If you’re considering doing an internship or training abroad, you probably want to get to the United States as fast as you can, which means you’ll need to get a J-1 exchange visa quickly. Unfortunately, the visa process can take a while. Depending on the specifics of your application and the application backlog in your home country, the J-1 visa processing time can take weeks or even months.
Thankfully, there are a few simple tips you can use to shorten the J-1 visa application time. If you understand the process in detail and make plans accordingly, you’ll have your visa in your hand before you can ask, “How long does it take to get a J-1 visa?”
J-1 Visa Processing Time
A few different stages in the J-1 visa application process add to the total U.S. J-1 visa processing time. Although some pieces of the application procedure go by quickly — just fill out a form and you’re done — others take a while, requiring you to wait for administrative officials to process and review your documents.
The following three steps each have their own processing time:
- Obtaining a DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status)
- Scheduling a J-1 visa interview
- Getting approval for your J-1 visa
Let’s explore each of these steps in more detail.\
DS-2019 Processing Time
The first key step in the J-1 visa application process is getting your Form DS-2019. You’ll need this document before you can schedule an interview and get final approval for your J-1 visa.
Getting the DS-2019 is a process in and of itself. Sponsor organizations like Intrax Global Internships can only issue your DS-2019 once you have completed all of these tasks:
- Completed an online DS-2019 application
- Submitted the required J-1 visa documents, including a Training Placement Plan that you complete with your host company
- Paid all the fees for your program
- Confirmed your internship or training placement with your host company
Once you’ve done that, Intrax Global Internships can process and send you your DS-2019. The J-1 visa processing time for your Form DS-2019 is up to four weeks. The company needs that time to review your application, process your forms, and ship the DS-2019 directly to your home address.
That means that the first step of the J-1 visa application process might take around a month. You can make this process faster by completing your application steps as quickly as possible: if you fill out your forms, gather your documents, and pay your fees rapidly, then you can move onto the next step of the application process sooner.
If you need to get your Form DS-2019 more quickly — for example if your internship starts within a month or two and you need to get your visa immediately — then you can pay an optional expedited application processing fee to reduce this piece of the J-1 visa application time.
J-1 Visa Interview Processing Time
Once you have your Form DS-2019, complete your pre-departure orientation, and fill out the online nonimmigrant visa application form (DS-160), you’re ready for the next stage in the process: scheduling and attending your J-1 visa interview at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
The wait time for interviews can vary depending on your home country: some countries receive more visa applications or have more of a backlog, which means it will take longer for you to have your interview. You can learn your embassy’s wait time by visiting the United States’ visa appointment wait times website. The website lists estimated appointment wait times, based on workload and staffing, for three types of visas:
- Visitor visas
- Student and exchange visitor visas
- Other nonimmigrant visas
Student and exchange visitor visa wait times can vary widely — just look at the different visa wait times for these different cities as of August 2021:
- Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: 192 calendar days
- Almaty, Kazakhstan: 79 calendar days
- Amsterdam, the Netherlands: 190 calendar days
- Bujumbura, Burundi: 7 calendar days
- Phnom Penh, Cambodia: 9 calendar days
- Taipei, Taiwan: 32 calendar days
- Warsaw, Poland: 15 calendar days
As you can see, the wait time for your J-1 visa appointment could be as little as a week or as long as half a year. If you’re lucky enough to live in Bujumbura or Phnom Penh, this piece of the J-1 visa application process can go by in no time. Unfortunately, other cities have much longer wait times before you can have your J-1 visa interview. That’s why there’s no one answer to the question, “How long does a J-1 visa take?” It all depends on the country from which you’re applying.
Although it can be inconvenient to wait many weeks for your J-1 visa interview, you can use that time to practice: check out our 10 smart tips to confidently answer J-1 visa interview questions or our series of tips, preparation, and resources for the J-1 visa interview. If you ace the J-1 visa interview on your first try, then you won’t have to worry about any delays in the process, like reapplying for a J-1 visa after an initial visa rejection.
