The visa application process can be broken down into the following steps:
- Obtain the DS-2019. At the time OISS issues a DS-2019 the Exchange Visitor receives an automated email containing all the information needed to schedule a visa appointment at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy. Please refer to this email to obtain your SEVIS ID Number, J-1 Category, J-1 Program Dates, and UC Santa Barbara’s J-1 Exchange Visitor Program Number. The DS-2019 will be transmitted to you electronically by OISS.
- Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee. The U.S. Government charges a fee for all new J-1 applicants. Fee amounts are listed here. The payment must be made prior to applying for your visa and will be verified by the consular officer at the time of the visa interview. To pay the fee please visit the U.S. Government’s I-901 website here: https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/index.html
- Schedule the Visa Appointment. Appointments can be scheduled through the website of any U.S. Consulate that issues visas. You may use the consulate nearest you or a consulate that is convenient given your travel plans. At this time there is no way of estimating how long a particular consulate could take to issue the visa. A list of U.S. Consulates and Embassies can be found here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/list-of-posts.html
- Attend the Visa Appointment with Documentation. The following documents should be brought to the visa appointment: Passport, DS-2019, I-901 SEVIS Fee Receipt, Letter of Invitation, academic credentials (Diploma, CV), and proof of finances. Additional documents (marriage certificates and birth certificates) are required for J-2 dependents.
- Pass through Immigration Inspection. When you arrive in the U.S. you will go through immigration inspection at the airport or border crossing (if traveling by land). You will be required to present your Passport, DS-2019, J-1 Visa Stamp, proof of finances, and possibly other supporting documents. The officer will process what is called an I-94 Form, which is your official Admission/Departure Record. The record can be obtained online here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
Canadians do not require a visa to enter the U.S., but should present the Passport and DS-2019 to the officer at the port of entry, as well as supporting documents if requested.
Visa applicants may be subjected to “Administrative Processing,” a heightened security procedure that involves in-depth review of the visa application and requests for supporting information. Administrative processing can delay issuance of the visa for weeks or months and there is no way for OISS to expedite this process.
J-1 Exchange Visitors are required to provide proof of adequate health insurance when completing their SEVIS check-in at OISS. Proof of insurance is not, however, required at the time of the visa appointment. Please see our website for instructions on purchasing health insurance that meets J-1 requirements.