International Scholar Relations

Applying for a J-1 Visa

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  Benjamin Franklin


Prospective Scholar

Planning Ahead for the Visa Process

One of the most important things a visiting scholar can do to ensure that s/he will be able to arrive in time for the start of their research program in the United States is to plan well in advance. You should begin the visa  process up to 90 days before your program start date. The Departmental Request for a DS-2019 (DRF) is the first step and will be initiated by your program supervisor at WesternU well in advance of your planned departure to the United States. After you receive the DS-2019 from ISR, you will also need to make an appointment for your visa interview with your homeland U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Please consult the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest you at http://usembassy.state.gov/ to find out how long it may take to get an appointment.

Host Department Request Form (DRF)

To initate the invitation process, the host department will complete their section of the The Department Request Form (DRF) required for  issuance of a DS-2019 Form (the Certificate of Eligibility issued through SEVIS). The department will forward the DRF to the prospective scholar for review and so the scholar can complete section two. The scholar will sign, date and return the DRF with required documentation (see J-1 Application Documentation below)to ISR. The information on the DRF will be entered into SEVIS to create the DS-2019 Form required by the U.S. Embassy for a J-1 visa application.


Upon Receipt of your DS-2019 Form from WesternU

Once you receive your DS-2019 Form from ISR, the US Embassies and consulates will generally require that you:

  1. Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee ($180) Print the SEVIS receipt and bring a copy to your visa interview. The SEVIS FEE must be paid in addition to visa fees.  The fee does not need to be paid for J-2 dependents, nor does the fee need to be paid for visa revewals.
  2. Submit the Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  3. Pay the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Fee, aslo know as the MRV fee ($160)
  4. Pay the Reciprocity Fee (only if applicable). Only a limited number of countries are required to pay a reciprocity fee.  If you are not sure if you much pay this fee, contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy that you will be applying for visa for confirmation.

New I-94 Arrival/Departure Record Process

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) information about the new automated I-94 process for all air and sea ports of entry can be found at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/request.html

This conversion means that CBP will no longer require non-immigrant travelers to fill out a paper I-94 Form Arrival/Departure Record upon arrival to the U.S. at that port.  The agency will gather travelers’ arrival and departure information automatically from thier electronic travel records.

Delays & Security Clearance

Be aware, if you are in a research field that may be considered of US national security interest, you may face serious delays receiving a visa while a background check is being conducted. It is impossible to predict how long a background check might take (one week to 6 months), and it is not possible for any agency to intervene to expedite the background check.

Scholars should always get the decision from the Consular officer in writing. The consular section is required by law to give the decision in writing. While we understand that this is a stressful time, it is important that prospective scholars remember to request the decision in writing. The reason for this is that we will not be able to tell if someone has a delay or denial without looking at the wording on the written decision. Delays are much more common than denials, though both are possible.


J-1 Application Documentation

The J-1 RO/ARO at WesternU will require the completed documentation listed below before issuance of a Form DS-2019:

  • A completed Department Request Form (DRF) for J-1 Visa DS-2019
  • Description of Exchange Visitor’s Program Objective
  • Copy of Exchange Visitor’s (and accompanying dependents’) passport photo and biographical pages.  The copies must include the passport issuance and expiration dates
  • Documentation of sufficient financial funding
  • Documentation of English language proficiency
  • Copies of marriage and/or birth certificates for any accompanying dependents
  • Copy of all diplomas earned by the Exchange Visitor
  • Copy of the Exchange Visitor’s current CV/resume
  • An Invitation/Employment Offer Letter approved and signed by the inviting College dean.*
  • Copies of immigration documents – if the Exchange Visitor is already in the U.S.

The Letter of Invitation from the College dean will assist the scholar in obtaining the J-1 visa at U.S. Consulate or Embassy, therefore, it should describe the dates, academic field, proposed activities, and source of financial support for the exchange visitor.