Visa Approval Processing Time
After the J-1 visa interview, the process is out of your hands: you simply have to wait for an embassy official to approve your visa application.
This stage could be practically instantaneous, as some embassies will issue your visa right after the interview. In that case, you could be walking out of your J-1 visa interview with an approved J-1 visa foil. Other locations take a little longer, meaning you’ll have to wait for them to send you your passport with the J-1 visa foil on it via the mail, which might take a couple of days or weeks.
In a few rare cases, your visa may require “administrative processing.” This means that the embassy or consular official cannot instantly decide your visa eligibility. Instead, they will tell you at the end of the interview that they need more time to make a decision, and you will have to wait for them to make additional determinations. They might request additional documents or information to understand whether you are eligible for a J-1 visa.
Because administrative processing is entirely case-specific, there’s no way to know exactly how long it will take. However, the U.S. State Department advises that you wait at least 180 days after your interview (or after you submit additional documents) before asking the embassy about your visa unless you have an emergency like a death or serious illness in your immediate family.
All told, the J-1 visa application time could be as little as a few weeks if all of the following apply to you:
- You expedite your Form DS-2019
- You don’t have a long wait time for your J-1 visa interview
- You receive your J-1 visa immediately after the interview instead of waiting to receive it by mail
However, the J-1 visa processing time could be as long as multiple months if this is your situation:
- You don’t expedite your Form DS-2019
- You have a long wait time for your J-1 visa interview
- You have to wait for the embassy or consulate to send your J-1 visa
- Your visa is subject to administrative processing
Entry and Exit Grace Periods
Once you’ve dealt with the J-1 visa processing time and have your visa foil in your passport, there’s one more deadline you need to be aware of: the 30-day entry and exit grace periods. These grace periods describe when you can enter and exit the United States on your J-1 visa.
On your official Form DS-2019, you will see that section 3 has the header “Form Covers Period,” followed by a series of dates, which describe the start and end date of your J-1 program. You must enter the United States no more than 30 days before the start date listed. After your internship or training, you need to leave the United States no more than 30 days after the end date listed.
During these grace periods, you technically do not have J-visa status and are subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You can use this time to wrap up anything in the United States and prepare for travel to and from your home country, but you cannot do either of the following:
- Work or hold a job
- Complete activities related to your exchange program
Because the start window for your J-1 visa is so narrow, we recommend that you wait to book your flight to the United States until you have received your J-1 visa, even though many people have an urge to book their flights as early as possible.
Processing Times for Other J-1 Visa Procedures
If you’re like most J-1 visa holders, by now you should have all the information you need about the J-1 visa processing time. However, some J-1 visa holders will need to complete additional applications for a few special processes:
- Getting a J-1 visa extension
- Waiving the two-year home-country physical presence requirement
Each of these applications has its own unique J-1 visa application time. This means that in addition to asking how long does it take to get a J-1 visa, some J-1 visa applicants might also have to ask how long does it take to get a J-1 visa extension or a J-1 visa waiver.
J-1 Visa Extension Processing Time
Some J-1 visa interns or trainees realize that they need more time for their program after reaching the United States. In these cases, it’s usually possible to apply for a J-1 visa extension. Although companies like Intrax Global Internships won’t approve visa extension requests as a result of poor planning, you can apply for a J-1 visa extension if you revise your training or internship placement plan.
To apply for a J-1 visa extension, you have to follow a few different steps. These include:
- Submit additional phase information to Intrax for your Form DS-7002 (Training or Internship Placement Plan)
- Submit Extension Application form to Intrax
- Working with your program officer to obtain a new Form DS-2019 reflecting the extended program dates
The J-1 visa extension processing time depends on the capacity of your program officer — because some officers may have larger caseloads than others, there’s no set processing time for all J-1 visa extensions. However, the J-1 visa extension process is usually much faster than the original J-1 visa application process because you don’t have to schedule a J-1 visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and wait for an available appointment.
