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American J1 Visa Guide for Exchange Students

You can temporarily stay in the US with the J1 US Exchange Visitor Visa also known as J1 Visa. The J1 Exchange Visitor Visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs designated by the Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Moreover, A J1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States to research scholars, professors, and exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange, especially to obtain medical or business training within the U.S.

Therefore, you can decide to acquire this Visa for yourself if you wish to partake in any of the programs. But before that, it will be good to know the visa requirements, various categories, and steps to obtain a J1 Visa which this article has provided.

What is a J1 Visa?

The J1 exchange visitor visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs designated by the Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The J1 Visa, also known as the Exchange Visitor Visa or J student visa, is for anyone outside of the US who wishes to take part in the study- and work-related exchange programs approved by the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Types of J1 US Visa: Who can use J1 Visa?

There are different types or categories of J1 Visa. Each category has specific requirements to obtain it. The categories and requirements are:

Au Pair and EduCare

To get a J1 Visa for Au Pair, you must be between 18-26 years old, proficient in spoken English, and a secondary school graduate. For Au pair, you will be placed with a host family for 12 months with the option to extend your visa for 6,9, or 12 months and more. Before you start your work with the host family, you will undergo a training program on working with children so you can be better prepared.

Camp Counselor

For the camp counselor category, you must have enough knowledge of the English language so you can interact with the campers, and you must be at least 18 years old. During the camp work, you will be paid and receive the same benefits as your American counterparts.

Government Visitor

You can apply for this category of the J1 Visa if you are selected by a US federal agency or local government to visit and engage in various activities to strengthen your relationship with America. During this time you can take part in observation tours, discussions, consultations, professional meetings, workshops, and so on.


To qualify for a J1 Visa in the intern category, you must either be currently enrolled at a university or certificate-granting post-secondary academic institution outside of the US or have graduated from one of these institutions in the last 12 months. The internship is offered only in some specific fields which include the following: Agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Arts and culture. Construction and Building Trades. Education, Social Sciences, Library Science, Counseling, and Social Services. Health-Related Occupations. Hospitality and Tourism. Information Media and Communications. Management, Business, Commerce, and Finance. Public Administration and Law. and The Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics, and Industrial Occupations.

International Visitor

You have to be selected by the United States Department of State to qualify for this J1 Visa. As an international visitor, you must take part in consultations, observation, research, training, or demonstration of special skills and you must be a recognized individual in a special field.


For this J1 Visa, you must have completed your education and have adequate medical training to participate in the program. You will also need to provide a statement from your country (to show why you need to participate in the program and that you won’t overstay), and an agreement or contract from the US accredited medical school, hospital, or scientific institution. Additionally, you must complete one of the following: Part I or part II of the National Board of Medical Examiners Examination The Foreign Medical Graduate Exam Step I and Step II Visa Qualifying medical Examiners (VQE).

Professor and Research Scholar

To get a J-1 visa as a professor and research scholar, you have to meet several criteria. For one, you must not be a candidate for a tenure track position, you mustn’t have been a part of the professorship program in the last 24 months, and you mustn’t have participated in a J-visa program in the last 12 months unless exceptions apply.

Short-term Scholar

Usually, you can stay only up to six months with this type of J-visa. To get the short-term scholar J-visa, you must be a professor or research scholar or have a similar background, education, and experience. You can contribute to special research projects, and teach a semester at a college or university. For this program, you cannot extend your stay or change your category.


To get a J-visa for the specialist category, you must be an expert in your field, and you must not be looking to be employed full-time in the United States. Under this category, you can usually stay for a year.

Student, college/ university

For a student J1 visa, you must be sponsored, and have your stay funded either by your home country via a government program, by the US, or by both governments. Usually, you can stay for up to two years, but the validity of this J1 visa type changes according to the program you are participating in.

Student, secondary

For this visa type, you must be at least 15 years old, but you cannot be older than 18 years and six months before the program starts. You must also have less than 11 years of primary school education, not including kindergarten and you must have not participated in a previous similar program under an F1 Visa or J1 Visa.

