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International students who travel to the United States to continue their education must obtain a special visa from the United States government that authorizes their stay in the country. So, how do you get a student visa? For some students, that means acquiring an F-1 visa.

However, in many cases, international students obtain another type of visa: a J-1 visa or an Exchange Visitor Visa. 

So, what is a J-1 visa? It’s a visa issued to international students or anyone from a country outside the United States who wishes to work in the U.S. temporarily. Distinct from an F-1 visa, the J-1 carries its unique qualifications for approval and restrictions.

And if you’re hoping to come to the U.S. on a J-1 visa, you need to know what the application requirements entail and what steps you’ll need to take to maintain J-1 status once you arrive. Keep reading for everything you need to know about applying for a J-1 visa. 

What Is a J-1 Visa?

The Exchange Visitor Visa, or J-1 visa, is issued to international students and others who plan on coming to the United States to study at a U.S. college or university or to work in certain eligible capacities. In addition to university or college students, J-1 visas are most often issued to people like:1

  • Au pair
  • Camp counselors
  • Government and international visitors
  • Interns
  • Physicians
  • Research and short-term scholars
  • Specialists
  • Summer work travel participants
  • Professors and teachers 
  • Trainees in eligible programs

To be eligible for a J-1 visa, you must enroll in an accredited program, like an MBA program, approved by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.

The J-1 visa stipulates the length of time a holder is allowed to stay in the country, depending on the duration of their specific program. This varies considerably from program to program and could be anywhere from a few months (for example, in the case of camp counselors) to several years (in the case of au pairs and other working professionals). 

What Are the Qualification Requirements for a J-1 Visa?

If you plan to apply for a J-1 visa, you must understand the J-1 visa requirements. The J-1 visa application process takes time and involves a few fees, so understanding how to navigate it before you begin can help ensure that you make the most of your time and monetary investment. 

The J-1 visa requirements include:2

  • Funding commitments – To qualify for a J-1 visa, you must secure funding from an accredited sponsor willing to cover at least 50% of the total cost of your program. This sponsor cannot be a member of your family or a friend.
  • English proficiency – Students who wish to obtain a J-1 visa must meet the relevant English proficiency requirements of their college or university. The specific requirements may vary from institution to institution but generally entail scoring appropriately on a standardized English proficiency exam, such as the TOEFL or IELTS.
  • Medical insurance – The J-1 visa requires that you maintain medical insurance throughout your stay in the U.S.
  • Pre-arrival requirements – The J-1 visa is contingent upon a few requirements that apply before you arrive in the United States. This includes paying associated fees, obtaining a J-2 visa for any dependents traveling with you, and securing travel insurance that covers your first 30 days in the U.S. You’ll also need to attend an orientation if your program offers one.

Additionally, there are a few requirements you’ll need to meet to maintain a J-1 visa status while you’re in the country. For students, that includes remaining compliant with their visa rules and obeying the relevant work parameters.

It also means you must maintain up-to-date address information with your sponsoring institution and contact person. J-1 visa holders are free to change their address while studying in the U.S. However, you must provide your program and contact person with the updated information within 10 days of your move.3

How Is a J-1 Visa Different From an F-1 Visa?

Although international students of all kinds are issued J-1 visas and F-1 visas, there are a few key distinctions between the two. Depending on your plans to pursue an education in the U.S., these differences could substantially impact your decision to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa. 

So, how are J-1 visa requirements different from the F-1 visa requirements? 

