Common Questions

Participants

Basics

Can I apply for an extension?

Yes, your program sponsor may extend your program up to its maximum length. If an extension is granted, a new Form DS-2019 will be issued to you reflecting the change.

More information is available on the adjustments and extensions page.

How long does it take to obtain a J-1 Visa?

The wait time for an interview and processing for a J-1 Visa varies from country to country and is based on your individual circumstances.  Learn more about interview wait and processing times by visiting www.travel.state.gov and select Visa Wait Times.  We encourage you to apply as soon as possible.  Please note that exchange visitors beginning new programs may not enter the United States more than 30 days before their program start date. 

What is the purpose of the exchange visitor program (J-1 Visa program)?

The Exchange Visitor Program fosters global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges.  All exchange visitors are expected to return to their home country upon completion of their program in order to share their exchange experiences.

Where do I apply for an exchange visitor J-1 Visa?

Once you obtain a Form DS-2019 from a Sponsor, you may apply for an exchange visitor J-1 visa at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your country of residence.  Also, if you are married, your spouse and any children can apply for an exchange visitor (J-2) visa when you apply, or join you after you are in the United States if the exchange category in which you are participating permits an accompanying spouse and/or dependents (i.e. regulations prohibit an accompanying spouse in the categories of Camp Counselor, Summer Work Travel, Au pair and Secondary School Student).   In some cases an individual sponsor’s program will not permit a spouse or dependents to accompany their participants.  If you are married and/or have dependents who you wish to bring to the United States with you, inquire about this issue when seeking a sponsor.

Exiting the Program

Can I participate in another J1 program after finishing my current program?

Your current J-1 visa is ONLY applicable for your current J-1 exchange program and under your current program sponsor. Upon completion of your current J-1 program, you are expected to depart the United States.

If you intend to pursue a 2nd J-1 exchange program (in a different category and with a different J-1 sponsor), you will need to apply for a new J-1 visa for your new exchange program and new J-1 sponsor – in order to reenter the U.S. for the 2nd program.

How long before my J-1 program starts can I arrive in the United States?  How long can I remain after my program ends?

You may not arrive more than 30 days before the program start date shown on your DS-2019.  Upon completion of your exchange program, you have a grace period of 30 days to depart the United States.

My visa has expired during the program.
What do I do?

If your visa has expired and you do not plan to travel outside of the U.S., you do not need to renew the visa.

Please be aware that if you travel outside of the United States during your current exchange visitor program and after your J-1 visa has expired, you must apply for a new J-1 visa in your home country in order to re-enter the United States to continue your program.

Your sponsor is responsible for assisting and advising you on all matters relating to your J-1 program, including authorizing travel outside of the U.S. and ensuring that your J-1 non-immigrant documents are valid at all times.

What will happen to my J-1 Visa status if I withdraw from my exchange visitor program?

If you plan to withdraw from your program, you must notify your program sponsor.  Your program sponsor will enter this information into SEVIS and you will be expected to depart the United States immediately.  You will not be entitled to the post-completion 30-day period because you did not successfully complete your program.

What will happen to my J-1 Visa status if my exchange visitor program sponsor terminates my exchange visitor program?

If your sponsor terminates your participation in their exchange program for just cause, the sponsor will enter this information into SEVIS and you will be expected to depart the United States immediately. You will not be entitled to the post-completion 30-day period because you did not successfully complete your program.

Important Contacts

Who should I contact about changing my visa status while I am in the United States?

You should contact the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Who should I contact if I have a question or concern about my exchange visitor program?

Contact your designated sponsor, whose name and telephone number are listed on Form DS-2019.

Who should I contact regarding my SEVIS registration?

You should contact your J-1 program sponsor. Your sponsor is responsible for assisting and advising you on all matters regarding your J-1 exchange visitor program.

Who should I contact regarding problems obtaining a Social Security card?

You should contact your designated sponsor and the Social Security Administration.

Important Documents

Are there regulations, which govern the Exchange Visitor Program (J-1 Visa program)?

Yes, the regulations are set forth at Code of Federal Regulations, Title 22:  Foreign Relations, Part 62.

