While applying for a J-1 visa from the UK at first can seem overwhelming, the chance to travel, develop your CV (resume), and gain valuable work experience is definitely worth the effort. J-1 visas allow foreign nationals to spend time in the US working, studying, and experiencing new cultures. There are a large variety of J-1 internships and training categories too, like:
- Arts and culture
- Information media and communications
- Public administration
If any of these interest you, a J-1 visa in the United States is something worth pursuing. In this article, we’ll cover how to apply for a J-1 visa in the UK along with what you’ll need to complete the process.
As a State Department-designated sponsor for the J-1 visa program, Intrax Global Internships guides foreign interns through the complex J-1 visa application process and generates the documents they need to apply for a visa.
J-1 visas 101
To obtain a J-1 visa, you need to have an internship or training offer from a U.S. host company. This is where Global Internships comes in. As your sponsor, we’ll walk you through the entire process and help you get an internship or training program that’s the best fit for you.
If you’ve already found an internship or training program, as an official J-1 visa sponsor,we can issue the DS-2019 form you will need to get your J-1 visa.
But first, what is a J-1 visa?
The U.S. government created the J-1 visa, a non-immigrant visa, for foreign university students and young professionals interested in studying and training abroad in the U.S.. The U.S. Department of State oversees the J-1 program, also known as the Exchange Visitor Program.
Applying for your J-1 visa in the United Kingdom
With Global Internships as your sponsor, the application process can be broken down into eight steps, which include:
- Completing our online application
- Submitting your required documents
- Paying your program fees
- Receiving confirmation from your host company
- Your pre-departure orientation
- Your DS-2019 is issued
- Interviewing at the U.S. Embassy
- Obtaining your J-1 visa
J-1 visa requirements
The steps and documents required to apply for a J-1 visa can seem a little intimidating at first, but with support from our specialists at Global Internships, you’ll be well on your way to choosing an internship that’s the best fit for you, and obtaining your J-1 visa.
Finding a host company
Before applying for your J-1 visa, you’ll need to find a host company. A host company is the U.S. organization where you’ll complete your internship or training program. It’s separate from your sponsor.
In order to successfully find a host company, it’s best to apply to many different internships. Finding a host company is very similar to any job searches you may have done in the past. Finding a host company requires a lot of work, as most paid internship positions are competitive, but it’ll be well worth it.
There are many different internship categories to choose from, and Global Internships offers a database of those job opportunities. If you’re interested in teaching or hospitality and would like additional support, we also offer a placement service. In our database, you’ll find many different internship opportunities, like
- An accounting/human resources training program in Los Angeles
- A sales assistant position in New Hyde Park, New York
- A food and beverage internship program located on the French Quarter in New Orleans
- A culinary program at an upscale desert getaway resort in Palm Springs, California
You can also search through, as well as your own school’s resources.
Every J-1 visa applicant needs a sponsor. Sponsors include academic, for-profit, nonprofit, and federal, state, and local government institutions.
Program sponsors are responsible for screening and selecting applicants. Applicants normally work with 3rd party sponsor organizations that have the resources to support them through the process and throughout their study or training programs.
Global Internships is a great example of a supportive and experienced sponsor. We facilitate your application for the J-1 visa and offer continuous support during your internship or training placement.
Required documents for your J-1 visa
To apply for a J-1 visa, you’ll need to submit the following J-1 visa documents to the U.S. Embassy:
- A DS-2019 form
- Your passport
- A 2x2 digital image or photograph in color and taken within the last 6 months
- A DS-160 form
- A DS-7002 form
- Visa application payment fee receipt
Once you pick an internship or training program, you can fill out your DS-2019 form. To complete this form, you’ll need to know your:
- Sponsor information
- Start and end date of your program
- Exchange visitor category with your subject/field
- Sponsor contact information and signature of responsible officer
- Total estimated financial support to be provided by intern or trainee during their program
The DS-160 form is the Online Nonimmigrant Visa application. You’ll need to complete this form on the U.S. Department of State’s website. Completing this form is simple if you have the right J-1 visa documents on hand. To complete the DS-160 form, you’ll need
- A travel itinerary for your study or training program
- Your resume or CV
- Your passport
- The dates of your last five trips to the U.S. if you've been there before, and general international travel history for the last five years
- Your DS-2019 form, which will have your SEVIS ID and your host company address listed
In addition, you’ll also need to include a photo of yourself for your visa application. The requirements are very specific, and the rules for the photo are that
- The photo must have a white or off-white background
- You cannot wear eyeglasses in the photo except for rare medical conditions
- Your head must fit between 50% and 69% of the photo’s total height
With these rules in mind, you may want to use a professional visa photo service to make sure your photo meets the requirements.
