Easy Step by Step Procedure to Get a J-1 Student Visa

An individual from a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa. As a student, the j-1 student visa is the one you should obtain.

Either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence.

J-1 Exchange Visitor Student Visa are nonimmigrant visas for individuals approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States.

It allows them to enter the United States for the completion of their practical training, which is not available in their home country.

There are several categories under the J-1 student visa, and each category has a different requirement. This means that you can get a J-1 student visa based on the program you are enrolling for, and your sponsor.

In this article, you will get to know more about the J-1 visa, its categories and application process.

What is a J-1 Student Visa?

A J-1 student visa in the United States is for people who wish to take part in work-and-study-based exchange visitor programs in the U.S.

These programs are sponsored by an educational or other nonprofit institution, which must be accredited through the Exchange Visitor Program designated by the U.S. State Department.

J-1 exchange visitors come to the United States to teach, study, receive training, or demonstrate special skills.

The J1 visa is meant for students who need practical training that is not available to them in their home country, and the training must be directly related to their academic program.

Why Should You Get a J-1 Student Visa?

A J-1 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.

So if you have a training to undergo in the United States, it’s important that you get a J-1 student visa, as it permits you to enter the U.S.

The exchange visitor program’s J visa is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences.

Participants include students at all academic levels; trainees obtaining on-the-job training with firms, institutions, and agencies; teachers of primary, secondary, and specialized schools.

It also includes professors coming to teach or do research at institutions of higher learning; research scholars; professional trainees in the medical and allied fields; and international visitors coming for the purpose of travel, observation, consultation, research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs.

Categories of a J-1 Student Visa

There are different categories under the J-1 student visa program. Each program has specific requirements and regulations. These programs include;

  • Au Pair
  • Camp Counselor
  • College and University Student Program
  • Secondary School Student Program
  • Government Visitor Program
  • International Visitor Program
  • Physician Program
  • Professor and Research Scholar Program
  • Short-Term Scholar Program
  • Specialist Program
  • Summer Work Travel Program
  • Teacher Program
  • Trainee Program
  • Intern Program
  • Working Outside the Program
  • J-2 Visa

SEE ALSO: How to Renew Student Visa in America

#1. Au Pair

The Au Pair category of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program allows childcare providers between the ages of 18 and 26 to work caring for a family’s children in exchange for room, board, and a stipend.

The main priority of the Au Pair is to care for his or her payments, but he or she will also have free time to enjoy life in the U.S.

To be eligible for the Au pair program, the applicant must have first received a job offer from a family. Other requirements include;

  • 18-26 years of age
  • Good health
  • Previous childcare experience
  • Speak and understand English
  • Secondary school education
  • Non-smoker (if required by the family)
  • Police clearance report
  • International driver’s license and a minimum of 50 hours’ driving experience
  • Willing to live 12 months away from home
  • Cannot have previously lived in the US as an au pair

Additionally, applicants may need to interview in their home country by the sponsoring organization, and they may have to conduct a number of telephone interviews with potential host families.

Also, the sponsor must also provide the participant with a minimum of 32 hours of childcare training before placing them with a host family.

#2. Camp Counselor

Through the camp counselor program, foreign post-secondary students and youth workers are able to work at American summer camps.

To be eligible for this program, applicants must

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be proficient in dealing with children
  • Speak and understand English
  • Be a foreign post-secondary student, youth worker, teacher, or individual with specialized skills

As a camp counselor, participants will be provided with housing and meals by the camps for which they are working, at no cost to themselves.

They will receive pay and benefits proportionate to those offered to their American counterparts.  More so, they will be allowed to work for up to four months with no extensions.

#3. College and University Student Program

This program permits foreign students to study at American Colleges and Universities. Students who participate in this program must pursue a full-time course of study and must maintain good academic standing.

They might also participate in a student internship program that fulfills educational objectives of their degree programs in their home countries.

More so, students in this program must be financed from any source other than personal or family, such as directly or indirectly by the US government, their home country government, or an international organization of which the US is a member.

READ ALSO: How Long Does a Student Visa Last & How can I Renew?

#4. Secondary School Student Program

In this program, high school students are able to travel to the US and study at a public or private high school while staying with a host family or at a boarding school.

To be eligible for this program, participants must

  • Be between the ages of 15 and 18.5 by the first day of school.
  • Not have completed more than 11 years of primary and secondary school (excluding kindergarten)
  • Not have previously participated in a secondary school exchange program in the US.

Additionally, students are allowed to take part in all school activities, though the school district and the state office in charge of deciding athletic eligibility must approve the student’s participation.

They are not allowed to work part-time or full-time jobs, though they can work occasional jobs such as babysitting or yard work.

In general, they are not permitted to live with relatives, and they must not stay in the US longer than one academic school year.

#5. Government Visitor Program

In this program, international visitors selected by a US federal, state, or local government agency visit the US to develop and strengthen professional and personal relationships with their American counterparts.

