Common Questions for 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.