J-1 visas are issued for exchange students and visiting research scholars and professors. The following guide is intended to help students & scholars currently outside the U.S. apply for their visas and enter the U.S. to begin their programs. 

  • Step 1: Obtain your DS-2019 from the Office of International Programs
  • Step 2: Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee in the amount of $220
  • Step 3: Complete the DS-160 Visa Application (except Canadians)
  • Step 4: Apply for your J-1 Visa (except Canadians)
  • Important note about J-1 Bars and the Home Residency Requirement (Note: If you are participating the the North 2 North Exchange Program please be sure to read this section)

Step 1: Obtain your DS-2019 Form

Once you have been accepted as an exchange student or approved as a visiting scholar and your documentation of funding has been approved by the Office of International Program we will issue the DS-2019 form you will need to apply for your J-1 visa. We will mail you the original form via Fed Ex as the embassy/consulate will not accept an electronic copy of the DS-2019 form. You will need to have the original to attend your visa appointment.

Update: The Department of State (DOS) has announced a new rule that will permit the electronic transmission of the Form DS-2019 to J-1 exchange visitors beginning on April 27, 2023. As of that date, J-1 exchange visitors who need an updated DS-2019 or a new travel signature can receive an electronic version of the DS-2019 via e-mail from the OIP.  Upon receiving a digital version of the DS-2019, J-1 exchange visitors and their dependents will need to print, sign, and date the Form DS-2019. Exchange visitors should plan to carry this printed version when traveling or applying for a new J-1 visa. 

Step 2: Pay the I-901 Sevis Fee

After obtaining your visa documents, all students must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee in the amount of $220 USD. The Department of Homeland Security collects this congressionally-mandated fee to cover the costs of updating SEVIS, a system that enables the U.S. Government to maintain updated information on J visa holders.

How to Pay the SEVIS Fee:

To pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee, go to www.fmjfee.com. You will need your SEVIS number from your DS-2019 Form. The SEVIS number is located on the upper right corner of the Form DS-2019.

If you have a credit card and access to the internet you may pay the SEVIS fee online.

If you were born in or are a citizen of Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria or Gambia you must pay by money order or via Western Union

Evidence of the SEVIS fee payment in the form of a receipt or a payment verification printout must be presented during your visa application interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate and at many U.S. ports of entry. Please have your SEVIS payment receipt ready upon entry and reentry to the U.S.

SEVIS Fee for CANADIAN Citizens:

Although Canadian citizens are not required to have visas, they are required to present the I-901 SEVIS fee payment receipt at a U.S. port of entry as they enter the U.S. Please note that it is not possible to pay the SEVIS fee at the U.S. port of entry. Canadians must pay the SEVIS fee prior to getting to the port of entry

Step 3: Complete the DS-160 Visa Application

The DS-160 is an online visa application form that you (and your dependents, if applicable) must complete before applying for an J-1 exchange visitors visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy outside the U.S.

You may access the DS-160 on the U.S. Department of State website. After you have completed the DS-160, you must take these next steps below:

  • Print and keep the DS-160 barcode page. (You will not need to print the full application.)
  • You must schedule a visa interview appointment. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate does not schedule an appointment for you. Visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will be interviewed for country-specific instructions.
  • Pay the visa application processing fee. Review country-specific instructions on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website. Note, the DS-160 visa application fee is nonrefundable and nontransferable. You must pay this fee first before booking a visa appointment. If you need to change the location of your visa interview after paying this fee, you will not be able to transfer your payment and will need to pay a new DS-160 visa application fee before booking an appointment at a new U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Apply for your J-1 Visa

In order to schedule an appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate you will need to follow the instructions and required documents on the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate you will visit. While you can apply for a visa at U.S. embassy or consulate in any country outside the U.S., it is always better to apply in your home country.

As an applicant for a temporary, non-immigrant visa to enter the United States, you must bring your Passport, Form DS-2019, SEVIS fee receipt, DS-160 confirmation page, proof of funding, and any additional documentation required by the individual U.S. embassy or consulate you visit when you present your application to the consular official.

Note that your J-2 dependents can book their embassy appointments independently from yours, if need be.

J-1 Bars

Special Conditions on Participation Related to the Research Scholar & Professor Categories

  1. Twelve month bar after previous J participation: Time spent in the United States in any J status (including J-2 status) during the 12-month period preceding the prospective professor or research scholar’s program date may affect the alien’s eligibility for participation as a Professor or Research Scholar.
  2. 24 month bar on repeat participation: An individual who participates in the Exchange Visitor Program as a Professor or Research Scholar becomes subject to a 24-month bar on “repeat participation” in those categories after completing his or her program.

Two Year Home Residency Requirement (subject to 212e)

Important: Students participating in the North 2 North Exchange Program with USM are likely to be subject to the 2 Year Home Residency Requirement

What is the 2 year Home Residency Requirement? The two-year home residency requirement (or 212(e), as it is referenced in the immigration regulations) means that those who come the U.S. in J-1 status cannot become permanent residents in the U.S., change status in the U.S., or get work or family-based visa status such as H, L or K until they return to their country of last permanent residence for at least two years cumulatively.

Who is Subject?

Those in J-1 status (and their J-2 dependents) can become subject if any of the following apply to the J-1 program:

  1. If the J-1 receives funding from the U.S. government, home government or an international organization to use for the J-1 program.
  2. If the J-1 worked or studied in a field that appears on the “skills list.” This is a list of fields of specialized knowledge and skills that are needed in the J-1’s country of last permanent residence for its development. Canada, Australia and Germany are examples of countries that are not on the list. China, India and South Korea are examples of countries that have many skills on the list.
  3. If the J-1 participated in a graduate medical training program in the United States under the sponsorship of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates.

Can the Requirement Be Waived?

If you received funding from your home government or an international organization, or are subject based on the skills list, it is often possible to get a waiver by requesting a “letter of no objection” from your home country’s embassy in Washington, DC.

If you received U.S. government funding (such as a Fulbright) it is nearly impossible to get this requirement waived.

For detailed information on the waiver process, visit the State Department website’s section on waivers.