They engage in observation tours, discussions, consultations, professional meetings, conferences, workshops, travel, and training.

#6. International Visitor Program

This J-1 visa program is for people-to-people programs meant to develop and strengthen professional and personal relationships between key foreign nationals and Americans and American institutions.

Participants must be a recognized or potential leaders in a field of specialized knowledge or skill. They are selected by the US Department of State.

#7. Physician Program

This program allows foreign physicians to participate in US graduate medical education programs or training at US medical schools.

To be eligible, participants must;

  • Have adequate prior education and training for the program in which they are enrolling
  • Must be competent in speaking and writing English.
  • Have passed either Parts I and II of the National Board of Medical Examiners Examination, the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination, Step I and II, or the Visa Qualifying Examination (VQE) prepared by the National Board of Medical Examiners.
  • Provide a statement of need from their home government that states that there is a need for persons with the skills the applicant wishes to acquire in their home country.

RELATED ARTICLE: What are the Student Visa Requirements in the U.S?

#8. Professor and Research Scholar Program

In this program, participants have the opportunity to engage in research, teaching, and lecturing at American schools.

Additionally, it encourages the exchange of ideas, mutual enrichment, and linkages between research and educational institutions in the US and foreign countries. The maximum duration of these programs is five years.

To be eligible, participants must;

  • Not be a candidate for a tenure track position
  • Have completed a professor or research scholar program within the last 24 months preceding the beginning of the program
  • Cannot have participated in a J-visa program for any part of the 12-month period preceding the professor or research scholar program.

Exceptions to this program include;

  • The participant is transferring to another institution in the US to continue his or her current J-1 program.
  • The participant’s prior stay in the US on a J-1 visa was less than six months long.
  • The prior participation was as a short-term scholar.

#9. Short-Term Scholar Program

This program allows professors, research scholar, or people with similar education or accomplishments to lecture, observe, consult, train, or demonstrate special skills at research institutions, museums, libraries, post-secondary schools, or similar institutions in the US.

The maximum duration of this program is six months, with no extensions, and no possibility of changing category.

#10. Specialist Program

In this program, experts in a field of specialized knowledge or skills travel to the US for the interchanging of knowledge and skills among foreign and American specialists.

The duration of this type of program is one year. While in the US on this type of program, specialists may not fill a permanent or long-term position of employment.

#11. Summer Work Travel Program

Under this program, post-secondary students are allowed to travel to the US to work and travel over the summer.

To be eligible, participants must;

  • Have sufficient English skills to interact in an English-speaking environment
  • Be post-secondary students who are enrolled in a full-time course of study at a post-secondary educational institution outside the US.
  •  Have completed at least one semester of post-secondary study.
  • Have a job offer in the US, unless the participant is from a visa waiver country.

#12. Teacher Program

Through this program, foreign teachers can come to the US to teach in primary and secondary schools for up to three years.

To be eligible for this program, participants must;

  • Meet the qualifications for teaching in primary or secondary schools in his or her home country
  • Have a minimum of three years of teach or related profession experience
  • Satisfy the teaching standards of the US state in which he or she intends to teach
  • Possess the English skills necessary to participate in the program

More so, participants in this program will learn US teaching methods while bringing international perspectives to US classrooms.

READ ALSO: How To Change Your Student Visa To Green card

#13. Trainee Program

In this program, foreign professionals are allowed to gain exposure to receive training in US business practices in their chosen occupational field.

To be eligible, participants must;

  • Be a foreign national with either a degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution
  • Have at least one year’s work experience in his or her occupational field, or five years of work experience in the occupational field in which he or she is seeking training.
  • Be at least 20 years old.

Participants may find works in several fields like Agriculture, Hospitality and Tourism, Public Administration and Law, etc.

#14. Intern Program

In this program, foreign professionals are allowed to receive  training in their occupational field in the US.

To be eligible,

  • Interns must be foreign nationals who are currently enrolled in a foreign degree or certificate granting post-secondary institution outside the US or who graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months before his/her program’s start date.
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have their English skills evaluated or verified by a recognized English language test

#15. Working Outside the Program

Usually, J-1 visa holders are required to work only for their program sponsors. However, in some cases J-1 holders may work for non-sponsor employers if they meet certain eligibility requirements. 

 The requirements vary depending on the program. J-1 students are eligible for. Students must have good academic standing, and may not exceed 20 hours of labor per week except during holidays and vacations.

#16. J-2 Visa

The J-2 visa is for non-immigrant spouses or children of J-1 exchange visitor visa holders who accompany or later join their spouse or parent in the United States.

 J-2 eligibility depends on the specific program in which the J-1 exchange visitor is enrolled.

The application procedure for J-2 visas is the same as the application process for J-1 visas.

