Internships can be key stepping stones for many career paths. They provide skill-building and networking opportunities and–if you are applying internationally–an enriching space for cultural exchange. If you are looking for an A1 experience, both culturally and professionally, the first thing to check off your list is securing a J-1 Visa.
J-1 visas are nonimmigrant visas necessary to participate in the United States’ Exchange Visitor Program (EVP). Through the EVP, visitors can build language, cultural, and career competencies, not only through internships but also by filling roles including:
- Au pair
- Camp counselor
- College and University Student
- Government Visitor
- International Visitor
- Research Scholar
- Secondary School Student
- Short-Term Scholar
- Summer Work Traveler
You can learn more about these programs at BridgeUSA. Program lengths differ depending on employers. Interns and hospitality trainees can generally stay for a maximum of 12 months and other trainees for a maximum of 18 months. It is up to your company host whether you will stay for the maximum amount of time or not.
Global Internships has been approved by the U.S. Department of State to sponsor J-1 visas for nearly two decades. We’ll walk you through the steps of applying for a visa with friendly, expert service.
What’s a J-1 Visa Sponsor?
In order to receive a J-1 visa, you must be supported by a U.S. Department-approved J-1 visa sponsor. These sponsors, like Global Internships, screen and select EVP participants. Sponsors provide support to J-1 recipients during their time abroad.
Not only will we issue a DS-2019 to you (more info on this document below), but we will also work with you to secure J-2 visas for your spouse and/or children. These visas allow family members of EVP participants to travel with them to the U.S. for the duration of their program. Intrax Global Internships is dedicated to fast, easy, affordable, friendly, and reliable service.
Finding a Host Company
Before applying for a J-1 Visa, to work and to travel in the U.S., you need to locate a host company. Wondering what a host company is? You’re not alone, that’s a frequently asked question. Answer: A host company is the U.S. organization where you will be completing your internship or training program. It is not the same as your J-1 visa sponsor; that’s us.
To secure a host company, you need to apply, apply, apply! Finding a U.S.-based internship will look similar to any other job searches you have conducted in the past. It will require dedication, effort, networking, and lots of scanning job boards online.
J-1 Visa Host Requirements
If you are looking for more support in the internship placement process, Global Internships offers a business and hospitality internship program placement service. The companies we partner with must meet certain requirements to host foreign interns. They must have appropriate equipment, staff, and resources and provide pertinent mentorship and oversight to interns.
Host companies cannot have interns fill roles that require child, elder, or patient care. Positions can also include no more than 20% office support work (so you won’t be fixing jammed printers all day).Intern programs provide value to the host companies they work with by:
- Helping them find new talent
- Teaching them about their international clients
- Providing them with valuable connections abroad
Types of J-1 Host Companies
There are many different fields to explore for J-1 visa exchange programs. Internship and training programs encompass fields including:
- Arts and Culture
- Hospitality and tourism
- Public administration
- Information media
Global Internships works with companies to help them find international talent to support their businesses. Participating companies, like Equilar, value interns’ positivity and work ethic. Other leading companies and universities that work with Intrax include:
- University of Toronto
- University of Waterloo
- The University of British Columbia
In the past, college students, recent graduates, and young professionals interning with Global Internships as their J-1 visa sponsor have filled a variety of roles. Some conducted market research, translated materials, and improved data processes. Others aided web developers and served as administrative and operational support staff.
No matter what host company you intern for, you will receive excellent professional enrichment and exposure to American culture.
How Do I Apply for a J-1 Visa?
The J-1 visa application process with Global Internships requires 8-steps, beginning with completing an online DS-2019 application. The process wraps up after an interview at your local U.S. embassy or consulate. We’ve outlined the process below for your convenience.
J-1 Application Step 1: Fill Out DS-2019 Online Application
You must bring a DS-2019 with you to your local U.S. embassy or consulate to receive a J-1 visa. As your sponsor, we must verify that you and your host company meet all requirements before issuing this document. Before you fill out the application, make sure you have the following information on hand:
- Start and end dates of program
- Host company contact info, including email, phone number, address, etc.
