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J1 Visa Requirements for Nigerians | IAS

The J1 visa, also known as an Exchange Visitor visa or a J student visa, allows Nigerians to participate in a work or study programme in the US. The programme must be accredited by the US State Department.

If you would like to apply for a J1 visa or simply want to learn if this type of visa is right for you, contact IAS today on +23413438882 or on +44 (0) 3316300929. You can also visit us at our office in Lagos, Nigeria.

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    We are a team of qualified lawyers with lots of experience in guiding Nigerian citizens through each stage of the J1 visa application process. Get in touch today. We can handle all the complexities and make your travel plans as stress-free as possible.

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    The J1 Visa: An Overview

    Several work and study programmes are eligible for a J1 visa, but applications are welcomed especially from individuals who wish to work and study in the US as an au pair, a student, an overseas government official/diplomat or a visiting teacher or college professor.

    If you think this visa is right for you, you will first have to find an individual, institution, or organisation willing to sponsor your visa application.

    A list of eligible sponsors can be found here.

    Your sponsor will get the ball rolling by sending you a two-page application form, DS-2019, and registering you in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) database.

    All J1 visa applicants and the spouses and dependents of applicants must be registered in the SEVIS system if they wish to visit the US as a J1 visa holder.

    This DS-2019 form features such information as a description of the programme, its start and end dates, and information about the cost and financial requirements of the programme.

    J1 Visa Requirements

    Au Pair

    To be eligible for a J-1 visa as an au pair, you must have received a firm job offer from a host family in the US.

    Other eligibility criteria for this programme include:

    • Be 18-26 years of age.
    • Be fit and healthy.
    • Have previous childcare experience.
    • Speak English.
    • Have a secondary school education.
    • Be a non-smoker (if this is a requirement laid out by the host family)
    • Have a police clearance report.
    • Hold an international driver’s licence and have a minimum of 50 hours of driving experience.
    • Be ready to live at least 12 months in the US.
    • Have not already lived in the US as an au pair.

    Camp Counsellor

    Through the Camp Counsellor programme, foreign post-secondary students and youth workers can work at a US summer camp.

    To be eligible for a camp counsellor programme, the applicant must:

    • Speak English.
    • Have experience dealing with children.
    • Be at least 18 years of age.
    • Possess a post-secondary student qualification or have worked as a youth worker, teacher, or individual with specialised skills in Nigeria.

    Government Visitor

    To qualify for a J1 visa as a government visitor you must be:

    • Selected by a US federal, state or local government agency for the programme.
    • Engaged in observation tours, discussions, consultations, professional meetings, conferences, workshops and travel.
    • Considered an influential or distinguished person in Nigeria.


    To apply for a J1 visa as an intern, you must be either:

    • A graduate from an accredited institution at the Associate’s Degree level or higher with at least 12 months of related work experience in Nigeria.
    • A young professional with at least five years (60 months) of experience in your field.

    International Visitor

    J1 visas are issued to international visitors if they are:

    • Selected by the US Department of State to visit the country.
    • Engaged in consultation, observation, research, training or can demonstrate a special skill.
    • Recognised as or considered a potential leader in a specialised field in Nigeria.


    To study or work in the US as a doctor on a J1 visa you must meet the following criteria:

    • Have a background that makes you suitable for the medical programme in which you wish to participate.
    • Be proficient in both spoken and written English.
    • Provide written assurance to the US Secretary of Health and Human Services that there is a need in Nigeria for individuals with the skills you seek to acquire in the US and that you have filed a written assurance with the government of Nigeria that you will return to the country upon completion of your training.
    • Have an agreement or contract from an accredited medical school, an affiliated hospital or a scientific institution to provide the accredited graduate medical education, signed by both the applicant and the official responsible for the training.
    • Have passed one of the following medical exams:
      • Parts I and II of the National Board of Medical Examiners Examination.
      • The Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (both Step I and Step II).
      • The Visa Qualifying Examination (VQE).


    To work in the US as a professor on a J1 visa, you must meet the following criteria:

    • You cannot be a candidate for a tenured position in the US.
    • You cannot have participated in and completed a professor programme over the 24 months preceding the start date of the programme you wish to join.
    • You cannot have taken part in a J visa programme for all or part of the 12 months immediately preceding the start date of the professor programme you intend to join. There are exceptions to this rule if:
      • You are a current participant in a professor programme and you are transferring to another institution in the US to continue your current J-1 programme.
      • A previous J-visa programme lasted less than six months.
      • Your participation in a programme in the US was as a short-term scholar.

    Short-term Scholar

    To participate in this programme, you must:

    • Be aged between 15 and 18.5 on the first day of school.
    • Have completed more than 11 years of primary and secondary school.
    • Not have previously participated in a secondary school exchange programme in the US.

    Summer Work Travel

    Students enrolled in full-time education in Nigeria at a post-secondary accredited academic institution can visit the US on a J1 visa if they are:

    • Proficient in English.
    • Enrolled in a post-secondary school or actively pursuing a degree or other full-time course of study at a post-secondary educational institution outside the US.
    • Have completed at least one semester or equivalent of post-secondary academic study.
    • Have a confirmed job in the US before entering the country unless they come from a visa waiver country.


