Visa and Immigration Information

Obtaining A Visa: Information On Applying For A U.S. Visa

You will need a J-1 visa to enter the United States to study. You should apply for the visa at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country using the DS-2019 form that will be mailed to you with your welcome/acceptance letter
(ISEP students will receive this form from the ISEP central office in Washington, D.C.). Do not enter the U.S. through the visa waiver program, if available for your country.

Visa procedures vary slightly from one U.S. embassy or consulate to another. Before you apply for your visa, check with the U.S. embassy or consulate where you plan to apply to learn about their specific procedures and policies regarding J-1 visa applications as well as to determine exactly what supporting documentation is required. For example, some U.S. embassies and consulates will operate on a walk-in basis while others will require that you make an appointment several days in advance. Others may accept J-1 visa applications only during certain hours of the day. Please do some research in advance of your visit so that you will be as prepared as possible!

Several standard items are required in support of your application for a U.S. visa:

  1. Valid DS-2019 Form from SJSU or ISEP
  2. Current & original financial documentation from your sponsor
  3. Valid passport
  4. Proof that you have a permanent residence outside of the U.S.
  5. One or more passport-type photographs
  6. Non-immigrant visa application (available at the U.S. embassy or consulate)
  7. Must pay the SEVIS fee before going to the U.S. embassy or consulate for their visa interview.

Additional application materials may be requested by the visa officer to prove your eligibility for an U.S. visa. These may include: evidence of English proficiency, school records to verify academic preparation, and additional evidence of strong ties to your home country or of your ability to support yourself in the United States. Application fee may also be required.

SEVIS & Fee collection

The Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an internet-based system that allows schools and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Information (USICE) to exchange data
on the visa status of international students. Information is transmitted electronically throughout the student's academic
career. U.S. Consulates and other U.S. government agencies will have access to this information.


  • Applicants who require a visa to enter the United States must pay the SEVIS fee before going to the U.S. embassy or consulate for their visa interview.
  • Applicants who are citizens of Canada, Bermuda, Bahamas and residents of certain other islands (see 8 CFR 212.1a) wishing to apply for F-1, F-3, M-1, M-3, or J-1 status at a Port of Entry into the United States must pay and process the SEVIS fee before appearing at the Port of Entry.
  • Nonimmigrants currently in the United States who apply for student or exchange visitor status must pay the fee prior to filing their change of status application.

Beginning September 1, 2004 the Department of Homeland Security will collect a congressionally mandated fee to cover the costs for the continued operation of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
International students and exchange visitors are subject to this fee which will be used to administer and maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), support compliance activities, and establish SEVIS Liaison Officers.
SEVIS, the automated system for collecting, maintaining and managing information about foreign student and exchange
visitors during their entry to, stay in, & exit from the United States, will be used to record and track the I-901 fee payment.

For students (F-1, F-3, M-1, or M-3) $200
For spouses and dependent children (F-2, M-2, or J-2) of students or exchange visitors None

For exchange visitors (J-1) unless participating in:

    Federally sponsored exchange visitor program (program codes start with G-1, G-2, or G-3) None
    Summer work/travel program $35
    Au pair program $35
    Camp counselor program $35


For additional up-to-date and detailed information regarding:

  • Who pays the fee
  • How is the fee paid
  • When must the fee be paid
  • How will the payment be verified
  • When must continuing students (F-1, F-3, M-1, or M-3 nonimmigrants that have begun, but not finished, a program) pay the SEVIS fee
  • When must continuing exchange visitors (J-1 nonimmigrants who have begun, but not finished a program) pay the SEVIS fee

Go to:

How To Prepare For The Visa Interview

In most instances, your visa interview will only last for a few brief minutes and you should be prepared to respond to the following types of questions:

  • Why did you decide to study at SJSU? You may even want to bring a written statement describing in detail the reasons why you have decided to attend SJSU.
  • You should be prepared to explain how a program or studies at SJSU would be used to help you complete your academic degree at your home university.
  • If you already have a job offer in your home country after graduation, bring a copy of a letter from your future employer.
  • You will need to verify that you (or your sponsor) have adequate financial resources to meet at least your expenses (as indicated on your DS-2019 form). Also, you will need to convince the visa officer that these funds will be available to you for the length of your stay in the U.S.
  • If possible, you may want to bring your financial sponsor (parents, relative, etc.) with you to the visa interview to explain how you will be supported financially during your stay in the U.S.
  • Bank loans are not a recommended source of financial support. Visa officers may believe that you will have to work illegally in the U.S. in order to repay the loan.
  • You will also need to show that you have strong ties to your home country (family, property, job offer, etc.) that will compel you to return after you complete your studies in the U.S.
  • Do you have any close family members (mother, father, brothers or sisters) who have immigrated to the U.S.? If yes, then it may be more difficult for you to obtain a student J-1 visa since the visa officer may think that you will be more likely to remain in the U.S. after the completion of your studies.
  • Above all, we strongly recommend that you be honest and truthful. Make sure that you tell truth on the visa application form and during the interview!