- Your own personal information
- Type of EVP program you will complete
J-1 Application Step 2: Submit Required Documents
You will also need to submit a few documents to us on the DS-2019 application. These include:
- The Internship Placement Plan OR the Training Placement Plan
- English proficiency results (you can complete a free online assessment or submit previous results from TOEFL or other credible tests)
- Diploma or proof of enrollment (not necessary for some trainees)
- A copy of your resumé or CV
- A copy of your passport’s biographical page
J-1 Application Step 3: Pay Program Fees
We provide application, administrative, and pre-departure services, as well as travel insurance and 24-hour emergency support to EVP participants. The resulting pricing will depend on your home country, but it generally varies from $2000-3000 US Dollars. You can use the handy J-1 Visa Pricing Calculator for a more exact estimate.
Keep in mind that fees paid to Global Internships do not cover the $160 USD cost of the visa interview, nor airfare, housing, and other similar expenses.
J-1 Application Step 4: Verify Placement
Once we receive all necessary documents and information from you, we will contact your host company to verify your placement. Make sure you let the company know to look out for this email so that they can schedule a brief phone call and keep the process running smoothly.
J-1 Application Step 5: Attend Pre-Departure Orientation
After your host company verifies your placement, we will reach out to schedule a pre-departure orientation. The meeting will include useful information about living and working in the U.S., J-1 Exchange Program rules, and instruction on going to your local embassy or consulate to interview for the J-1 visa.
J-1 Application Step 6: Receive DS-2019
We will send you your DS-2019 via FedEx within four weeks of receiving your:
- Application materials
- Placement confirmation from Host Company
J-1 Application Step 7: Local Embassy or Consulate Interview
Once you receive your DS-2019, it's time to complete a J-1 visa interview at your local U.S. embassy or consulate. Intrax Global Internships recommends scheduling this interview after completing the DS-2019 form and submitting required documents for the J-1 visa application. This way, you will ensure that you complete the interview process in time for the start of your trainee or internship program. Wait times for interviews can be long.
- DS-160 confirmation page
- Application payment (or payment receipt)
- DS-160 photo, in case there was a problem with the upload
- DS-2019 form (proof of eligibility for Exchange Visitor Program)
- DS-2007 form (placement plan)
We also recommend bringing along a copy of your visa interview scheduling confirmation, relevant financial documents, and your academic transcript (if applicable to your program).
Beyond bringing the proper documents, it’s important to dress for success. This is not the occasion for jeans and a t-shirt. While you don’t need to wear a suit, casual business wear is appropriate. Wear something that looks professional, something you would feel comfortable wearing to a job interview.
On the day of your interview, arrive at the embassy or consulate before your scheduled appointment and check in with the front desk. You may have your fingerprints taken as part of the application process. In the interview, a consular officer will ask you questions to determine:
- Why you are traveling
- When you will return to your home country after the program
- How you will cover program costs
These questions may cover topics including your education, finances, family, employment, and connections to the United States. The overarching purpose of all these questions is to ensure that you do not plan on staying in the country after the exchange and are qualified for the internship or training program. The consular officer wants to ensure that the J-1 nonimmigrant visa is right for you.
To learn more about the interview process, you can read this list of 10 smart tips.
J-1 Application Step 8: Receive Your Visa
Interviews can vary in length. Sometimes, officers inform applicants that their J-1 visa was approved directly after the interview. In these cases, applicants receive their new visa foil at the embassy or consulate.
Other times, applicants must wait to learn the status of their application. In this scenario, applicants will receive their passport back with the J-1 visa foil in the mail.
It is possible for J-1 visa applications to be denied. In this situation, applicants might be able to appeal. You can learn more about this process on your local U.S. embassy or consulate’s website. If the embassy or consulate denies your application, you may be eligible for a refund from us. Refund policies vary by office and depend on where the applicant is in the process.
