General Information about US Visas and the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program

The following information is provided to give you a basic understanding of applying for and maintaining J-1 Exchange Visitor status. For additional information, please contact the Office of Visitor and Visa Services.

US Visas

A US visa is issued and stamped on the page of a passport by a US Consular Officer. The issuance of the visa indicates that the holder is qualified to apply for admission to the United States in a particular immigration classification. US visas are issued only through US Embassies or Consulates abroad. Individuals usually apply for a visa in their home country, although it is often possible to apply in another country.


US immigration law requires that all non-immigrants have a valid machine-readable passport to enter and remain in the United States. Please be certain that your passport and the passports of all accompanying family members are valid for at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States.

Exchange Visitor Program and J-1 Exchange Visitors

The United States Department of State administers the Exchange Visitor Program which furthers foreign policy interests in increasing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of mutual educational and cultural exchanges. Only organizations that have been designated by the Department of State as sponsors are authorized to issue the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (Form DS-2019) which is the basic document to support an application for an Exchange Visitor visa (J visa).

The J visa is a non-immigrant visa, and participants in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program are expected to return to their home country when they complete their program. Entry into the United States as a participant in the Exchange Visitor Program is granted with the understanding that participants will complete the objectives of a single program category.

The minimum duration of any exchange program is three weeks, except for participants in the Short-Term Scholar category or those sponsored by the Federal Government. The maximum duration varies by category. The Form DS-2019 identifies the participant and the sponsor, provides a brief description of the program activity to be completed by the participant, indicates the begin and end dates of the program and the program category, and provides a breakout of the total estimated financial support to be provided to the participant during his or her program.

The program participant is in current J visa status and may complete objectives relative to the program category indicated only during the time period defined unless the participant withdraws or is terminated from the program. The time period defined on the Form DS-2019 may not reflect the maximum program duration permitted for a specific category; in such cases, the participant’s program may be extended, as allowed by program regulations and at the discretion of the Responsible Officer.

The Institute is authorized for three categories of the Exchange Visitor Program: Professor, Research Scholar, and Short-term Scholar. The total stay in the United States for Exchange Visitors in the Professor or Research Scholar category is limited to five years. The total stay in the United States for Exchange Visitors in the Short-Term Scholar category is six months.

Dependents of J-1 Exchange Visitors

A J-1 Exchange Visitor’s spouse and unmarried minor children (under 21 years of age) are eligible to apply for J-2 status. Each J-2 dependent must have his or her own passport, Form DS-2019, and visa to accompany or follow to join the J-1 Exchange Visitor in the United States.

A J-2 dependent may engage in full or part-time study in the United States. Additionally, a J-2 dependent is eligible to apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for employment authorization. Once an employment authorization document is issued by USCIS, a J-2 dependent may work for any employer.

Other family members such as parents, companions, married children, and children over the age of 21 are not eligible for J-2 status but may apply independently for a B-2 Tourist visa or travel under the Visa Waiver Program.