Applying for a J-1 Visa

To enter the U.S. as a J-1 student or scholar, you will need to apply for a J-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  You may apply for a visa up to 120 days before the start date of your DS-2019.

March 20, 2020: The Department of State is temporarily suspending routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates due to COVID-19. Please continue to check the Department of State website for the most up-to-date information.

April 29, 2020: Some embassies are allowing applicants to schedule visa appointments on a limited basis.. Please check embassy websites for the most up-to-date information.

Getting a DS-2019

DS-2019s are issued to students and scholars who have submitted all appropriate paperwork to their department. If you  have questions about what you need to submit, contact your department. Once you have your DS-2019, you will be able to apply for your J-1 visa.

Once you have your DS-2019, follow the steps below:
Step 1: Pay the SEVIS Fee

Note: Since routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates are temporarily suspended due to COVID-19, you might want to consider waiting till the services are resumed before you pay the SEVIS fee.

Before applying for your J-1 visa, you must pay a SEVIS Fee of $220. You can pay this electronically or by mail, but payment must be received at least 3 days before the visa interview, or for Bermudan or Canadian citizens, 3 days before you enter the U.S. In some cases, the department which has invited you may pay the fee on your behalf. This is usually the case if you will receive a salary from the university (unless you are a Language House Fellow).

Continuing J-1 students and scholars who have already begun a program in the U.S. in J-1 status are not required to pay this fee, unless they're returning from a leave of absence and traveling on a new DS-2019.  For more information about this, contact the Reves Center.

Step 2: Schedule your visa interview appointment

Instructions will be on the website of the embassy or consulate at which you apply. This is typically handled by a call center or service that contracts with the embassy. U.S. State Department policy requires that embassies and consulates give students priority in visa appointments.

As a part of the process, you will pay the visa application fee and sometimes a visa reciprocity fee, which varies by country, and is rarely applicable.

Tips for a successful visa application

Bermudan or Canadian Citizens

Bermudan or Canadian citizens do not need to apply for a J-1/J-2 visa; they may simply enter with the DS-2019, passport, invitation letter, evidence of SEVIS Fee payment, and evidence of financial support. They will however, have to pay the SEVIS fee at least 3 days before entering the U.S. The SEVIS fee cannot be paid at the border.

Step 3: Apply for the Visa

At the visa application appointment, the officer will conduct a brief interview of you and review your documents.

To obtain a J-1 visa, you will need the following documents:

  • DS-2019 (the department sponsoring you can provide you with information about obtaining a DS-2019; it will typically be issued by the Reves Center, or by your program sponsor, if you are sponsored by Fulbright, etc.)
  • a valid passport
  • evidence of financial support (Certification of Financial Support, bank statement, assistantship or scholarship letter, job offer letter, etc.)
  • evidence of ties to your home country (employment offer, concrete plans on how your education/work in the U.S. will help your career in your home country, family and property ties, etc.)
  • visa application form DS-160. If you need to list a U.S. address in your application, you can list the address of your department, or the Reves Center's physical address (200 S. Boundary St, Williamsburg, VA 23185).

In some cases the consulate may keep your DS-2019. If you do not receive your DS-2019 after your appointment, contact the Reves Center for a replacement, as you will need this when traveling to the U.S.

Additional Documents

New Scholars will need:

  • documents listed above
  • receipt of the SEVIS fee payment
  • invitation letter/job offer letter from W&M or VIMS

New Students will need:

  • documents listed above
  • receipt of the SEVIS fee payment
  • Admission letter from William & Mary or VIMS

Continuing students and scholars will need:

Students on Academic Training will need:

Check with your U.S. Consulate to see if they require any additional documents.

Security Checks

Some of you may be subject to a security check as part of your visa application, which may delay getting your visa. This is often referred to as "administrative processing." While most security checks are completed within 2 weeks, (the U.S. State Department works with the other federal agencies involved to expedite them), in rare cases they can take several months. Various factors may make you more likely to have a security check, such as your country of citizenship, your gender, and the field you are studying.

Applying for a visa after Changing Status

If you are currently in the U.S. in another status and plan to change status to J-1, please see Changing Status to J-1 for more information.

If you have already changed status within the U.S. (e.g., F-1 to J-1) and this will be your first subsequent J-1 visa application, you should carry with you your I-797 Change of Status Approval Notice as well as documentation of your previous status with you (e.g., old I-20).

Authorization of your J-1 Visa

If the consular officer grants you the visa, the officer will instruct you on when and where you can pick it up. The visa will have an expiration date; however, the expiration date on the visa is not the date by which you must leave the U.S. As long as you maintain J-1 status, you may stay in the U.S. until the completion of your program plus 30 days (e.g., grace period). During the 30 days grace period, you may travel in the U.S., prepare for your return home, etc; however, you cannot work during that period - even on-campus.

Entry to the US

On you first entry to the US with your DS-2019, you cannot enter earlier than 30 days before the start date on your DS-2019. For travel after that, (e.g., summer break), there is no restriction.