About the j-1 exchange visitor visa

The J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the U.S. Department of State to educational and cultural exchange participants. It was created through the Fulbright-Hays Act, also known as the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961.

Within the Department of State, all exchange programs are overseen by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). ECA's mission is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations, as mandated by the Fulbright-Hays Act. 

Learn more about the Department of State's J-1 visa Exchange Visitor Program, as well as other State Department international exchange programs.


A large variety of international participants come to the U.S. on both government-funded and privately-funded J-1 exchange programs. Summer Work Travel, Intern, Trainee, Camp Counselor, and Au Pair are just 5 of the 14 total categories of the privately-funded J-1 visa program. These categories are: 

  • Au Pair
  • Camp Counselor
  • College and University Student
  • Government Visitor
  • Intern
  • International Visitor
  • Physician
  • Professor and Research Scholar
  • Secondary School Student
  • Short-Term Scholar
  • Specialist
  • Summer Work Travel
  • Teacher
  • Trainee

Eligibility requirements and program lengths vary between each of these categories. All J-1 Visa programs are temporary with program lengths ranging from a few weeks to several years. For more information, please visit the Department of State J-1 Exchange Visitor Program regulations.  

Program Sponsors

The Department of State partners with (and regulates) U.S.-based exchange organizations, known as sponsors, to facilitate the program. Visitors in all 14 categories of the J-1 visa program undergo a thorough review process when applying for the programs, conducted by sponsor organizations. In addition, they complete an application process and in-person interviews at U.S. consulates abroad. 

These sponsors continue to work with the Department of State and  U.S. host organizations to provide positive, memorable experiences for J-1 participants. Sponsors support participants throughout their stay in the United States by providing resources including cultural exchange activities and orientations to American culture.

Around 300,000 international visitors from 200 countries and territories visit the United States each year as part of these 14 programs. 

Of these 300,000 the Summer Work Travel program brings 101,061 exchange visitors; another 25,347 are interns; 10,782 are trainees; 22,994 are camp counselors; and 19,233 are au pairs. 

Participants in J-1 programs are placed in all 50 states. Take a look at this map from the Department of State, to see how many exchange visitors there are in your state! 

International students contributed $36 billion to the U.S. economy and supported over 400,000 jobs during the 2015-2016 academic year. 

Summer Work Travel exchange visitors alone contributed about $509 million to the U.S. economy in 2016 alone, roughly equal to $5,300 per participant.