When it comes to experiencing the American dream, there’s hardly a more versatile tool than the American J1 Visa. Whether you’re a student, a scholar, or an intern, this visa could be your golden ticket.
Are you interested in visiting the United States for work, study, or cultural exchange? If so, you might want to consider applying for an American J1 visa.
This visa allows you to participate in various programs that promote educational and cultural exchange between the U.S. and other countries.
Let’s untangle the complexities of the American J1 visa and lay out everything you need to know.
Overview of The American J1 Visa
Introduced in 1961 under the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, the American J1 Visa is designed for those willing to engage in cultural exchange programs in the U.S. The goal is simple — facilitate mutual understanding between citizens of the U.S. and other countries through educational and cultural interactions.
From university students and teachers to researchers and au pairs, the J1 Visa accommodates a broad spectrum of applicants.
Eligibility Criteria: Who Can Apply?
The American J1 visa is available for foreign nationals who want to work, study, teach, research, or train in the U.S. in approved exchange visitor programs. The programs foster mutual understanding and cooperation between the U.S. and other countries. There are different categories of J1 visa programs, such as:
- Professor and Research Scholar
- Short-Term Scholar
- Trainee and Intern
- College and University Student
- Secondary School Student
- Alien Physician
- Camp Counselor
- Au Pair
- Summer Work Travel
Each category has its specific requirements and restrictions. You can find more information about each category on the official website of the Exchange Visitor Program.
To be eligible for a J1 visa, you must:
- Be accepted by a designated sponsor organization that administers the exchange program you want to join.
- Have sufficient funds to cover your expenses during your stay in the U.S.
- Have adequate health insurance that meets the minimum requirements of the Exchange Visitor Program.
- Have sufficient English language skills to participate in your program effectively.
- Have a valid passport for at least six months beyond your planned stay in the U.S.
- Have the intention to return to your home country after completing your program.
The Application Process for the American J1 Visa
The application process for the American J1 visa involves several steps:
- Find a suitable exchange program and a designated sponsor organization that matches your interests and goals. You can search for sponsors on the official website of the Exchange Visitor Program or contact them directly.
- Apply for the exchange program through your chosen sponsor organization and get accepted. Your sponsor will provide you with a Form DS-2019, a Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status. This form contains important information about your program, including its start and end dates, category, purpose, and fees.
- Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee online. SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, a database that tracks and monitors exchange visitors in the U.S. The SEVIS fee is $220 for most J1 visa categories, except for au pairs ($35), camp counsellors ($35), and summer work travel ($35). You can pay the fee here.
- Apply for a J1 visa at your home country’s U.S. embassy or consulate. You must fill out an online application form (DS-160), upload a photo, pay the visa application fee ($160), schedule an interview, and prepare the required documents.
The documents include:
- Your passport
- Your Form DS-2019
- Your SEVIS fee receipt
- Your visa application fee receipt
- A confirmation page of your DS-160 form
- A printed copy of your interview appointment letter
- Proof of your academic or professional qualifications
- Proof of your financial resources
- Proof of your health insurance
- Proof of your English language proficiency
- Proof of your ties to your home country
How long can you stay on a J1 visa?
The duration of your stay on a J1 visa depends on the category and length of your exchange program. Generally, you can stay in the U.S. for the time of your program, plus a grace period of 30 days after its completion. The grace period allows you to travel, sightsee, or prepare for departure from the U.S. However, you cannot work, study, or extend your stay during the grace period.
The maximum duration of each J1 visa category is as follows:
|Professor and Research Scholar||5 years|
|Short-Term Scholar||6 months|
|Trainee||18 months (or 12 months for hospitality and tourism)|
|College and University Student||The length of your academic program or 24 months for non-degree students|
|Secondary School Student||1 year|
|Alien Physician||7 years (or less, depending on the program)|
|Camp Counselor||4 months|
|Au Pair||12 months (or 24 months with an extension)|
|Summer Work Travel||4 months|
Health Insurance Requirements for J1 Visa Holders
As a J1 visa holder, you are required to have adequate health insurance that meets the minimum standards of the Exchange Visitor Program. These standards are:
- Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness.
- Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000.
- Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $50,000.
- A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.
Breaking Down the American J1 Visa Fees
The American J1 visa involves various fees that you will have to pay during the application process. These fees include:
|Fee Type||Description and Amount|
|Program Fee||This is the fee charged by your sponsor organization for administering your exchange program. The amount varies depending on the type and length of your program and the services provided by your sponsor. It is recommended to contact the sponsor organization directly for specifics on their charges and what is included.|
|SEVIS Fee||This is the fee charged by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for maintaining the SEVIS database. It is $220 for most J1 visa categories, except for au pairs, camp counsellors, and summer work travel, which are all $35.|
|Visa Application Fee||This is the fee charged by the U.S. Department of State for processing your visa application. The visa application fee is $160 for all J1 visa categories. Payment can be made online or at a designated bank, depending on the country of residence.|
|Health Insurance Fee||This is the fee charged by the health insurance provider for covering medical expenses during the stay in the U.S. The amount varies depending on the type and level of coverage chosen and the duration of the stay. It is advisable to compare different options and choose one that meets individual needs and budget.|
|Other Expenses||Other expenses related to the exchange program may also apply. These are variable and should be clarified by the sponsor organization or relevant agencies.|
What are the benefits of a J1 visa?
There are several benefits of a J1 visa, such as:
- You can gain experience in the U.S. in various fields, such as work, study, teaching, research, or training. The J1 allows foreign nationals to learn the latest industry innovations, technologies, and methodologies and improve their intercultural communication, teamwork, and strategic thinking skills.
- You can participate in cultural exchange and foster mutual understanding between the U.S. and your home country. The J1 enables foreign nationals to share their culture, values, and perspectives with Americans and vice versa. The J1 also promotes international cooperation and goodwill.
- You can travel and explore the U.S. during your program. The J1 allows foreign nationals to visit different places, experience diverse lifestyles, and enjoy various attractions in the U.S. The J1 also grants a grace period of 30 days after the completion of the program for travel and sightseeing purposes.
- You can bring your family with you on a J2 visa. The J1 allows foreign nationals to have their spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old join them in the U.S. as dependents. The J2 visa holders can also study or work in the U.S. with an Employment Authorization Card (EAD).
- You can apply for other visas or permanent residency after your program. The J1 does not prevent foreign nationals from applying for other nonimmigrant or immigrant visas in the future as long as they meet the eligibility requirements and comply with the home residency requirement (if applicable). The J1 may also qualify foreign nationals for certain waivers or exemptions from other visa restrictions.