US Exchange Visitor Visa
The United States welcomes foreign citizens who come to the U.S. to participate in exchange programs. Before applying for a visa, all exchange visitor applicants are required to be accepted and approved by an authorized program sponsor. When accepted, the applicant will receive from the educational institution or program sponsors the necessary approval documentation to be submitted when applying for a visa.
The exchange visitor program’s J visa is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences. Participants include students at all academic levels; trainees obtaining on-the-job training with firms, institutions, and agencies; teachers of primary, secondary, and specialized schools; professors coming to teach or do research at institutions of higher learning; research scholars; professional trainees in the medical and allied fields; and international visitors coming for the purpose of travel, observation, consultation, research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs.
Spouses or unmarried children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal visa holder of a J-1 visa to the United States for the duration of his/her stay must have J-2 visas. Spouses or children who do not intend to reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but who will visit for vacations only, may be eligible to apply for visitor (B-2) visas.
The spouse and/or child of an exchange visitor in the U.S. may not work while holding a J-2 visa unless they have filed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must have reviewed the Form I-765 and given permission to the J-2 holder to work. The USCIS website has a PDF document titled “How Do I Get a Work Permit (Employment Authorization Document)?” that has more details.
To apply for a J visa, you must submit the following:
- A Non-immigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) Form.
- A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person desiring a visa must submit an application.
- One (1) 2″x2″ (5cmx5cm) photograph.
- Unless your J program is sponsored by the United States Government (with a program code beginning with a “G”), you must present a receipt showing payment of your US$160 non-refundable non-immigrant visa application processing fee, paid in local currency. If a visa is issued, there may be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, depending on your nationality. The Department of State’s website can help you find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is.
- An approved DS-2019 from your U.S. program.
- Unless your J program is sponsored by the United States Government (with a program code beginning with a “G”), you must pay for your Form I-901 SEVIS fee. The SEVIS website has more details.
In addition to these items, you must present an interview appointment letter confirming that you booked an appointment. You may also bring whatever supporting documents you believe support the information provided to the consular officer.
Supporting documents are only one of many factors a consular officer will consider in your interview. Consular officers look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors during adjudication. Consular officers may look at your specific intentions, family situation, and your long-range plans and prospects within your country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.
Caution: Do not present false documents. Fraud or misrepresentation can result in permanent visa ineligibility. If confidentiality is a concern, you should bring your documents to the Embassy or Consulate in a sealed envelope. The Embassy/Consulate will not make your information available to anyone and will respect the confidentiality of your information.
You should bring the following documents to your interview:
- Documents demonstrating strong financial, social, and family ties to your home country that will compel you to return to your country after your program of study in the U.S. ends.
- Financial and any other documents you believe will support your application and which give credible evidence that you have enough readily-available funds to meet all expenses for the first year of study and that you have access to funds sufficient to cover all expenses while you remain in the United States.
- Only original copies of bank statements, scholarship award letters, etc.will be accepted.
- If you are financially sponsored by another person, bring proof of your relationship to the sponsor (such as your birth certificate), the sponsor’s most recent original tax forms and the sponsor’s bankbooks and/or fixed deposit certificates.
- If you are being sponsored by an organization (U.S., Nigerian or other), please provide a certified letter on the organization’s official stationery explaining the amount of the financial support and the terms under which it is offered.
- Academic documents that show scholastic preparation. Useful documents include school transcripts (original copies are preferred) with grades, public examination certificates (A-levels, etc.), standardized test scores (SAT, TOEFL, etc.), and diplomas.
Supporting Documents for Dependents
If you have dependents, you must also provide:
- Proof of the your relationship to your spouse and/or child (e.g., marriage and birth certificates.)
- Each spouse or child must have their own Form DS-2019. This form is used to obtain the visa required for the spouse/child to enter the U.S. with you as the principal holder of an exchange visitor visa, or to join you in the U.S. at a later date.