About Exchange Visitor Visas

About Exchange Visitor Visas

Generally, if someone is a citizen from a foreign country and they wish to visit the United States, the first order of business is for them to obtain a visa.

The individual would have to obtain either a nonimmigrant visa, which is meant for temporary stays, or an immigrant visa, which is for individuals seeking a permanent residence.

The exchange visitor visa is known as the J-1; this visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals who have been approved to take part in an exchange visitor program here in the United States.

Exchange visitors include, but are not limited to:

  • College students
  • Interns
  • Teachers
  • Physicians
  • Professors
  • Specialists
  • Camp counselors
  • Au pairs and EduCares

In addition to the above, there are also exchange visitor pilot programs including summer work and travel for Australians and New Zealanders and work/travel programs for South Koreans and the Irish.

Can I travel to the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program?

If you’re an exchange visitor and you happen to be a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) participating country, you are not allowed to enter the U.S. without a J-1 visa if your reason for coming to the U.S. is to be a part of an exchange visitor program.

Also, if you are an exchange visitor, you cannot come to the U.S. on a business/tourist visa (B-1/B-2) if you’re visiting the U.S. on an exchange visitor program. Essentially, all exchange visitors must come to the United States via an exchange visitor visa (J-1), and not by any other means.

Applying for a J-1 Visa

Before you can apply for a J-1 visa, first you must be accepted into the exchange visitor program of your choice. Once you are accepted, you will be enrolled into the Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and will be required to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.

In order to apply for the J-1 visa, you will have to complete a series of steps, which differ depending upon which U.S. Embassy or Consulate you apply at.

To learn more about coming to the U.S. as an exchange visitor, please consult with one of our Plano immigration attorneys.