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DIS Title Divider Visiting Scientists Title Divider Arriving from Outside the U.S.
​​​​​Visiting Program Scientists​​
​Arriving from Outside the U.S.

What is a J-1 Visa?

A United States J-1 visa is a document placed in your passport that allows you to request permission to enter the U.S. as a J-1 Exchange Visitor at a U.S. port-of-entry. You can only apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the U.S. J-2 Dependent visas are available for a J-1 Exchange Visitor’s spouse and unmarried children under age 21. Visit the U.S. Department of State (DOS) U.S. Visas and J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa webpages for more information on the visa process.

If you are outside the U.S. and coming to NIH for the first time, you and any dependents will need to apply for a visa before you are able to travel to the U.S. It is important that you do not make any travel arrangements until after you receive your J-1 or J-2 visa, otherwise consider tickets that are easily changed.

Note: Canadian and Bermudian citizens do not need a J-1 or J-2 visa to enter the U.S. After receiving your Form DS-2019, review steps 6 & 7.

If you are currently a J-1 or J-2 and are planning to travel abroad, you and any dependents traveling with you will need to have a valid visa to re-enter the U.S. If your visa has expired or will expire before you re-enter the U.S., make plans to renew your visa while you are traveling. Visa renewal is not necessary for certain travel to Canada or Mexico. See the J-1 Travel page on our website for more information.

​Review our Pre-Arrival Videos ​which discusses some of the below topics in more detail.

Number 1Receive Your Form DS-2019


Before you can apply for your J-1 or J-2 visa, you need your immigration or "enabling" document, the Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status. Your Form DS-2019 explains the purpose of your visit to the U.S. After you receive your Form DS-2019 from DIS, make sure that all of your personal information is correct. The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System ​(SEVIS) Number (located in the top right corner of your Form DS-2019) and the program number will be used in your visa application.

If you are sponsored by NIH, you and any dependents will receive your Form DS-2019(s) after DIS has finished processing the case received from your NIH Institute/Center.

If you are not sponsored by NIH, contact your sponsoring organization for information on receiving your Form DS-2019 and applying for a J-1 Visa.

number 2Submit Online Visa Application & Schedule Interview


Online Application – Submit the DS-160 Non-Immigrant Visa Application directly to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You will also need to submit a photograph that meets specific requirements. Include any dependents on your DS-160 application. If you will not be applying in your home country, ask the U.S. Embassy or Consulate if they allow visa applications from third country nationals. Visa applications in third countries may be screened more critically by consular officials, unless you are a current resident of that country.

Interview Appointment – Visit the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be interviewed for instructions on setting up a non-immigrant visa interview appointment.

Wait Times – Visit the DOS website for information on these Visa Appointment & Processing Wait Times for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your visa application.

Fee Exemption – NIH-sponsored J-1 Exchange Visitors and their dependents are exempt from certain visa fees. DIS provides a J-1/J-2 Fee Exemption Notice you can include with your visa application. Please note, it can be difficult to schedule a visa appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate without paying the visa fee, especially if you are using an online system. Here are some tips:

  • Check the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for information on making special appointments, sometimes called “Legacy Appointments”. If that information is not available, you could follow the procedures for scheduling emergency appointments.
  • At smaller consulates you may need to schedule your appointment over the phone so that you can explain that you are a government-sponsored J-1 Exchange Visitor.

If you are still having trouble making an appointment, contact us to see if we have any information on the specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

number 3Attend Interview Appointment


Required Documents – You and any dependents will need to bring your passports, Form DS-2019s, and the invitation letter sent to you by DIS to your interview appointment. You should also check with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be interviewed for specific instructions on the required documents you should bring. Some U.S. Embassies and Consulates list the Form DS-7002 as a required document, but this form is only for J-1 trainees or interns, so you do not need to complete it.

Note: Some U.S. Embassies and Consulates do not require in-person interviews for renewals. Check the instructions on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website to find out.

number 4U.S. Embassy or Consulate Processes J-1 Visa


Wait Times – Look up Visa Appointment & Processing Wait Times for the specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate processing your visa application.