The primary distinctions between a J-1 visa and an F-1 visa include the following:4

  • Duration – A similarity between F-1 and J-1 visas is that the visa is good for the entire duration of your program of study. However, students on a J-1 visa must return to their home country within 30 days following the end of their program. On the other hand, students with an F-1 visa are permitted to remain in the U.S. for up to 60 days after their program ends.
  • Contact person – Students with F-1 visa status are assigned a Designated Sponsorship Officer from their school of study. If you have a J-1 student visa, however, you’ll work with a Responsible Officer who helps ensure that you remain compliant with the rules of your visa and supervises your health, safety, and general welfare. 
  • Eligibility forms – Whereas students applying for an F-1 visa must submit an I-20 form, the J-1 student visa requires the DS-2019 form. This document specifies a range of important information, such as the details of your program, your financial support options, a full breakdown of the costs of the program, and its start and end dates.
  • Funding options – Students with a J-1 visa must secure at least 50% of their funding from an accredited source that is not a family member or a friend. The F-1 visa allows students to obtain funding from any source. 
  • Work authorization – Students or professionals with a J-1 visa are only permitted to work within the specified terms of their visa employment program, including the jobs mentioned earlier. The F-1 visa, however, stipulates that students may only work on campus for their first academic year. After the first year, employment opportunities are limited to Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training, or other off-campus employment on a case-by-case basis. 

It’s important to note that there are some exceptions to the duration restrictions of a J-1 visa. J-1 visa holders may extend their stay beyond the 30-day post-program window if they plan on pursuing formal training in a field related to their course of study. 

Additionally, students with a J-1 visa who have obtained a bachelor’s or master’s degree may extend their stay for up to 18 months after completing their program. Students who have obtained a PhD may extend their stay for up to 36 months.

How to Apply for a J-1 Visa

Now that you understand what a J-1 visa is and how it differs from an F-1 visa, you can make the decision that’s best for you in terms of which visa suits your needs. If that’s the J-1, how do you apply for and obtain it?

The process for applying for a J-1 visa includes the following steps:6

  • Step #1: Complete the DS-2019 form – The first step to applying for a J-1 visa is to complete the official DS-2019 form. This confirms your eligibility to apply for a J-1 visa. Be sure to review the form carefully to avoid making errors that could jeopardize your visa approval.
  • Step #2: Obtain a SEVIS ID number – To apply for a J-1 visa, you’ll need to obtain an identification number from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. You’ll receive this number via email once your DS-2019 form has been processed and approved and you’ve paid the required SEVIS application fee.
  • Step #3: Complete the DS-160 form – The DS-160 is the official application for a non-immigrant visa. It’s an online form that’s required of all international students seeking a visa, whether you’re applying for a J-1 or F-1. 
  • Step #4: Schedule your visa appointment – Visa applications require that you make an appointment with a U.S. embassy or consulate outside of the United States. This is the organization responsible for reviewing and approving your application and issuing your visa. 
  • Step #5: Attend your visa interview – Once you’ve scheduled your appointment, the next step is to attend your required interview. In addition to preparing to answer the questions the interviewer asks, it’s chiefly important that you bring all of your required documentation with you to your interview, including your DS-2019 form, visa application form, passport, and other required materials.

Attend Alliant International University on a J-1 Visa

If you’re an international student coming to the U.S. to study, it’s important that you complete the necessary steps for obtaining a J-1 visa. We are prepared and excited to support any international students who come through our doors.

The courses at Alliant International University are especially suited to international students. At Alliant, you won’t just find a student body that’s made up of students from all over the world; you’ll find instructors who offer diverse perspectives and help you achieve a well-rounded education to prepare you for your career and future.

Explore our program offerings for more information on how we can help you reach your goals.


  1. “Exchange Visitor Visa.” U.S. Department of State. Access May 16, 2023.
  2. "Exchange Visitor Visa.” U.S. Department of State. Access May 16, 2023.
  3. “Exchange Visitor Visa.” U.S. Department of State. Access May 16, 2023.
  4. “Studying at U.S. Universities and Colleges: F-1 Versus J-1 Visas.” Bridge USA.…. Accessed May 16, 2023. 
  5. “Students and Employment.” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.…. Accessed May 18, 2023.
  6. “Applying For the J-1 Visa.” InterExchange.…. Accessed May 16, 2023. 

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