Summer Work Travel

You can get a summer work visa if you are a student enrolled in a university and pursuing a degree, you must have completed at least one semester of your program to qualify for this visa. Additionally, you must have a job secured before you enter the US unless you are from a visa waiver country.


You must have the qualifications to work in a primary or secondary school, and you must have a degree equivalent to a US bachelor’s degree in education or the academic subject you intend to teach. Moreover, you must be either employed in a teaching position in your country at the time of application, or you must have a minimum of 24 months of work experience as a teacher.


If you want to qualify for the trainee visa category, you must have a degree or a professional certificate from a university or a similar institution. You must also have at least one year of work experience related to your occupation before applying for the program or five years of experience in the occupational field where you are seeking training.

6 Best Steps To Apply for a J-1 Visa

It is easy to apply for a J1 Visa by following the 6 steps below. However, the order of application may differ based on the country you are applying from.

  1. Fill in the visa application form.
  2. Set up an interview with the embassy/consulate.
  3. Pay the application fee.
  4. Prepare your required documents.
  5. Attend your visa interview.
  6. Enter the United States.

#1. Fill out the Visa Application Form

The first thing to do is to fill out your J1 Visa form. You must complete the application form online and print the application form confirmation page. You need to bring the confirmation page with you when you go for your visa interview.

During your online application, you must also upload your visa photo, in case the upload fails then bring a copy of your photo with you while coming for the interview.

#2. Set Up an Interview With the Embassy/ Consulate

When you have filled out the J1 Visa application form, you then schedule an appointment with your local embassy or consulate, to attend your visa interview. You should know that the waiting time to set a date for the interview varies depending on many factors such as the influx of applicants, the staff at hand, the season, and the location.

#3. Pay the Application Fee

At this point, you need to pay your J1 Visa application fee. There are some cases where you may be required to pay the visa fee before you attend your interview, in these cases, you must bring your receipt with you to the visa office. However, you must check with your sponsor for the program before you pay the fee since sometimes the program will cover your visa expenses as well.

#4. Prepare Your Required Documents

Before you attend the J1 Visa interview, you must get your documents ready. All your documents must be English and may be required to have an apostille stamp.

#5. Attend Your Visa Interview

On your interview scheduled date, you have to attend the interview at a consulate or embassy, where a consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a J1 visa. At this point in the application process, you may be asked to submit your fingerprints, but this may change from country to country. Before you leave, you have to make arrangements to receive your passport and visa.

After your visa interview is finished and your visa is granted, you may also be required to submit an issuance fee. However, keep in mind that not all nationalities have to pay this fee, especially if your program covers all costs.

#6. Enter the United States

Now that you have received your J1 Visa, you can travel to the United States of America. However, a visa will not always guarantee entry into the country. At the airport, officers from the Department of Homeland Security may decide to deny you entry into the country if need be.

At the border patrol, you will be asked to submit your passport, visa, and your DS-2019 form, and if you are allowed to enter the country you will receive an admission stamp or paper form I-94.

J1 Visa Requirements

The following documents below are required to apply for a J1 Visa. They are:

  • Passport: Your passport must be valid for at least six months after you depart from the country unless there are specific exemptions depending on where you are from.
  • Photograph: You must submit your photograph when you complete the visa application form online. If your photo is not uploading, then bring a physical copy but, please make sure to follow the instructions on how to take your visa photo.
  • Nonimmigrant visa application form: You have to fill in form DS-160 online and bring the confirmation page with you to the embassy/consulate.
  • Visa fee receipt: If you are required to pay the visa fee before your interview, bring your receipt.
  • Form DS- 2019: After you are accepted into your exchange program, your sponsor registers you into SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). Afterward, you will receive this DS form, and you may be required to pay a form fee- you have to check with your program sponsor since they might cover the expenses.
  • Form DS- 7002: If you’re a participant in the J1 trainee and intern categories, you will also need this form.
  • J1 visa health insurance: You must have health insurance coverage and it is the sponsor’s responsibility to ensure that you have purchased one.

