After finding an internship or training in the United States, completing an online application, and submitting all your J-1 visa documents, you’ll receive one of the first major documents in the J-1 visa application process: Form DS-2019, also known as the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status. If you’ve already received your DS-2019, congrats! But now that you’re holding it in your hands, what does this document mean? You may be confused by the numbers scattered across the page: the J-1 visa exchange number, the SEVIS number for the J-1 visa, the program number for the J-1 visa.
Interpreting your DS-2019 can be confusing at first. But understanding this document from front to back is important if you want to do well at your J-1 visa interview appointment. Let’s review the DS-2019 and all its components so you can be as prepared as possible for the next steps in the J-1 visa application process.
What is the DS-2019?
Before we dive into the details, we should start with an overview. What is the DS-2019, anyway?
The DS-2019, or the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status, is one of the most important documents that you’ll need for your J-1 visa. The form verifies that you meet the basic requirements for participation in a J-1 exchange visit to the United States.
The DS-2019 includes lots of information that your U.S. Embassy or Consulate will need to decide whether you should receive a J-1 visa. This includes:
- Intern/trainee information: personal information about yourself, like your date of birth and citizenship.
- Sponsor information: information about the sponsor that is issuing the DS-2019. Remember, your sponsor is a company like Intrax Global Internships that helps you navigate the internship and visa application process, and your host company is the group that is hosting your specific internship or training program.
- Start and end date of program: the Embassy needs this information to understand approximately when you will be entering and leaving the United States.
- Exchange visitor category and subject/field: this includes information about your exchange visitor category (like intern, trainee, au pair, or camp counselor) and more specific details about your field of study.
- Financial support: This section details the sources of funding for your internship, including funding from the U.S. government, scholarships, host companies, and personal funds.
- Sponsor contact info: the DS-2019 needs to include a signature from a responsible officer and contact information for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to use.
You can’t just fill out the DS-2019 yourself. Instead, a designated sponsor organization needs to issue it for you. These sponsors support the work of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by entering exchange visitors’ information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a database used to track F, M, and J visa holders. Your sponsor organization will also support you throughout your exchange visit and help you get used to life in the United States.
Intrax Global Internships is a designated sponsor organization for J-1 visa applicants in the intern, trainee, and summer work travel categories. To obtain a DS-2019 from Intrax, you’ll need to complete the following steps in the J-1 visa application process:
- Complete an online application: The online DS-2019 application includes information about your internship/training, your host company, and your identity. This application also has space for you to enter information about any dependents who are applying for a J-2 visa. Once you apply, you will need to pay a non-refundable fee.
- Submit the required documents. To receive your DS-2019, you’ll also need to upload some documents. These include an internship or training placement plan (also known as Form DS-7002), results from an internationally recognized English test, a university diploma/certificate or proof of enrollment, your resume or CV, and the biographical page of your passport.
- Pay any program fees. After Intrax receives all the required documents and confirms your internship or training with your host company, you will receive an invoice for your remaining program fees. You can figure out your estimated pricing in advance using our pricing calculator, which accounts for application fees, SEVIS fees, administrative costs, and other services.
Once you’ve done all of that, Intrax will send you a DS-2019 form via FedEx within four weeks.
Understanding Your DS-2019
After receiving your Form DS-2019, you need to make sure that you understand it. But there are all sorts of complex codes and numbers that make it difficult to interpret the DS-2019. Let’s walk through the different sections of the completed DS-2019.
DS-2019 Biographical Information
The top of your DS-2019 should say “U.S. Department of State Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (J-Nonimmigrant).” This section should also include an approval number, expiration date, and “estimated burden time.”
The first part of your Form DS-2019 which you’ll need to pay attention to is Section 1. This section includes biographical information, like your full name, gender, date and place of birth, and citizenship. It will also list your position and “position code.” Your position code is related to your line of work or study. For example, your code might be:
- 215 (“University Undergraduate Student”)
- 223 (“Student in Secondary School”)
- 334 (“Employee of Institutes, Corporations, Hospitals, etc.”)
- 421 (“Athlete”)
- 622 (“Journalist in Printed Media”)
Lastly, this section of the Form DS-2019 includes your “primary site of activity” during your exchange visit. This is the address where you will be working or studying for the duration of your trip.
SEVIS Number J-1 Visa
The SEVIS number for the J-1 visa is one of the first items you’ll see on your completed DS-2019. The J-1 visa SEVIS number is printed in the top right-hand corner of every Form DS-2019, just to the right of the biographical information in Section 1. It will be directly above the word “J-1” and a 2D barcode. The SEVIS number starts with an “N” (the “alpha” character) and can contain up to 11 numbers. For example, your SEVIS ID number on your Form DS-2019 might look like “N00012345678”. This SEVIS ID number will be unique to your application.
Your J-1 visa SEVIS number is linked to the SEVIS database, which program sponsors and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security use to organize information about nonimmigrant visa holders. It can be useful to know your SEVIS ID in case you are asked for it later in the J-1 visa application process or during your exchange visit.
Exchange Number J-1 Visa Application
Section 2 of the Form DS-2019 deals with your program sponsor. Specifically, this section includes your “program sponsor,” like Intrax Global Internships. It also includes the program number for your J-1 visa, also known as the J-1 visa exchange number or the exchange program number. The exchange number on your J-1 visa application should start with “P” followed by a series of numbers. You don’t need to worry about finding out your exchange number for your J-1 visa application — Intrax will provide this information when it issues your personalized Form DS-2019 — but it can be useful to keep track of.
This section also asks for a brief “participating program official description,” which summarizes the activities you’ll be completing during your J-1 visa job and internship or training. You’ll be able to provide more details about your specific exchange visit in your Form DS-7002, the Training/Internship Placement Plan, and during your J-1 visa appointment at your nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Additional Sections of Form DS-2019
The other sections on your DS-2019 relate to the duration of your visit, the category of your exchange visit, and the funding for your visit.
