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What is a J1 Visa?

What is a J1 Visa?

What is a J1 Visa?

Those looking to study in the United States full-time need to register themselves for an F1 Visa, however, those looking to be part of an exchange programme, need to apply for a J1 Visa.

We’ve got a useful guide here to help you out with your J1 Visas, which tells you everything you need to know and explains the application process as well as the difficulties that can arise in applying for a visa in America.

What is a J1 Visa?

A J1 Visa (or the J1 Exchange Visitor Visa) is a non-immigrant visa that is offered by the United States to students that are studying in the country as part of an exchange programme. Specifically, programmes that promote cultural exchange or focus on medical or business training are given preferential treatment with the visa.

How much is the J1 Visa?

The current fee for a J1 Visa is $160. The fee is subject to change, however, as with the F1 Visa, you will need to pay one of those pesky SEVIS charges. SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Programme, and the SEVIS charge stands at $180, no one said getting a visa was cheap.

How do I apply for a J1 Visa?

The application is simple, but it takes a long time. There are four key steps to applying for a J1 Visa.

First of all, you need to find a J Sponsor. Basically, this is a designated sponsor that will accept you into their programme. Don’t worry about this, there is a list of designated J-Sponsor organisations, provided by the United States Department of State. Your sponsor will also help you with your application.

Next, you will need to apply for the DS-2019, this is also known by the name Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status. The form is what the Department of State look at to permit you an interview for your visa. If you have a spouse, partner or child joining you, you will need to fill out another DS-2019 form. The form will be issued by your sponsoring organisation and will have a description of their programme on it.

Then, you need to pay your fees. We’ve listed the fees down above.

After this, you’ll face a situation similar to that of the F1 visa, whereby you need to have an official interview at either the US Embassy or the US Consulate. Waiting times can be up and down, so make sure you’ve scheduled an interview as early as possible. At the interview, you will be asked about what your intentions are after the programme and about how you plan on covering yourself financially during the programme.

What documentation will I need for my J1 Visa interview?

You will need to bring a few documents with you for the interview, and it is imperative that your documents are all up-to-date and are all valid too. You will need the following documents at your interview:

  • Completed DS-2019 from your sponsor
  • Ties to your country documents (bank statements etc)
  • Valid passport
  • Your SEVIS fee ($180)
  • Receipt of your visa application fee ($160)
  • Completed DS-160 form
  • Recent photograph

These documents are imperative and you will not be granted a visa without them.

How is the J1 Visa different from the Erasmus Programme?

The Erasmus Programme only works in Europe. The Erasmus Programme is a programme run to help students that are looking to experience other cultures in and around Europe, the J1 Visa is (as the name suggests) a visa, and is not a programme run by a university. Also, the Erasmus Programme cannot be used by university students until their second-year, unlike the J1 Visa, which can be applied for at your leisure.

J1 Visa - American Passport

Is there anyone who cannot apply for a J1 Visa?

The J1 Visa is open to university students, however, there are a few categories of job or student that are ineligible for a J1 Visa, such as:

  • Au-Pair
  • Secondary school
  • Camp counsellor
  • Summer work

The J1 Visa does allow for dependents, spouses or partners etc, but only under certain categories, however, some programmes within the Visa do not allow for fellow travellers.

How long does it take for me to get a J1 Visa?

This really depends on your country and it also depends when you apply and the number of applicants for the visa. You should apply as soon as possible, that way you will have plenty of time to sort out your visa.

Can I work on a J1 Visa?

You can’t work on a J1 Visa, however, you will only be able to work for a J1 Sponsored Employer. There are exceptions whereby the US government may allow you to work for a non-sponsored employer if it is related to your area of study.

To work on a J1 Visa, you need to meet certain criteria in order to be able to work, however. You can only be limited to campus work in some areas, and other areas may allow you to work off-campus.

You will need to meet the following conditions:

  • On-Campus Work: Employment on your campus is available for students who have pursued a scholarship, an assistantship or a fellowship.
  • Off-Campus Work: This is allowed for students who are part of a travel-exchange programme or as part of a summer work programme.
  • Work can be permitted if there is a serious economic situation that could affect your J1 status.
  • Your academic results are high enough to merit eligibility for work. You still need to continue in a full-course of study, however.

You cannot exceed twenty hours of employment, even during school breaks or holidays.

The conditions are tricky, but if you find yourself worrying about your eligibility for work in the US, you should speak to your interviewer at the US Embassy or US Consulate or speak to your International Office at your university, in America.

When can I enter the United States and how long can I stay?

Assuming you have received your J1 Visa, you won’t be able to enter the US more than thirty days before your programme begins. Entry is barred until that time as your visa is neither residential or work-based.

As for how long you can stay, you can stay as long as the J1 visa is valid for. This means that you are eligible to stay for as long as the visa is around for. For example, if your visa is valid for eight months, then you can stay in the US for eight months, you will not be able to stay longer.

The F1 Visa allows students to stay for up to sixty days after graduation, but since this is an exchange visa and is only valid until your exchange has happened, you will not be able to stay around for sixty days.

Am I able to extend my stay if I have a J1 Visa?

You are able to extend the programme, but only for as long as your exchange programme allows. For example, if your J1 Visa is for nine months, but the programme you’re studying actually allows for students to stay for eleven months, your visa can be updated to reflect this. You will need to fill out a new form, however, in this case, your DS-2019 form.

Your application for an extension will still need to be approved by the Department of State and you will need to pay a non-refundable fee of $367 to the Department of State.

What is a Travel Grace Period?

A Travel Grace Period is a period of time in which the student may take up to thirty days to travel around the United States. During the thirty-day period, you are no longer under the jurisdiction of the J-Visa and are instead under the jurisdiction of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You won’t be able to participate in any exchange activities previously allowed under the J1 visa and you will not be able to work either.

The US does also recommend that you don’t travel outside of the US under the Travel Grace Period, as you will most likely not be allowed back in.

Can I take part in another J1 Programme when I finish my current one?

Of course, you can! You can take as many as you like, the only problem is, you will need to re-apply all over again. Money and all. Once you’ve finished your current J1 Visa, you will need to leave the United States before you can re-enter.

J1 Visa - American Passports on a map of Europe

If I’m on a J1 Visa do I still have to pay tax on any earnings?

Not so fast, Al Capone! You still need to pay tax. The taxation varies according to your visitor category, your country of origin, the duration of your stay in the United States, and the tax laws for the state that you’re in.

You are however exempt from Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes, which is used for social security and Medicare. Companies also save money on tax contributions by employ J1 Visa users too.

Can I apply for a J1 Visa if I have a criminal conviction?

As with the F1 Visa, it depends on the offences committed and it depends whether you are considered a threat to national security. The US will allow people with a criminal record to enter the United States, but your case must be reviewed before you will be granted a visa.

Many applicants think they have “cheated the system” by not disclosing their criminal convictions on their visa application. We can tell you right here, that no one gets away with lying about criminal convictions on their visa application and if you are found to have lied about it, you will be denied a visa without a second’s hesitation.

Passing a security check does not mean that the US is aware of your criminal convictions, so it’s best to mention it on your form.

The J1 Visa is a tricky visa to apply for, but imperative if you plan on studying in the United States as part of an exchange programme, it will take a long time, but for what the visa is worth, we recommend you stick with it, you could be in with the chance to visit one of the most vibrant countries on the planet, good luck!


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