Please keep in mind that other documents may sometimes be required, you should contact your local visa office to see a detailed list of the required documents.

J1 Visa Extension

As regards to J1 Visa extension, you can get your J1 Visa extended by requesting an extension of your program. Your sponsor officer, who is responsible for you, can extend your program to the maximum regulatory period, a period that changes from program to program. You will receive a new Form DS-2019 stating the extension period.

To get an extension beyond the maximum allowed period, your officer must send a letter of request or petition to the Department of State on your behalf justifying the request. For this type of extension, you (or your sponsor) must pay a non-refundable fee of $367.

J1 Visa Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?

You receive a J1 Visa with several conditions attached, one of which is that after your program is over and your visa expires, you have to return to your home country and live for two years. You are subject to this condition if you are a part of a:

  • Government-funded Exchange Program.
  • Specialized Knowledge or Skill.
  • Graduate Medical Education/Training.

Note that during this time, you cannot apply for the following visas:

  • Immigrant visa.
  • A temporary worker (H).
  • Intracompany transferee (L).
  • A fiancé visa.

Waiver Request for the Two-Year Home Residency

Even though a two-year home residency is required for a J1 Visa holder, you can apply for a waiver of the two-year residency requirement by sending a request to waive the condition to the Department of State, Waiver Review Division. You can apply for a waiver only if you have strong reasons why you cannot fulfill this requirement, which include the following:

  • You have a no-objection statement from your country.
  • Have a request for work by an interested US federal government agency.
  • You may be persecuted if you go back to your country.
  • Your US citizen spouse and children may suffer exceptional hardship if you go back.
  • Have a request to stay from the Conrad State 30 Program.


Can I Bring My Dependents on a J1 Visa?

Yes, but you can only bring your children and your spouse. Your family members have to apply separately for a J2 Visa to join you after you go to the US.

Can I Change My Category under a J1 Visa?

Yes, you can change your category provided that you have strong reasons for changing your category and that you will still stay close to your original objective for the exchange program.

The officer that is responsible for you must send an electronic request to change your category to the Department of State on your behalf, and the Department will request a fee of $367 to approve the request.

Can I Change My Exchange Program?

You can change your program provided that you remain in the same category. You must also have a new sponsor who will send a request for transfer to the Department of State and pay a fee of $367. Your old officer must release you from your previous program to be eligible for transfer.

If the transfer is approved, you will get a new DS-2019 form showcasing the change.

Who is eligible for a J1 Visa?

The J1 Visa, also known as the Exchange Visitor Visa or J student visa, is for anyone outside of the US who wishes to take part in the study- and work-related exchange programs approved by the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

What is the difference between an F1 and a J1 Visa?

The F1 Visa is the most common visa used by international students at Princeton. Most students are eligible for an F-1 visa as long as they have been admitted to Princeton. The J1 status is often used for students who are in a specific educational exchange program such as Fulbright.

Can a J1 Visa apply for a green card?

Technically, J1 Visa holders are not eligible for a U.S. green card. To obtain a J1 Visa, you need to demonstrate that you have ties to your home country (such as family or assets) and that you fully intend to return once your J1 period has ended.

How much money do you need for a J1 Visa?

Currently, the fee is $160, however, the fee is subject to change, and applicants are advised to check the US Embassy website before their embassy interview for the most up-to-date fee.

How Long Can I Stay With a J1 Visa?

You can stay with a J1 Visa for up to two or three years. However, the length at which you are allowed to stay in the US under a J1 Visa changes depending on what program you applied for.

For example, if you are a university student, your visa is valid as long as your study program lasts, but with a short-term scholar, you can only stay for six months. Usually, all J1 Visa holders are given a 30-day grace period after their visa expires to arrange their travel back home.


Now you know about this J1 Visa and its requirements, you can follow our guide to apply for it. Remember to contact us at for more information.

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