This section will have a header that says, “Form Covers Period.” It details the start and end date of your exchange visit. You will need to enter the United States up to 30 days before the start date listed in this section. You will have to leave the United States within 30 days of the end date listed in this section. If you want to request a J-1 visa extension, you will need to do that before the DS-2019 expires.
This section includes your exchange visitor category, such as intern, trainee, or short-term scholar. It will also include your Subject/Field Code, which describes your specific area of specialization. There are hundreds of potential subject/field codes, ranging from 14.3201 (“polymer/plastics engineering”) to 52.0903 (“Tourism and Travel Services Management”) to 61.2402 (“Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship Program”).
This section describes the financial support that you will receive during your exchange visit. This includes funds from the program sponsor, from a scholarship or grant, from the U.S. government, and from your finances. The interview at your J-1 visa appointment will want to ensure that you can support yourself financially during your exchange visit, so it’s important to know how you will obtain funding during your internship or training.
This section is for your program sponsor. Your sponsor’s responsible officer will provide their name, signature, and contact information.
You likely won’t need this section, but if you switch programs during your exchange visit and need a new DS-2019, Section 8 will include details about your previous program and sponsor.
Maintaining Your DS-2019
Now you understand the information on your Form DS-2019, from your SEVIS number to your exchange number. But what do you do with it? Your DS-2019 will be useful at many points throughout your exchange visit experience, from your interview during your J-1 visa appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to your entry into the United States.
Signing the Form DS-2019
Once you receive your Form DS-2019, it’s important to read and sign it. The second page of your Form DS-2019, titled “Instructions for and Certification by the Alien Beneficiary Named on Page 1 of This Form,” will include some details that you will want to review. This includes:
- Information about the two-year home-country physical presence requirement, which mandates that some J visa holders return to their home country and not apply for an immigrant visa for at least two years after their exchange visits.
- Information about program transfers and J-1 visa extensions, both of which require a new Form DS-2019.
- Information about the maximum length of your stay, which varies depending on your exchange visitor category. For example, interns can stay in their program for up to 12 months, while camp counselors and summer work/travel participants can only stay in the United States for up to four months.
- Information about admission and readmission to the United States, including the documents you will need to bring with you, such as your DS-2019 and your passport.
- Information about changing your visa status. If you are subject to the two-year home-country requirement, you cannot change your visa status to a different nonimmigrant category while in the United States, unless you or your family member obtains a visa as an official/employee of a foreign government (A visa) or international organization (G visa).
- Information about insurance, including required medical insurance coverage while in the United States. J-1 visa holders need medical insurance for themselves and any accompanying spouses or children.
After this list of conditions, your Form DS-2019 will include an “Exchange Visitor Certification” that indicates that you understand and will comply with all the relevant J-1 visa regulations. This section asks you to sign your Form DS-2019 at the bottom of the first page. You will need to sign this form for it to be valid.
Using Your DS-2019
There are many different times throughout your J-1 visa experience when you will need to have your DS-2019.
Situation: J-1 Visa Interview
Your Form DS-2019 is one of the J-1 visa documents you will need to bring to your visa interview, along with your passport, your Form DS-160 confirmation page, a personal photo, and your Form DS-7002.
Situation: Entering the United States
You will need your DS-2019 each time you enter the United States during your exchange visit. Your form will have a travel validation section in the bottom right-hand corner of the first page. Although you will not need a travel signature to enter the United States the first time, you will need your program’s responsible officer to sign this section before leaving the United States in the middle of your exchange visit. This signature, which is valid for one year, is verification for U.S. Customs and Border Protection that you are still in good standing and can reenter the United States.
Situation: While in the United States
Once you are in the United States, your DS-2019 is your proof of legal work authorization. If you are looking for work during your exchange visit, you may need to provide your DS-2019 to any potential employers.
Situation: Applying for Changes
If you need to change your exchange visit — for example, by extending your stay in the U.S., switching your program or sponsor, requesting a waiver of the two-year home-country requirement, or applying for a new kind of visa — it will be either helpful or necessary to have your old DS-2019 on hand.
Reviewing the DS-2019
Now you understand the Form DS-2019 from front to back. Although it can seem complicated at first, this document is fairly simple once you understand all the different codes and abbreviations. Let’s review those numbers one last time:
- SEVIS ID Number: The SEVIS number for the J-1 visa is located in the top-right corner of your DS-2019 and starts with the letter “N”. This is a unique number that identifies your specific application.
- Position Code: This three-digit number describes your current position or job, from undergraduate student to corporate executive. It is part of Section 1 in your DS-2019, which includes biographical information.
- Exchange Number (also known as program number): The exchange number in the J-1 visa application identifies your exchange program. This is part of the information that your program sponsor will provide. You can find the J-1 visa exchange number in Section 2 of your Form DS-2019.
- Subject/Field Code: This six-digit number identifies your specific area of work or study.
Looking at a sample Form DS-2019 might also help you understand all the different sections of this lengthy document, from the biographical information to the travel validations.
If you understand those numbers and the other sections on your DS-2019, then you’re ready for the next step: scheduling and preparing for your J-1 visa interview. For more information, check out these resources from Intrax Global Internships:
- 10 Smart Tips to Confidently Answer J-1 Visa Interview Questions
- What is the Exchange Visitor J-1 Visa? Everything You Need to Know
- The Ultimate Guide to Secure a J-1 Visa for a U.S. Internship
- Overview of the J-1 Visa Application Process
And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us! We’re always happy to help anyone who requests information about our services. Whether you need help finding an internship or obtaining your exchange visitor J-1 visa, we have the resources and expertise you need.