How to Obtain a Visa

J-1 Scholars & J-2 Dependents Applying Abroad

You must have your DS-2019 form(s) in hand in order to apply for your visa. When you receive your DS-2019 form, review the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will apply for your visa for location specific information. U.S. consulates and embassies will generally require that you:

  1. Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. Print the SEVIS receipt and bring a copy to your visa interview. The SEVIS fee must be paid in addition to visa fees. *The fee does not need to be paid for J-2 dependents, nor does the fee need to be paid for visa renewals.
  2. Submit the Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  3. Pay the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Fee, also known as the MRV fee
  4. Pay the Reciprocity Fee (only if applicable). Only a limited number of countries are required to pay a reciprocity fee. If you are not sure if you must pay this fee, contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy that you will be applying for your visa for confirmation.
  5. Make an appointment to interview for the J-visa at the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy. The consulate will not schedule an appointment for you. Please review the Department of State website for visa interview tips.
  6. Bring appropriate documents to your interview, such as DS-2019 form, UCSF Appointment Letter, Financial Certification, Visa Application Confirmation Page, Visa Application Fee Payment Receipt, Passport (valid at least 6-months beyond your program start date). If your passport is valid for a limited time period upon U.S. entry, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will limit your duration of legal status to shorter than your DS-2019 program end date.

For an overview of the J-1 visa application process, please see the U.S. Department of State website.

NOTE: Canadian Citizens do not need to apply for a visa. However, Canadians must still present a SEVIS fee receipt and a valid passport, financial certification, UCSF appointment letter and DS-2019 form to CBP.

At the port of entry, your passport and DS-2019 will be date stamped and returned to you. After U.S. arrival, go online to retrieve your Electronic I-94 Form.

Please note that J-1 scholars (and their J-2 dependents) can arrive in the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the DS-2019 start date. This is strictly for settling in and preparing for your program; you may not begin work until the start date listed on your DS-2019 form.

H-1B Temporary Worker

After receiving H-1B approval notice (I-797 form), an international scholar applying for an H-1B visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad will need to present the following:

  1. Passport. Must be valid for at least six months beyond the H-1B approval end date.
  2. Department Letter. This is to support your H-1B visa application. Please see sample letters. This should be dated close to date of travel.
  3. I-797 Form. Original H-1B approval notice (petitioned by UCSF). Embassy/Consular officer must return original to scholar in order to present to Immigration Inspector upon entry to U.S.
  4. I-129 Form. Copy of University’s H-1B petition.
  5. LCA Form. Copy of University’s Labor Condition Application.