    To work in the US on a J1 visa you must meet the following requirements:

    • Possess qualifications for teaching in primary or secondary schools that have been issued by a recognised body in Nigeria.
    • Work as a teacher in Nigeria or, if you are not currently working as a teacher, meet the other eligibility criteria and have recently (within 12 months of your application) completed an advanced degree and have at least two years of full-time teaching experience over the past eight years.
    • Have a degree equivalent to a US bachelor’s degree in either education or the academic subject field in which you intend to teach.
    • Be of good reputation and standing in Nigeria.
    • Plan to enter the US to work as a full-time teacher at a primary (including pre-kindergarten) or a secondary school that is an accredited educational institution in the US.
    • Be proficient in both spoken and written English.

    College and University Student

    Students who wish to study in the US on a J1 visa must meet the following criteria:

    • Be enrolled in a full-time course of study and maintain a good academic record.
    • Undertake a course of study that is either directly or indirectly financed by the US government, a public body in Nigeria, or an international organisation of which the US is a participating member.
    • Participate in a programme that is carried out according to an agreement between the US government and the Nigerian authorities.

    A college student J1 visa holder may also participate in a student internship programme while in the US if the internship fulfils the educational objectives of the degree programme

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      If you wish to apply for a J1 visa, you will first need to apply for a place on an exchange visitor programme through a designated sponsoring organisation in the US.

      Once you have been accepted on the exchange visitor programme, you will be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

      You will have to pay a $180 fee to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be enrolled in SEVIS.

      a Nigerian in the UK

      How to Apply


      Once you have a sponsor and have been registered in the SEVIS system, you can then apply for a J1 visa.

      You can submit your application online or at your nearest US embassy or consulate.

      As part of the application process, you will have to:

      • Apply to an eligible sponsor who will send you the application form DS-2019.
      • Complete the form DS-7002 if you wish to apply for a J1 visa as an exchange visitor trainee or intern.
      • Complete the form DS-160 and remember to print the confirmation page once you have submitted it because you will need it at your visa interview.
      • Upload a 51 mm x 51 mm photograph when completing the application form.
      • Provide the authorities with a police certificate or other proof that you have a clean criminal history.
      • Arrange a J1 visa application interview at a US embassy or consulate.

      Application Tip

      When you submit your DS-160 form, you may be asked ‘Have you attended any educational institutions at a secondary level or above?’.

      You should list any high schools, colleges and universities you have attended.

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        You will typically need to schedule an interview as part of your J1 application.

        • If you are less than 13 years of age, an interview is generally not required.
        • If you are between the ages of 14 and 79, you will usually be asked to attend an interview.
        • If you are 80 years of age and older, you will not generally have to attend an interview.

        If you are in Nigeria at the time of your application, you should schedule a visa application interview at the US Embassy or Consulate.

        Required Documents

        If you are required to attend an interview as part of your J1 visa application, you should bring the following documents with you:

        • Your original DS-2019 form, your SEVIS fee receipt, and your DS-160 confirmation page (plus your ACRO and Form VCU-01 if these are relevant to your application).
        • Evidence that you have the funds required to cover your expenses during your stay in the US and proof that you have commitments outside the US that mean you will leave the country on the expiry of your J1 visa.

        Interview Wait Times

        The wait times for J1 visa applications made in Nigeria are up to:

        • 205 days if the application is made in Abuja.
        • 30 days if the application is made in Lagos.

        Next Step

        If your interview is successful, your passport will be kept by the embassy or consulate so they can complete the processing of your visa.

        This means that you will have to arrange for a courier service to return your passport to you once the US authorities have finished with your visa.

        Visa Length

        The duration of your stay in the US on a J1 visa will depend on the type of work or study programme you undertake in the US.

        If, for example, you apply for a J1 visa as a Camp Counsellor, you likely will have a short stay in the US (typically four months), whereas if you apply as an Au Pair or Research Scholar your J1 visa will likely last for several years.

        Entering the US

        The holder of a J1 visa can enter the US up to 30 days before the start of the programme.

        If you wish to enter the country earlier than this, you will be required to apply for a B-2 visa, which you can do at the office of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services by asking for an adjustment of your status before the start date of your visa.

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          You will need to pay a $160 visa application fee to have your J1 visa application processed.

          A SEVIS fee of $180 also applies. This must be paid online to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

          If you are issued with a J1 visa that is subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement, you can apply for a waiver of this requirement by completing the form DS-3035. A $120 processing fee applies.

          Insurance Requirements

          You and any family members travelling with you to the US are required to maintain adequate health insurance coverage for the duration of your stay.

          The insurance must include:

          • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness.
          • Repatriation of your remains ($25,000).
          • Coverage of all expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the J1 visitor to Nigeria ($50,000).
          • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.

          How IAS Can Help with Your J1 Visa Application

          As a Nigerian citizen, you may be eligible to work or study in the US on a J1 visa.

          If you need help applying for a J1 visa or simply want to learn more about the benefits of holding the visa, IAS is here to help.

          We are an experienced team of immigration lawyers with lots of expertise in guiding Nigerian citizens in their application for a J1 visa.

          To learn more about how IAS can help with your visa application give our team a call on +23413438882 or +44 (0) 3316300929. 

          You can also visit us in person at our office in Lagos, Nigeria or contact us via our website.

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                    Related pages for your continued reading.


                    No. There is no appeals process, but you are free to apply for a J1 visa in the future.

                    The Embassy can be found at the following address: U.S. Embassy Abuja, 1075 Diplomatic Drive, Central District Area, Abuja, Nigeria.

                    The consulate can be found here: U.S. Consulate General Lagos, 2 Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria.