Entering the U.S. as a J-1 Exchange Visitor
STEP 1: Obtain Form DS-2019
STEP 2: Pay SEVIS fee
STEP 3: Apply for a visa
STEP 4: Apply for entry to the U.S.
STEP 5: Register with FSIS
STEP 1: Obtain Form DS-2019 [top]
Important: If you were previously a J-1 exchange visitor anywhere in the U.S., you may be subject to the 12-month bar and/or 24-month bar on repeat participation as a J-1 research scholar or professor. See the 12-Month and 24-Month Bars Chart for more information.
Once you have accepted an invitation to participate in exchange activities at UH, your UH sponsoring unit will submit a DS-2019 initial request to FSIS. FSIS will issue a DS-2019 which will be sent to you by your UH sponsoring unit. The DS-2019 is a very important document that you will need to use for visa application and entry to the U.S.
When you receive the DS-2019, be sure to carefully read both sides of the form and sign and date the form at the bottom of page 1.
Your J-2 dependents should sign their own DS-2019s at the bottom of Page 1. However, you should sign the DS-2019s of any J-2 dependent children who are under 14 years of age.
FSIS will attach pre-arrival information to your DS-2019(s). You will be required to download and read the Pre-Arrival Information for J-1 Exchange Visitors booklet. This booklet contains very important information on procedures you will need to complete before you come to the U.S. If you cannot access this booklet online, contact your UH sponsoring unit to send you a printed copy of it.
STEP 2: Pay SEVIS fee [top]
You must pay a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee of $180 after you receive the DS-2019 from your UH sponsoring unit.
Citizens of Canada & Bermuda: You must pay the SEVIS fee and obtain a receipt at least 3 business days before you can apply for entry in J-1 status at a U.S. port of entry. If you do not pay the SEVIS fee and obtain a receipt before arriving at the port of entry, you can be denied entry in J-1 status or status-related benefits.
Citizens of all other countries: You must pay the SEVIS fee and obtain a receipt at least 3 business days before you can apply for a J-1 visa. If you do not pay the SEVIS fee and obtain a receipt before your visa interview, you can be denied a J-1 visa, J-1 status, or status-related benefits. You may not pay the SEVIS fee at a U.S. embassy/consulate or at a U.S. port of entry.
How to pay the SEVIS fee:
Payment can be made by yourself or another person, either in the U.S. or abroad, by one of two ways:
- By using the SEVIS I-901 Fee Processing website to complete an electronic Form I-901 and pay the fee using a credit card; or
- By mailing a paper Form I-901 with a check/money order drawn on a U.S. bank and payable in U.S. currency.
SEVIS fee receipt: The Department of Homeland Security will mail you an official Form I-797 paper receipt acknowledging that you paid the SEVIS fee. You may request express delivery service for the I-797 receipt at an additional cost. If you submit the fee using the SEVIS fee website, you can print out an electronic receipt at the time of payment to use for your visa application before the I-797 receipt arrives in the mail.
The SEVIS fee does NOT have to be paid by:
- J-2 dependents
- Individual who paid an initial SEVIS fee when seeking a J-1 visa from a U.S. Embassy/Consulate, was denied a visa, and is applying again for a visa in the same J-1 exchange visitor category within 12 months of the first visa denial
- J-1 exchange visitor applying for a visa to return to the U.S. as a continuing participant of an exchange visitor program. This applies only to J-1s returning to the U.S. to resume participation in a program that began previously, in which he/she has maintained status, and which has not completed
- J-1 exchange visitor transferring to UH in the same exchange visitor category, except from a federal government-sponsored program (with G-1, G-2, or G-3 program codes)
- J-1 exchange visitor requesting/applying for an extension of stay in the same program
STEP 3: Apply for a visa [top]
Citizens of Canada & Bermuda: You do not need to apply for a visa prior to entering the U.S. Skip this section and go to STEP 4: Apply for entry to the U.S., below.
