Obtaining Your Visa

In order to be admitted into the United States in J-1 exchange visitor status, you will first need to apply for a J-1 visa from your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  For embassy/consulate locations and application instructions, visit http://usembassy.state.gov.

Required application materials vary by country, but typically include:

  • Electronic visa application (Form DS-160)
  • SEVIS (I-901) fee payment receipt
  • Visa application fee (“MRV fee”)
  • Form DS-2019
  • Passport-style photo
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond anticipated U.S. entry date
  • Proof of ties to your home country
  • Evidence of funding for the length of your exchange visitor program
  • Letter of invitation from Van Andel Institute
  • Information about your research project and your hosting department at Van Andel Research Institute
  • For J-2 visa applications, marriage and birth certificates to prove your family ties

General information on U.S. visas: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/frequently-asked-questions/

Exchange Visitor Participant Categories

VAI is authorized to issue Forms DS-2019 for the following exchange visitor categories.  You will be assigned one of the following categories based on your proposed program length and activities:

Research Scholar

Conduct research, observe or consult in connection with a research project. The maximum participation for Research Scholars is five years. With approval from VAI’s Human Resources Department, Research Scholars may engage in occasional outside lectures, seminars, or consultations if related to the objective of the exchange visitor’s program participation.

Short-Term Scholar

A professor, research scholar, or person with similar education or accomplishments coming to the U.S. on a short-term visit for the purpose of lecturing, observing, consulting, training, or demonstrating special skills. The maximum participation for Short-Term Scholars is six months. No extensions can be granted.


An expert in a field of specialized knowledge or skill who will demonstrate such skills in the United States. The maximum participation for Specialists is one year.