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Simple Step-by-Step Procedure to Obtain a J-1 Student Visa – United States

A person 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 she must obtain.

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

J-1 exchange visitor student visas are nonimmigrant visas for individuals approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States.

It allows them to enter the United States to complete 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 depending on the program you are enrolling in and its sponsor.

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

What is a J-1 student visa?

A J-1 student visa in the United States is for people who want to participate in work-study-based exchange visitor programs in the US.

These programs are sponsored by an educational or non-profit institution, which must be accredited through the Exchange Visitor Program designated by the US Department of State.

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

The J1 visa is intended 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 I get a J-1 student visa?

A J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa issued by the United States to researchers, professors, and exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange, especially to obtain medical or business training within the US.

So if you have the training to do in the United States, it is important that you obtain a J-1 student visa as it allows you to enter the US.

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

Participants include students of all academic levels; apprentices who obtain on-the-job training with companies, institutions, and agencies; primary, secondary, and specialized school teachers.

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

Categories of a J-1 student visa

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

  • au pair program
  • camp counselor
  • College and University Student Program
  • High School Student Program
  • Government Visitor Program
  • International Visitor Program
  • medical program
  • Academic Professor and Researcher Program
  • Short-term academic program
  • specialist program
  • Summer work travel program
  • teachers program
  • Training program
  • intern program
  • work outside the program
  • J-2 Visa

# 1. From an au pair

The Au Pair category of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program allows child care 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 Au Pair’s main priority is to take care of their payments, but they will also have free time to enjoy life in the USA.

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 old
  • Good health
  • Previous childcare experience
  • speak and understand English
  • Secondary Education
  • Non-smoker (if required by the family)
  • Police dispatch report
  • International driver’s license and a minimum of 50 hours of driving experience.
  • Willing to live 12 months away from home
  • You cannot have previously lived in the US as an au pair

Additionally, applicants may be required to undergo an interview in their home country by the sponsoring organization and may be required to conduct a series of telephone interviews with prospective host families.

In addition, the sponsor must also provide the participant with a minimum of 32 hours of child care training prior to placement with a host family.

#two. camp counselor

Through the Camp Counselor Program, foreign post-secondary students and youth workers can work at American summer camps.

To be eligible for this program, applicants must

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Be competent in dealing with children.
  • speak and understand English
  • Be a foreign post-secondary student, youth worker, teacher, or person with specialized skills.

As a camp counselor, the camps you work for will provide lodging and meals to participants, at no cost to them.

They will receive salaries and benefits commensurate with those offered to their US counterparts. Furthermore, they will be allowed to work for up to four months without extensions.

#3. College and University Student Program

This program allows foreign students to study at American colleges and universities. Students participating in this program must pursue a full-time course of study and must maintain good academic standing.

They can also participate in a student internship program that meets the educational objectives of their degree programs in their home countries.

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

#4. Program for high school students

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

To be eligible for this program, participants must

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

In addition, students may participate in all school activities, although 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, although they can do odd jobs like babysitting or yard work.

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

#5. Government Visitors 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 US counterparts.

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

#6. International Visitor Program

This J-1 visa program is for person-to-person programs intended to develop and strengthen professional and personal relationships between key foreign and US citizens and US institutions.

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

# 7. Medical program

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

To be eligible, entrants must:

  • Have prior education and training appropriate to the program in which they enroll.
  • You must be competent to speak and write in English.
  • Have passed Parts I and II of the National Board of Medical Examiners Examination, the Foreign Postgraduate Medical Examination, Steps I and II, or the Visa Qualifying Examination (VQE) prepared by the National Board of Medical Examiners.
  • Please provide a statement of need from your home government indicating that individuals with the skills the applicant wishes to acquire are needed in your home country.

#8. Academic Professor and Researcher Program

In this program, participants have the opportunity to conduct research, teach, and lecture in American schools.

In addition, it fosters the exchange of ideas, mutual enrichment, and links between research and educational institutions in the United States and foreign countries. The maximum duration of these programs is five years.

To be eligible, entrants must:

  • Not be a candidate for a permanent position.
  • Have completed an academic professor or researcher program in the last 24 months prior to the start of the program.
  • You cannot have participated in a J visa program during any part of the 12-month period preceding the professor or researcher program.

Exceptions to this program include;

  • The participant is transferring to another institution in the US to continue their current J-1 program.
  • The participant’s previous stay in the US on a J-1 visa was less than six months.
  • Previous participation was as a short-term fellow.

# 9. Short-term academic program

This program allows professors, academic researchers, or persons of similar education or achievement 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, without extensions and without the possibility of changing categories.

#10. Specialist Program

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

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

#11. Summer Work Travel Program

Under this program, post-secondary students can travel to the United States for work and travel during the summer.

To be eligible, entrants must:

  • Have sufficient knowledge of English to interact in an English-speaking environment.
  • Be a post-secondary student who is 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 studies.
  • Have a job offer in the US, unless the participant is from a visa-waiver country.

