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Your Guide to the Exchange Visitor Visa

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on June 09, 2021

For individuals entering the U.S. who intend to participate in an exchange visitor program, exchange visitor visas are available. The following is a guide to exchange visitor visas and how to apply for them.

Who Qualifies for Exchange Visitor Visas?

Many foreigners entering the country can apply for a nonimmigrant exchange visitor visa (J). These individuals may include students, teachers, trainees, interns, government visitors, physicians, and others seeking to enter the U.S. as nonimmigrants in any type of exchange visitor program.

Exchange visitors will be unable to study in the U.S. using visitor visas or the Visitor Visa Program. Instead, they will be required to participate in an American exchange visitor program. Qualifying individuals will need to apply for and receive approval to enter an exchange visitor program via designated sponsoring organizations in the U.S. 

Once the program approves them, applicants will receive registration under the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). They will then need to cover the SEVIS I-901 fee with certain exceptions.

Steps to Apply for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

When applying for the exchange visitor visa, there are steps that applicants will need to take. However, the specific steps will depend on the U.S. Consulate or Embassy where applicants are applying.

1. Applying for the Visa Online

Individuals can apply online for the exchange visitor visa through Form DS-160. This will entail completing the form online and printing a copy to take to a scheduled interview. While applying online, applicants will also need to upload a photo of themselves.

2. Scheduling an Interview to Complete the Application

In most cases, visa applicants will need to schedule an interview after completing their online application. Individuals between the ages of 14 and 79 are generally required to schedule an interview, with some exceptions for renewals. However, applicants ages 13 and younger or 80 and older are normally not required to undergo an interview.

Applicants can schedule interviews with their country’s U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Due to potentially long wait times, it’s also important to apply early. Scheduling an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in another country may be possible, but it’s often harder to receive approval for a visa outside of the applicant’s country.

Taking all of these steps can help secure an exchange visitor visa for entry into the U.S. Applicants can consult their country’s U.S. Consulate or Embassy for additional information.