If your visa is granted, the consular officer will place a visa stamp in your passport. If you receive a multiple-entry visa,
you may use it to re-enter the United States as often as you like up to the date of its expiration as long as you have a valid
DS-2019 Form.

If you encounter any problems obtaining your visa, please contact the office of International
Programs and Services for assistance.

The J-1 Student Visa, The I-94 Card and The DS-2019 Form

An Exchange Student, having been granted an DS- 2019 from an American institution or agency (such as ISEP) and having obtained a J-1 visa from a U.S. consulate abroad, has three documents that govern her/his stay in the U.S.
They are:

  • Entry visa
  • I-94 card
  • DS-2019 Form

The entry visa is issued at an American Consulate in a country outside the U.S. Most exchange students come to the

U.S. with a J-1 (exchange student) visa. These visas are either for single entry to the U.S. or for multiple entries as noted on the visa. There is a time limit for the use of the visa. Sometimes a multiple entry visa is valid for the amount of time expected to complete the program sought, and, sometimes it is only good for one year or less. During this time period a J-1 exchange student may leave the U.S. and be able to return. If he/she leaves the U.S. after that time period, however, a new visa will be required to return. An important thing to remember is that this visa is an entry visa and, therefore only needed when entering the U.S. from another country. It does not control your stay in U.S.

The I-94 is another necessary document that is issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) officer at the airport when you arrive in the United States. The officer writes the letters D/S on the I-94, which is an abbreviation for "Duration of Status". Duration of Status means that students may stay in the country until the completion
of their program, as long as their DS-2019 Form is valid and they follow the U.S. CIS rules, including being a full-time
student. This is true even if the visa is no longer valid. At the top of the I-94 is an 11 digit number called your "SEVIS
number". This is the number that the USCIS will use to identify you during your stay in the U.S.

The DS-2019 Form is the document which SJSU (or ISEP) issues to you as an Exchange Student when you are admitted. It records information that the U.S. government needs for its records and to grant an entry visa. In item number 3 on the DS-2019 Form there is a place to record the beginning and ending dates of your program. This ending date is important
because it is the date by which you must complete your studies. Failure to do so may result in your being out of status
with the U.S. Department of State, the agency that regulates J-1 visa holders. If you have not completed your program by that date, you may apply for an extension for the time required to complete your program. You must have good reasons for having taken longer than the assigned time. (See Extension of Program in page 6).

If you are arriving from outside the United States, you will need to present your DS-2019 Form together with financial certification to the visa official at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country to apply for your J-1 Exchange Visitor visa. (Canadians do not need passports or visa stamps to enter the United States, but they do have to show the
DS-2019 Form at the port of entry to obtain status as a J-1 Exchange Visitor). The visa officer will then return the DS-
2019 Form to you, and you should then present it again (together with your financial documentation) to the immigration officer at your port of entry to the U.S. The immigration officer will check your status in the computer system and then stamp the DS-2019 Form and return it to you, along with an I-94 (white) card. Keep the DS-2019 and I-94 with your passport.

IMPORTANT : J-1 visa students are REQUIRED to arrive in the U.S. no later than the beginning date as indicated in item #3 of the DS-2019 Form. IPS cannot give you official permission to arrive in the U.S. later than this date, as it will be very difficult for you to find enough available university classes needed to maintain your full-time student status. If you cannot arrive in the U.S. before classes begin, please contact ISSS for assistance.

Unit Load

A student on a J-1 visa is required by the U.S. Department of State to be enrolled full-time each semester, which means that students must carry a minimum academic load of 12 units as an undergraduate or 9 units as a graduate student.
Exchange students who are not enrolled full-time will be out of status. However, there are certain rare circumstances that
would allow a student to carry a reduced number of units. Before enrolling for fewer than the required number of units, see the Study Abroad Coordinator.


Exchange students who are planning to travel to another country, during their exchange program at SJSU, must have their DS-2019 Form signed by a Responsible Officer prior to leaving the United States. (Come to the CIES offices in the West end of the Student Union Building).

