Required Documentation

Proper planning for any international exchange begins with proper travel documentation.

Most international visitors staying temporarily in the United States will need a visa to travel back and forth. The Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa category (J-1 Visa) is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. This documentation provides many opportunities for international candidates looking to travel and gain experience in the United States. The multifaceted programs enable foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to teach, study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills or receive on the job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years.

Visa Types

Nonimmigrant visas are for international travelers (citizens of other countries), coming to the U.S. temporarily. The visa, placed in your passport when issued, allows you to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (airport, for example) and request permission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection immigration officer to enter the U.S. A visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S.

Most Canadian citizens and many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can come to the United States (U.S.) without a visa if they meet certain requirements. All Visa Waiver Program travelers must present a machine-readable passport at the U.S. port of entry to enter the U.S. without a visa; otherwise a U.S. visa is required. See important information about additional digital photograph and e-passport requirements for VWP travelers. Other foreign citizens will need a nonimmigrant visa.

For an overview of the types of nonimmigrant visas available under immigration law, please see Visa Types for Temporary Visitors. The Consular Officer at the U.S. embassy or consulate will decide what kind of visa you need, when you apply.

Advance planning can smooth the visa application process for you. Apply for your visa well in advance of your travel!

Additional Information

Important Steps to Remember

  • Review your visa status, and find out if you need a U.S. visa or a renewal.
  • Review the Visa Wait Times information for interview appointments and visa processing at each embassy and consular section worldwide available on our website. Visit the embassy or consular section website where you will apply for your visa to find out how to schedule an interview appointment, pay fees and any other instructions.
  • Plan on an interview, as well as quick inkless fingerprint scans at the U.S. embassy or consulate, which is required for most visa applicants. Some visa applications require additional administrative processing, which requires some additional time. Applicants are advised when they apply.
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U.S. Department of State: Travel Abroad Tips offers resources to help you prepare for your child's exchange experience in the U.S.

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