J-1 Visas

Obtaining a J-1 Visa

J-1 Application Process for Scholars and Student Interns

1. Passport

  • You will need a passport that is valid for at least 6-months after your arrival to the U.S.

2. DS-2019

  • Once you receive your DS-2019, carefully review it for accuracy
    If there are any errors, notify the International Center immediately
  • Do not pay the SEVIS fee if there is an error on your form
  • Sign your form in blue ink

3. SEVIS Fee

  • Pay I-901 SEVIS fee, also called I-901 fee, using the Program Number and SEVIS number on your DS-2019
  • After you have paid the fee, print a copy of your receipt and keep it with your DS-2019. You will need this receipt for your visa application

4. Visa Application

Apply for your J-1 visa at the United States Embassy or Consulate in your home country and refer to their website for specific application submission instructions. Review instructions for applying for a J-1 visa including links to the DS-160 application form and any applicable fees.

5. Visa Interview

Schedule and attend your visa interview. Bring all required documents with you and plan to arrive early. You will be interviewed in English. Remain calm and answer all questions honestly. Wait for the embassy or consulate to return your passport to you or inform you it is ready to pick up with your J-1 visa in it. Check your visa for any potential errors. Keep your passport, DS-2019 SEVIS receipt and other documents with you when you travel – do not pack these items in your checked luggage.

Note: Canadian citizens: do not need a J-1 visa to enter the U.S. Pay the SEVIS Fee, then provide at the port of entry all of your documents (DS-2019, I-901 receipt, Cal Poly admissions acceptance letter, proof of funding).


Contact the International Students & Scholars office with any urgent questions regarding the visa process.

Judy Mitchell 805-756-5837

Travel while on a J-1 Visa

You must have the following if you are leaving and then re-entering the United States:

  • A valid passport, good for six months after your entry date
  • A valid J-1 visa. Be sure to check your J-1 visa in your passport. If it has expired, you will have to apply for a J-1 visa renewal. You will not be able to re-enter the U.S. in J-1 status without a valid, current J-1 visa.
  • A current, valid DS-2019 with a current travel signature. Your DS-2019 must be current and must have a travel signature that is not older than 6 months. You cannot enter the U.S. with an expired DS-2019 or with a DS-2019 that does not have a current travel signature. ISS cannot sign an DS-2019 if you are not in status. If you are not in status, you will need a new DS-2019.

Renewing your Visa While Traveling Outside of the U.S.

If you are renewing your visa while traveling outside of the U.S., please stop by the International Students and Scholars office to obtain a letter verifying that you have been maintaining status as an Exchange Visitor in the U.S., and that you are needed at Cal Poly and are expected to return.

Renewal Delays

Renewing your J-1 visa is not guaranteed. Exchange visitors from some countries may be subject to a security clearance which can delay visa issuance for a month or more. We strongly recommend that you do NOT apply for a new visa during the December vacation period or between winter and spring quarters.

Having a J-1 Visa in Your Passport

If you do not have a J-1 visa in your passport, you must make an appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate office in your home country. In some countries, you may not be able to get an appointment for several months. Check your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate for more information on visa interview appointments.