A Division of the International Studies Office

Visa Application Process

Visa Application Process

Applying for a J-1 visa is a multi-part process that is described below:

1. Obtain DS-2019 from UVa.

2. Pay the SEVIS fee.  The fee can be paid on-line here.

3. Contact the U.S. embassy nearest you for complete instructions on applying for the J-1 visa.

List of embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions.

Instructions from the U.S. Department of State on applying for visas can also be found here. You will need to submit the on-line visa application (DS-160) and make an appointment for an in-person interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest you. Each country will have its own specific documentation requirements as part of the visa application.  Visa application procedures, appointment times and visa issuance times are subject to change without notice.


As you begin the J-1 visa application process, you may see references to SEVIS.

SEVIS is the name of U.S. government data base developed and managed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  SEVIS is a computerized system that maintains and manages data about international students and scholars with F-1, J-1, and M-1 status during their stay in the U.S. For more than 50 years, U.S. educational institutions have been required to maintain such information about F-1, J-1, and M-1 status visitors present in their facilities. 

SEVIS allows for real-time access to this information and it helps F-1, J-1, and M-1 visitors to comply with the terms of their visas.


DHS requires the collection of a one-time SEVIS fee from all first-time applicants for J-1 visas and for Canadian citizens seeking first-time J-1 status upon their admission to the U.S. The fee is being charged and collected by the U.S. government in order to defray the cost of developing and operating SEVIS. The fee is not being charged or collected by UVA or by the ISO. The SEVIS fee is in addition to, and it is charged and collected separately from, visa application fees required by the U.S. embassy in order to process your J-1 visa application or processing fees charged by the U.S. government to consider your request to change status, etc., from inside the country after you have paid the SEVIS fee.

Who must pay the SEVIS fee?

International students and scholars applying for first-time J-1 visas, and Canadian citizens seeking first-time J-1 status upon their admission to the U.S.

Who does not have to pay the SEVIS fee?

International students and scholars currently in J-1 status who apply for a new J-1 visa during the course of their J-1 program, and Canadian citizens seeking re-admission to the U.S. with J-1 status during the course of their existing J-1 programs. Applicants for first-time J-1 visas whose applications for those visas were initially rejected may re-apply within 12 months of the initial denial notice without incurring another SEVIS fee. Dependents of J-1 visitors, i.e., applicants for first-time J-2 visas and status.

How is the SEVIS fee charged and collected?

At least three (3) business days before your J-1 visa application interview, follow the instructions here:

SEVIS fee payment.

In most cases, you may pay the SEVIS fee by credit card. Be sure to print out the SEVIS fee receipt from the website. You will need to present your fee receipt when you attend your J-1 visa application interview. You cannot pay the SEVIS fee at the U.S. embassy. The credit card used to pay the SEVIS fee does not have to be in your name. Someone other than you (a friend, family member, or even your UVa department) can pay the SEVIS fee for you. The ISO does not pay the SEVIS fee for you.

At the U.S. Embassy

Due to increasing and often unannounced security delays at American missions abroad, you should apply for your J-1 visa as soon as possible after receiving your DS-2019. After you receive your DS-2019 from UVA, contact the U.S. embassy where you plan to apply for your J-1 visa. Precise application procedures, including turn-around times, vary by location. In addition, they are subject to change without notice.         

Review your DS-2019 carefully and let the ISO know immediately if there is an error in any of the information about you, or if you have questions about the form and how to use it. If everything is correct, sign your DS-2019 where indicated on the bottom of the form. Where it asks for “Place,” indicate your location at the time you sign the DS-2019: e.g., if you are in Paris, France, write “Paris, France”.

Apart from this, do not mark or make any changes to your DS-2019 unless you are specifically instructed to do so by the staff at the U.S. embassy, or by DHS upon your arrival in the U.S.

When traveling to the U.S., do not keep your passport in one place and your DS-2019 in another. The best place for your DS-2019 is folded—not stapled—inside your passport.

You will be asked to show both the J-1 visa in your passport and your DS-2019 upon arrival in the U.S.

Canadian Citizens

If you are a Canadian citizen, and you are being sponsored for J-1 status, you do not require a J-1 visa in your passport. You do, however, require a DS-2019 form and you must present it to a DHS officer before entering the U.S. You will need to carry your passport and to present it to DHS along with your DS-2019 at the port of entry. Your DS-2019 and your passport, will be marked by DHS and a form I-94 provided to you, indicating that you have been admitted to the US with J-1 status.

Be sure DHS understands you need J-1 status. Especially if you enter the US via a land border crossing, do not allow DHS to “wave you through” as a Canadian tourist. You may have to insist on this.

Except for the matter of a J-1 visa in your passport, Canadian citizens are liable for all other J-1 regulations, including payment of the SEVIS fee. Please see above “SEVIS Fee”. Note that you must show your SEVIS fee receipt, along with your DS-2019 and passport, at the U.S.-Canada border, in order to be granted admission to the U.S. with J-1 status.  

The SEVIS fee cannot be paid at the land border crossing or at the Canadian airport before you leave for the U.S.