What is J-1 Visa and How to Get One? Experienced Exchange Students

Woman Applying For Visa At Table

Are you considering an exchange program in the United States? Do you know how to get a J1 visa? Exchange students from around the world travel to the United States for a unique cultural experience, and the J1 visa is the visa that allows this. The J1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States government that allows foreign nationals to participate in exchange programs in the United States. Experienced exchange students have picked the J1 visa as the best option for international exchange students, and this article will discuss what a J1 visa is and how to get one.

Who Qualifies for a J-1 Visa?

The J1 visa is valid for up to two years and is issued to both students and workers. The difference between the two is that a student typically studies at a university or other academic institution, while a worker will typically work for a company. 

The qualifications for a J1 visa are: 

  • Currently, be a citizen of a country with a treaty with the United States, and have completed a minimum of secondary education or its equivalent. 
  • Additionally, you must be in good health, have enough money to support yourself, and not be coming to the United States for criminal or unlawful activities. 
  • Those who are currently in the United States on a different visa, such as an F-1 or H-1B, may also apply for a J1 visa as long as they meet all of the above qualifications. 
  • The main difference between these visas is that an F-1 and H-1B visas are for employment only, while a J1 visa is for both students and workers.

Benefits of a J1 Visa

There are many benefits of a J1 visa, but, most importantly, it allows you to travel and experience America’s culture and way of life first-hand. With a J1 visa, 

  • You can travel around the country and make friends with people from all over the world. 
  • You can work, study, or do both while in the United States. 
  • If you are a student, you can attend any university in the United States that will admit you, 
  • while if you are a worker, you can work for any company that will hire you. 
  • If you are a student, you will receive Free or Reduced Tuition, and if you are a worker, you will be paid the same as an American citizen would be. 

A J-1 visa is valid for up to two years, and you can renew it for an additional two years. Once you have been in the United States for five years on a J1 visa, you can apply for a Green Card.

Applying for a J-1 Visa

If you plan on studying at an academic institution, you will be applying for a J-1 exchange visitor visa. There are a few ways to go about this. 

The first way is to attend a university in your home country while also applying for a J-1 visa. Once accepted, you can travel to the United States and be admitted by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). 

The other option is to apply for a J-1 visa while still in your home country. To do this, you will need to be accepted into a university in the United States that offers a J-1 visa as an option for admission.

Forms and Documentation Needed for a J-1 Visa

The application process for a J1 visa can be long, and you should start the application process at least two months before the program start date. Here are specific steps: 

  1. Find an approved exchange program – Your home country’s program office should have a list of approved programs, as well as online forums where you can ask questions. 
  2. Find a host organization in the United States – This information can be found online, and you can use the same organization if you are applying for both a student and a worker J1 visa. 
  3. After that, you must complete both the DS-160 form and the SEVIS Form I-901. The DS-160 is usually done online, and the SEVIS Form can be printed and filled out by hand. 
  4. You will also need to submit a medical examination report, a police certificate from your home country, proof of financial support, copies of any degrees you have earned, and letters of recommendation.

The J-1 Visa Interview

  • The interviews for the J-1 visa will typically be conducted by a Consular Officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest to you. This can occur both before and after you arrive in the United States. 
  • During the interview, the Consular Officer will ask you questions about your background, how you plan on financially supporting yourself while in the United States, and why you want to come to the United States. 
  • Be prepared to answer all of these questions, and be honest, as the Consular Officer will check your background, and if you are found to be lying, you will be denied a J-1 visa. 
  • After your J-1 visa has been approved, you will receive a DS-2019 form. This form is your I-20, and it must be kept until you leave the United States. 
  • You will also need to apply for a J-1 visa from your home country before you travel to the United States. You can fly to the United States and then be admitted by CBP, or you can travel to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country.

The Length of a J-1 Visa

A J1 visa is valid for up to two years. You can renew the J-1 visa for an additional two years. After five years, you can apply for a Green Card.

Tips from Experienced Exchange Students on How to Get a J-1 Visa

  1. Start planning early – The sooner you start planning your exchange program, the better. You want to make sure you get your financial support in order, apply for your J-1 visa as soon as possible, and do anything else you need to do to make sure you are prepared.
  2. Be prepared to wait – The application process can take several months, and you may have to travel to your home country to have an interview. The sooner you start the process, the better.
  3. Be honest – Your host organization will conduct a background check on you, so be honest about your past and any criminal activity you have been involved in. If you are found to be lying, you will not be allowed to come to the United States. 
  4. Go to an H-1B Forum or a Visa Forum – There are many forums where you can ask questions about getting a J-1 visa, and you can also ask questions about getting an H-1B visa. 
  5. Remember that you are an exchange student – You are not only representing yourself, but also your home country. Make sure you are friendly and polite to everyone you meet and represent yourself and your home country well.