All You Should Know About J-1 Student Visa


When you hear Exchange Visitor Visa or J student visa, just know that it is the same as a J-1 visa and it is usually for people outside Canada who want to partake in exchange programs in America that relate to studies and work.

You may have bumped into various types of student visas in the course of your research as an international student planning to study in the US. F-1 visa and a J-1 visa are the most common types of student visas and are required for various types of programs. Each of them has its own conditions, benefits, and requirement. As you can see, it is important for you to understand each type of US student visa very well before applying to study in the US. 

In this article, we are going to cover all that you need to know about the Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa (also known as the J-1 student visa) ranging from the basics of the J-1 visa, the difference between the F-1 and J-1 visas, eligibility to work as a J-1 student, how to submit your J-1 visa application, J-1 visa student requirements, and lots more!

The meaning of a J-1 Student Visa? 

The J-1 visa is tailor-made for anyone who is not in the United States but wishes to participate in the study- and work-related exchange programs authorized by the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Generally, a J-1 student visa holder is funded by either an educational or nonprofit institution.


Also, in the J-1 visa, there are about 15 categories of qualified positions and/or program types, they are:

  1. Government Visitor
  2. Camp Counselor
  3. Au Pair
  4. Secondary School Student
  5. College and University Student
  6.  Research Scholar
  7. Trainee
  8. Professor
  9. International Visitor
  10. Short-Term Scholar
  11. Specialist
  12. Intern
  13. Teacher
  14. Physician
  15. Summer Work Travel

Of course, you can stay in the country when you apply for a program/degree in the U.S but the duration of your stay on a J-1 student visa depends on the program you choose to pursue. For instance, if you are pursuing a Camp Counselor program, you have just four months to stay in the US, whereas you can stay in the U.S legally for several years in the US if you are pursuing Au Pair and Research Scholar programs.

Upon graduation, you are expected to return to your home country and live there for a minimum of two years, if not you will not be permitted to return to the U.S. Interestingly, this requirement may be waived in case of emergency or special circumstances related to going back to your home country.      

As a J-1 Visa Holder, Can I Work in the US?

A J-1 visa holder is allowed to work while studying as long as he/she obtain work authorization. However, certain restrictions like working part-time on campus for a maximum of 20 hours weekly apply to this but students are allowed to work full time when there is an academic break.

What is the difference between the two student visas(J-1 and F-1 Student Visa)

Although both visas seem to be similar nevertheless, there are clear differences you should know when you are choosing the visa you want to apply for:

  • Point of contact— While J-1 students are expected to liaise with a Responsible Officer from their program sponsor, these officers are required to check up on the health, welfare, and safety of J-1 visa students to ensure that they are adhering to all visa requirements,  F-1 students have access to a Designated School Official (DSO) at their college or university whose duties are assisting students with all visa requirements and regulations during their stay in the United States.
  • Certificates of eligibility—As a J-1 student visa applicant, you are required to submit Form DS-2019. The essence of this form is to outline details of the program and other necessary information, including a breakdown of the cost, start and end dates for your program, and options for financial support. F-1 students are expected to submit a form known as the I-20 form containing the same information as that of Form DS-2019.
  • Post-graduation work and training—Upon graduation, J-1 students are qualified for Academic Training (AT) in a field connected to their program for as long as 18 months. Interestingly, a J-1 student who has earned a Ph.D. can ask for an extra 18 months of Academic Training in their related field. As for F-1 student visa holders, after graduation, they can apply to work in a related field through Optional Practical Training (OPT) for up to 12 months in the US. Also, F-1 students can request two extra years of work in their field for STEM degrees.
  • Working restrictions— J-1 visa students are only allowed to work on campus while F-1 students can work outside the campus but that would be after completing one academic year of study. In addition to this, the dependents of J-1 visa students are allowed to work and study full time in the US while the dependents of F-1 students are not permitted to work, but can register in part-time study.
  • Funding source— Some programs for J-1 students are sponsored by an accredited educational or nonprofit institution while  F-1 students can be sponsored by either friends and family, or in most cases, by themselves.
  • Requirements for home residency— 30 days after the end of their program, J-1 visa students are required to return to home and live there for a minimum of 2 years that is if they do not have any extensions while such requirement is not attached to the visa conditions of F-1 students, however, they must leave the United States upon expiration of their program within 60 days that is if they do not have any extensions.

