Steps to Your J-1 Visa

After you are admitted and return your SIR (Statement of Intent to register), you will use Portal to send us your financial information.

OISS will begin processing your Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (DS-2019) after all your financial documents have been uploaded. It takes up to 6 weeks to process your DS-2019. You will need your DS-2019 for your visa interview.
1) Receiving Your Certificate of Eligibility (DS-2019) from OISS:

Once your DS-2019 arrives, please review it to be sure it is correct and sign it at the bottom.
The dates listed in section 3 of the form ("3. Form Covers Period:) are very important for planning your arrival and during the length of your visit in the U.S.
  • Planning your arrival: You can enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to "From" date.
  • Extending your program: In the future, if your educational program takes longer than expected (beyond the "To:" date), you will need to request an extension from OISS to update the "To" date on the form. The extension must be processed before the end date on your current form. We recognize that this date is far ahead--you haven't even arrived yet! However, it is very important. If you will need an extension, contact our office two months before the end date of your DS–2019 form to place your request an extension.

NOTE: If you are transferring your J-1 student visa sponsorship to UCSB see below.

2) SEVIS: the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System is a government database used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Your SEVIS number is on the enclosed document, above the J-1 scan code (it looks something like N01234567890 for example). You will need to pay a SEVIS fee to register your SEVIS number prior to applying for a visa. The SEVIS fee is paid directly to USCIS. You will need to show your SEVIS fee receipt as proof that you have paid this fee as part of your visa interview and when you enter the U.S. To pay your fee and get your receipt, visit

3) Apply for Your Visa

If you are outside of the United States and require a visa to enter, you will need to apply for a J-1 visa at the American Consulate or Embassy nearest to you. If you indicated that your immediate family members (spouse and minor children) will accompany you to the U.S., they should apply for a J-2 visa at the same time. Family members will require their own DS-2019 form from our office in order to apply for the J-2 visa and enter the U.S. As part of the visa application requirements, you will need to present a valid passport, the DS–2019 form, and the documentation of financial support, plus payment of the SEVIS fee. It is a good idea to apply for your visa as soon as possible. The visa processing may take longer than you anticipated or may require you to obtain additional documents. You should contact the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy to inquire about the details of their J-1 visa application procedures: appointment procedures, how long will it take, what documents are required, what is the visa application fee? If the application is approved, you will be issued a visa stamp in your passport with the classification “J-1” (or “J-2” for dependents). The DS-2019 and other documents should be returned to you by the Consular Officer. You will need to present these documents along with your new visa to the immigration officer when you arrive in the U.S.

Canadian citizens: You do not require a visa to enter the U.S. Please present the DS-2019 form along with your passport to the Immigration Officer at the port of entry when you arrive in the U.S. You should also be prepared to present the documentation of your financial support and SEVIS fee payment if requested by the officer.     

Arriving in the U.S. with a J-1 Visa

When you arrive to the U.S. you will go through a process called immigration inspection. This will occur at the airport or border crossing – if traveling by land from Canada or Mexico. You will be required to present your passport, J-1 visa stamp (if applicable), DS-2019 form and financial documentation. The immigration officer will inspect your documents and make a determination whether to admit you into the U.S. in J-1 student status. The officer will also process what is called an I-94 form, referred to as the Admission/Departure Record. This form was probably given to you on the airplane to complete. The officer will process the I-94 form by placing the admission stamp on it with the notations “J-1” and “D/S”. “J-1” of course refers to the status you are being admitted into the U.S. “D/S” indicates that you are being admitted into the U.S. until the “duration of your status”, or the duration of study program. The officer will then give you the bottom section of this form which will be a white card approximately 4 inches by 4 inches – some I-94 forms will look different. This is an important document. Upon leaving the immigration inspection area, you should be in possession of your DS–2019 form and the I-94 form (card). The I-94 form should include an admission stamp with the notation ‘J-1’ and ‘D/S’.

Please be sure before leaving the immigration inspection area that your documents have been properly processed. Immigration officers at the port of entry admit hundreds of visitors in a day entering the U.S. for different purposes and with various visa types. Errors in this processing can occur. If your documents are not properly processed, this could be a serious inconvenience to you and will take quite some time to correct later.     

Transferring Your J-1 Visa to UCSB

If you are in the U.S. in J-1 ‘student’ status and transferring to UCSB from another institution, you will need to transfer your visa sponsorship in the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) from your current school to the University of California, Santa Barbara. To initiate the transfer process, you should contact your current International Student Adviser and inform them that you want to transfer your J-1 student record in SEVIS to UCSB. You should determine with your current adviser what date they should release your SEVIS record to UCSB.

UCSB cannot issue a DS-2019 form to a student who is transferring their SEVIS record until after the transfer release date.

To complete the transfer process, you need to check in with our office as soon as you arrive at UCSB and present your passport, I-94 card and the DS-2019 that we issued to you. Simply receiving the new DS-2019 form from UCSB has not completed the transfer process. 

Accident and Sickness Insurance Requirements

All J-1 students and their dependents who will accompany them to the U.S. in J-2 status are required to have adequate health insurance coverage for the duration of their stay. This is a mandatory requirement of both UCSB and the U.S. State Department – the government agency which oversees the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program. Health insurance coverage must meet certain minimum standards. Please also refer to the section on Accident and Sickness Insurance in the enclosed ‘Welcome’ letter and the GSHIP brochure for graduate students and USHIP brochure for undergraduate students, which will be mailed to you separately. The university’s student health insurance plan (GSHIP for graduate students and USHIP for undergraduate students) will meet the mandatory minimum requirements for health insurance coverage for you and your dependents. If you intend to acquire your own insurance from a different source, the plan must be comparable to the coverage detailed in the brochures you receive. In addition, your insurance plan must include coverage for: (1) Repatriation of remains, in the amount of $7,500; and (2) Expenses associated with medical evacuation in the amount of $10,000. Please note that the requirement for adequate health insurance for J-1 students and their accompanying dependents is mandated by the federal government. Failure to comply with this requirement would be a violation of your J-1 immigration status.