It is important to provide all information requested. Missing information will cause unnecessary delays. The visiting scholar and the host department must comply with the US Department of State regulations. Plans to invite an individual in the J-1 visa category must begin early as it may take anywhere from one to four months for the entire Exchange Visitor process.

If the scholar has participated in a J-1 Program within the past twenty-four months they may not be eligible for a DS-2019 Form. The J-1 RO/ARO must review all historical DS-2019 forms before determining eligibility for a new program.

Questions about the invitation process should be directed to: J1Program@westernu.edu

What is SEVIS?

SEVIS (the Student/Scholar Exchange Visitor Information System) is used to process visa documents, report changes, request benefits, add dependents, make transfers, and facilitate many other visa related tasks. The J-1 RO/ARO is the designated individual at WesternU to use SEVIS, a web-based information system operated by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USICE), an agency under the Department of Homeland Security. Upon receipt of the visiting scholar’s completed/signed documentation, the J-1 RO/ARO will enter the scholar’s information into the SEVIS program to initiate the DS-2019 Form Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) status required for J-1 visa application process.

Upon receipt of the DS-2019 Form, the scholar will need to pay the SEVIS Fee ($180). See instructions “how to pay” the SEVIS fee below.

 SEVIS I-901  – Fee $180

How to pay:

Upon receipt of your visa-qualifying document, the DS-2019 Form from the J-1 RO at WesternU, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee of $180 which can be paid online at https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/ The fee must be paid prior to submission of your visa application. All new J-1 International Scholars applying for a J-1 visa or requesting a change of status to J-1 are required to pay a SEVIS fee. The sponsoring Department may pay the fee for the International Scholar, but is not required to do so.

The SEVIS I-901 fee is mandated by Congress to support the program office and the automated system that keeps track of students and International Scholars and ensures that they maintain their status while in the United States. Each student or International Scholar issued an initial Form I-20 or DS-2019 on after September 1, 2004 is responsible for paying this fee to SEVP.

NOTE: The International Scholar and any Dependents (J-2s) must possess their own separate SEVIS documents, however, only the J-1 must pay the SEVIS 1-901 fee. A receipt of payment of the fee must be included with the application for the J visa stamps.

After you pay the SEVIS fee, you will need to go to the US Embassy or Consulate that has jurisdiction with respect to your place of residence. When you apply for the entry visa you will need the following items:

Mobile Device Access

June 2014, F and M students and J exchange visitors who have paid their required I‑901 SEVIS fee can access FMJfee.com on their mobile devices.

While users still need the printed receipt for their I-901 SEVIS fee payment, they will have on the go access to FMJfee.com and can conveniently check the status of their I‑901 SEVIS fee payment. The mobile‑friendly site will provide users news and updates regarding the I‑901 SEVIS fee, as well as answers to I‑901 SEVIS fee frequently asked questions.

To access the mobile-friendly FMJfee.com site:

  • Enter the URL into your mobile device: www.fmjfee.com
  • The I-901 Welcome Page will display the following menu options:
    • Recent News and Updates
    • Check I-901 Status/View Payment Confirmation
    • Form I-901 and Payment
    • I-901 FAQs
    • SEVP Main Page

Stay tuned for further updates as SEVP continues to work on mobile-friendly improvements to the I‑901 SEVIS fee payment process.

Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application  – Fee $160

To assist you in expediting the visa application process, you may complete the online application at https://ceac.state.vov/gennniv

Consular Processing (Applicant is outside the U.S.)

Please contact the U.S. Embassy/Consulate http://www.usembassy.gov/ where you will be getting the visa and find out what documentation is required at the time of application and how far in advance you must make an appointment. 

Visa wait time:


U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs

As a visa applicant, the DOS, Bureau of Consular Affairs will expect you to:

  • Plan your travel and visa application as far in advance as possible.
  • Complete your application fully and accurately.
  • Be forthcoming about your purpose and plans.
  • Prepare for your interview by being able to clearly and concisely describe your intentions.

For detailed information, please visit this website at: http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html

 Updated August 2015