What Are the Requirements for J-1 Visa Program?

You have to ensure that you fulfill the requirements below when submitting your application, they are:

  • Keep the source of your funding—It is expected that aside from a personal friend or family member, an accredited sponsor must provide at least 50% of the funding for your program.
  • Complete English language proficiency requirements—The college or university you are applying for has its expected English language proficiency score, and you are required to meet it.
  • Have valid insurance—Medical insurance is compulsory for both you and your dependents (if any) and you are required to meet the minimum standards outlined by your host university.
  • Be up-to-date with pre-arrival information and attend orientation—It is expected that your sponsor provides you and any dependents with information about your chosen program and orientates you with information concerning the region where you wish to study.
  • Stick to J-1 visa rules—Both you and your sponsor should make sure that you are meeting all J-1 visa requirements and keeping your status as a J-1 student actively. 
  • Meet requirements for home residency —As we earlier stated, you must return to your home country and reside there for a minimum of two years at the end of your program.
  • Have a valid passport—You and any dependents should make sure that you have valid passports for US travel in advance for at least six months before the completion of your program.
  • Maintain full-time registration during the academic year—Ensure that you are registered in the full-time study when the academic year is in session despite the fact that you can work full time during academic break periods.
  • Adhere to work restrictions—If peradventure you choose to work while studying, make sure that your job is on campus and you are working part-time for a maximum of 20 hours a week. While you can work full-time during the academic breaks, working off-campus is not allowed except you have the necessary authorization from your sponsor and university.
  • Make sure your address is up-to-date—If for any reason, you change your residence, please update both your sponsor and your university of the address change within the space of ten days.

How Can I Submit a J-1 Visa Application?

Below are the steps you should follow when applying for a J-1 student visa: 

1. Select a Sponsor

Remember that we earlier stated that your program needs to be funded by a non-personal source as one of the major conditions of a J-1 student visa, therefore, you are required to find a sponsor ready to sponsor your program and this sponsor must be accredited by the United States Department of State.

2. Present Your DS-2019 Form

If you succeed in getting accepted to the program after applying to a sponsor, the next step is to submit the DS-2019 form which is your Certificate of Eligibility to apply for J-1 status. You are to obtain the form from your selected sponsor and in case you have any dependents, you will get a separate version of the DS-2019 form.   

3. Pay the Necessary Fees

There is a wide range of fees that you may be required to pay during the application process aside from your program fee. One of such fees is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) I-901 fee which must be paid to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Also, note that this fee may or may not be a part of your program fee depending on the program or your sponsor, therefore make sure that you check with your Responsibility Officer. 

Other fees are a visa issuance fee and a nonimmigrant visa application processing fee, they can both be paid at the US embassy in your home country, however, you don’t have to pay these fees if your program is funded by a US government-funded educational and cultural exchange program, or the Department of State, US Agency for International Development (USAID).

4. Schedule a Visa Interview

Before they can accept your application, you must undergo an interview with a consular officer at your local US Embassy. Do well to schedule your appointment on time because waiting times differ depending on your country. In case of any dependents, schedule an appointment so as to follow you for your interview. 

5. Go For Your Visa Interview

Just bear in mind that the consular officer will interview you to comprehend your reasons for traveling to the US and take all the necessary documents including receipts of all the payments you made along with you.

In conclusion, we have exhausted all you need to know about the J-1 Student visa ranging from the basics of the J-1 visa, the difference between the F-1 and J-1 visas, eligibility to work as a J-1 student, how to submit your J-1 visa application, and J-1 visa student requirements.


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