What documents are needed to apply for an Exchange Visitor J-1 Visa?

  • Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility) issued by your program sponsor
  • Other supporting documents – check the specific embassy or consulate website
  • Passport valid for travel to the United States
  • Completed Online Form DS-160, nonimmigrant visa application
  • Fee receipt showing payment of the $140 visa application fee
  • 2×2 photograph, meeting format requirements

For more information about J visas, please see the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ exchange visitor visa website. For detailed information about how to make a visa interview appointment at an embassy or consulate, how to pay the application processing fee and more, go to the visa information on the U.S. embassy or consulate website where you will apply for your visa.

What is Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility)?

A SEVIS-generated Form DS-2019 is required when applying for the J-1 Visa.  The DS-2019 is a controlled form provided to you by your program sponsor.   It documents your acceptance to an exchange program sponsored by a State Department designated Exchange Visitor Program sponsor.

Where do I obtain a DS-2019?

Designated sponsors are authorized to issue Form DS-2019 to prospective or current exchange visitors they select for their program.

My Sponsor

As a J-1 Visa holder, am I allowed to work?

A J-1 holder is only allowed to perform the activity listed on his/her Form DS-2019 and as stated in the regulations for that category of exchange.

Do designated sponsors only work in one state?

The addresses listed in the Designated Sponsors List are the official locations of the designated sponsor organizations. Many sponsors can place participants anywhere in the United States, regardless of their official location. Please consult with the individual sponsor for details.

Do I need a sponsor?

Yes. The State Department designates U.S. government, academic and private sector entities to conduct educational and cultural exchange programs. To participate in the Exchange Visitor Program, foreign nationals must be sponsored by one of the State Department-designated sponsors.

The program sponsors are responsible for screening and selecting eligible foreign nationals for participation in their designated exchange visitor program, as well as supporting and monitoring exchange visitors during their stay in the United States.

Refer to the list of designated sponsors and their programs.

How can I work for an employer other than the program sponsor?

A J-1 holder may only perform the activity listed on his/her Form DS-2019, or as provided for in the regulations for the specific category for which entry was obtained and with the approval of the Sponsor’s Responsible or Alternate Responsible Officer.

Tax & Immigration Requirements

How can I apply for a waiver of the two-year home-country physical presence requirement?

Detailed information and access to the online waiver application is available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website.

How do I know if I am subject to the two-year home-country foreign residency requirement?

When you agree to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program you will be subject to the two-year home-country foreign residency requirement if your exchange program is funded by either your government or the U.S. government, involves specialized knowledge or skills deemed necessary by your home country or you received graduate medical training. If this requirement applies, you must return to your home country for a cumulative total of two years at the end of your exchange visitor program.  You are not prohibited from traveling to the United States but may not benefit from certain employment-based or family-based visas until the foreign residency requirement is satisfied.

Will I have to pay taxes on my salary if I am working and receiving wages while on a J-1 Visa?

Check with your sponsor for detailed information about taxes.

Common Dilemmas

What are program sponsors’ responsibilities toward exchange visitor participants in the event of a national emergency or natural disaster in the United States?

Though not a regulatory requirement, sponsors should have a plan in place in the event of a natural disaster or national emergency for contacting and providing information, assistance and instructions to exchange visitor participants and their accompanying spouse and dependents.

What do I do if one of my exchange visitors loses his/her passport?

A foreign visitor in the United State who loses their passport must immediately contact their home country’s embassy or consulate to report the loss and find out how to replace it. Embassy.org provides information on each of the embassies located in Washington, D.C.  The participant should also contact their Sponsor to obtain a new copy of their Form DS-2019 to present to their Home country’s embassy or consulate to get the new passport.

What do I do if one of my exchange visitor’s Form DS-2019 is lost or stolen?

Forms DS-2019 can be reprinted in SEVIS when necessary, with an appropriate explanation entered in the exchange visitor’s record.

What do I do when a dependent turns 21?

An accompanying family member who turns 21 years of age is no longer eligible to be in the United States as a dependent in J-2 status, and must depart the country or apply for a change to another type of non-immigrant status.

Designation & Requirements

Does the State Department recommend any of its Exchange Visitor Program designated sponsors?

