Pre-Arrival Information

We’re excited to have you join us!

Moving to a new country requires a great deal of patience and an eye for detail, but we’ve organized this section of helpful information to assist you in your preparations for arrival. This section includes information on applying for, and receiving, a Form DS-2019, applying for a J-1 visa, paying applicable fees, and preparing to enter the United States as a J-1 Exchange Visitor.


First, a prospective J-1 Exchange Visitor should work with the prospective Academic Department to complete and submit the DS-2019 request form with required uploads:

  • Copies of passports
  • Copy of invitation letter
  • Copy of funding support
  • Attestation regarding health insurance
  • CV
  • Diploma of highest earned degree

The Form DS-2019, also referred to simply as the “DS-2019,” certifies that a visitor is eligible to apply for a J-1 visa for a given Exchange Visitor program in the United States. It is a foundational visa document for J-1 status.


The SEVIS database receives, stores, and processes data submitted by schools for exchange visitors and dependents (J-1 and J-2). New fees for exchange visitors and schools went into effect on June 24th, 2019. The fees are as follows:

Foreign citizens applying to become non-immigrants visa holders pay the following SEVIS I-901 fee amounts:

  • I-901 J-1 visa applicants: $220
  • I-901 F-1/M-1 visa applicants (full payment) $350
Who Must Pay the Fee?

Any J1 scholar and exchange student with Form DS-2019 issued for “Begin New Program”.

F-2 and J-2 dependents are NOT required to pay the SEVIS fee.

How to Pay the SEVIS Fee and What are the Payment Options?

You must fill a Form I – 901 to make the payment. You may pay online at with Visa, MasterCard or American Express credit cards or Debit cards (also known as check cards) that have the Visa or MasterCard logo; or

You may pay by mail with check or money order. Download the Form I – 901 from and follow the instructions on the form to mail the payment to the right address.


A visa is a travel document issued and stamped in your passport by a U.S. consul outside the United States. A visa is required for entry into the United States, and indicates your designated visa category and states status, e.g., H-1B or J-1. The visa has an expiration date and may be valid for one, two, or an unlimited number of (“multiple”) of entries.

For more information on how to apply for a U.S visa and travel to the U.S, visit these links:

US Visa website

US Travel Exchange Visitor Visas

US Travel Website

Items Needed for Visa Application

You will need to present the following items to the nearest U.S consulate or embassy to your home country to obtain a visa to enter the United States.

  • UNC Charlotte Offer, Invitation, or Admissions Letter
  • SEVIS generated DS-2019 Form (if J-1)
  • A Training/Internship Placement Plan, Form DS-7002 (J-1 Interns only)
  • Proof of SEVIS I-901 fee payment (receipt). You need to pay the SEVIS fee before you can be granted a visa interview. See next section for more on this.
  • Documentation evidencing financial ability to meet expenses while in the U.S. (bank account statements, fellowship or grant support letter etc.)
  • Passport valid at least six months into the future
  • One (1) 2×2 photograph
  • Electronic Form DS-160 (Non-immigrant visa Application)
  • Visa application processing fee–approximately $160 (an additional Reciprocity Fee may apply, depending on your country of citizenship)
  • Any other documents required by the consular office


  1. Visit the U.S. Department of State’s website for visa appointment wait times and qualificationfor an expedited interview appointment. Follow the instructions.
  2. The H-1B Employee should reequest a letter from the hiring department attesting to the urgency of the situation. The letter must attest to the urgency of the planned visit, describing the nature of the employment and stating that either the U.S. and/or UNC Charlotte will suffer a significant loss of opportunity if an expedited appointment is not available. You may use this template.

Once you have a J-1 visa in your possession, you may safely make travel arrangements for entry into the U.S.

Exchange Visitors on the J-1 visa program may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the Start Date on their DS-2019 Form. A J-2 spouse and J-2 children may also enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the applicant’s program start date as shown on the Form DS-2019, or they may arrive after the J-1 principal has arrived.

Please consider your exact entry date carefully when making travel plans to the U.S. as immigration officers may deny you entry into the United States at your expense if you attempt to enter more that 30 days before your program start date.

The 30-day limitation does not apply to current exchange participants who are returning to continue with their exchange program after a period of travel outside the U.S.


The following items are suggested items or information that you should consider packing or otherwise bringing with you along your journey to Charlotte:

  • Contact Information for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
  • Contact Information of an individual at UNC Charlotte to contact in case of a travel delay or an emergency.
  • Contact information of an emergency contact person in your home country.
  • Contact information of your consulate in the United States
  • Carry all essential identification papers and documents on your person or in your hand baggage. Do not place important documents in bags that you will check on the plane.
Money and Personal Effects
  • Please bring some cash with you.
  • Towels, a toothbrush, and other personal toiletries that you may not have time to buy immediately after arrival
  • A set of clothing in case your checked luggage gets lost (and does not arrive)
  • Any medications you are taking with the prescription translated into English
Bring Memories of Home
  • Remember to bring photos of family and friends with you!

Many other basic everyday items can be purchased once you have arrived in the United States. However, if there is a special object or brand that is only found in your home country, you may want to stock up and bring a supply with you.


If you arrive before on-campus housing is available or if you plan on living off-campus and have not yet found a place, make sure you have some temporary housing arranged prior to arrival. For your convenience, we’ve provided list of hotels in the University City area: