Being able to carry out education overseas is a fruitful and fulfilling experience. Education abroad is mostly sought after due to the prestige, recognition and exposure foreign universities offer. And while education overseas may be an expensive affair, anyone interested in learning a particular subject or attending a particular course or seminar in USA can do so through exchange programs. These exchange programs have their own set of eligibility criteria and only upon meeting these would a candidate be considered for the program.
Exchange programs in United States are a sought after program. The United States welcomes students to take part in these programs but require them to have an Exchange Visitor Visa. Students can apply for this Visa by following the steps outlined in this article. These exchange programs require a special type of visa called the J visa. This visa can be availed by students, on the job working professionals, teachers, professors, professional trainees, and research scholars among others.
Steps To Apply For J Visa
In most cases, persons entering the United States are required to carry a visa. The visa is broadly categorized into non-immigrant visa for visits or temporary stays and immigrant visas for permanent residence in the United States. When applying for the exchange visitor visa, the applicant must choose the right type of non-immigrant visa and apply or the same. Certain countries participate in what is known as a Visa Waiver Program. This program does not require citizens of a particular country to apply for a visa before entering the United States as long as their stay is under 90 days and if their visit is for business or pleasure. Applicants must check if they fall under this category before making the applications.
The next step is probably the most important step in the process and that is filling out the DS-160 form. This non-immigrant electronic visa form can be found online. Applicants must take care while filling out this form and must read the guidelines of the form carefully before submitting the information. Any incorrect data submitted cannot be changed or corrected later on. If the form seems too complicated, it is advisable for an applicant to seek the assistance of an immigration lawyer. This form is important as the number of the form is what is required to book an appointment. One should keep in mind that if a previous visa application has been rejected for some reason, applicants should complete a new DS-160 electronic non-immigrant visa application.
Before submitting the duly filled DS-160 form, applicants should verify their information, ensure everything including matching the spelling of their name to that mentioned in their official documents. Applicants should then pay the visa fee. Do take care while making payments as the visa fee is non-refundable. That means if an error occurs while paying online or if the page fails to load and applicants aren’t sure about what happened, they should reach out to the support centre and not try to make the payment again. The fee for the J visa or exchange visitor visa is $160. This value in Rupees may change as per the prevailing exchange rate. To make the visa payment, applicants will have to create a profile and generate its login credentials. Payment can be made through NEFT, at Axis bank branches or Citibank Branches. The options are listed out on the ustraveldocs.com website. Once payment has been made, applicants must hold onto their receipt number which will be used when booking the appointment.
Booking The Appointment
The next step is booking the appointment. Applicants have to login to their profile created at the time of visa fee payment on the ustraveldocs.com website. Upon entering the profile, you will see your dashboard.
On the left hand side of the dashboard, the applicant can find the ‘Click on Schedule Appointment’ option. Clicking this will begin the appointment booking process. An applicant must schedule two appointments with one being at the Visa Application centre or VAC and the other for booking the interview at the United States Embassy or Consulate. The appointment at the VAC should be made at least one day prior to the interview at the Embassy or Consulate. An applicant can make this appointment at any one of the five VAC’s in India. The appointment at the VAC will include having the applicant’s fingerprints recorded as well as having their photo taken.
Three vital pieces of information are required during the scheduling of the appointment. These are the applicant’s passport number, date when the fee was paid and the 10-digit barcode number provided from the DS-160 confirmation page. While going through the process, an applicant can enter their visa type, personal information and information on any dependents that may accompany them. Applicants are also required to select their document delivery location and confirm their visa payment. Once the applicant has completed the above steps, they can schedule their appointment.
For the VAC appointment, applicants will have to carry with them their passport having the right validity (the passport should have a validity period extending at least 6 months beyond their desired period of stay), the DS-160 confirmation page, their appointment confirmation page, and photos as per the United States Visa specifications.
