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Overview of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program

J-1 Exchange Visitor Program
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program exists to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges.  The purpose of the J-1 program is to provide foreign nationals with opportunities to participate in educational and cultural programs in the United States and return home to share their experiences, and to encourage Americans to participate in educational and cultural programs in other countries. The U.S. Department of State has designated Virginia Tech as a J-1 Program Sponsor which allows VT to host foreign nationals as participants in educational and cultural exchange programs conducted by Virginia Tech.


SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s database which maintains electronic records for all J exchange visitors.  GSS creates a SEVIS record for each exchange visitor Virginia Tech sponsors and is required to report certain information or changes for these exchange visitors.  Certain U.S. government agencies such as the Department of State and Customs and Border Protection also have access to SEVIS records in order to update and verify exchange visitors’ records.  It is very important that the information in SEVIS be as complete and accurate as possible so that J-1 Scholars and Student Interns have fewer complications when traveling, applying for a visa, and other benefits.  J-1 scholars and student interns must notify GSS immediately of any changes in the J-1 program such as an address change, funding changes and requests to shorten or extend a program.


Form DS-2019
All exchange visitors are issued a document called a Form DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (“DS-2019” for short) which is generated by SEVIS upon the creation of a new record or when changes are made to an existing record.  Participants use this document to obtain a J visa and enter the United States on the J visa as “exchange visitors.”    GSS will issue the DS-2019 upon receipt of a complete and accurate J-1 Scholar and Student Intern Request form from the VT hosting department.


The J-1 Visa
Exchange visitor applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for an exchange visitor (J) visa under immigration law. The consular officer will determine whether a foreign national qualifies for the visa. Additionally, applicants must demonstrate that they properly meet requirements, including the following:

  1. That they plan to remain in the U.S. for a temporary, specific, limited period;
  2. Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the U.S.;
  3. Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.


Becoming a J-1 Scholar or Student Intern
In order to become a J-1 Scholar or Student Intern, you must have a VT host who invites you and will supervise and manage your J-1 program at Virginia Tech. Once you have a VT host, that person will work with you and their department to complete GSS’s J-1 request form.  The VT host must include copies of several documents with the request form (some documents must be submitted to the VT host by you) and obtain signatures from various individuals at Virginia Tech to get approval for your visit.  Finally, the VT host will submit the approved request form with your information and documents to GSS and GSS will process a DS-2019 for you.  Please be aware that the process your VT host must go through to collect all the documents and approval signatures for the request form before submitting it to GSS will take some time.  GSS will need some time (about 5-7 business days) to process the DS-2019 document as well.  Therefore you should not schedule visa appointments until you have the DS-2019 document in hand, Furthermore, there is also a process you must go through to obtain a visa and you may experience some unforeseen delays in this process.  Therefore, you should not purchase plane tickets until you have obtained the visa.