J1 Visa Faq

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J1 Visa Faq Powered By Docstoc
                   By Oksana Anistratenko, Moscow EIC
                            December 2003

                          VISA APPLICATION PROCESS

1) What Is Needed to Apply for a Student Visa?
   • Get a SEVIS I-20 or SEVIS DS-2019 (which should be sent to you by your
     institution or placement organization)
   • A completed non-immigrant visa application forms (Form DS -156, DS -158
     and Form DS-157 (for men of age 16-45)) with pictures. Attach two black
     and white or in color full face photographs. The photograph should measure
     2 inches square (approximately 50 mm square) with the head centered in the
     frame. The head (measured from the top of the hair to the bottom of the
     chin) should measure between 1 inch to 1 3/8 inch (25mm to 35mm), with
     the eye level between 1 1/8 inches to 1 3/8 inches (28mm and 35 mm) from
     the bottom of the photo. Photos may be in color or black and white, but must
     be taken against a white or off-white background. Photos may be stapled or
     glued to the application form, but staples should be placed as far away as
     possible from the applicant's face.
   • A passport valid for at least 6 months after your proposed date of entry into
     the US
   • A receipt for visa processing fee. Please note that the Embassy now accepts
     the applications via Elf-91 service. For the office locations please visit:; if you’re in Moscow, or, if you live somewhere else. You will be surcharged additional
     fees for the shipment.

   All applicants should be prepared to provide:
   ♦ transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended
   ♦ scores from standardized tests (TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.)
   ♦ financial evidence that shows that you have sufficient funding

2) How much does a visa cost and how long does it take to get it?
   At the moment the cost of a student visa is $100. You are encouraged to apply
   for the visas as soon as you’re prepared to do so. Please keep in mind that the
   Embassy is able to issue your visa 90 days or less in advance of the program
   start date indicated in your I-20 or DS-2019. If your major belongs to the
   “sensitive field” of study (i.e. physics, biology, chemistry, architecture, urban
   planning, etc.), it might take you longer to obtain your visa in comparison to
   those who are in humanities.

3) What is SEVIS?
   SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. It’s and
   Internet-based system, which contains data about students and works between
   schools and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

4) Where can I get more information?
   For more information please visit either the US Embassy web site: or the DOS site:

   You can also get information by telephone.

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From Russia: (095)-258-2525. All calls $1.60 per minute.

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5) Does an I-20 guarantee that I'll receive a visa?
   An I-20 alone is not considered sufficient financial documentation and does not
   guarantee that you'll be granted a visa. You MUST bring appropriate supporting
   financial documents to the embassy and you MUST prove to the interviewing
   officer that you are a serious, qualified student.

6) How can I prove I have funds to cover educational expenses? Can I bring my
   money to the embassy and show it to a Consular Officer?
   • It’s a BAD idea to bring cash to the embassy. This looks very suspicious and
     can give the impression that you are trying to bribe the Consular Officer.
   • There are 2 kinds of financial certification documents for those students who
     are paying by themselves:
           • employer's statement (a statement from your or your parents'
              employer showing last year's total income)
           • bank statement (if you or your parents have a bank account). The
              statement should carry the bank seal and be signed by a bank
              official. A bank statement is the most "respectable" financial
              certification. PLEASE NOTE: You need to show availability of funds
              OVER TIME.
   • Certification of financial support from a source in the United States is only
     essential for immigration visas. However, it can be helpful to have the
     following with you:
       • scholarship letter (if applicable)
       • sponsorship letter (if you are supported by a sponsor in the US)

7) Do I need to bring any medical forms?
   You are not required to show a proof of medical insurance if you're applying for
   F-1. Students applying for a J-1 visa can be asked about medical insurance
   because US law requires all J-1 visa holders to obtain medical insurance before
   they enter the US but this is usually handled through the placement organization
   giving the grant.

8) How many days ahead of my school start date (as listed on the I-20) does a
   visa normally allow you to enter the USA?
   A student with an F-1 visa may enter the US no earlier than 30 days before the
   reporting date on I-20. An F-1 visa may be issued by the Embassy or Consulate
   no earlier than 90 days prior to the reporting date..

9) Where can I get an I-94 Form (Arrival/Departure record)? To whom should I
   give this form?
    • An I-94 is issued when you enter the US. This form indicates the date and
       location of the person’s entry, the visa classification and length of stay. For
       most students there will not be a specific date but the letters “D/S”, meaning
       duration of status.
    • An I-94 is a very important document and you should always keep it together
       with your passport and your I-20.

10) What does “duration of status” mean ?
One’s “duration of status” is the time in which the person maintains the legitimate
status of “student.” This includes the study period, a practical training period (if
approved by the BCIS) of up to 12 months for F-1 visa holders or 18 months for J-1

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visa holders. Students are expected to depart from the U.S. within: 60 days after
completion of studies or any OPT for F-1 and 30 days for J-1.