Once the appointment at the VAC is complete, an applicant must have their photo and fingerprints recorded before their interview at the Embassy. The next step is attending the interview at the U.S> Embassy as per the date and time of the interview appointment. The articles of information required for this interview is the DS-60 confirmation page, the appointment letter for the interview and all copies of the applicant’s passport. These include previous older and outdated copies as well.
If the applicant is a child below the age of 14 and adults over the age of 79 are not required to attend the appointment at the VAC or the interview at the Embassy. Guardians, parents or persons accompanying them can carry the required documents.
While reviewing a candidate’s application for a visa, the consular officers takes many factors into consideration. These include factors such as professional, social, and cultural factors. Another factor is the economic background of the candidate and whether or not they would be able to support themselves during their period of stay. Interviews will also judge a candidate based on their long term plans, what reasons there are tying them to their country of origin and whether they would return once they fulfil the purpose of their visit. While many of these factors may be left up to the decision of the consular officers during adjudication, there is one important factor that we can still control and that is the aspect of supporting documents.
Having the right and moreover the original documents is a must. These documents can be placed in a sealed envelope if confidentiality is a concern. The U.S. Embassy does not make information of the candidate available to anyone. Misrepresentation of information on these documents or fraudulent documents can result in a permanent ineligibility for visa let alone rejecting an application. The required documents to be brought for the interview are as follows.
- The applicant will have to provide any document that can show strong ties to their home country. These documents could be financial, or social. Even family ties to their home country will be accepted. These documents are required to show that the applicant will return to their home country once they complete their study program in the United States.
- Applicants will have to provide financial documents that show that they are financially strong and have sufficient funds capable of meeting any expenses that may arise during their stay. Documents include bank statements and in case of sponsorship, the proof of relationship with the sponsor as well as the sponsor’s most recent tax forms, bank statements or fixed deposit certificates. Photocopied documents will only be accepted if provided with the original bank statements or passbook.
- Applicants will also have to carry academic documents that showcase their preparations such as original school transcripts, standardized test scores such as SAT or TOEFL, any diplomas and information on the academic program that the applicant wishes to enrol into.
- Dependents who wish to stay with the applicant during their stay must apply for J-2 visa. Dependent s who only wish to visit them during the applicant’s stay must apply for visitor visa (B-2). Dependents holding J-2 visa cannot seek employment during their stay unless they have filed the I-765 form and has had it reviewed and approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
- If any dependent is accompanying the applicant, then the applicant must also provide supporting documents for the dependents such as marriage certificates for spouse, birth certificates for children. Each dependent must have their own form DS-2019. This form is required for the dependent to obtain the visa to enter the United States and makes the applicant the principal holder of the exchange visitor visa or allows the dependent to join the applicant at a later date.
Exchange Visitor Visa FAQs
- How soon can I travel after receiving an exchange visa?
The United States of America allows the entry of exchange visitors only 30 days prior to the exchange program, irrespective of the visa issue date.
- What is travel grace period?
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows the exchange program participant a travel grace period of 30 days to wrap up everything and travel back to their country. This period is calculated as 30 days after the end date of the program mentioned on Form DS-2019. During this period, the participant, no longer holds J-visa status and is under the jurisdiction of the USCIS.
- What is two-year rule?
As per the two-year rule, the exchange program participant has to be physically present in the home-country before returning to States under other category of visas. Read the conditions mentioned below for two-year rule to be applicable:
- You have participated in an exchange program that was partly/ fully, directly/indirectly funded by the U.S. government or the government of your home country.
- You entered the United States of America to receive medical training.
- You have specialised skills (as mentioned on the Exchange Visitor Skills List) which are required for the development of your country.
Is it possible to get two-year rule waived?
In some cases, yes, it is possible to get two-year rule waived. Only the Department of State's Visa Office can waive the two-year rule and their decision is final.
- Can I get a program extension?
Only the concerned officer can grant program extension to up to the maximum allowed duration. However, in some programs, the extensions beyond the maximum program duration are allowed only under exceptional circumstances.