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Exchange Visitor Visas

Any foreign citizen who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa. Types of visas, aside from family-based and work visas, that individuals commonly seek assistance on include exchange visas and student visas.

The J visa (“exchange visitor” visa) is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals approved to participate in an exchange visitor program in the U.S. The exchange visitor categories outlined by the Department of State are:

  • Au pair
  • Camp counselor
  • Government visitor
  • International visitor
  • Physician
  • Short-term scholar
  • Professor and research scholar
  • Intern
  • Specialist
  • Student (secondary, college, or university)
  • Summer work travel
  • Teacher
  • Trainee

As evidenced by the above categories, the J-1 exchange visitor visa is primarily for educational and cultural exchange programs designated by the Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. 

There is also the Q-1 visa, which is for participating in certain international cultural exchange programs. Rather than for educational purposes, Q-1 visa programs aim to provide practical training and employment and allow program participants to share the history, culture, and traditions of their home countries in the U.S. Individuals seeking to participate in an international cultural exchange program must be approved in advance by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), based on a petition filed by their U.S. sponsor.

The B visa is a generic visitor nonimmigrant visa for individuals who seek to enter the country temporarily for business (B-1) or for tourism (B-2).

Student Visas

In order to study in the United States, a foreign student must obtain a student visa, which can be either an F visa or an M visa depending on the type of school they plan to attend. Generally, F visas cover university/college, high school, private elementary school, seminaries, conservatories, and other academic institutions like language training programs. M visas are for vocational or other recognized nonacademic institutions.

For shorter studies, a visitor visa (B) may suffice as it permits enrollment in a short recreational course of study that is not taken for credit toward a degree or academic certificate. However, study leading to a U.S. conferred degree or certificate is not permitted on a B visa, even if it is for a short period. 

Only schools approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) can warrant a student visa. So, the first step to obtaining a student visa is to apply for a SEVP-approved school in the U.S., after which the foreign student should register with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). From there, they should fill out Form I-20 and apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for their F or M student visa. 

Any family members (spouse or children) that intend to reside with the foreign student while they study in the U.S. must also enroll in the SEVIS, obtain Form I-20s from the SEVP-approved school, and apply for the visa. 

Let the Law Office of Gregory J. Eck Help You Apply

The Law Office of Gregory J. Eck offers comprehensive visa services, helping individuals navigate the visa application process for a variety of needs. Attorney Eck handles many types of visa applications, including exchange visitors, tourists, and student visas. He can help you gather all the necessary documents to build a swift and thorough application and walk you through your interview preparation so you can seamlessly enter the U.S. for your travel or study.

Schedule a consultation with the Law Office of Gregory J. Eck to get started on your visa application today.

Commonly Asked Questions

What are the different categories of J-1 exchange visitor visas available?

The J-1 exchange visitor visa encompasses various categories for individuals approved to participate in exchange programs in the U.S. These categories include Au pair, Camp counselor, Government visitor, International visitor, Physician, Short-term scholar, Professor and research scholar, Intern, Student (secondary, college, or university), Summer work travel, Teacher, and Trainee. Each category is designed to promote educational and cultural exchange, as designated by the Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Can I study in the U.S. with a visitor visa?

A visitor visa (B) allows for enrollment in short recreational courses not taken for credit toward a degree or academic certificate. However, if you plan to study in the U.S. leading to a degree or certificate, a visitor visa is not suitable, even for short periods. In such cases, you would need to obtain an F visa for academic studies or an M visa for vocational or nonacademic studies, provided the institution is approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

What is the first step to obtaining a student visa to study in the United States?

The initial step to obtaining a student visa is to apply and get accepted by a school approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) in the U.S. Once accepted, the foreign student must register with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), receive Form I-20 from the institution, and then apply for an F or M student visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

What services does the Law Office of Gregory J. Eck provide for visa applications?

The Law Office of Gregory J. Eck provides comprehensive visa services, assisting with the visa application process for exchange visitors, tourists, and students, among others. Attorney Eck helps clients gather necessary documents, build a thorough application, and offers guidance through interview preparation, aiming to facilitate a smooth entry into the U.S. for travel or study purposes.

How can family members of a foreign student obtain a visa to reside in the U.S. during the student's studies?

Family members (spouse or children) of a foreign student can obtain a visa to reside in the U.S. during the student's studies by enrolling in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), obtaining their own Form I-20s from the SEVP-approved school, and applying for the appropriate visa. This process ensures that family members are legally recognized to stay in the U.S. while the student completes their education.

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