Understanding the J-1 Visa Process

You should begin the process of applying for your visa immediately after receiving your MAST placement packet, as the process can take several weeks and there are many steps.

The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply and the procedures and fees may change.

Keep MAST informed about delays or challenges as you go through the visa process. If you are delayed, we may need to change your visa dates and in some cases you will need a new Form DS-2019. 


Jump to:

Step 1: Consult the instructions for applying for a Nonimmigrant J-1 Visa
Step 2: Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Application
Step 3: Pay the SEVIS fee
Step 4: Schedule your appointment
Step 5: Prepare for your appointment at the U.S. Embassy
Step 6: Go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for your personal interview


STEP 1: Consult the instructions for applying for a Nonimmigrant J-1 Visa

Go to www.usembassy.gov and find the Nonimmigrant Visa section at the U.S. Embassy in your home country to learn about wait times, exact procedures, and necessary documents to apply for a Nonimmigrant J-1 Exchange Visitor visa. Be sure to allow enough time to do Steps 2, 3, and 4 before your appointment date.


STEP 2: Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Application

Complete and submit the DS-160 online application form. The DS-160 can be found here. Before starting the form, make sure you have the following information available:

  • Digital photograph - see photo requirements here.
  • Passport, Form DS-2019, and Form DS-7002
  • Travel itinerary, dates of your last five visits to the U.S., international travel history for the past five years
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae (information about your current and previous education and work history)
  • Any other documentation listed on your specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate website

Write down the Application ID displayed on the top right-hand corner of the page. If you stop working on your application for more than 20 minutes or if you close your browser before submitting your application, you will need the Application ID to continue your application. You may also want to permanently save a copy of your application when completed.

Other people can assist you with your visa application, but you (the applicant) MUST click the “Sign Application” button at the end. (This is considered an electronic signature.)

When you are finished, print the DS-160 confirmation page to bring to your visa interview.


STEP 3: Pay the SEVIS fee

This fee is used to maintain the internet-based database called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). You must pay this fee before your appointment at the U.S. Consulate.

Access the I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment online form here

  • Complete the form, using information from your form DS-2019.
  • Enter your name exactly as it appears on your DS-2019.
  • Use your home country address, not the address of your placement.

The current fee is $180 (subject to change). You must select a payment method: 

  • Credit Card (recommended): This must be a credit card; not a debit card.
  • Check/Money Order/Western Union: A payment coupon with instructions will open for printing.

Fee payments are entered into your permanent immigration (SEVIS) record by the payment center. Retain a copy of your payment fee receipt (Form I-797) with your immigration documents.


STEP 4: Schedule Your Visa Appointment

The process for scheduling your visa appointment varies widely from country to country. Locate the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country at www.usembassy.gov for instructions. 

Follow the steps on your country's U.S. Embassy or Consulate website to schedule your visa appointment.


STEP 5: Prepare for Your Visa Appointment

At the appointment, you will need to present the following:

  1. Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status): Read page 2; then sign and date at the bottom of the form. Do not discard or lose this document. You must present it at the United States Embassy, your port of entry into the United States, and at various times throughout the program.
  2. Form DS-7002 (Training/Internship Placement Plan): Each phase of your program will have a DS-7002 issued and signed by the sponsor (MAST International) and the supervisor (host trainer). You do not need to have your host trainer's signatures on your documents when you apply for your visa; MAST will keep a copy of file and can provide them to you once you enter the U.S. Sign and date the lines referring to “Trainee/Intern” on the form. If you are studying, you will need to sign in two places.
  3. Passport: You must have a machine-readable passport valid for 6 months beyond your intended stay in the United States.
  4. Form DS-160 confirmation page: printed when you completed Step 2 above. 
  5. If necessary, one print photograph:  If you were unable to upload your photo when completing the online visa application form (DS-160), you may bring a print photograph to the interview. Verify with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate how to attach the photo.
  6. Receipt I-797: or computer receipt as proof of payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee, completed in Step 3 above. If your J-1 visa application is denied, this fee will not be refunded. However, if you reapply for a new J-1 visa within 12 months of the denial, you will NOT have to pay the fee again.
  7. Visa application processing fee: This fee is $160. If you previously paid this fee, bring proof of payment.
  8. Visa issuance fee: This fee does not apply to everyone, but is based on reciprocal charges from your country to visitors from the U.S. See the Visa Issuance Fee – Reciprocity Tables to find out if you must pay this fee, and the fee amount.

You may also be asked to present the following: 

  1. Evidence of financial ability to meet expenses. You may be asked to provide a bank statement to show your personal savings. Also be prepared to explain that you will be paid during your training and the amount of compensation for your training is on your Form DS-2019.
  2. Evidence of English ability sufficient for exchange program, such as the documentation submitted with your application.
  3. Evidence of residence outside the U.S. and intent to depart the U.S. after completion of the program. The Consular Officer may ask you to demonstrate binding ties to your home country. Some examples may include: 1) record of employment and your employer’s intentions to receive you back; 2) documentation from an educational institution that you are pursuing a degree and intend to return to complete your education; 3) evidence that you own property or a business; 4) evidence that your family owns property or a business that you may inherit; or 5) family ties in your home country.

STEP 6: Go to Your Visa Interview Appointment

Remember to bring all the items listed in Step 5, including the payment for the visa application ($160) and for the visa issuance fee (if applicable).

At the interview, the Consular Officer will review your documents and your English abilities. He or she will also verify your fee payments and your status in SEVIS. You may also be asked to explain:

  • What is the MAST International Training/Internship Program?
  • Where will you do your training/internship, and what will you be doing at the placement site?
  • How will the program benefit you when you return to your home country?

At all times be friendly and courteous to the Consular Officer. Answer all questions truthfully.

If your visa is approved, then your passport with the visa stamp, your Form DS-2019, and your Form DS-7002 will be returned to you. In some countries, you may receive the documents on the same day; in others, you may have to wait up to two weeks to receive them by mail. Carry all these original documents with you when you travel!

Finally, keep MAST informed if you are delayed so that we can change your program start date.  You may only enter the United States within 30 days of your program start date. If you are delayed, MAST will change your start date in SEVIS (the electronic database used by the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security). In some cases, you will need a new Form DS-2019.

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