Who are J-1 students?
This visa is for people who will be participating in an exchange visitor program in the United States. The "J" visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs. To learn more, visit the U.S. Department of State Exchange Visitor Visa website.
What Is a DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility)?
This is a SEVIS-generated (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) document issued by a U.S. college or university or Department of State-designated sponsor organization. After you are granted admission to attend CCA, you will complete the DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility application.
The DS-2019 form indicates you are eligible to attend the academic institution that issued you the form, and whose name is listed on it. It shows you, the consular officers, and customs officials which school you can attend, your intended program of study, how long your program will last, and the funding required. You will use this form, in conjunction with your passport, to apply for your student visa and then enter the United States.
What is a Visa?
A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port-of entry and request permission from the U.S. immigration officer to enter the United States. It does not guarantee entry into the U.S. For more information about the definition of a visa, including policies and procedures regarding visas, please visit the U.S. Department of State visa information website.
Planning Ahead for the Visa Process
One of the most important things you can do to ensure that you will be able to arrive in time for the start of your educational program in the United States is to plan well in advance, not only for the academic portion of your U.S. program, but also for the visa process. This means you will need to request and receive the DS-2019 from the college well in advance of your planned departure to the United States.
You will also need to make an appointment for your visa interview. Please consult the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest you (view the online list to find out how long it can take to make an appointment.
SEVIS I-901 Fee
You will need to pay the visa processing fee (the procedure will differ from one U.S. embassy/consulate to another, so visit the U.S. Embassy's website and make an appointment for the visa interview. The SEVIS I-901 fee is currently $180 and can be paid online or by mail. For more information or to apply online, visit the SEVIS I-901 website.
Documents Required for J-1 Exchange Student Visa Interview
Be sure to have all the necessary documentation prior to the interview, including DS-2019, financial support documents, proof of SEVIS and visa fee payments, letter of acceptance from CCA, and a completed visa application form. Be sure to complete the visa application correctly by carefully following the Department of State's procedures listed on its website.
Key Information about Visas & Entering the United States
The U.S. embassy/consulate cannot issue a visa more than 90 days before the actual start of the program in the United States. However, visa applicants are encouraged to apply for their visa as soon as they are prepared to do so.
So if the DS-2019 indicates the program will start on September 1, a visa cannot be issued before June 1 of that same year.
Even if you have been issued a visa to enter the United States, you will not be allowed to enter the country more than 30 days before the start of your program. Returning students are exempt from this requirement.
Using the example above, if the program of study starts on September 1, you will not be permitted to enter the United States until August 1 or later.
- Maintain a valid passport at all times.
- Make certain your J-1 exchange visa to remain in the United States is valid.
- Maintain a full-time course of study at all times (12 credits or more).
- Obtain authorization from our office prior to dropping below a full course of study.
- Individuals on J-1 visa need authorization from ISAP to obtain employment during their course of study.
- Should you leave early, report departure date and reason to our office.
- Make sure you have the appropriate travel documents so that you can reenter the United States after you travel abroad (DS-2019 has to be endorsed by ISAP Office prior to travel).
- Very important: Report any change of local address (current residence) within 10 days of moving.
Length of Stay Requirements
USCIS regulations state that you must leave the United States within 30 days of completing your exchange program. For example, if the last day of the semester is May 4, you must leave the country on or before June 3 of that same year.
Required Check-in & International Student Orientation
All new international students are required by law to attend the International Student Orientation, held before the beginning of the fall and spring semesters, in addition to the New Student Orientation.
For more information and upcoming dates, please see Orientation.
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