Office of International Programs
Obtaining Your J-1 Exchange Student Visa
J-1 (Exchange Visitor) visas are intended for students participating in an official exchange program. J visas are issued for the purposes of increasing mutual understanding by means of educational and cultural exchanges.
You may apply for your J-1 visa up to 120 days in advance of the program start date listed on your initial DS-2019. You must apply at a US Embassy/Consulate in your home country. You’ll need a valid passport to apply for your J-1 visa.
J-1 visas have a 30-day grace period at the beginning and at the end of the program dates listed on your DS-2019. This means that you may enter the US up to 30 days before your program start date and you may stay up to 30 days after your program end date. If your entry to the US will be delayed more than a few days after your start date, contact the SOU Office of International Programs immediately so that we can amend your program dates and provide you with a new I-20.
Some J-1 visa holders may be subject to a two-year home country residency requirement. Depending on your country of citizenship, you may be required to spend two full years physically present in your home country before returning to the US in immigrant status, H-visa status (temporary workers and dependents) or L-visa status (intercompany transferees and dependents). Persons with the two-year residence requirement are able to return to the US as tourists, on business or as F-1 students.
Please refer directly to the US Department of State website for more information on obtaining your J-1 exchange student visa.
1. Upon receiving your initial Form I-20 from SOU, locate the US Consulate/Embassy nearest you and schedule an F-1 visa interview. Appointments can generally be made no more than 120 days before the program start date listed on your I-20 document.
2. Complete the following forms:
- Form DS-156 (Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form)
- Form DS-158 (Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant)
- If male aged 16-45, Form DS-157 (Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application)
3. Pay the following fees online:
4. Bring to your visa interview the following:
- Passport valid for at least six months after program end date
- Initial Form DS-2019
- Original letter of acceptance issued by SOU
- Completed visa applications (DS-156, DS-158 and DS-157 if applicable)
- Two passport-sized photos. (See standards at US Department of State website.)
- Receipt for Nonimmigrant Visa Application Processing Fee
- Receipt for the SEVIS I-901 Fee
- Receipt for the Visa Issuance Fee (if applicable)
- Original financial certification documents
- Evidence of English proficiency sufficient for the exchange program
- Evidence of residence abroad and intent to leave the US upon completion of program
Be on time for your interview! Dress respectably, remain calm and answer all the visa officer’s questions openly and honestly. It is most important that you show that you have enough money to study in the US, and that you fully intend to return to your home country upon completing your studies in the US.
For more information, please visit the US Department of State website.