Country-Specific J-1 Visa Questions
O.K. Now that you’ve learned the basic J-1 visa application process, what would that process look like from your specific home country?
To learn more about this you can visit the Visa Wizard tool on the U.S. Department of State’s website. For example, if you are interested in how to get a J-1 visa from India, the tool may be helpful for you.
To start, enter your home country into the box asking: What country/authority or area issued your passport? Next, select “Study or Exchange” when asked why you are traveling to the U.S. Then, check the box that states “I will participate in an approved exchange program.” The next list of answers will include an option listing EVP categories. Select that answer.
Once you have filled these domains, the program will direct you to the J-1 Visa page. There, you can find information about scheduling appointments at your local consulate, the price of the application in your country, and further information on various aspects of the J-1 visa.
Demonstrating Nonimmigrant Intent
Because the J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant travel document, many interns and trainees must reside in their home country for two years following exchange visitor programs. Possible reasons for this include receiving graduate or medical training or receiving funds from the U.S. government or your home country government.
In your J-1 visa interview, it’s important that you demonstrate nonimmigrant intent. This includes:
- Financial evidence
- Employment evidence
- Familial evidence
- Historical evidence
One avenue for proving intent to return to your home country is demonstrating that you are financially connected to it. This could include property you own or financial investments you have made. If this is applicable to you, consider bringing official documents proving this with you to your visa interview.
If you will be taking leave from a current job to complete an Exchange Visitor Program, that is significant evidence of nonimmigrant intent. This is also true if you plan to work at a specific company in your home country upon your return. In either case, have your current (or potential) employer write a letter explaining that you will resume or begin a job in your home country after interning abroad.
Family circumstances can also provide relevant evidence for nonimmigrant intent. You may have many family members living in your home country or sick parents living there. Any evidence of these scenarios could prove your nonimmigrant intent.
Finally, you may have already set a precedent of traveling to other countries and returning to live in your home country. If this is the case, consider bringing old passports or documents showing departure from and return to your home country.
Returning Home After J-1 Visa
In most cases, EVP participants must reside in their home country for two years after traveling in the U.S. with a J-1 visa. This does not mean that you are barred from entering the U.S. during this time, rather that you cannot become a permanent U.S. resident during this period. Only in specific circumstances will these restrictions be waived. The two-year return requirement may be waived for reasons including:
- You receive a “no objection” statement from your home country
- You are working on a project for a U.S. government agency
- You believe you will be persecuted if you return to your home country
- You think that your U.S. citizen spouse or child would suffer if you left the country
- You have been requested to work at a U.S. Public Health Department
What if I don’t meet J-1 Visa Criteria?
After reading all that, you’re in a good position to decide whether applying for a J1 visa is the right route for you. If it’s not, but you still want a U.S. workplace experience, we have a brilliant solution for you: virtual internships.
Remote work is more than a pandemic-necessity. It’s also a simple solution for international experiences without all the paperwork (though we can help you with that).
Remote virtual internships are especially great options for students, graduates, and young professionals looking to gain experience at startups and tech companies. We will work with you to find a host company match that fits your cultural exchange goals, professional needs, and unique skill set.
We’ll also help you figure out the nuts and bolts of your online experience. This includes guidance with benefits, taxes, and arranging payment in your local currency. Our tech and marketing host company partners pay $10-30 USD for internships. Additionally, we will be available as a J-1 visa sponsor if your virtual internship returns to the office in the future.
Securing Your J-1 Visa
The Exchange Visitor Program is an amazing way to advance your career goals while developing your cultural knowledge and language skills. The J-1 visa is merely one step in the process of getting there.
No matter what your specific cultural and professional expectations, Intrax Global Internships can work with you to apply for your J-1 visa, providing guidance and expertise. With a bit of planning, organization, and drive to fulfill your goals, you will ace the process. Soon enough you’ll be in the U.S., gaining valuable experience as a trainee or intern.