Common Reasons for Visa Delays/Denial -

    1. - 221(g) Incomplete Application or Supporting Documents (also referred to as Administrative Processing – see additional information below)

      a. The consular officer cannot determine with the information submitted that an applicant is eligible for a visa.

    2. - 214 (b) Intent to Immigrate

      a. J-1 Exchange Visitors must provide sufficient evidence of strong ties to the home country which would compel departure from the United States at the end of the program.

Administrative Processing – Some visa applications are subject to more extensive checks, referred to as “Administrative Processing,” that may delay visa processing by several days to several weeks or longer. See the Department of State (DOS) Administrative Processing Information webpage for more information.

DIS is unable to intervene in administrative processing. Visa applicants are reminded to apply early for their visas, well in advance of the anticipated travel or start date. Prepare for potential delays in the visa appointment and visa issuance process.

Notify DIS of Long DelaysNotify DIS of administrative processing lasting longer than 90 days. If a prospective scientist’s visa application is undergoing administrative processing, DIS can adjust the NIH start date as appropriate. After the visa is issued, notify DIS of the new start date and we will adjust award/appointment dates as needed.

J-1 or J-2 Exchange Visitors Sponsored by the NIH – DIS will update program dates in SEVIS for J-1s/J-2s who need to change their start date due to visa delays. DIS will provide an updated Form DS-2019 upon arrival to NIH. Do not request an updated Form DS-2019 from DIS unless it is explicitly requested by the Embassy or Consulate.

number 5Make Travel Arrangements


It is important that you do not make any travel arrangements until after you receive your J-1 or J-2 visa. If you need to purchase tickets before then, consider tickets that can be changed easily.

After you receive your J-1 or J-2 visa, you can confirm your travel plans. You may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the start date on your Form DS-2019. See the Check-In with DIS webpage for more information.

Our Welcome to the DC Area webpage is designed to help connect you with local resources.

number 6Enter the United States


United States Port of Entry Inspection – When you arrive at a U.S. port of entry, you and any dependents will go through an immigration and customs inspection with a Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer. During the inspection, you will be asked to describe the purpose of your visit and provide documentation to support your entry. Make sure to hand-carry the following documents to present to the CBP officer:

  • Your and your dependents’ passports
  • Your and your dependents’ Form DS-2019s
  • Your invitation letter from DIS/NIH
  • Evidence of your relationship with your dependents (marriage or birth certificate)

More information about what to expect is available on the CBP website.

Passport Admission Stamp – Once admitted to the U.S., the CBP Officer will provide you an “immigration status” by stamping your passport (and any dependents' passports) with your J-1 or J-2 immigration status, date of entry, port of entry, and any special conditions that may apply to your stay. The admission stamp should be marked as “D/S,” or “Duration of Status,” meaning that you can remain in the U.S. until the end date (or “to” date) on your DS-2019. Please note that some ports of entry are no longer issuing an entry stamp. If you do not receive an entry stamp, this is not at issue.

Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record – Your admission information is also used to generate your electronic Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record which you will need to print for your records. Your Form I-94 will be marked, “D/S,” matching your admission stamp. See the DIS Form I-94 Handout for more details.

number 7Check-In with DIS


Beginning Your NIH Position – You must check in with DIS before beginning your position at NIH. See the Check-In with DIS webpage for more information.

Re-Entering the U.S. After Travel – DIS needs to review any new immigration documents to check for accuracy and to make sure your DIS record is updated. Send DIS copies of your and your family’s new passport admission stamps, your electronic Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Records, and your new U.S. entry visas (if applicable).

Dependents – Notify DIS when your J-2 dependents arrive in the U.S. If you previously requested a Form DS-2019 for a dependent who is no longer going to seek or stay in J-2 status, inform DIS so our office can update their SEVIS record. If you want to add more J-2 dependents, instructions are available on our J-2 Dependents webpage.

Revised 08​/2023


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​DIS Info 
Service Hours:
9:00am - 4:00pm ET
Non-FTE Check-In/EOD:
Monday By 11:30am
(in local time zone of lab)
Advising Services:
Document Pickup:​​​​​​​​​​
J-1/J-2 Travel Signature Requests:​​​​​​​​​​​
Badge Validation:​​​​​​​​​​
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