All told, the J-1 visa extension process should take no more than a few weeks, so long as you qualify for an extension. If you want to apply for a J-1 visa extension, make sure to do so at least a few weeks before the end of your program so that your visa doesn’t expire while you wait for an extension.
J-1 Visa Waiver Processing Time
In addition to extending the duration of their program in the United States, some J-1 visa holders will want to return to the United States soon after their program ends. Although J-1 visa recipients are allowed to visit the United States and other countries after the end of their exchange program, many J-1 visa holders are subject to a “two-year home-country physical presence requirement” that limits their ability to get new visas.
More specifically, many J-1 visa holders have to return to their home country for two years before they can receive any of the following types of visas:
- Nonimmigrant temporary worker (H) visa
- Nonimmigrant intracompany transferee (L) visa
- Fiance (K) visa
- Lawful permanent resident (immigrant visa)
Although not everyone who receives a J-1 visa has to comply with this two-year physical presence rule, exchange visitors whose program met any of the following qualifications do have to submit to this requirement:
- Government-funded exchange program
- A program that involved a specialized area of knowledge or skill on the Exchange Visitor Skills List
- Graduate medical education or training program
- No objection statement from home country — Your home country’s government issues a statement saying they have no objection to your waiver.
- Request from a U.S. governmental agency — A U.S. government agency submits a request stating that you need a waiver so you can work on an agency project.
- Persecution — You prove that you will face persecution if you return to your home country because of your race, religion, or political beliefs.
- Exceptional hardship for a spouse or child in the United States — You prove that leaving the United States would cause hardship for a spouse or child who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
- Conrad State 30 Program — You work for three years at a U.S. health care facility in an area with a medical professional shortage.
The most common type of J-1 visa waiver is the no-objection statement waiver. The point of the two-year physical presence requirement is to facilitate cultural exchange between the U.S. and your home country: you learn new skills from your internship in the U.S., and then you share those skills in your home country. Thus, if your home country doesn’t object to your waiver, the U.S. has no reason to deny it.
Every country has a slightly different procedure for applying for a no-objection J-1 visa waiver; in fact, some countries won’t issue any no-objection statements at all. Once you’ve determined your country’s process, you’ll need to fill out the online J-1 visa waiver recommendation application, create a statement of reason explaining why you want the waiver, and request a no-objection statement from your home country. Depending on the complexity of your country’s procedure and the speed with which you can gather your documents, this part of the waiver application process can take a few weeks or a few months.
After all of that happens, you have to wait for the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division to assess your application, which usually takes four to eight weeks. The Waiver Review Division has to send their recommendation to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which makes the final decision. USCIS will send you a final approval notice if they accept your waiver application.
Because of the complexity of the process, applying for a J-1 visa waiver usually takes at least a month and can take up to a few months. It’s important to apply early and time your applications precisely.
Making the Process Faster
The U.S. J-1 visa application time can be as short as a few weeks or as long as multiple months — it all depends on you and the specifics of your application. The same is true of J-1 visa waivers and J-1 visa extensions: their processing time varies based on where you’re from and why you’re applying.
However, there are some handy tricks that everyone can use to make the process faster:
- Be sure to fill out all your forms carefully. A missing or incorrect piece of information can lead to significant delays or even rejections of your visa application. Keep all your documents in one place and make sure they’re accessible
- Schedule quickly. Many embassies and consulates have long visa appointment wait times. Schedule interviews and submit forms as fast as you can so that your wait is shorter.
- Check your messages. You don’t want to miss a call or email from a U.S. agency. You may receive messages with updates about your applications; respond to these efficiently.
Most of all, don’t be afraid to get in touch! Intrax Global Internships is here to answer your questions about the U.S. J-1 visa processing time.