Applying for the J-1 Visa

1 The Human Resources Contact will initiate the Initial DS-2019

The Human Resources Contact in your college will initiate the Visiting Scholar Request for Initial DS-2019 once your appointment is approved by the Provost’s Office. Postdocs and other posted positions are not subject to approval by the Provost’s Office.

For more information on the visiting appointments approval process, please visit the Office of the Provost’s website or reach out to the HR Contact in your college.

2 Initial DS-2019: 10 business day processing time

Initial DS-2019 requests are subject to a 10 business day processing time from the date the HR Contact submits the entire request to the Office of Global Services (OGS). Once your DS-2019 is ready, you will receive an e-mail that contains Northeastern’s J-1 Exchange Visitor Program Number and your SEVIS ID. This information is required to schedule a visa appointment at the United States Embassy or Consulate.

Upon approval of your DS-2019 request, you will receive an email from OGS with your digitally-signed DS-2019 attached. If you requested a DS-2019 for your dependent(s) (spouse or unmarried children under age 21) to apply for a J-2 visa, their DS-2019(s) will be included with yours.

Your DS-2019 approval email will include important information about next steps for making your visa appointment, housing resources, and what to expect as your start date is approaching. Please be sure to read the email carefully.

3 Carefully Review the DS-2019

Carefully review the DS-2019 immediately upon receipt and contact OGS if there are any errors or anything is missing (e.g. dependents’ DS-2019s). Sign and date in blue ink where indicated on the bottom of Page 1. Do not make any other notations on the form. J-2 dependents must sign their own DS-2019, with the exception of children under the age of 16; you must sign their DS-2019 for them.

4 Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee

For more information on the SEVIS fee, please visit ice.gov/sevis/i901. The SEVIS fee is required for prospective J-1 Scholars who are applying for an initial J-1 visa from outside the U.S.

The SEVIS fee is not required:

  • If you are currently in active J-1 status in the U.S.
  • If you are transferring to a new J-1 sponsor
  • For J-2 dependents

5 Apply for the J-1 Visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate Abroad

The following documents are typically required for the J-1 visa application and interview:

  • Fees:
    • Online Non-immigrant Visa Application Form (DS-160) Confirmation Page
      • If your address in the U.S. is not available yet, you can use the Northeastern University address: Office of Global Services, 354 Richards Hall, 360 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115. Email: [email protected]
      • For a contact person, you can put the name of the person who signed your DS-2019. You can find this information in Section 7 on Page 1 of your DS-2019. Phone: +1-617-373-2310.
    • Machine Readable Visa (MRV) Fee Receipt (visit the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate website for specific instructions) ($185 as of May 2024)
    • I-901 Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Fee Receipt ($220 as of May 2024)
    • Visa Reciprocity Fee (If Applicable)
  • Form DS-2019 issued by the Office of Global Services (OGS) at Northeastern
    • Signed by OGS in Item 7; printed, signed and dated by the exchange visitor at the bottom of Page 1.
  • Valid passport (the passport should be valid for at least six months after your date of entry into the U.S.)
  • Documentation evidencing financial ability to meet expenses (as noted on your DS-2019)
  • Evidence of English ability sufficient for the exchange program
  • Evidence of residence abroad and intent to depart the U.S. after completion of program
  • A copy of your appointment/offer letter to Northeastern University
  • One photograph (see the U.S. Department of State website for photo requirements)

Please note:

  • Expedited Appointments: if you make a J-1 visa visa appointment but the appointment date is after your DS-2019 program start date or does not give you sufficient time to arrive in the U.S. by the start date, please contact the U.S. Embassy/Consulate where you will be applying or check their website for their expedited appointment requirements. At many consulates, if you have a DS-2019 with a start date within 60 days and have already made a visa appointment, you may qualify for an expedited appointment.
  • J-1 Scholars must obtain their J-1 visa prior to traveling to the U.S. In anticipation of your visa appointment, please follow the J-1 visa application instructions specific to your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Requirements may differ among Embassy or Consulate locations.
  • Possession of a DS-2019 does not guarantee a J-1 visa.
  • Citizens of Canada or Bermuda are not required to obtain a J-1 visa stamp, but they must carry and present their J-1 documents, including the SEVIS fee receipt, when entering the U.S.

OGS strongly advises against purchasing flights or making other arrangements prior to receiving your J-1 visa. OGS will not expedite DS-2019 requests based on flights or living arrangements.

J-1 Transfers to Northeastern

If your J-1 SEVIS record is being transferred to Northeastern University, you do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again, if you have already paid it. If you are transferring from a U.S.-government sponsored Exchange Visitor program (indicated by a program code starting with “G,” such as G-1-0001) to Northeastern University, you are required to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee upon completion of the transfer process and before applying for a new J-1 visa.

