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Pre-Arrival Information

Welcome to the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program at UC San Diego. UC San Diego has been designated by the U.S. Department of State as an official sponsor of their Exchange Visitor Program (also known as the J program), a program dedicated toward "promoting mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange."

It is expected that upon completion of their time in the United States, the J-1 Exchange Visitors will return to their home country to share their experiences.

To fulfill the U.S. Department of State's expectations for its sponsors of the program, UC San Diego's International Faculty & Scholar Office provides to its Exchange Visitors:

Step 1: Receive DS-2019

IFSO will issue the Form DS-2019 within ten days of a complete submission request. We will send the DS-2019 to the scholar and department via email. Scholars must follow the instructions listed below.

  1. Print all pages (preferred double-sided if possible) of the attached DS-2019 and the included Docusign Certificate of Completion.
    1. IMPORTANT: When printing the document, please ensure that the scale is set to “Fit to printable area

  2. Please make sure that you sign in ink and fill out the very bottom of the first page of your DS-2019 document.

  3. Retain for your records all DS-2019 documents that were issued to you

  4. We recommend having a copy of the Department of State update regarding electronic transmission of DS-2019 documents for your visa interview:

  5. The electronic submission of the DS-2019 is limited to the following entities: exchange visitors; accompanying spouses and dependents; legal guardians of minor exchange visitors; sponsor staff; Fulbright commissions and their staff; and Federal, State, or local government agencies or departments. Submission to other third parties is not permitted.

  6. If your DS-2019 is lost, damaged, or stolen You must notify IFSO as soon as possible so that we may issue you a replacement. You CANNOT re-print the lost/damaged/stolen DS-2019.

Step 2: Review your DS-2019

The DS‑2019 is used to apply for a J Exchange Visitor visa. All of the information on the DS-2019 must be accurate at the time of issuance and remain accurate through the duration of your program. Please review your DS-2019 and report any errors or changes immediately to IFSO so that an updated DS-2019 can be issued.

Section 1 Your name, date of birth, and biographical information should match your passport. You can find your SEVIS ID number in this section at the upper right hand side of the Form DS-2019. It is an 11-character code with an initial "N".

Section 2 indicates your program sponsor (UC San Diego) and program number.

Section 3 indicates the duration of your program and the length of your J-1 status. You cannot enter the U.S. earlier than 30 days from the start of your program. After completing your program, you are allowed a 30-day grace period to depart the U.S. During the grace period, you may not re-enter the US from abroad in J status.

Section 4 indicates the area of research discipline as well as the J-1 category (This will be either: Short-Term Scholar, Research Scholar, Professor or Student Intern). 

Step 3: Understand your J-1 Category and Status

Some immigration regulations governing the J-1 status are listed on page 2 of the DS-2019. It is important that J-1 visitors read this page to understand the rules that apply to their stay in the U.S. 

The Bottom of Page 1 of your DS-2019 includes a "Certification” section for you to sign and date. This serves as confirmation that you have read and understood the information on the back side of of your DS-2019 (page 2).

Note: J-1 can sign the certification section of the J-2 DS-2019 for children under 14.

Make sure you understand the limitations of your J-1 Exchange Vistor Category listed in Section 4 of your DS-2019:

  • Research Scholar/Professor: For any period of time between three weeks and five years.
    • Once you end your J-1 program, you will be barred from returning to the U.S. on another J-1 program in the Research Scholar/Professor category for a full 24 months.  You may return in the Short Term Scholar or Student categories.  
    • For additional information, see the 24-month bar.
  • Short Term Scholar: For any period of time between one day and six months.
    • Extensions past six months are NOT possible.
  • Student Intern: For any period of time up to twelve months; extensions beyond twelve months are NOT possible.
    • This category is for students who are currently enrolled in an undergraduate degree program in their home country, or a graduate degree program and they wish to avoid the 24-month bar associated with the Research Scholar category.  
    • Note that there is a 12-month bar associated with this category that prevents beginning a program in the Research Scholar/Professor categories until twelve months have passed; see the 12-month bar.

J‑1 scholars must have a valid DS-2019 at all times during their stay in the United States. Please note that the DS-2019 is not a contract or promise of employment. You or your department may choose to end your J-1 program at any time.

Two-Year Home Country Residence Requirement (212e). Certain J-1 Exchange Visitors are required to spend two years in their home country after their J program. If the J-1 is subject, all J-2 dependent family members are also subject. Not all J-1 Exchange Visitors are subject to the requirement. Three criteria (funding source, exchange visitor skills list or medical education/training) determine if you are subject to the requirement. Please read more about the Two Year Home Country Residence Requirement (212e).

The J-1 visitor is responsible for maintaining copies of all DS-2019s that they receives during their program. It is important that you save the copies in a secure location as you may be asked to present them when applying for future immigration benefits, a waiver of the two-year home residence requirement, or other applications.

After completing your program, you are allowed a 30-day grace period to depart the U.S. During the grace period, you may neither work nor re-enter the US from abroad in J status.

