When internationals wish to visit the U.S., they are asked to declare the primary purpose for their visit. That declaration is made twice: once at the time of applying for a visa, and again at the port of entry when applying for status. There is a unique visa and corresponding status for each primary purpose identified by the U.S. government.
Thus, if your primary purpose for visiting the U.S. is not J-1 research or teaching, you should NOT apply for a J-1 visa or J-1 Exchange Visitor status. Always apply for the visa and corresponding status that best corresponds to your primary purpose for visiting the U.S.
A U.S. visa is official authorization affixed to a valid passport that allows entry into the U.S.
Upon entry to the U.S., an electronic I-94 admission record is created for all internationals that states their immigration status.
You will need to visit the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country to apply for a J–1 Exchange Visitor visa to enter the U.S. The visa application process varies from country to country and can take from one day to many weeks for processing, so please plan ahead.
When you travel, you must have your original DS-2019 document with you to present to the U.S. government official upon arrival in the U.S. Do not place this or other travel documents in bags that will be checked; keep them with you or in a carry-on bag.
Citizens of Canada or the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda do not need visas to enter the U.S., but they do need a DS-2019. They must also pay the SEVIS fee prior to arrival in the U.S. (www.fmjfee.com). At the U.S. port of entry, they must present proof of both their identity and citizenship. All travelers, including Canadian citizens, are required to have a valid passport for entry to the U.S. They will be issued an I-94 card and corresponding status. Refer to the same checklist as above for visa interviews regarding documents you will need to present at the port of entry. See more detailed information online.
Permanent residents (a.k.a. landed immigrants) of Canada must have a nonimmigrant visa unless the permanent resident is a national of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), meets the VWP requirements, and is seeking to enter the U.S. for 90 days or less under that program.
The U.S. government will charge a SEVIS fee before you may apply for a J–1 or J-2 visa. Citizens of all countries are required to pay the SEVIS fee. (Citizens of Canada and the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda also need to pay the SEVIS fee before entering the U.S.) As of the time of this web update, the SEVIS fee for J-1 Exchange Visitors is $180. Fees are subject to change. The SEVIS fee is payable online by credit or debit card, by international money order, or by check drawn on a financial institution in the U.S. and payable in U.S. currency.
Be sure to pay the SEVIS fee before entering the U.S. or visiting the U.S. consulate or embassy. To find out if you need to pay the SEVIS fee and to print out a receipt of payment (if you are paying online), visit www.fmjfee.com.
When applying for your visa, be prepared with official documents to show that you will maintain a residence abroad and also that you intend to depart the U.S. after completing your program.
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