If you are traveling internationally after your transfer to Northeastern is completed, you must plan to apply for a new J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad the next time you travel internationally.

Please note: you can remain in the U.S. with the J-1 visa stamp noting the previous institution as long as your new Northeastern DS-2019 remains valid. You do not need to depart the U.S. simply to renew the visa stamp unless you have a requirement to travel internationally. Please note that it is not possible to apply for a J-1 visa in the U.S.

Administrative Processing & Visa Denials

Administrative Processing & Visa Refusals

Although most J-1 visa applications are approved, the outcome of some J-1 visa applications is a refusal under 221(g) or what is commonly referred to as “Administrative Processing.” In these cases, the consular officer will convey to the applicant whether the applicant is required to provide any further documentation or information, or whether the case requires additional administrative processing. Please note that this is not a visa denial. Additionally, for J-1 scholars conducting research in certain STEM fields, your application may undergo additional security screening as part of administrative processing. This can often take several months and it is difficult to get updates from the Embassy during that time.

You should follow the instructions on the 221(g) to provide any requested information or documentation. If the 221(g) requires any information directly from Northeastern, or if the 221(g) will delay your arrival to the U.S. to start your J-1 program, please contact [email protected].

Please refer to the Department of State website for more detailed information about visa refusals and administrative processing.

Visa Denials

Although J-1 visa denials are rare, the most common visa denial is under 214(b), which means the applicant did not demonstrate to the consular officer that they have non-immigrant intent, and/or did not fully demonstrate they have sufficient ties to their home country (family, job, education, property) that indicate they will not immigrate to the U.S. and instead will return home after their J-1 program.

The J-1 visa application is a personal application that depends mostly on your oral responses to a consular officer’s questions, and is typically not a document-driven process. Therefore, when a J-1 visa applicant receives a visa denial under 214(b), Northeastern and OGS are typically not able to intervene or provide documentation in the way of support letters to overcome the denial.

If your J-1 visa application is denied under 214(b), you should request documentation of the denial from the consular officer. You can apply again for the J-1 visa, but you should be prepared to present new information that addresses the previous concerns with your potential immigrant intent in order to overcome the previous denial.

You can also review the Department of State website for more information and guidance about visa refusals and visa denials.

If you receive a visa denial that will prevent you from coming to the U.S. to begin or continue your J-1 program, please email your Northeastern HR contact & faculty supervisor, and copy [email protected] to notify us that you will not be starting your program.

Change of Status to J-1 Within The U.S.

This section includes information on how to apply for a change of status while remaining inside the U.S. If you are currently in the U.S. holding a visa type other than J-1, and are unable or choose not to change to J-1 status through traveling and applying for the J-1 visa abroad, you may choose to pursue change of status in the U.S. if otherwise eligible.

The more common method of gaining J-1 status (as outlined in the first sections of this page) is through traveling and re-entering the U.S. in your new J-1 visa status. In this case, you must apply for a J-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad. Applying at the local Embassy/Consulate in your home country is recommended. You can enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the DS-2019 program start date. Depending on your situation, you may prefer to leave the U.S. to obtain the J-1 visa instead of proceeding with the change of status process in the U.S.

If you currently hold C, D, K, WB or WT status, you are not eligible to change to any other status within the U.S., including J-1. If you or your family are currently in J status (including J-2) and you are subject to the Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement INA 212(e), you may not change status in the U.S. unless you have been granted a waiver.

USCIS processing times for adjudication of change of status applications to J-1 are 4-8 months depending on the processing center. We strongly recommend filing “premium processing” (which includes an additional $1,750 fee) to expedite the adjudication of your change of status application to ensure you can start your J-1 program on time. 

PLEASE NOTE: The Office of Global Services (OGS) can provide general information regarding the process, requirements, and timeline for an I-539 change of status application, however, since this is your personal immigration application, we cannot assist with detailed question or assist you in filing the application. We recommend consulting with an experienced immigration attorney if you require assistance filing your application beyond the general information provided on this page.

You will follow the same steps outlined in the first section on this page to confirm your appointment at Northeastern and initiate a DS-2019 request to OGS. Once you have received your DS-2019 from OGS, you may begin the process of submitting your change of status application to USCIS.

