Pre-Arrival Information

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Below you will find the steps all J-1 Exchange Visitors will need to follow before entering the country to begin your program:

  1. Receive your immigration form DS-2019 from your faculty host
  2. Pay the SEVIS processing fee (I-901 fee) at
  3. Schedule a visa appointment with the U.S. Department of State
  4. Set-up temporary housing and research permanent housing options
  5. Bring a electricity converter (220v) to U.S. (110v) with you! If you try to buy one when you get to the U.S., you will only find U.S. to European converters
  6. Purchase your plane ticket, and arrange your travel itinerary to Carbondale, Illinois to arrive BEFORE your program start date
  7. Keep all of your immigration documents easily accessible during your trip to the U.S. (you will need to present them)
  8. Hug your family


In order to apply for a J-1 visa at a US Embassy/Consulate, you must first obtain the original form DS-2019 “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status”.  This form will be mailed to you by your SIU faculty sponsor.


After receiving the form DS-2019, you must pay a mandatory one-time SEVIS fee of $180 and obtain a receipt PRIOR to booking your visa appointment at the US Embassy/Consulate.  This fee may be paid online at  The Department of Homeland Security will issue you an official paper receipt (Form I-797) acknowledging the payment of your SEVIS fee.

             Who must pay the SEVIS fee?

  • Persons applying for a J-1 visa at a US Embassy/Consulate abroad for initial participation as an exchange visitor;
  • Citizens of Canada or Bermuda who are applying for J-1 admission at a US port-of-entry;
  •  Persons who are in the US in another nonimmigrant status and who are changing status to J-1.

Who does NOT have to pay the SEVIS fee?

  • J-2 dependents;
  • A person who paid an initial SEVIS fee when seeking a J-1 visa from a US Embassy/Consulate, was denied a visa and is applying again for a visa in the same J-1 exchange visitor category within 12 months of the visa denial
  • A J-1 exchange visitor applying for a visa to return to the US as a continuing participant of an exchange visitor program (this applies only to J-1’s returning to the US to resume participation in a program that began previously, in which s/he has maintained status, and which has not been completed)
  • A J-1 exchange visitor transferring to SIU in the same exchange visitor category
  • A J-1 exchange visitor applying for an extension of stay in the same program


Schedule an appointment for a visa interview at an Embassy/Consulate in your home country.  An in-person interview is usually required.  You will be asked to present your DS-2019 document, SEVIS fee receipt and proof of funding.  Other specific documentation may vary depending on your home country, so please check with your particular Embassy/Consulate prior to your interview to make certain you have all necessary documentation. As all visa applications undergo a security background check, it may take some time to process your application.  Therefore, you should apply as soon as possible. 

Documents needed at time of visa interview

  • A valid, unexpired passport (must be valid for at least 6 months beyond intended stay)
  • DS-2019 issued by SIU
  • Form I-797 SEVIS fee receipt
  • Department of State Form DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application.  Online visa application can be found here: 
  • Original financial documentation
  • One passport-style photograph
  • Nonimmigrant Visa Processing Fee of $160.  Depending upon the arrangement between your country and the US, you may also need to pay an additional visa issuance fee.  Please check with your Embassy/Consulate for details.

Citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not need to apply for an entry visa.


J-1 exchange visitors who are subject to the 212(e) rule must return to their home country and reside in that country for two years before they are eligible for H, L, or Permanent Resident status.  If subject to 212(e), exchange visitors are not permitted to change their nonimmigrant status within the US from J to any other nonimmigrant category (except for A Diplomat and G International Organization statuses).

 A waiver of rule 212(e) is possible by filing an I-612 


12 month bar:  Foreign national cannot have participated in a J program (as J-1 or J-2) for all or part of the 12 month period immediately preceding the start date on the Form DS-2019, unless s/he is transferring to SIU’s program, prior physical presence in J status in the US was less than 6 months, or was a Short-Term Scholar.

 24 month bar:  Foreign national cannot have participated in a J program as a J-1 or J-2 Research Scholar or Professor within the 24 months preceding the start date of the new J-1 Research Scholar or Professor program.  Foreign national will be ineligible to participate as a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor for two years following the end date of this program.


You must enter the US and check-in at CIE within 30 days PRIOR to the start date of your DS-2019.  If you cannot enter the US by the DS-2019 start date, notify your SIU departmental sponsor immediately so that you can be issued a new DS-2019 with corrected dates.  If you are unable to come to SIU for any reason, you must return the DS-2019 to CIE immediately.

At the US port-of-entry, present the DS-2019 and your passport containing your J-1 visa stamp.  Any J-2 dependents accompanying you should also present their DS-2019’s and passports.  The officer will review the documents and may ask you questions about your stay in the US.  These officers can refer you to a more detailed secondary inspection at their discretion.

Your DS-2019 should be returned to you and an entry date will be stamped in your passport.  At least 24 hours after you have arrived in the US, you will need to go to to download your I-94 arrival information.  The I-94 is proof of your admission to the US and evidence of your legal immigration status.  It is very important that you keep a copy of this I-94 information with your immigration paperwork at all times.


You should be in contact with your faculty sponsor to make arrangements to meet them once you arrive on the SIU campus.  You MUST participate in orientation with the Center for International Education (CIE) office.  Please make an appointment at to schedule this orientation. Please bring all of your immigration documentation:  DS-2019 for you and any J-2 dependents, passport, I-94 information, proof of health insurance, and local Carbondale address.


You are entitled to the following Wilberforce Pamphlet on the Rights and Protections for Temporary Workers.

Even if you are not being paid by SIU, your host in your department will need to complete a contract for you so that you can get an SIU ID number (also called a dawgtag or network ID). This contract will serve as your official affiliation with SIU. Contact them for more information. 


Following is a link to the official Exchange Visitor Program Welcome Brochure.  It may provide you with additional information as you prepare for your trip to the U.S.