The Exchange Visitor Program was established in 1961 and the purpose of the program is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges. Foreign nationals can participate in the Exchange Visitor Program and come to the United States and experience a wide variety of educational and cultural exchange programs.
The Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. At the conclusion of their program, Exchange Visitor program participants are expected to return to the home countries to utilize the experience and skills they have acquired while in the United States.
In carrying out the responsibilities of the Exchange Visitor Program, the State Department designates public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors. Designated sponsoring organizations facilitate the entry of foreign nationals into the United States as exchange visitors to complete the objectives of one of the exchange visitor program categories, which are:
- Au pair
- Camp Counselor
- Student, college/university
- Student, secondary
- Government Visitor
- International Visitor (reserved for U.S. Department of State use)
- Alien physician
- Research Scholar
- Short-term Scholar
- Summer work/travel
Each category of exchange has specific requirements and regulations.
About the Exchange Visitor Visa
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides the exchange visitor (J) non-immigrant visa category for persons who are approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States. This means that before you can apply at an American Embassy or Consulate for a J visa you must apply, meet the requirements, and be accepted for one of the Exchange Visitor Program categories through a designated sponsoring organization. If you are accepted as a participant in an exchange program, the sponsor will provide you with information and documents necessary to apply for the J visa to enter the United States.
Qualifying for an Exchange Visitor Visa
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is very specific with regard to the requirements, which must be met by applicants to qualify for the exchange visitor (J) visa. The consular officer will determine whether you qualify for the visa.
Applicants must demonstrate that they properly meet the requirements to be issued an exchange visitor visa, including the following:
- That they plan to remain in the U.S. for a temporary, specific, limited period;
- Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States;
- Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.
All exchange visitor applicants must have a SEVIS generated DS 2019 issued by a Department of State designated sponsor, which they submit when they are applying for their exchange visitor visa. The consular officer will need to verify the DS 2019 record electronically through the SEVIS system in order to process the exchange visitor visa application to conclusion.
Where and When to Apply for the J Visa
Applicants may apply for their visa J-1 at the American Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence.
Each visa applicant must submit forms and documentation, and fees as explained below:
- DS 2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.
- A Training/Internship Placement Plan, Form DS-7002.
- A Contact Information and Work History, Form DS-158, completed.
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the United States
- One (1) 2×2 photograph
- Non-immigrant visa application processing fee – For current fees the Department of State website should be accessed.
- Visa issuance fee – Additionally, if the visa is issued, there may be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, if applicable. Consult the State Department Visa Reciprocity Tables to find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and the fee amount. If there is a fee for issuance for the visa, it is equal as nearly as possible to the fee charged to United States citizens by the applicant’s country of nationality.
- It is important that you refer to the Embassy Consular Section website to determine visa processing time frames and instructions, learn about interview scheduling, and find out if there are any additional documentation items required.
- Applicants must demonstrate to the consular officer that they have binding ties to a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they are coming to the United States for a temporary period. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since applicants’ circumstances vary greatly.
Spouses and Children
Spouses and/or children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal exchange visitor (J) visa holder in the United States for the duration of his/her stay require exchange visitor visas (derivative J visas). The application procedure is the same as that for a primary visa applicant. The sponsor must approve the accompaniment of the spouse and/or children and who will each be issued their own Form DS-2019. This form is used to obtain the required visa and the spouse and dependents can enter the U.S. at the same time as the principal exchange visitor or at a later date.
Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement
An exchange visitor is subject to INA 212(e) requirement, if the following conditions exist:
- The program in which the exchange visitor was participating was financed in whole or in part directly or indirectly by the United States government or the government of the exchange visitor’s nationality or last residence;
- The exchange visitor is a national or resident of a country designated as requiring the services of persons engaged in the field of specialized knowledge or skills in which the exchange visitor was engaged for the duration of their program (Exchange Visitor Skills List 9 FAM 41.62, Exhibit II);
- The exchange visitor entered the United States to receive graduate medical education or training.
If the exchange visitor is subject to INA 212(e) requirement, he or she cannot change his or status to that of H, L, K, or immigrant lawful permanent resident (LPR) until he or she has returned to his/her home country for at least two-years or received a waiver of that requirement. Such waivers can be obtained under five separate bases: No Objection Statement, Exceptional Hardship or Persecution, Conrad Program, or Interested Government Agency.
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