Once a prospective exchange visitor receives their invitation letter and Form DS-2019, they must schedule a visa appointment with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Exchange visitors must physically possess and present their Form DS-2019 at the visa appointment. U.S. Embassies or Consulates typically issue visas up to 120 days in advance of the program start date listed on the Form DS-2019. Some embassies or consulates may accept visa applications earlier, but will not issue the visa until the 120-day period.
Exchange visitors should schedule their visa appointments as soon as they are eligible.
Exchange visitors must pay two separate fees before submitting their visa application: DS-160 Visa Application Fee and I-901 SEVIS Fee.
DS-160 Visa Application Fee: The DS-160 Visa Application Fee is required to submit a nonimmigrant visa application. Exchange visitors must follow country-specific instructions, as outlined by the relevant U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
I-901 SEVIS Fee: The I-901 SEVIS Fee is required to activate the exchange visitor’s SEVIS record. Exchange visitors must present their payment receipt at the visa interview. This fee can be paid one of three ways:
J Visa Application and Interview
The following are the minimum required documents for the J visa application:
- Valid passport(s) for all J-1 and J-2 applicants
- Proof of funds
- Admission/invitation letter from the University of Florida
- Form DS-2019(s) from the University of Florida for all J-1 and J-2 applicants
- I-901 SEVIS Fee receipt
- DS-160 Visa Application form and all applicable fees
This is not an all-inclusive list. Different U.S. Embassies and Consulates may have slightly different requirements, and some J visa categories may require additional documents.
Exchange visitors must confirm with their specific embassy/consulate to ensure they obtain all required documents before the visa appointment and interview.
During the visa appointment, exchange visitors should be prepared to prove they do not intend to immigrate to the U.S. and have sufficient ties to their country of citizenship/residence. Examples of useful evidence may include letters of intent to continue employment upon return; documentation of post-exchange plans; documentation of economic, social, and/or family connections to the country of citizenship/residence; etc.
NOTE: Canadian citizens are not required to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. However, they are required to receive a J-1/J-2 stamp in their passport to verify their status. For details, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
For more information about the J visa application/interview process, see the U.S. Department of State site or contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply.
U.S. Port of Entry
Exchange visitors may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the program start date listed on their Form DS-2019.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will ask exchange visitors to show travel documents (passport, visa, DS-2019) at the physical border or the first city they arrive in the U.S. to confirm permission to enter the country.
Important Carry-On Travel Documents (Do NOT put these in checked baggage!)
- Passport valid for at least six (6) months from travel date
- J-1 or J-2 visa (not required for Canadian citizens using a Canadian passport)
- DS-2019 Form
- All supporting documentation shown to the U.S. Embassy to obtain J-1 or J-2 visa
The CBP officer should return all documents and update the I-94 record for each traveler. Passport stamps are no longer required to enter the U.S., but exchange visitors may ask the CBP officer for one if they do not automatically place one in the passport.
Exchange Visitor Services (EVS) also recommends exchange visitors carry the names and contact information for the UF International Center, UF host department, and any housing or transportation contacts (e.g., hotel, car rental service, etc.) they will use they first arrive.
NOTE: A visa does not guarantee entry into the country. Exchange visitors with valid J visas still may be denied entry at the border. To reduce the risk of this happening, please review CBP admission guidelines.
Every time someone enters the U.S., they are issued an electronic I-94 admission record. The I-94 is proof of an exchange visitor’s legal status, and functions as a digital passport stamp. It should be available online within 10 days of arrival, and exchange visitors must keep copies of every I-94 that is issued to them. EVS recommend keeping both digital and physical copies.
After an exchange visitor arrives in the U.S., they must go to the CBP website and click “Get Most Recent I-94.” Enter the relevant passport information to access the I-94. Print a copy and confirm the form is correct:
- Admission class is J-1 for J-1 exchange visitors, and J-2 for J-2 exchange visitors
- Admit until date is D/S (short for “Duration of Status”)
If there are any discrepancies on the I-94 or U.S. Port of Entry stamp, please notify EVS