11) What is a Biometric Program?
Beginning December 9, 2003, the biometric program is introduced at the US Embassy
in Moscow. It involves scanning of the two index fingers. All nonimmigrant visa
applicants over 14 and younger than 80 must provide scanned finger images that will
be linked to other identifying data collected from applicants.

12) How and when can I bring my dependents?
The spouse and/or children of an F-1 student can enter the US under F-2 status and
may stay for the same length of time as the F-1 person. When applying for a visa,
your dependents must present their own SEVIS I-20 form, and also documents
verifying that they’ll have adequate financial support (for the exact amount of money
see the requirements of a particular school). They can apply for visas at the same
time you do; or they can apply later (you have to request your college to send them an
I-20). They’re expected to bring a copy of your I-20 and visa in this case. An
accompanying spouse or child of J-1 holders should each present a SEVIS Form DS-
2019 issued in his or her own name by the same program the main J-1 visa holder is
enrolled at. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow is currently accepting copies of the DS-
2019 issued for the J1 holder for J2 applicants, but students should check with their
schools and the Embassy to confirm which document is needed.


1) What is the difference between an I-20 and a DS-2019 form?
   An I-20 is a certificate for F-1 applicants in which the school declares that you've
   been accepted for a full course of study and you seem to be a bona fide student.
   The DS-2019 form serves similar purpose for J-1 applicants who receive grants
   or special status from either from their government (i.e. Russian) or the US
   government directly or through non-governmental placement organization. Both
   forms should be registered in SEVIS.

2) What is the difference between F-1 and J-1?
   F-1 is designated for students in academic and language study programs. The J-
   1 category includes exchange students, teachers, scholars, researchers, etc. who
   come to the US under an educational exchange program. J-1 students must be
   financed, at least partially, by the US or home government or be part of an
   exchange program. Please note that F-2 visa holders cannot engage in full time

3) If I have a J-1 visa can I travel to the US to take part in conferences within 2
   years after returning home?
   Yes, you can if you obtain a B-1/B-2 visa. You may not apply for a work or
   immigration visa during this period.


1) Can I work on/off campus if I have F-1 or J-1?
   F-1 students may work up to 20 hours/week on campus (including on-location
   commercial firms which provide services for students on campus) or at an off-
   campus location that is educationally affiliated with the school without special
   permission. An F-1 student may be authorized to work off-campus on a part-time

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  basis after 1 year of full academic studies. For off-campus work, F-1 holders must
  obtain permission from the Designated School Official and/or DHS (Department
  of Homeland Security). An F-2 visa holder may not accept employment.

  Employment while in "J" exchange visitor status depends upon the terms of the
  program. Participants in programs that provide for on-the-job training, teaching,
  research, or other activities that involve paid employment may accept such
  employment. Participants in programs that do not involve work may not accept
  outside employment. J-2 spouses and children may accept employment with
  authorization from the DHS. Employment will not be authorized if this income is
  needed to support the J-1 principal alien.

2) How many hours may I work?
   Up to 20 hours per week during the academic year and up to 40 hours (full time)
   during vacations and summer.


1) How should I behave during the interview? Which questions are asked
   during the interview?
   Both J1 and F1 visa applicants are subject for interviews at the Embassy.
   • Be confident, sincere and willing to answer any question. Be yourself and
      DO NOT LIE.
   • Be ready to describe your academic program and the kind of career or job it
      will help you get after return to your home country.
   • You will be asked to prove that you can finance your education and that you
      will return home after the program. These are normal questions and you
      should be prepared to answer them with cogent arguments.

2) In which cases can they refuse to issue me a visa?
    You will be denied a visa if:
    • You fail to demonstrate the intention to return home after completion of your
    • You don’t have adequate financial support
    • You don’t seem to be qualified for the proposed program of study (for
       example, you have very poor English)

3) Will I get a visa denial if I took part in green card lottery before?
   Not necessarily, but whatever you do, BE HONEST about your participation. The
   Consular Officer will check computer records and, if you lied, you will definitely be
   denied a visa.

4) Can I change my visa status once I’m in the US?
   Theoretically yes, but there are many restrictions (first of all, ask your Foreign
   Student Adviser). To initiate the process you must file a petition with the DHS.
   Beware that changing status usually takes many months.

5) What should I do if I fell out of status?
   Contact your Foreign Student Adviser for specific instructions concerning

6) If my visa expires, how do I renew it?

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The visa is an entry document only and needs to be valid only at the time you
enter the USA. It does not need to be renewed if you stay in the USA. If you need
to extend your I-94, contact your Foreign Student Adviser; this is routine and they
do it frequently. If you overstay your duration of status and do not get a new I-94,
you risk getting into trouble with the INS and not being able to receive another
visa in the future.

If you leave America, apply for a new visa at an American embassy abroad.
NOTE: Applying for a new visa can be difficult in a country other than your home
country; this depends on your country of origin. You may be told to go to your
home country and re-apply there.

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