Complete Guide to J1 Visa Sponsors

Updated on June 19, 2023
At a Glance: Entities that can be J1 visa sponsors include government-run agencies, educational institutions, academic and cultural organizations, non-profit organizations, and for-profit organizations. In some cases, the host can also serve as the sponsor. To become a sponsor, organizations must meet eligibility criteria related to compliance with program regulations and financial capability. Responsibilities of a J1 visa sponsor include screening hosts and applicants, providing support throughout the application process, orientation, monitoring participation, and more. To become a sponsor, organizations need to register, complete the designation process, submit the application, and meet the requirements outlined by the Department of State.

J1 Visa sponsor is an independent organization which sponsors the above group of people for the J1 Visa. Then, they can work for a specific company or organization. Today, they handle over 500,000 J1 visa holders who come in from over 200 countries.

J1 Visa sponsors are independent organizations. They provide sponsorship services and charge either the student, the host organization, or the government, or all of them based on the conditions. The host organization can be a business, school, NGO, camp, or any entity that wants to work with J1 visa holders.

Therefore, if you’re a company looking to bring in a J1 visa holder, you need to enjoy the services of a J1 visa sponsor organization.

Who Can be a J1 Visa Sponsor?

 Sponsor organizations are appointed by the Secretary of State. They can be any of the following entities:

  • Government-run agency
  • Educational institutions
  • Academic organizations
  • Cultural organizations
  • Non-for-Profit organizations
  • For-profit organizations

There are certain cases where the host is the same as the sponsoring organization. This is adopted mainly by large MNCs and big universities who need and work with J1 visa holders regularly. But for the most part, sponsoring agencies are third-parties.

So, as a rule of thumb, if your company doesn’t work with J1 visa holders often, then it’s better to work with an agency. If you find that you do need to work with them regularly, then you can apply to become a J1 visa sponsor yourself.

What are the Requirements to be a J1 Visa Sponsor?

The Department of State continually encourages new organizations to become a J1 Visa Sponsor. But they must meet certain requirements before they can become one. They have to meet two main requirements. Those are:

  1. To be eligible as a J1 visa sponsor, an agency must demonstrate its capability to comply and remain compliant with the Exchange Visitor Program regulations, as mentioned in 22 CFR Part 62.
  2. Second is the financial requirement. The agency should demonstrate that they’re legally capable of satisfying the obligations demanded by a visitor program.

Each program varies, and you need to look into the specific program for the exact numbers.

After an agency successfully becomes a sponsor, they will administer an exchange program. It is expected that they start administering the program immediately without any delays, and this criterion is checked as well.

What are the Responsibilities of a J1 Visa Sponsor?

After an organization or agency has been approved as a J1 visa administrator, they’ll be responsible for a whole lot of things. Generally, an agency will be tasked to carry out a specific category of an exchange program. Take the example of the American Immigration Council. They only deal with J1 interns and trainee programs across the country.

Some of the basic responsibilities a J1 visa sponsor is entitled to are:

  • Screen prospective hosts, which also includes a site visit and inspection.
  • Screen exchange visitor program applicants and ensure they fulfill all the necessary eligibility criteria.
  • Check the applicant’s English proficiency.
  • Assisting J1 visa applicants throughout the application process, from providing materials and forms to helping select the host and exchange program plan. The sponsoring agency might also assist in payment of fees if and when deemed necessary.
  • Providing orientation support to the exchange visitor on customs and American lifestyle when he/she arrives in the United States.
  • Ensuring that the exchange visitor has all the information and materials available that are needed to go about their day-to-day duties correctly.
  • Monitor the exchange visitor on their participation in the program that they came in for.
  • Any other assistance that the visitor might request formally. If it’s outside of the scope, then refer the visitor to the appropriate agency/department/individuals.
  • If the agency is specifically dealing with trainees or interns, then they’ll be required to do a thorough academic background check and skill check if required.

There will indeed be more responsibilities depending on the program a sponsor is administering. Please refer to this resource for more information on this. Sponsors must make sure that they maintain compliance with the EVP requirements while fulfilling the above responsibility. Failing to do so will attract scrutiny, fines, and ultimately revocation of status as a J1 visitor sponsor.

How to Become a J1 Visa Sponsor?

The first step in becoming a J1 Visa sponsor is obviously to meet all the eligibility criteria. This is program-specific, and you should refer to the program you’re applying for. Here are the basic steps involved:

  • Register and obtain a SEVIS User ID
  • Complete the Designation process and add officials
  • Submit the Exchange Visitor Program Application form, which is Form DS-3036, for review. This should be submitted electronically by downloading from the Department of State’s website.
  • Submit relevant documents as mentioned in the user manual
  • Pay the application fee over the internet
  • Forward or mail the documents to the Department of State as directed

Now you need to wait to hear back from them. You’ll be asked to attend a few rounds of interviews if needed. Once successfully approved, you can initiate your operation by sponsoring exchange visitors. Please refer to the DS-3606 user manual for complete instructions.

To remain eligible as a J1 Visa sponsor, you must successfully administer at least five exchange visitors annually. Federal agencies are an exception to this.

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The Department of State in 2017 released a statement saying that it is not looking forward to approving new sponsors in the trainees and interns category. Nor are they looking to expand the type of jobs. Therefore, for the time being, working with a J1 visa sponsor agency seems like a much better proposition than starting your own. If you have more questions on this topic, you’re requested to get in touch with the Office of Private Sector Exchange.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.