The form DS-2019 is the main document used by the State Department and USCIS in processing the exchange visitor program. The form allows a prospective exchange student to seek an interview at a U.S. consulate in order to obtain a J visa to enter the United States.
Information included in the DS-2019 includes identifying information regarding the exchange visitor, their designated sponsor and includes a brief description of the appropriate exchange program. The DS-2019 lists the start and end date of the exchange, the type of exchange and an estimated cost of the exchange program.
The DS-2019 can only be produced through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (“SEVIS”). SEVIS is a database maintained by the Department of Homeland Security to collect background and tracking information on F, M and J visa holders.
The DS-2019 is issued by the designated sponsor after the sponsor screens and selects the exchange visitor. Once the visitor receives the executed DS-2019 from the sponsor, they are free to apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate for the actual visa stamp. The ultimate decision as to whether the visitor receives the J-1 visa rests with the consulate. So obtaining a DS-2019 is not enough, the consulate has to sign off on the visa itself.