#12. Masters Program

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

To be eligible for this program, participants must:

  • Meet the qualifications to teach in primary or secondary schools in your home country.
  • Have a minimum of three years of teaching or related professional experience.
  • Satisfy the teaching standards of the US state in which you intend to teach.
  • Possess the necessary English skills to participate in the program.

Furthermore, participants in this program will learn US teaching methods while bringing international perspectives into US classrooms.

# 13. Training program

In this program, foreign professionals can gain exposure to training in American business practices in their chosen occupational field.

To be eligible, entrants must:

  • Be a foreign citizen with a professional degree or certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution
  • Have at least one year of work experience in your occupational field, or five years of work experience in the occupational field in which you are seeking training.
  • Be at least 20 years old.

Participants will be able to find jobs in various fields such as Agriculture, Hospitality and Tourism, Public Administration and Law, etc.

#14. Internship Program

In this program, foreign professionals can receive training in their occupational field in the US.

be eligible,

  • Interns must be foreign nationals who are currently enrolled in a postsecondary institution granting a foreign degree or certificate outside of the US or have graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to their program start date.
  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have your English skills been assessed or verified by a recognized English language test?

#15. work outside the program

Generally, J-1 visa holders must work only for the sponsors of their programs. However, in some cases, J-1 holders may work for non-sponsoring employers if they meet certain eligibility requirements.

Requirements vary by program. J-1 students are eligible. Students must be in good academic standing and may not exceed 20 hours of work per week, except during holidays and vacations.

#16. J-16 Visa

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

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 may accompany their J-1 spouse or parent to the United States or may choose to join them later.

How to apply for a J-1 student visa

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

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

Upon acceptance, the applicant will receive from the educational institution or program sponsors the necessary approval documentation to submit when applying for a visa.

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

Step 1. Get a sponsor J

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

Please note that many of these organizations screen their participants and look for those who are fluent in the English language.

Step 2. Complete the online application form

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

Step 3. Request the DS-2019

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

This form is the official document used by the US Department of State that will allow you to obtain an interview with the US embassy or consulate. If you will be accompanied by your spouse or children, they will also be given a form DS-2019 separately.

The form usually includes your SEVIS ID number, which is the number in the top corner above the barcode (usually starting with an N).

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 the program fees for your sponsoring organization.

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

Another fee you will need to pay is the nonimmigrant visa application processing fee, which is $160 and can be paid by visiting the Department of State visa services fee.

Step 5. Schedule an interview

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

age requirement Interview Status
13 and under Generally not necessary
14 – 79 Required (some exceptions for renewals)
80 and older Generally not necessary

You must schedule an appointment for your visa interview at the US Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live.

You can schedule your interview at another US embassy or consulate, but keep in mind that it may be more difficult to qualify for a visa outside the country where you live.

Step 6: Gather the required documents

When applying for a J1 visa, you will need to present the following documents to the US Embassy or Consulate:

  • Valid passport 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
  • Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status
  • Nonimmigrant visa application,  Form DS-160.  Confirmation page.
  • Form DS-7002, A Training/Internship Placement Plan (for exchange visitor trainees or intern visa applicants)
  • A 2 × 2 photograph

Additional documents that may be required are;

  • The purpose of your trip;
  • Your intention to leave the United States after your trip;
  • Your ability to pay all travel expenses.

Step 7: Attend your Visa interview

Here, a consular officer will interview you to determine if you are qualified to receive a student visa. You must show that he meets the requirements set forth by US law to receive a visa.

Additionally, inkless fingerprint scans are taken as part of the application process. These are usually taken during the interview, but this varies by location.

After your visa interview, the consular officer may determine that your application requires further  Administrative Processing. The consular officer will inform you if necessary.

Bring the following documents to your interview.

  • Documents showing strong financial, social, and family ties to your home country that will compel you to return to your country after your study program in the US is complete.
  • Financial and other documents that you believe will support your application and that provide credible evidence that you have sufficient funds available to cover all expenses for the first year of study and that you have access to sufficient funds 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 someone else, please 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 bank books and/or fixed deposit certificates.
  • If you are being sponsored by an organization (US, Nigerian, or other), please provide a certified letter on the organization’s official letterhead explaining the amount of financial support and the terms under which it is offered.
  • Academic documents that demonstrate school readiness. Helpful documents include transcripts (original copies preferred) with grades, public test certificates (A-levels, etc.), standardized test scores (SAT, TOEFL, etc.), and diplomas.

Step 8: Enter the United States

A visa does not guarantee entry to the United States. A visa only allows a foreign national to travel to a United States port of entry (usually an airport) and apply for permission to enter the United States.

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

Frequently asked questions about obtaining a J-1 student visa

The cost to apply for a J-1 student visa is $160 at the US Embassy or Consulate. In addition, 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, it’s not. As long as you fill out your application correctly and truthfully, in addition to meeting the eligibility requirements, there’s a good chance you’re ready to move on.


Obtaining the J-1 student visa is simple and straightforward. Do well to make use of this guide.

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