J-1 Program

Where and When Do I Need to Apply for My J-1 Visa?

Applicants may apply for their visa as soon as they are prepared to do so. Exchange visitor visa applicants are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing. Applicants for visas should generally apply at the American Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence.

Applying for an Exchange Visitor Visa - Required Documentation

As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available on our website at Visa Wait Times, and on most embassy websites. If you are authorized by your sponsor to be accompanied by your spouse (husband or wife) and children, they will also be given a Form DS-2019 and they can apply at the same time. During the visa application process, usually at the interview, a quick, two-digit, ink-free fingerprint scan will be taken. Some applicants will need additional screening, and will be notified when they apply. You may apply for your visa at an Embassy or Consulate any time before the beginning of your exchange program. Each visa applicant must submit these forms and documentation, and submit fees as explained below:

What are the Required Visa Fees?

Additional Documentation

My Visa Has Been Issued- When Can I Travel to the U.S.?

Spouses and Children

Spouses and/or children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal exchange visitor (J) visa holder in the United States for the duration of his/her stay require exchange visitor visas (derivative J visas). The application procedure is the same as that for a primary visa applicant. The sponsor must approve the accompaniment of the spouse and/or children and who will each be issued their own Form DS-2019. This form is used to obtain the required visa and the spouse and dependents can enter the U.S. at the same time as the principal exchange visitor or at a later date.

Work - The spouse and/or children of an exchange visitor in the U.S. may not work in J-2 status. If employment is desired, the appropriate work visa will be required. Before they can work, they must make an application to DHS, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and be approved for permission to work. They must file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with the USCIS office that serves the area where they live for a work permit (employment authorization document).

To learn more, visit How Do I Get a Work Permit (Employment Authorization Document)?.

Study- The spouse and/or children of an exchange visitor visa holder who are in the U.S. on an exchange visitor visa may study in the U.S. without also being required to apply for a student (F-1) visa or change to F-1 status.

Spouses and/or children who do not intend to reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but visit for vacations only, may be eligible to apply for visitor (B-2) visas, or if qualified, travel without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program.

Family Members Following to Join the Exchange Visitor
The spouse and children can also apply for visas after the principal applicant has already traveled. In general, they must present the following:

Spouses and children of exchange visitors may not enter the United States before the principal visitor enters for the first time.