know what you need to know
July 2, 2020
By John Tedesco
For anyone looking into getting a J Visa, here is a quick guide on the steps to attaining one.
1. Participants must be accepted into a sponsored organization in the U.S. After acceptance, they will be registered for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), and must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. (4) It is generally $350, but can vary. (1)
2. Complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160, and print the form confirmation page. (It will be needed for the applicant’s interview.) The applicant must upload a recent (within six months) photo to complete the form. (4)
3. The applicant must schedule an interview if they are between the ages of 14-79. (Applicants 13-years-old or younger and 80-years-old or older generally do not need to be interviewed.) The interview should be scheduled at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where the applicant lives. The applicant may schedule an interview outside of the country they live in, but it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa. (4)
4. Prior to the interview the applicant must pay all fees. (All fees are non-refundable.) (4)
5. The applicant must gather their required documents. These include: a valid passport for travel to the U.S. (It must be valid for at least six months beyond the applicant’s expected time in the U.S.) (3) A printed copy of their Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160, confirmation page and the application payment receipt. A printed photo uploaded online for the Form DS-160. Their Form DS-2019 and Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (provided by their program sponsor after their information is in the SEVIS database). (4)
6. Additional documents may be required such as: evidence of their purpose of travel, intent on leaving the U.S. after they complete their travel, and ability to pay for all travel costs. (4)
7. Attend the interview where a consular officer will determine if the applicant is qualified to receive the visa by determining if the applicant meets the requirements under U.S. law. The applicant’s fingerprints will be taken digitally. (4)
Two-year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement
For some participants in an Exchange Visitor Program, they may be required to return to their home country and remain there for two years once their program has ended. This requirement is based on Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. (3) The individuals that are subject to this requirement are:
Any participant that cannot stay in their home country for two years after completing the program can apply for a waiver. (4)
Entering the United States
A visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S. -- it only allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry and request permission to enter. (4) The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have the authority to allow or deny admission to the U.S.
After the applicant presents their passport, visa, and Form DS-2019, the CBP official will determine if the applicant can enter the U.S. If the individual is granted admission, the official will give them an admission stamp or paper Form I-95, Arrival/Departure Record. (4)
Extending Participant’s Stay
Participants must depart from the U.S. after the end date of the program listed on their Form DS-2019. (4) However, they may request an extension through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS recommends that applicants apply immediately after they decide they would like to change their status. (2)
However, they must receive approval from the USCIS, so they should not assume that they can stay until they receive approval. If they overstay their nonimmigrant status, they will be removed from the U.S. and perhaps barred from returning. (2)
The authorized status and date of expiration are located on the lower right-hand corner of their Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. (2) It is important for the participant to be aware of when they are lawfully required to depart the U.S. so they can make the proper arrangements if they intend on staying longer.
J-1 visa holders may not change their status if they came to the U.S. for Graduate medical training unless they get a special waiver. Participants forced to comply with the foreign residence requirement need a special waiver as well. (2)