The sponsor of the program must approve the accompaniment of the spouse or child, who will be issued their own Form DS-2019. The J-2 visa holder can accompany their J-1 spouse or parent into the United States, or they may choose to join them later.

READ ALSO: How To Get Student Visa For U.S From India

How to Apply For a J-1 Student Visa

There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary by U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Before applying for a visa, all exchange visitor applicants are required to be accepted and approved by an authorized program sponsor. 

When accepted, the applicant will receive from the educational institution or program sponsors the necessary approval documentation to be submitted when applying for a visa.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to apply for a J1 visa

Step 1. Get a J Sponsor

To apply for a J1 visa, you will need to find a designated sponsor t accept you into their program.

Keep in mind that many of these organizations screen their participants and look for those with proficient English language skills.

Step 2. Complete the online application form

When applying for the J-1 student visa, you must complete an online visa application form DS-160. Access it on the Travel.State.Gov website.

Step 3. Apply for the DS-2019

The DS-2019 form is also known as the “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchanger Visitor (J-1) status”

This form is the official documents used by the US Department of State that will permit you to get an interview with the U.S. embassy or consulate. If you will be accompanied by your spouse or child(ren), they will also be given a separate DS-2019 form.

The form usually includes your SEVIS ID number, which is the number in the upper corner above the bar code, (usually starts with an N).

SEE ALSO: Scholarships for International Students 2020 – APPLY NOW

Step 4. Pay your fees

You will be required to pay a SEVIS I-901 fee to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as part of your J-1 visa application – or this fee may already be part of your program fees to your sponsoring organization.

It’s important to check with your sponsor to confirm whether it will be paid by you, or for you. If the sponsor pays the SEVIS fee on your behalf, be sure to get a receipt confirming payment.

Another fee you will be required to pay is the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Processing Fee, which is $160 and can be paid by visiting the Department of State’s Fee for Visa Services. 

Step 5. Schedule an Interview

As a J-1 visa applicant, you must schedule an interview with the consular officers. Exceptions to this are seen in the table below.

Age RequirementInterview status
13 and youngerGenerally not required
14 – 79Required (some exceptions for renewals)
80 and olderGenerally not required

You should schedule an appointment for your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live.

You may schedule your interview at another U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but be aware that it may be more difficult to qualify for a visa outside of the country where you live. 

Step 6: Gather Required Documents

When applying for a J1 visa, you will need to submit the following documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate:

  • Passport valid for travel to the United States – Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States
  • DS-2019 Form, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status
  • Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page.
  • DS-7002 Form, A Training/Internship Placement Plan (for exchange visitor trainees or intern visa applicants)
  • One 2×2 photograph

Additional documents that may be required are;

  • The purpose of your travel;
  • Your intent to depart the United States after your travel;
  • Your ability to pay all travel costs.

Step 7: Attend your Visa Interview

Here, a consular officer will interview you to determine whether you are qualified to receive a student visa. You must show that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive a visa.

Additionally, ink-free, digital fingerprint scans are taken as part of the application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.

After your visa interview, the consular officer may determine that your application requires further administrative processing.  The consular officer will inform you if it is required.

Bring the following documents to your interview.

  • Documents demonstrating strong financial, social, and family ties to your home country that will compel you to return to your country after your program of study in the U.S. ends.
  • Financial and any other documents you believe will support your application and which give credible evidence that you have enough readily-available funds to meet all expenses for the first year of study and that you have access to funds sufficient to cover all expenses while you remain in the United States.
  • Only original copies of bank statements, scholarship award letters, etc.will be accepted.
  • If you are financially sponsored by another person, bring proof of your relationship to the sponsor (such as your birth certificate), the sponsor’s most recent original tax forms and the sponsor’s bankbooks and/or fixed deposit certificates.
  • If you are being sponsored by an organization (U.S., Nigerian or other), please provide a certified letter on the organization’s official stationery explaining the amount of the financial support and the terms under which it is offered.
  • Academic documents that show scholastic preparation. Useful documents include school transcripts (original copies are preferred) with grades, public examination certificates (A-levels, etc.), standardized test scores (SAT, TOEFL, etc.), and diplomas.

Step 8: Entering the United States

A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States.  A visa only allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (generally an airport) and request permission to enter the United States.

After you present your passport, visa, and DS-2019 at the port-of-entry, a CBP official will make this decision.  Once you are allowed to enter the United States, the CBP official will provide an admission stamp or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. 

Getting a J-1 Student Visa FAQs

The cost to apply for a J-1 student visa is $160 in the U.S Embassy or Consulate. Additionally, you may be required to pay the SEVIS fee.

As a J-1 student visa holder, you may be authorized to work off campus for a total of 20 hours per week.

No its not. As long as you complete your application right and sincerely, as well as meet your eligibility requirements, there’s a high chance you’d be good to go.


Getting the J-1 student visa is a straightforward and easy one. Do well to make use of this guide.


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