an exchange visitor program.

There are various kinds of exchange visitor programs like the following:

  • Trainee Summer Work Travel
  • Teacher
  • Student (secondary/college/university)
  • Student
  • Specialist
  • Short-term Scholar
  • Research Scholar
  • Professor
  • Physician
  • Intern
  • Government Visitor
  • Camp Counselor
  • Au pair and EduCare

The following steps can help you in applying for J-1 visa for exchange visitor program.

Step 1: Find a Sponsor

The first step to apply for a J-1 visa is to find a sponsor who is willing to accept you in the program. The US Department of State keeps a list of designated sponsors for the exchange visitor program. Note that the organization screens their participants based on English Language Proficiency of the applicant. You can contact the sponsor to find out about eligibility criterion for applying for exchange visitor program.

Step 2: Submit DS-2019 Visa

After you have applied and are approved by a designated sponsor, you must fill out and submit Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status. The form is provided by the sponsor and will include start and end date, description of the exchange program, as well as cost of the program.

This form allows you to obtain an interview with the U.S. consular office or embassy. Individuals who are accompanying the visitor must file separate DS-2019 forms issued by the sponsor.

Step 3: Payment of the Fees

You have to pay SEVIS the I-901 Fee that will cover the cost of Student and Exchange Visitor Program. The payment is made to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as part of the program fee for participating in the exchange program.

The fee is separate from the school’s SEVIS administration fees and nonimmigrant visa application processing fee, which is $160. Note that students participating in the program through USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) are exempt from the non-immigrant visa fee.

Step 4: Interview with the US Consulate or Embassy

The final step is to obtain approval from the U.S. consulate or assembly. You need to schedule the interviews well before the beginning date of the exchange program. The interviewer will ask questions such as intentions after the program, adequate cost to cover the expenses, and other similar questions.

You should be prepared to provide evidence about binding ties like employment, family obligations and others. Moreover, you may be required to provide other documentary evidence proving your identity.