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Who can visit the United States on a J-1 exchange visitor visa?

The J-1 exchange visitor visa allows a wide variety of people to visit the U.S. on a temporary, non-immigrant basis, including:

  • Exchange and international students
  • Research assistants
  • Au pairs
  • Camp counselors
  • Trainees
  • Interns
  • Specialists
  • Teachers
  • Professors and scholars
  • Graduate-level medical students
  • Physicians

These visitors can come to the U.S. only through an approved sponsoring program. The purpose must be to teach, instruct, lecture, study, observe, conduct research, consult, demonstrate special skills, receive training, or receive graduate-level medical education or training.

In order to qualify for a J-1 visa, you must be sponsored by a State Department-designated exchange program. Such programs are designed to promote the interchange of people, knowledge and skills in the fields of science, education and the arts.

The first step toward obtaining a J-1 visa is to find a designated sponsor organization. A searchable list of approved sponsoring organizations is available through the State Department's website. Once you have been accepted into a program, you will be registered on the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and, in general, pay a SEVIS I-901 fee. At this point, you are ready to apply for the J-1 visa.

You can complete your visa application (Form DS-160) online, which includes a $160 fee. You should print the confirmation page of the application form and a receipt for your fee to bring to your interview.

For those over 13 and under 80, an interview is generally required. You can schedule this at your local U.S. embassy or consulate. At this interview, you will need to show:

  • A valid passport
  • The confirmation page from your DS-160 application
  • A receipt for your application fee
  • A photo, if you were unable to upload a photo with your application
  • Certificate of eligibility for exchange visitor status (Form DS-2019), which you should receive from your sponsoring program
  • If applying as an intern or trainee, a training/internship placement plan (Form DS-7002)
  • Any documentation required by the official who interviews you, such as evidence of the purpose of your travel, your intention to leave the U.S. after your travel, and your ability to pay your travel costs.

You should note that, after you complete your program, you may be required to return to your home country for two years before any further travel to the U.S.

J-1 exchange visitor visa holders can also bring their spouses and unmarried children under 21 to the U.S. through the J-2 visa program.

For more specific information about J-1 exchange visitor visas, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience helping people visit, work in and move to the U.S.

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