What is a Form DS-2019?
The Form DS-2019, titled the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status, is a 2-page document required to support an application for an exchange visitor visa (J-1 visa).
This document can only be issued by a U.S Department of State Designated Sponsor.
The form is also given to the dependents - spouses and unmarried children under age 21 - of prospective J-1 visa exchange visitors.
These dependents can apply for a J-2 exchange visitor visa using the Form DS-2019. And after receiving this visa, they may enter the US to be in a J-2 nonimmigrant status.
Common Uses of the Form DS-2019
The primary use of the Form DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitors (J-1) status is to:
- Apply for a J-1 visa or J-2 visa at a U.S embassy or consulate
- Pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee
- Seek admission into the US while holding a valid exchange visitors visa
But after an exchange visitor enters the United States and is in an active J-1 status or J-2 status, they would find the DS-2019 form essential when performing activities such as:
- Applying for a Social Security Number (SSN)
- Applying for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)
- Applying for a driver's license or state identification card
- Showing proof of your work authorization when beginning a job with a US employer
- Applying for a change of your immigration status at any point in the future
Is the Form DS-2019 the Same as Form I-20?
The DS-2019 form is different from the Form I-20, in that the I-20 is given to students who plan to enter the U.S on an F-1 or M-1 visa, to pursue an academic or vocational field of study.
While the DS-2019 form is given to prospective J-1 visa or J-2 visa applicants, who may or not be entering the U.S to study.
How Can I obtain a Form DS-2019?
Obtaining the DS-2019 is a two step process.
Step 1: You must find a designated sponsor, and then apply and be accepted for sponsorship into an appropriate J1 exchange visitor program category.
Some of the exchange visitor categories are: research scholars, college and university students, au pairs, camp counsellors, professors, and trainees.
Step 2: Provide evidence of financial support as requested by the program sponsor to cover the cost of your exchange visitor's program.
This proof of financial support must include funds covering your tuition, fees and living expenses for your exchange program.
Proof of funds could be in the form of
- Bank statements showing personal and/or family savings
- An award letter showing scholarships, fellowships, or assistantships from an exchange program
- An official letter of sponsorship from a government, company or organization
Obtaining Form DS-2019 for Family Members
Exchange visitors who intend to bring their dependents to the U.S such as a spouse, child or children must obtain a Form DS-2019 for each dependent.
To obtain a DS-2019 form for each of your dependents, you must show evidence of financial support covering the living expense for each dependent as specified by your program sponsor.
After being accepted into an exchange visitor program
How Long is the Form DS-2019 Valid?
The validity of the Form DS-2019 is determined by the length of the J-1 visa exchange program, and not the validity of the J-1 visa.
What is the Two-Year Home Country Requirement
Certain prospective J-1 visitors are required to return to their home country after the completion of their exchange program.
These visitors must reside in their home country for a minimum of two years before they can change or enter the United States into an H-1B or L-1 status or apply for a U.S Green Card.
J-1 visitors subject to the 2-year home country residency requirement who don't want to satisfy this requirement must obtain a J-1 waiver from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Sections of the Form DS-2019 Explained
At the top right corner of page 1 is the SEVIS ID number. This number always begins with the letter "N".
You will use this number to pay for the SEVIS I-901 fee before attending attending your visa interview at a U.S embassy or consulate.
Section 1 of the document will contain your biographical information, and the information about your exchange program.
While section 2 includes the name of your program sponsor and describes the details of your prospective J-1 program.
Section 3 is the start and end date of your program.
As a J-1 visa holder, you may not arrive the U.S. more than 30 days before this start date.
At the end of your J-1 program, you will be given a grace period of 30 days to depart the U.S.
Note that your program end date, and not the expiration of your J-1 visa, determines how long you are allowed to stay in the U.S.
Section 4 describes your exchange visitor category.
This could be any one of several J-1 program categories, such as trainees, professors/research scholars, short-term scholars, College and University students etc.
Section 5 describes the sources of your financial support.
Section 7 contains the name and contact information of your J-1 program sponsor’s responsible officer. You might need this information when entering a U.S Port of Entry.
Section 8 is completed by a J-1 Responsible Officer whenever a transfer of your J-1 program occurs.
The Consular Immigration Officer section describes if you are subject to the 2 year home residency requirement, and would contain the name, signature, and date of a U.S Consular or Immigration officer.
The Travel Validation section is also very important, a valid travel signature from your Responsible Officer will be required to re-enter the United States after a brief departure.
The very last section is the Exchange Visitor Certification section where you would sign and date the Form DS-2019.
You should read and understand the instruction section of page 2 before signing the form.
Frequently Asked Questions on DS-2019
How long does it take to obtain the DS-2019?
Typically, you can expect a DS-2019 to be issued within 4 weeks after providing your evidence of financial support.
How much is the SEVIS fee for J-1 exchange visitors?
The SEVIS fee for J-1 exchange visitors is $220. However an exchange visitor in the au pair, camp counselor, and summer work/travel program category is required to pay a SEVIS fee of $35.
The SEVIS fee can be paid on the website of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement here.
Your DS-2019 is an important immigration document that you will rely on during the course of your J-1 exchange program, so ensure to keep this safe at all times.
At any point in future, if your DS-2019 is either damaged or lost, you should contact your program sponsor immediately.