What are J-1 & J-2 visas?

J-1 visas allow individuals to come to the United States as part of an approved exchange program for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training. The J-2 visa is available for certain family members of a J-1 visa holder to accompany the F-1 visa holder in the United States.

How are the J-1 and the J-2 visas different?

  • J-1 visa

The J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa available for individuals sponsored by an exchange program designated by the United States Department of States to come to the United States. Designated exchange programs are those designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and science.

  • J-2 visa

The J-2 visa is available to the spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 of a J-1 visa holder to accompany the J-1 visa holder in the United States.

How to qualify for a J-1 & J-2 visa

  • J-1 visa

Because J-1 visa holders are sponsored by exchange programs at various United States institutions, to qualify for a J-1 visa, an individual must meet specific program and application requirements of the program sponsor.

Generally, the J-1 applicant must fit into an exchange category defined by the United States Department of State. In order to qualify for any of the exchange categories, the J-1 applicant must meet certain criteria or have certain professional experience prior to joining the exchange program in the United States.

  • Short-Term Scholar
      • Eligibility: A short-term U.S. visit to lecture, observe, consult, train, or to demonstrate special skills at research institutions, museums, libraries, post-secondary educational institutions.
  • Professor & Research Scholar
      • Eligibility: Temporary, non-tenure track appointments. Minimum qualifications: bachelors’ degree with appropriate experience in the field in which research is to be conducted. Not physically in U.S. for all or part of 12-months preceding start date, unless excluded according to 22
  • Alien Physician
      • Eligibility: Have passed a qualifying medical examination (i.e. National Board of Medical Examiners). Have documented need in physician’s home country for the skills sought while in the U.S.
  • Intern
      • Eligibility: Currently enrolled in at a foreign post-secondary academic institution outside the U.S. OR graduated no more than 12 months prior to their program start date.
  • Trainee
      • Eligibility: Has degree or professional certificate from a foreign post- secondary institution AND at least 1 year prior related experience outside the U.S. OR have 5 years of experience in the field in which they are training
  • Specialist
      • Eligibility: (1) Is an expert in a field of specialized knowledge/skill; (2)Travel to the U.S. to observe, consult, or demonstrate their special knowledge or skills; AND (3) Does not fill a permanent/ long term position in the U.S.
  • Secondary School Student
      • Eligibility: All exchange students to be enrolled and participating in a full course of study at an accredited academic institution.
  • College & University Student
      • Eligibility: Admitted into a course of study in the U.S. The student must not be funded primarily by personal or family funds.
  • Summer Work Travel
      • Eligibility: Full time student at accredited post- secondary, classroom-based, academic institutions outside of the U.S. & has completed at le
  • Camp Counselor
      • Eligibility: At least 18 years of age.
  • Au Pair
      • Eligibility: Between 18-and- 26-years-old. Successful in passing a background investigation and a personality profile
  • Teacher
    • Eligibility: Minimum 2 years teaching experience, a B.A. equivalent, and satisfies the teaching eligibility standards of the U.S. state in which teacher is placed.
  • J-2 visa

To qualify for the J-2 visa, an applicant must be the spouse or child under the age of 21 to a J-1 visa holder. Thus, a J-2 visa holder’s qualifications to stay in the United States largely depends on the qualifications of their spouse or parent to hold a J-1 visa.

What is the process for obtaining a J-1 and J-2 visa?

  • J-1 visa

Find the Right Program

Individuals interested in coming to the United States on a J-1 visa must first determine what applicable exchange program fits their experience and qualifications. Individuals can view program requirements and an overview of each program at the United States Department of State’s chart.

Connecting with a Sponsor

After an individual determines which applicable J-1 visa exchange program fits their experience and qualifications, the individual must contact a designated sponsor directly in order to determine the sponsor’s specific program and application requirements. Designated sponsors can be found by searching for them at the United States Department of State’s sponsor search. Sponsor’s that operate in non-U.S. countries can be searched for here.

Sponsors will be responsible for selecting applicants and supporting and monitoring them during the entire program. Thus, it is important when applying to a program for an applicant to ensure he or she meets the program’s requirements.

After Being Accepted into a Program

After an applicant is accepted by a sponsor into an exchange visitor program, the program sponsor will issue the applicant a filled out Form DS-2019. Once the applicant receives Form DS-2019, the applicant must pay the Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS) fee. Proof of payment should be saved for the applicant’s records.

Once the SEVIS fee is paid, the applicant must fill out the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-160 and pay the application fee.

The Interview

After a J-1 visa applicant pays the application fee and submits DS-160, the applicant must schedule an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate near them.

The J-1 applicant must bring the following documents with them to his or her interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate:

  • Original Form DS-2019;
  • Training/Internship Placement Plan, Form DS-7002;
  • Form DS-160 confirmation page;
  • Passport;
  • Photo that meets photograph requirements;
  • Visa application fee receipt

Additional documentation may be required, depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the applicant’s interview is scheduled.

At the end of the applicant’s interview, the interviewing officer will inform the applicant whether or not he or she is approved for the J-1 visa. If approved, the J-1 visa applicant will be informed of next steps.

Once approved, a J-1 visa holder may not arrive more than 30 days before the program start date shown on the Form DS-2019.

  • J-2 visa

The application process to receive a J-2 visa is the same as the process for a J-1 visa. The J-2 visa applicant must be approved to accompany the J-1 visa applicant by the sponsoring program. The J-2 visa applicant will be issued his or her own Form DS-2019.

Each J-2 applicant must then complete his or her own DS-160 online application and pay the fee.

After filling out the DS-160 online application, the J-2 visa applicant(s) must attend a scheduled interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

The Interview

At the J-2 applicant’s interview, he or she must bring documents to prove their relationship with the J-1 visa applicant, including:

  • Original passport and photocopies;
  • Form DS-160 confirmation;
  • Passport photo that meets photo requirements;
  • Birth certificates for children applicants;
  • Marriage certificates for spousal applicants;
  • Payment receipt for the visa application;
  • Form DS-2019.;
  • Photocopy of the J-1 student’s Form DS-2019.;

What can J-1 & J-2 visa holders do while in the United States?

  • J-1 visa

Employment

Employment is authorized for J-1 visa holders only under the terms of the exchange program. If the sponsoring program authorizes employment, then a J-1 visa holder may work according to the terms of the sponsoring program.

  • J-2 visa

Employment

J-2 visa holders may not work in the United States without first obtaining employment authorization.

How much does it cost to get a J-1 and J-2 visa?

  • J-1 visa

It costs $160 to apply for a J-1 visa. The J-1 visa applicant may be required to pay the SEVIS fee, or it may be part of the J-1 visa program’s fees.

Unless the J-1 visa holder is in a federally funded exchange program, the sponsor program will charge J-1 visa holders program fees that vary depending on the sponsor, the exchange category, and the length of the program.

  • J-2 visa

Like the J-1 visa, it costs $160 to apply for a J-2 visa.

How long are J-1 and J-2 visas valid?

  • J-1 visa

The length a J-1 visa holder’s visa is valid depends on the exchange category (type of work or study) and the specific program’s requirements. Thus, a J-1 visa applicant should refer to the program in order to determine length of stay minimums and maximums. An applicant can refer to this chart for guidance.

Extensions may be granted to no longer than the maximum stay permitted in the exchange category.

Upon the completion of the J-1 visa holder’s exchange program, the visa holder has a grace period of 30 days to depart the United States.

  • J-2 visa

J-2 visa holders may stay in the United States for only as long as the J-1 visa holder stays in the United States.