Citizens of all other countries: You must obtain a J-1 visa at the nearest U.S. embassy/consulate before you can enter the U.S. If dependents are accompanying you, they must obtain J-2 visas before they can enter the U.S. See the U.S. Department of State's (DOS) "Apply for a U.S. Visa" website for the specific visa application procedures of each U.S. embassy/consulate. An in-person interview is required at almost all U.S. embassies/ consulates. Visa application requirements vary by consulate, so you should check with the specific consulate before your interview to be sure you have all the required documents. Apply for your visa as soon as possible because it may take awhile for the consulate to issue your visa. All visa applications undergo a security check and some may require a more extensive security clearance that may take several weeks.
Generally, all J-1 and J-2 visa applications must include:
- A valid, unexpired passport (valid for at least 6 months after your DS-2019 end date).
- Form DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application: An electronic visa application form MUST be filled out online, printed and signed. You can find this form through the DOS "Apply for a U.S. Visa" website.
- Form DS-2019, issued by FSIS: Submit the original form to the U.S. embassy/consulate.
- Evidence of financial support, such as letters or documents showing UH employment offer or fellowship grant; certification of salary or funds from your employer or from granting agencies; bank statements; or affidavits of support. You must submit originals (not copies) to the embassy/consulate.
- One 2x2 inch photograph: Black & white or color with a white or off-white background, full face, without head covering. Sign your name on the back side of the photo. See the DOS Nonimmigrant Visa Photo Requirements website for more information.
- Visa Fee(s): All applicants for J-1 and J-2 visas must pay a nonrefundable $160 nonimmigrant visa processing fee. You may need to pay an additional visa issuance (reciprocity) fee depending on your country of citizenship. For more information on visa issuance fees, check with the embassy/consulate or see the DOS Reciprocity website. UH cannot reimburse you for any visa fees.
When you receive your visa in your passport, the consular officer will return your DS-2019 to you in a sealed envelope. DO NOT OPEN THIS ENVELOPE.
STEP 4: Apply for entry to the U.S. [top]
You must enter the U.S. on or 30 days before the start date on your DS-2019. If you cannot enter the U.S. within 30 days before the start date on your DS-2019, please notify your UH department immediately so that FSIS has enough time to change your start date in SEVIS and to issue a new DS-2019. If you are unable to come to UH for any reason, you must return the DS-2019 to FSIS.
Citizens of Canada & Bermuda: At the U.S. port of entry, present your original DS-2019, passport (which should be valid for at least 6 months after your DS-2019 end date), and your SEVIS fee receipt to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. If your J-2 dependents are accompanying you, they should also present their DS-2019s and passports to the officer.
Citizens of all other countries: At the U.S. port of entry, present the sealed envelope containing your DS-2019 and your passport (which should be valid for at least 6 months beyond your DS-2019 end date and containing the J-1 visa stamp) to the CBP officer. If your J-2 dependents are accompanying you, they should also present these items to the officer.
The CBP officer will review your immigration documents and ask you questions about your stay. CBP offcers have the discretion to refer an individual from any country to a more detailed secondary inspection.
When you are admitted into the U.S., your DS-2019 and passport will be returned to you and you should receive an admission date stamp with the notations “J-1” (exchange visitors) or “J-2” (dependents) and “D/S” (indicating admission for “duration of stay”) in your passport. You should also receive instructions on how to print your own I-94 arrival record on CBP's I-94 website. The admission stamp and I-94 printout function as proof of your admission to and legal immigration status in the U.S. In some cases, you may be issued a paper I-94 at entry, but CBP is phasing out this process. If you are issued a paper I-94, that card is evidence of your legal status in the U.S.
Be sure to keep the DS-2019 with you when you enter the U.S. for the first time. Keep the DS-2019 and I-94 record with your passport. As they provide evidence of your status, they are important documents and should be kept safe at all times. You will need them for such purposes as extending your stay in the U.S., evidence of employment authorization, visa renewal, and reentry to the U.S. after temporary trips abroad during the validity of the Form DS-2019. It is a good idea to keep copies of your I-94 records, admission stamps and visas and your original DS-2019s permanently.
STEP 5: Register with FSIS [top]
You must schedule a mandatory registration/orientation appointment with FSIS within 10 business days of arriving in the U.S.