Applying for a Visa at a U.S. Consulate
J-1 physicians and/or their J-2 dependents physically present outside the United States require a valid J visa stamp in their passports to reenter the United States in J visa classification. ECFMG encourages all J-1 physicians to apply for their visas as early as possible during their trip abroad and allow ample time for the visa approval process to return to the United States. The Department of State website provides general information pertaining to the J visa and travel issues.
Scheduling an Appointment at a U.S. Consulate
As a general rule, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas are required to schedule an appointment with the consulate so that the consular post can interview the applicant personally. Consular posts in some countries have drop-off or mail-in visa application procedures for applicants renewing visas if they have already been fingerprinted during a prior application. Additionally, some consular posts have implemented new visa processing systems which impact fee payment and appointment scheduling. For further information, and to view a list of countries that have implemented the new system, please refer to http://www.ustraveldocs.com. ECFMG recommends that J-1 physicians contact the U.S. embassy or consulate where they intend to apply for the visa to inquire about the consulate’s specific application procedures.
The U.S. Department of State website allows you to view the estimated wait times to schedule a visa appointment and for a visa to be processed at a specific consulate or embassy. Keep in mind that this time period does not include a security check, if required by the U.S. consulate. If you will be applying for a J visa at a U.S. consulate, it is vital that you request and receive the travel-validated Form DS-2019 from ECFMG prior to scheduling a visa appointment at the U.S. consulate.
Visa Application Documents
To renew a J-1 or J-2 visa, J-1 physicians and their J-2 dependents will need to submit the following documents to a U.S. embassy or consulate (forms can be downloaded, or obtained from any U.S. consulate):
- Form I-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- Application and Reciprocity fees (check with the U.S. consulate for the current fee amounts and how they must be paid)
- Photograph(s) (Contact U.S. consulate for specific requirements)
- Valid Passport
- Your current DS-2019 validated for travel by a Regional Advisor at ECFMG
- Documents that demonstrate your nonimmigrant intent (i.e., proof that you will return home after your U.S. training)
For more information on Form I-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, refer to the U.S. Department of State website.
In recent years, the Department of State has been performing security checks at all U.S. embassies and consulates. Security checks can take anywhere from five business days to three months or more. A security clearance is based on a number of different factors including, but not limited to, information in your application forms and biographic information. Therefore, if you need a new visa, please consider seriously your travel plans and factor in the potential for delay associated with security clearances. If visa applicants apply for a visa stamp at a U.S. embassy or consulate in a third country (a country other than their country of citizenship or permanent residence), they must remain in that third country while they wait for visa approval and possible security clearance.
U.S. regulations require the consular officer who considers your visa application to assume that you want to immigrate to or remain permanently in the United States. In order to qualify for a J-1 or J-2 visa, you must prove that your visit to the United States will be temporary in nature and that you will return to your country after completion of your medical training in the United States. Consular officers refer to this as “nonimmigrant intent.” You can try to prove your nonimmigrant intent by giving the consular officer documents that indicate that you have strong ties to your country. The stronger your financial, employment, or family ties to your home country, the more likely it is that the consular officer will believe that you intend to return home.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) charges a non-refundable $180 fee to initial J-1 visa applicants. J-2 dependents are exempt from this fee. The U.S. government collects this fee to cover its cost of implementing the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) database for monitoring students and exchange visitors in the United States. In most situations, if you already paid the SEVIS fee and have been continuing your training under ECFMG’s J-1 visa sponsorship, you will not be required to pay the SEVIS fee when applying for a new J-1 visa. To read more about the SEVIS fee and which visa applicants are required to pay the SEVIS fee, please refer to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) SEVIS website.
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