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Exchange Visitors

The exchange visitor (J) nonimmigrant visa category is for individuals approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the U.S.  Only those persons who are approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the U.S. qualify for this visa.

Exchange visitors are not permitted to travel on business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas if their purpose is to participate in an exchange visitor program.  All exchange visitors must travel to the United States with exchange visitor (J-1) visas.

Before you can apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a J visa, you must first be accepted for one of the Exchange Visitor Program categories through a designated sponsoring organization.

Visit the Department of State's J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program website to learn about program requirements, regulations, and more.

Questions regarding an exchange visitor program should be directed to the exchange program sponsor.

When you are accepted into the exchange visitor program you plan to participate in, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).  Most J-1 Exchange Visitors must pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee.  Visiting the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) website to learn more about SEVIS and the SEVIS I-901 Fee.


1. Acceptance by a SEVP Certified Exchange Visitor Program 

The first step for a prospective nonimmigrant exchange visitor is to be accepted in an established exchange visitor program that is Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified

2. Pay Application Processing Fee

Pay the nonimmigrant visa application processing fee of $160 at any Banque Internationale pour le Mali (BIM).  You will need the BIM receipt number to schedule your visa interview online.  The BIM receipt also must be presented at your visa interview. 

Note: Applicants participating in official U.S. government-sponsored educational and cultural exchanges do not need to pay the NIV application processing fee.

3. Submit Your Online Application

Complete the DS-160 online application.  After electronically submitting your application, print the confirmation page.  You will need to bring the confirmation page to your visa interview. 

Once a DS-160 online application has been submitted, you cannot change or add information to your application at the visa interview.  Significant errors in your application, or information incorrectly marked as "Not Applicable," "Nil," or "Don't Know," may result in your visa application being rejected at the time of your interview.

4. Upload a Photograph

Upload a photograph.  Applicants must upload a color photograph to the DS-160 online application.  If you are unable to upload a photograph, complete the remainder of the application and bring a photograph to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy on the day of your interview.  Please review the Department of State's photograph requirements for visa applications on its Photograph Requirements website. 

5. Schedule an Interview Appointment

Make an appointment online.  You must submit your completed DS-160 online application form before scheduling your interview appointment.  The appointment system will require you to enter the barcode number on the DS-160 confirmation page to proceed to the appointment center. 

If there are no appointments available, please try back another time.  Individuals may only request an expedited visa appointment for urgent reasons.  Expedited appointment requests for the convenience of a traveler will not be approved. 

Expedited or Special Interview Appointment: If you would like to request an expedited appointment for an interview, or if you require a special interview (such as a group interview), please send an email explaining your circumstances to

6. Consular Officer Interview

All applicants for Exchange Visitor visas will need to bring the following required documentation:

Required Documentation 

Each J visa applicant must bring the following forms and documentation to the visa interview:

  • DS-160 confirmation sheet (this is obtained after completing and submitting the visa application form online)
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States
  • One (1) 2 x 2 inch photograph. See the required photo format explained in Nonimmigrant Photograph Requirements.
  • BIM receipt showing payment of the NIV application fee  (if applicable)
  • The SEVIS I-901 fee receipt
  • DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.  A SEVIS-generated Form DS-2019 is provided to you by your program sponsor after the sponsor enters your information in the SEVIS system.  All exchange visitors, including their spouses and minor children, must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).  Each person receives a separate Form DS-2019.
  • Form DS-7002, A Training/Internship Placement Plan (if required). In addition to the Form DS-2019, participants in the J-1 Trainee and Intern categories require Form DS-7002 (based on Box 7 on Form DS-2019).  Learn more about the Trainee and Intern programs.

In addition to the required documentation explained above, the following original documentation is also suggested: 

  • Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended (including high school);
  • Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc. (if applicable);
  • Financial evidence (such as bank statements) that shows you or your sponsor has sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study (if applicable);
  • If you have a sponsor, provide a letter from the sponsor indicating they will cover all your costs while in the U.S.

 All visa applicants will generally need to show proof of compelling ties to your home country to demonstrate your intent to return after your temporary stay in the United States.  Examples of compelling ties include:

  • A residence abroad which you do not intend to abandon
  • Your family relationships
  • Your economic situation
  • Your long term plans

Do not have supporting documentation faxed, e-mailed, or sent to the Embassy; it will be thrown away. Bring all supporting documentation with you for the interview.


When you agree to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program and your program falls under the conditions explained below, you will be subject to the two-year home-country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement.  This means you will be required to return to your home country for two years at the end of your exchange visitor program.  This requirement under immigration law is based on Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Two-year Home-country Physical Presence Requirement Conditions: An exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home-country physcial presence requirement if the following conditions exist:

  • Government funded exchange program: The program in which the exchange visitor was participating was financed in whole or in part directly or indirectly by the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitor's nationality or last residence;
  • Graduate medication education or training: The exchange visitor entered the United States to receive graduate medical education or training;
  • Specialized knowledge or skill: Skill List - The exchange visitor is a national or permanent resident of a country which has deemed the field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of the country, as shown on the Exchange Visitor Skills List.  Review the Exchange Visitor Skills List 2009.

Waiver of Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement

If you are not able to fulfill the home country presence requirement, you may be able to apply for a waiver.  Please visit the Department of State's Waiver of the Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement webpage to learn more.

Family Members Following to Join the Exchange Visitor

The spouse and children of an Exchange Visitor can also apply for visas after the principal applicant has already traveled to the United States.

Family members of the principal applicant must present the following at their interview:

  • Form DS 2019, SEVIS generated, and approved by the sponsor
  • Proof that the principal applicant (the person who received the DS-2019 or IAP-66) is maintaining his/her J visa status
  • Copy of the J-1's (principal applicant's) visa
  • Proof of relationship to the principal applicant
  • Proof of sufficient funds to cover all expenses in the U.S.
  • The confirmation sheet of the DS-160 form (this is obtained after completing and submitting the online visa application form)
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States
  • One (1) 2 x 2 inch photograph. See the required photo format explained in Nonimmigrant Photograph Requirements.
  • Pay the Nonimmigrant visa application processing fee of $160 at any Banque Internationale pour le Mali (BIM).  BIM receipt must be presented at the interview. 

Spouses and children of exchange visitors may not enter the U.S. before the primary exchange visitor enters for the first time.