Step 4: Pay SEVIS Fee


Keep the payment receipt notice safe. The receipt is required to verify payment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate when applying for the visa stamp as well as the port of entry when entering the U.S. The electronic print out or official mailed receipt notice is acceptable. Showing a copy of it from a mobile device will not be accepted. 
What is the SEVIS fee?
  • J-1 visa applicants are required to pay a one-time fee of U.S. $220 (J-1 exchange visitors) to cover the costs of the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
  • This is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's web-based data collection and monitoring system.
  • This fee is different from the visa application fee, and is paid separately.
  • This fee does not apply to anyone already in the U.S. with J-1 scholar status.
  • See IFSO's SEVIS webpage for more information about SEVIS.
Who pays the fee?
  • The fee can be paid by the scholar or a third-party such a friend, relative, agent, or school.
  • A visa interview appointment cannot be scheduled until this fee is paid and received by the Department of Homeland Security.
How can I pay the SEVIS fee?
  • Scholars must pay the U.S. $220 (J-1 exchange visitors) to DHS at least 3 business days before applying for a visa.
  • Mailing the SEVIS fee does NOT constitute payment. The fee is processed when it is received by DHS. We highly recommend payment be made via the Internet to expedite the process.
  • Internet
    • Go to
    • Complete Form I-901, the "Fee Remittance for Certain F, J, and M Nonimmigrants" form.
    • Include credit card payment for the U.S. $220 (J-1 Exchange) SEVIS Fee.
      • Visa, Mastercard, or American Express cards only.
    • Enter scholar name exactly as it appears on the Form DS-2019.
    • Print copy of the online receipt for your records. Receipt is required to verify payment at the U.S. embassy, consulate or port-of-entry.
      • Payment by Internet is processed immediately. At time of payment, receipts can be printed directly from the computer.
  • Western Union Quick Pay Service
  • Mail
    • Obtain Form I-901. The forms are available at or call 1-800-870-3676 (in the U.S.).
    • Complete Form I-901.
    • Include check, international money order, or foreign draft (drawn on U.S. banks only) in the amount of U.S. $220 (J-1 Exchange Visitor) made payable to " I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee ".
      • Enter exchange visitor name exactly as it appears on the Form DS-2019.
    • Mail the completed I-901 and payment to the address listed on the Form I-901.
    • A Form I-797 Receipt Notice should be mailed to you within 3 days of processing the fee.
    • Mailing the SEVIS fee does not constitute payment. The fee is processed when it is received by DHS. We highly recommend that students pay the fee via the Internet to expedite the process.
  • Mobile Devices
    • is now accessible on mobile devices.
    • Users can now login to the site on any mobile device to:
      • Find recent news and updates related to the I-901 SEVIS fee;
      • Check an I-901 SEVIS fee payment status;
      • View and save a I-901 payment confirmation so you can print it later;
      • Read answers to frequently asked questions; and
      • Visit Study in the States and associated social media platforms.
  • For helpful information on the SEVIS fee, please see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page

Step 5: Apply for a Visa

Once you have paid your SEVIS fee, you will need to apply for your J-1 Visa (except Canadians).
If you are currently in the U.S., please see here for change of status or transfer-in procedures.

Step 6: Prepare to Enter the U.S.

Review your Immigration Documents
Review your passport and visa page. Your first/given name and last/family name should be the same on both documents. If there are any errors, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consular Post immediately. Place your original passport, financial statement or support letter, and employment documents in your purse or carry-on baggage to present to the inspector upon entering the U.S.

Apply for I-94 prior to entry, if entering via land border (not air/sea)
If you are entering via land border you MUST apply for an I-94 within seven days prior to entering the U.S.; there is a $6 application fee. After entry, you can retrieve your I-94 online.

If you are entering via air or sea you do NOT need to apply for an I-94 prior to your entry. After entry, you can retrieve your I-94 online

Be Aware of Potential Scams
Be aware of potential scams—people trying to extort money from you around topics such as Social Security Numbers, Housing deposits, and Taxes.

Please refer to the following link for helpful resources to learn about protecting your identity and information while in the U.S.:

If you are unsure, please contact your department or as we may be able to provide you with the resources to help you determine if you are encountering a scam.

Find Housing
Should you be looking for housing options around UC San Diego, or would like more information on how to set-up a new home, the housing page has helpful resources on living in San Diego.

Enroll in Heath Insurance
The U.S. Department of State regulations require that visitors in J-1 and J-2 statuses maintain proper insurance coverage as a condition of their participation in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program. [See 1(f) on back of the DS-2019].

Even for those in other statuses, we recommend signing up your dependents for insurance.
See our health insurance page for more information


Exchange visitors are not permitted to enter the United States earlier than 30 days before their program start dates, if you need to adjust your program dates please contact your Departmental HR Administrator.

Prepare to Register with IFSO
Once you arrive to the U.S. visit our Arriving in the U.S. page for instructions regarding steps that need to be taken once you arrive to the U.S. One of the most critical steps is registering online using the documents used to enter the U.S. Registering with IFSO allows IFSO to validate your J-1 program.

Please note: J-1 Scholars must first register with IFSO to have their record validated bbefore they apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). If you apply for the SSN before you have been validated by IFSO this could lead to delays or a denial.
The IFSO registration and orientation is required by the Department of State and separate from any registration and orientation your sponsoring UC San Diego Department may require.

Step 7: See You Soon! How to get to San Diego

Arrival at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

San Diego is located 112 miles (180 kilometers) south of Los Angeles.  

If you are arriving at Los Angeles Airport (LAX) will need to take a commuter flight, bus, train, or shuttle to San Diego. 

Arrival at San Diego International Airport (SAN)

Also known as Lindbergh Field, San Diego International Airport is located 11 miles (18 kilometers) south and slightly east of UCSD.

A taxi to the UCSD area costs about $40. Shuttle service to UCSD costs about $20 for a one-way fare.

Once you arrive to the U.S., visit our Arriving in the U.S. webpage for arrival instructions. 

Note: this page has a friendly link that's easy to remember:


IFSO Bi-Weekly E-News!

Subscribe to the Bi-Weekly E-News for International Faculty, Scholars, and Dependents! The E-News includes immigration updates, workshops, and upcoming event information.


Contact IFSO!

International Faculty & Scholars Office (IFSO)
Phone: (858) 246-1448