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Legal Requirements

J-1 Visa Application

  • You must obtain a J-1 visa before entering the United States. Do not enter as a tourist (B1/B2/WB/WT) or you may not be able to conduct your planned teaching or research.

  • Contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest you to find out if you need an appointment to apply for your J-1 visa, what fees apply and how they should be paid, what documents you should bring to the interview, and how many days it takes to process the visa. For information on the U.S. Embassy or Consulates in your country, please visit the U.S. Department of State website at http://usembassy.state.gov/

  • To apply for a J-1 visa you will need to pay the SEVIS fee (see SEVIS Fee tab) and take your DS-2019 form and passport to a U.S. Consulate or Embassy. Because you may be subjected to a security clearance that can delay the issuance of the visa, you should apply as soon as possible.

  • After issuing your J-1 visa, the U.S. consular officer will return the DS-2019 form to you (often in a sealed envelope).Do not pack this document in your luggage; carry it with your passport as you will need to present it to the immigration inspector when you enter the U.S. Please note that immigration regulations prohibit exchange visitors and their dependents from arriving more than 30 days prior to the program start date listed on the DS-2019 form.

  • Citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not require J-1 entry visas, but must present the DS-2019 form when entering the U.S. and must pay the SEVIS fee (see SEVIS Fee Tab). Non-citizen residents of Canada should check with the U.S. Consulate in Canada to find out whether or not they need a U.S. entry visa.

Accompanying Dependents

  • If you will be accompanied by dependents (spouse and/or children), they will need their own DS-2019 forms and will have to apply for J-2 Visas.

  • If you submitted your dependents’ information along with your own for your department to request DS-2019 forms from GEO, your dependents’ DS-2019 forms will be enclosed with your own when you receive your pre-arrival documents. Your spouse and/or children should be prepared to show proof of marriage or family relationship when they apply for their visas.

  • Only spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 can be considered dependents. If your child turns 21 or gets married while in the U.S., s/he will be required to obtain a different visa status.

  • If your dependent departs the U.S. without the intention to return to accompany you, you must report this information to our office immediately.

SEVIS Fee

All J-1 scholars must pay a mandatory US $180 SEVIS fee. Exchange visitor dependents who enter the U.S. in J-2 status are not required to pay the SEVIS fee. Please note that this fee is a U.S. government fee and not a university fee. The SEVIS fee must be paid in addition to any other visa application fees but it cannot be paid at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and cannot be paid at a port of entry.
You must pay the fee at least 3 business days prior to your visa interview or before arriving for admission at a U.S. port of entry (if you are exempt from U.S. visa requirement). This is because the payment of the fee will be recorded in the SEVIS system and should be fully processed before the applicant arrives at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for the visa interview (or before arriving for admission at a U.S. port of entry for applicants who are exempt from U.S. visa requirement). You must bring proof of payment to your interview (or when you arrive at the U.S. port of entry if you are exempt).

You can pay the SEVIS fee in three ways:

  • Online at www.FMJfee.com. Use a credit card and complete the online Form I-901. Once you have submitted the payment please print the computer-generated receipt. This receipt will be your proof of payment. Please note that SEVP is unable to accept credit card payments on behalf of students from Ghana, Gambia, Nigeria, Cameroon or Kenya.

  • Through Western Union Quick Pay. This option is available in any country where Western Union offers its Quick Pay service. This service allows you to pay the SEVIS fee electronically and directly to the Department of Homeland Security in local currency. The receipt you will obtain at the end of the transaction will be your proof of payment. To read the detailed instructions for this form of payment, please go to https://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/wu-instructions

  • Through the mail by submitting a completed Form I-901 and a check or money order drawn from a U.S. bank. The mailing address can be found at: https://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/faq#_Toc81222043. The payment confirmation you can print from the FMJ fee website will serve as proof of payment for the I-901 SEVIS fee. Because we do not know how much time it takes to obtain this receipt we strongly recommend that you do NOT pay by mail but rather try to pay the SEVIS fee through one of the other options above. For more detailed information on the fee payment process please go to the SEVIS website at: https://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901