The State Department does not recommend or “rate” any of the designated sponsors. Designation by the State Department indicates sponsors have complied with all applicable regulations for obtaining designation and are in good standing.

How can my organization apply for designation as an Exchange Visitor Program sponsor?

The application requirements and procedures for designation as an Exchange Visitor Program sponsor are contained on our website. Please note that program sponsors, with exception of Federal Agencies, must have a minimum of five exchange visitor participants on an annual basis in order to remain eligible for designation.

What are some of the responsibilities and obligations of the State Department-designated Exchange Visitor Program sponsors?

The State Department-designated sponsors are responsible for all aspects of the exchange program, including screening and selecting of foreign national participants and monitoring the participants throughout their exchange visitor program in the United States.  These sponsors can explain their program requirements and how their program works.  For more information on sponsors’ responsibilities and obligations, please visit the Sponsors main page.

Who are the State Department-designated Exchange Visitor Program sponsors?

Exchange Visitor Program sponsors are comprised of U.S. government, academic, research, and private sector organizations designated as Exchange Visitor Program sponsors by the State Department’s Office of Private Sector Exchange in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Important Documents

How does my organization update information about our State Department-designated exchange visitor program and organization?

See the question, “What is the Form DS-3037.”

What is the Form DS-3036, Exchange Visitor Program Application?

Exchange visitor program sponsors use Form DS-3036, “Exchange Visitor Program Application” to apply to the Department of State for re-designation of their current exchange visitor program sponsor status, or apply for an amendment of their current exchange visitor program designation authorization.

What is the Form DS-3037, Update of Information on Exchange Visitor Program Sponsor?

Program sponsors use Form DS-3037, “Update of Information on Exchange Visitor Program Sponsor,” to provide the Department of State with updated sponsor information.

SEVIS

Are there SEVIS User Manuals?

Yes. There is a User Manual available to help Responsible Officers (ROs) and Alternate Responsible Officers (AROs) navigate SEVIS. The manual explains in step-by-step detail how to perform procedures in SEVIS.

Is there a SEVIS Help Desk?

Yes. To obtain help with SEVIS technical issues only (e.g., batch processing, password resets, system operation), contact the SEVIS Help Desk at 800 892 4829 between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday.  For more information, visit the SEVIS website.

Is there online help with SEVIS questions?

Yes. Once SEVIS is accessed each page contains a help icon.  The online help feature contains the same information available in the User Manual.

What is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)?

SEVIS is the electronic database developed to collect information on foreign nationals and their accompanying spouse and dependents that enter the United States on the F, M or J visa.

Host Families/Employers

Basics

Do host families receive compensation?  This depends on the category of exchange.

For example, the J-1 Secondary School Student exchange program is a public diplomacy program intended to foster mutual education and trust between foreign students and American host families. As such, monetary payments in return for being a host family would run counter to the intention of the program and are prohibited by the regulations [22 CFR Section 62.25(d)(6)].  Other categories of exchange sometimes assist participants in locating or arranging housing for a fee. Or place participants in private homes as part of their exchange program.

How can I find an employee through an Exchange Visitor Program?

Contact a designated sponsor to learn how to find a temporary employee under the Exchange Visitor Program. Please visit the list of designated sponsors.

What is the role and responsibility of the State Department’s Office of Private Sector Exchange?

The goal of the Exchange Visitor Program is to promote international exchanges and the U.S. government’s public diplomacy efforts. The State Department’s Office of Private Sector Exchange in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is responsible for designating organizations as sponsors to conduct exchange programs, assisting sponsor with the administration of their exchange program, and monitoring them to ensure compliance with the governing regulations and laws.

Who should I contact in case I have a problem or concern about a participant?

All questions and concerns should be addressed to the sponsoring organization. The Form DS-2019 contains the name and telephone number of the participant’s sponsor. To locate a designated sponsor, please visit the list of designated sponsors.

My Sponsor

Do designated sponsors only work in one state?

The addresses listed in the Designated Sponsors List are the official locations of the designated sponsor organizations. Many sponsors can place participants anywhere in the United States, regardless of their official location. Please consult with the individual sponsor for details.