The Responsible Officer's signature on the DS-2019 Form is necessary for re-entry into the United States. It is also necessary to have a valid J-1 visa for re-entry. The visa is the stamp or sticker in the passport, which was obtained at an American Consulate prior to coming to the United States. If the current visa expires before the re-entry date or a student changed to J-1 from another status while in the U.S., the exchange student who is traveling outside the U.S. must apply for a new J-1 visa. All Exchange Students who are applying for a visa extension must see a Responsible Officer at least 2 weeks before traveling.

For the convenience of the ISSS office staff, please have your DS-2019 Form signed at least two (2) weeks prior to leaving. In case any problem should occur, the office staff will have ample time to prepare any necessary documents for your travel.

A visa is not required if an Exchange Student is entering the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or from islands in the Caribbean after no more than 30 days there.

Extension of On-Going Program

In order to maintain status with the U.S. Department of State, an international exchange student with J-1 status must complete their studies in the time given on the DS-2019 Form. If they are unable to, they must apply for an extension of on- going program. The J-1 visa student must see the Director or the Study Abroad Coordinator in the International Programs
and Services office THIRTY DAYS (30) before the program expiration date to apply for an extension. Otherwise, the
request may not be authorized. A student must show financial support for the requested extension.

The procedure to follow when applying for an extension of the J-1 program is as follows:

  • Meet with the Director of the International Programs and Services office to discuss the reasons for the need of an extension.
  • Present the current DS-2019 Form.
  • Present updated evidence of financial support.

Reinstatement to J-1 Status

A J-1 student must meet the requirements of the U.S. Citizen's Immigration Service (CIS) and the U.S. Department of
State in order to maintain his/her status. If a student takes fewer units than required during a semester or does not follow proper immigration procedures, the student may lose his/her J-1 status. When this happens, a student must apply to U.S. Department of State to be reinstated to J-1 student status. See the Director of ISSS for details.

The U.S. CIS and U.S. Department of State will decide whether to reinstate a student. The following conditions must be met:

  1. The student submits copies of all the DS-2019 Forms issued to date.
  2. The student writes a statement explaining the failure to maintain status due to circumstances beyond his/her control.
  3. The student must not be deportable on any other grounds.

The written statement and the DS-2019 Forms must be submitted to U.S. Department of State. It is also necessary to include evidence showing that the student has enough funds to continue his/her status.

Permission to Work

Exchange students who have a J-1 visa may work under certain circumstances while they are in the United States. There are two categories to work for which an exchange student may qualify:

  1. Working On-Campus
  2. Working Off-Campus
    1. Academic Training
    2. Severe Economic Hardship

The following are explanations of each category with a description of the rules, how to get permission and lists of the kind of work that may be done.
J-1 visa holders may work on campus. During the semester while classes are in session, they may work no more than 20 hours per week. During the summer and winter breaks, they may work up to 40 hours per week.

A J-1 student who wishes to work on-campus should make an appointment to see the IPS Director. If the Director approves on-campus employment, the student will be given a work permission letter, which should be given to your on- campus employer or the Payroll Office. ISEP students must seek work permission from the IPS Director and then get an authorization letter from ISEP.

Academic Training refers to employment in a student's field of study in order to add practical work experience to the knowledge acquired in the classroom (Academic Training is sometimes referred to as an "internship"). Academic training is permitted part-time while the student is enrolled in school or full-time after completion of the program.

Academic Training may be unpaid or for wages (or other remuneration). Student must meet with the IPS Director to apply for Academic Training thirty (30) days prior to authorization.

ISEP students must get Academic Training authorization from both SJSU and ISEP. ISEP procedures for applying for Academic Training are available on their website at:

A student may be authorized to participate in academic training if all the following criteria are met:

The student is primarily in the U.S. to study rather than to engage in Academic Training. Exchange Students are eligible to do Academic Training for the same period of time as their academic studies (4 months for semester exchange or 10 months for academic year exchanges).
The student is participating in academic training that is directly related to his/her major field of study at the
post secondary accredited educational institution listed on his/her DS-2019 Form.
The student is in good academic standing and has support from an SJSU academic advisor.
The student receives written approval in advance from the Responsible Officer for the duration and type of
academic training.

Off-campus employment may be permitted only in cases where there is proven severe economic hardship. The purpose of this kind of work is so a student may earn income, which is needed to pay living expenses because his/her sponsor can no longer provide funds due to unforeseen circumstances. In other words, a student must provide evidence that he/she is not receiving enough money to pay for school expenses and that the cause was not expected to happen when he/she came to the United States.

Examples of unforeseen circumstances might be a death in the family, severe inflation in the home country, or political trouble at home which prevents exchange to flow out of the country. Permission to work off-campus due to severe economic hardship is granted by the Responsible Officer in the IPS office within the regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of State, or by the sponsoring agency which issued DS-2019 Form.

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