To request a change to J-1 status, you must submit the following documents to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): 

  • A completed USCIS Form I-539 (and Form I-539 Supplement if you have a spouse and/or dependents who will change to J-2 status). See here for filing instructions. 
  • Filing fee of $370: You can pay the fee with a money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or pay by credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you pay by check, you must make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 
  • OPTIONAL: Premium Processing – if you would like to pay an additional fee for premium processing to request that USCIS to provide a decision on your application within 15 days, you will need to submit the $1,750 I-907 premium processing fee.  
  • Photocopy of SEVIS fee payment receipt. 
  • Photocopy of the Form DS-2019 issued to you and all dependents, properly signed by you. 
  • Photocopy of your and any dependent family members’ I-94 record from www.cbp.gov/i94. 
  • Photocopy of information page of your passport (and of each dependent included in the application). Please note: Do not send your original passport. 
  • Photocopy of the visa that you used to enter the United States. 
  • If there are J-2 dependent applicants, you must submit evidence of their relationship to you (example: birth or marriage certificate with English translation). 
  • You must provide evidence of residence abroad or other evidence proving ties to your home country. 
  • Proof of financial support for any tuition and living expenses for the entire duration of your J-1 program for you and your dependents. 

The filing location for your Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, depends on your filing classification and where you live.

You should use the filing address listed on the USCIS website in the “Nonimmigrants and Their Dependents” dropdown menu.

If you are requesting premium processing service for Form I-539, you must also file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, and review the “Where to File” section on that page.

  • Once you have submitted your change of status application to USCIS, please email your receipt notice and approval notice once your petition is approved to [email protected] 
  • Travel Considerations: You will abandon or cancel a pending change of status application by departing the U.S. while the petition is pending. Please also note that a change of status within the U.S. grants you J-1 status to remain in the U.S. and start/continue your J-1 program, however it does not grant you a J-1 visa stamp. If you travel internationally after approval of the J-1 change of status, you will need to apply for the J-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad in order to re-enter the U.S. to continue your J-1 program. Review the OGS website for visa application information and travel guidance.
  • Once your change of status is approved, follow the instructions in emails from OGS for viewing the J-1 scholar orientation and completing your researcher confirmation of arrival e-form.
  • If your plans change or you abandon your change of status application, please email [email protected]
  • Maintaining Status: You must also maintain your current status while your change of status application is pending. Failure to do so may result in USCIS denying your change of status application. If a change of status application is not approved before the requested start date on your Form DS-2019, we must defer your start date to avoid SEVIS record cancellation. If the deferred start date is later than the expiration of your current nonimmigrant status, you may have to extend your current status; this is known as a “bridge” extension. We recommend that you consult an experienced immigration lawyer with questions about procedures and maintenance of status (including the need to file a bridge extension) during the pendency of a change of status application.
  • I-901 SEVIS Fee: All exchange visitors must pay a SEVIS (I-901) fee before applying for a J-1 visa or acquiring J-1 status. If you are a Canadian citizen exempt from the visa requirement, you must still pay this fee prior to submitting your change of status application. You will need Northeastern University’s Exchange Visitor Program Number to complete the Form I-901. The number is: P-1-03057. It is important that you have a receipt for the SEVIS fee payment before applying to change your status in the United States, as you will be required to submit this receipt with your change of status application. *For payment options or for details go to https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/index.html. 
  • F-1 Visa Holders on Post-Completion or STEM Extension OPT: there are important considerations with the timing of your change from F-1 to J-1 in this circumstance. Please consult with OGS at [email protected] for advising.

Renewing Your J-1 Visa

You should think of the J-1 visa stamp/sticker/foil in your passport as an entry document to the U.S. You must have a valid J-1 visa in your passport anytime you are seeking entry or readmission to the U.S. If your J-1 visa stamp/sticker/foil expires while you’re in the U.S., but you are continuing your J-1 program and have a valid DS-2019 or received a DS-2019 program extension, you can remain in the U.S. even with the expired J-1 visa stamp.

You do not need to leave the U.S. solely for the purpose of renewing the J-1 visa unless you already have international travel plans. If you do travel internationally after the J-1 visa stamp has expired, and plan to return to continue your J-1 program with a valid DS-2019, you will need to apply to renew the J-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad in order to re-enter the U.S. to continue your program. Please note that you are not able to renew your visa while in the U.S. If you apply to renew your J-1 visa during international travel, please plan accordingly and communicate your travel plans proactively to your faculty supervisor and department, as some J-1 scholars may experience delays returning to the U.S. as planned if there are visa processing delays.

The process of renewing your J-1 visa is similar to the initial visa process you completed before arrival, however depending on various factors, you may qualify for an interview waiver when renewing your J-1 visa. When you fill out the DS-160 online to renew the visa, your eligibility for an interview waiver will be determined. You will need to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country for more specific guidance on the visa renewal process, interview waiver eligibility, and what specific documents are required.