Get Your J-1 Visa

It is very important to enter the United States with the proper visa. You must apply for an entry J-1 Visa stamp in your passport so that you can enter the U.S. in J status.

J entry visas can only be obtained outside of the United States at a U.S. embassy or consulate. 

How to Apply

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Obtain a DS-2019

Ask your UMN host department to begin the process by following the steps explained on our Inviting a J-1 Scholar page. The first step involves completing and submitting an application to ISSS (to be submitted no later than 2 months before you expect to start your program at UMN). ISSS will then process a DS-2019 for you and eligible dependents. This takes approximately 2–3 weeks. Your host department will then email the DS-2019(s) and supplemental materials to you.

Pay the SEVIS Fee

Once you obtain your DS-2019, you must pay the federally required SEVIS I-901 fee. Scholars must pay the SEVIS fee before applying for their initial entry visa and entering the U.S. Typically, this fee is paid online. You will need the receipt of payment for your U.S. consul interview.

Schedule Your Visa Interview

 Apply for your J visa from a U.S. consulate/embassy either in your home country or another post. If applying outside your home country, check the embassy/consulate's webpage for any restrictions. 

Follow your local U.S. embassy or consulate’s specific instructions for scheduling an appointment and applying for a J visa. Keep in mind that waiting times for an appointment can be lengthy (up to several weeks or longer), especially during the busy summer months. Schedule your appointment as soon as possible after receiving your DS-2019.

Prepare Your Documents

All visa applicants must provide the following documents to the U.S. embassy or consulate at the time of the interview:

  • Valid passport
  • DS-2019 (you must print, sign, and date the document you receive via email)
  • Documented proof of financial support
  • Receipt of SEVIS I-901 fee payment
  • Visa application forms (available from the U.S. embassy/consulate)
  • Any other documents requested by your embassy/consulate

Practice for Your Visa Interview

When applying for your non-immigrant J visa, the U.S. Consular Officer interviewing you will assume that you plan to immigrate permanently to the U.S unless you prove otherwise. During the interview you will need to prove that you will only participate in your program temporarily in the U.S. and will return home after your J program is complete. Answer all questions truthfully but only provide information related to the questions asked. Be prepared to answer confidently and clearly in English. You may need to discuss the following:

  • Your area of specialty
  • Your reason for wanting to come to the U.S.
  • Proof of sufficient funds and how your funds are able to cover all of your expenses during your J program
  • Your reasons for returning home after you complete your J program. You must be able to provide documentary evidence where possible of the strong ties you have to your country. It could include having all of your family in your country, having a job offer waiting you when you return, or proof of property ownership. Other facts to emphasize are specific future educational, employment, or career goals that will be carried out in your home country. Do not emphasize relatives who live or study in the U.S.

We recommend practicing for your visa interview with a family member or friend.

Wait for Visa to be Issued and Request Date Amendment if Needed

Visa processing varies greatly from consulate to consulate. Regardless of the visa processing, do not let your DS-2019 expire! You must arrive in the U.S. and complete your Scholar Check-In no later than 25 days after the begin date on your DS-2019. If you cannot arrive by the given time period, you must communicate your delay to your host department and they will request an amended DS-2019 for you.

Additional Information

Importance of Name Consistency

To avoid problems or delays in obtaining your visa and entering the US, ensure that all of your immigration documents reflect the same name, exactly as it appears in your passport.

Visa Denials

If your visa is denied, ask the consular officials to provide you with a written explanation of the denial, then contact ISSS for assistance.  

Security Clearance Checks

Many visa applicants are subject to additional security clearance checks or “administrative processing” that can delay the issuance of your visa by several more weeks or months. Most applicants who are subject to clearance checks will eventually receive the visa. You cannot prevent a security clearance, nor can ISSS or your department intervene to expedite the process.


If you are currently in the U.S. as a J scholar at another institution and plan to transfer to the UMN to continue your program, follow the Transfer Procedures. Make note of special arrangements needed if you plan to travel out of the U.S. during the transfer process.

Canadian Citizens

Canadian citizens are eligible to enter the U.S. without obtaining an entry visa in their passport from a U.S. consulate/embassy. However, Canadian citizens must obtain a DS-2019 and pay the SEVIS fee before entering the U.S. Upon entry, they must present to immigration their passport, DS-2019, proof of financial support for the length of their J program, and proof of SEVIS fee payment. Regardless of nationality, all J-1 scholars are held to the same arrival reporting requirements; they are expected to request an amended DS-2019 if they are unable to arrive within the allowed grace period.

Canadian Landed Immigrants: You are required to obtain a visa. Refer to guidelines above regarding applying for a visa at a consulate/embassy.


Spouses and children under the age of 21 are eligible to accompany you to the U.S. with a J-2 visa. DS-2019s for dependents may be requested at the same time as the your initial DS-2019, or after you have arrived in the U.S.

Last updated: May 2, 2023