Studying Abroad

Everything you need to know about J1 visas and who should apply

Sarah Jones  · Mar 13th 2024

Looking to undertake an exchange programme in the U.S.? Don't forget your J1 visa! There are a few moving parts, so it's worth planning ahead of time to avoid delays to your plans.

J1 Visa: DS-2019 document

For those looking to head to the U.S. for a short stint on an exchange programme, you'll need a J1 visa. It can be a difficult process to untangle, so here's our quick guide to everything you need to know before applying!

J1 Visa University

What is a J1 visa?

Also known as a J1 visa America, the J1 visa is the documentation you'll need to visit the United States as part of an exchange programme. This type of visa allows you to stay in the U.S. for a set period of time.

J1 visa vs. F1 visa

A J1 visa shouldn't be confused with an F1 visa, and you'll want to make sure you choose the best option for you. While J1 visas are used for exchange programmes, F1 visas are for those doing a degree or longer term programme in the U.S.

In both cases, you will need to have proof of your sponsor and your acceptance to the programme or degree you'll be studying.

Are you eligible for a J1 visa?

There are a few different categories of J1 visas, but for students looking for a college or university visa, you must meet the following J1 visa requirements:

  • Provide a written agreement from your local college or university as well as the institution you'll be studying at in the U.S.
  • You're able to support yourself financially and not require additional financial aid

During the application process, you'll be asked to provide evidence that you meet the eligibility requirements.

J1 University Visa

Application process

If you're eligible and ready to move on with your application, here are the steps you'll need to take.

Find a J1 sponsor

The Designated Sponsor List will help you here as you'll need to find a sponsor who will accept you into their programme. Once you have your sponsor, they'll be able to help you with the rest of your application process too.

Apply for the DS-160

Once you're sponsor's approved, you'll be enrolled in Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Here you can apply for the DS-160 which is a non immigrant visa application. You'll be asked to provide a passport picture for your visa too.

Pay the J1 visa fees

For this type of visa, you'll need to pay the fees for the SEVIS and DS-160. Here's the breakdown of costs:

  • SEVIS Fee: $180
  • Form DS-160 Fee: $160

You will also have the option to pay a visa insurance fee if your visa's approved, though this depends on the country you live in. Some sponsors may pay the SEVIS fee for you, so be sure to check in with them and get a payment receipt as proof.

It's also worth noting you won't need to pay any application fees if your programme is funded through the U.S. Government, Department of State or U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S.AID).

Schedule your J1 visa interview

Before your interview, you'll need to make sure you have all the necessary documents.

For student, the J1 documents you'll need are:

  • International valid passport for at least six months beyond your period of stay
  • Form DS-160 confirmation page
  • Form DS-160 payment receipt
  • Passport photographs if you didn't upload one as part of the DS-160 application
  • SEVIS eligibility certificate
  • Proof of financial capability. This implies evidence that you or someone else can handle your financial expenses in the U.S.
  • Proof that you'll leave the U.S. after your program expires. This could be family ties, investments, or property you can't abandon in your home country.
  • Evidence of your purpose of travel
  • Evidence of previous employment if applicable

Once you have the necessary documents, you can schedule your J1 visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country.

In your interview you'll be asked about your programme of study, your reasons for coming to the U.S. and plans while you're there. You'll have shared most of this information on your forms already so it's all about making sure what you're saying matches what you've shared in your application. After this you'll be told if your application has been approved or not.

J1 Uni Visa

How long does processing take?

The time it takes to find out if you've been approved and have your application processed depends on how busy the embassy is with applications, as well as the country you're applying from. For European and African countries, your application can be processed anywhere between 14 days to a year, while Asian countries can be processed as early as 2 days after applying.

Our advice? Get your J1 application rolling as early as possible!

How long can you stay on a J1 visa

If your J1 visa is approved, you'll be able to enter the U.S. within 30 days of your programme starting, so you can get settled or even travel the country a little. The length of your stay will be determined by how long your visa allows and will be based on the length of your educational programme.

Looking to stay longer than your visa? You can apply for an extension, but you'll only be able to do this under a J1 visa if your exchange programme is also extended. If so, you'll need to submit the D-190 form, pay the additional fee of $367 and provide evidence as to why it's being extended.

If your visa expires, you can stay in the U.S. 30 days before leaving - this is known as the grace period to allow you to say your goodbyes, pack up your belongings and head home!

Working on a J1 visa

While a J1 visa is an educational visa, you can work alongside your studies as long as you get the authorisation to do so. There are also limitations to the amount of work you can do. These limitations include only being authorised to work jobs on campus in a part-time capacity and working a maximum of 20 hours a week.

If you're searching for work off-campus, this can be more tricky to get authorised. However, there have been cases of this being permitted such as the economic situation affecting your J1 status or your academic results are strong enough to allow you to do so. Here, you will still be restricted to 20 hours per week.

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