Both interns and U.S. host companies need to complete a DS-7002 form to apply for an internship program, and to obtain a J-1 visa. With Intrax Global Internships as your sponsor, completing your part of the DS-7002 form is far less complicated than it may look. This form requires that you and your sponsor know your:
- Participant information: your name, intern or trainee disposition, current field of study or profession, years of experience in your field, and your degree’s date awarded or expected
- Site of activity information: your employer ID number (EIN), hours you will work per week, your organization’s worker’s compensation (WC) policy and if the policy will cover you, the number of full-time employees at your training site, and the company-wide annual revenue
- Contract agreement: this is an agreement that covers the responsibilities of all parties involved with the applicant’s J-1 visa program, which must be signed by the applicant, the host company, and an Intrax Alternate Responsible Officer
- Internship/Training placement plan: this includes the role of the applicant in their chosen organization, places the applicant will work, and activities held by the host company the applicant will be involved in outside of their program hours
In addition, supervisors will be expected to mention their full name, job title, and should refer to applicants by name on the form. The form must be completed, and no sections can remain blank.
J-1 visa requirements for citizens of the UK
In addition to the forms listed above, If you’ve ever been arrested, convicted or cautioned, you’ll need a UK Police Certificate (ACRO) issued within 6 months of your visa interview, along with a completed VCU-01 form.
A SEVIS fee paid to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is also necessary, and covered by Intrax if you choose us as your sponsor.
Your J-1 visa interview
To get your visa, you’ll need to attend a J-1 visa interview. You should be prepared to show proof that you plan to return to your home country, as J-1 visas are for non-immigrants who intend to return home after their programs have finished.
Consular officers might request extra documents to prove:
- The purpose of your travel
- Your intent to leave the U.S. after travel
- Your ability to pay all travel costs
It’s a good idea to submit your visa application as soon as possible to avoid any travel complications that may be caused by interview wait times.
To prepare for your J-1 interview, you should make sure that you dress professionally, know the details about your program, and any experience you already have that would help you qualify for it. You should also be prepared to explain how the internship or training program would connect with your studies, or your future career goals.
Once you’ve completed your interview, you should either receive your visa right away, or be told that it will be mailed to you.
J-1 visa program fees
Your program fees must be paid for your J-1 visa to be issued. Estimated prices depend on your country of residence and the duration of your stay in the U.S. Price estimates include:
- Your application fee - $300 USD
- SEVIS (Student exchange visitor information system) fee paid to the U.S. government
- Administrative costs associated with issuing your DS-2019 form
- Travel health insurance for your internship/training period
- Pre-departure advisory services
- 24-hour emergency support and monthly check-ins during your stay in the U.S.
These program fees do not include:
- Visa interview at the U.S. embassy - $160 USD
- On-site visit to validate your host company information if applicable
- Expedited application processing fee which is optional upon request
- DS-2019 form reprint free if applicable
- Airfare, housing, and personal expenses
J-1 visa duration, taxes and renewal
Besides knowing how to apply for your J-1 visa, there are a few other things that you should remember, especially when you’re preparing to leave for your internship or training program placement.
How long your J-1 visa will last
A J-1 visa is known to be flexible because of its time limit. It can range from a few weeks to several years depending on your host program requirements and EVP category.
Some interns can remain in the U.S. for up to 12 months, while trainees can remain up to 18 months. Trainees in the hospitality field can only remain for 12 months, and some professors and research scholars can stay in the United States for up to five years if their program permits.
The 2 year rule refers to the conditions a recipient of a J-1 visa must follow, which are outlined in section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality act.
According to this section, J-1 visa holders can’t change their visa status, become lawful permanent residents, or receive H, L or K-category visas until they return to their home country for 2 cumulative years or receive a waiver for this requirement.
Ultimately, the host organization providing your program decides if you will remain for the maximum amount of time, or a shorter time based on the duration of the program you choose.
Extending or renewing your J-1 visa
While it’s possible to have your J-1 visa extended, you’ll need to get consent from both your program and your program sponsor. You will also need to submit some required documents, including proof of your health insurance that will cover you for the duration of your extended stay, and a new DS-2019. Your new DS-2019 form must be distributed to both the J-1 visa holder and the Department of State.
Working and paying taxes in the U.S.
Interns and trainees with a J-1 visa will need to apply for a Social Security Number and pay income taxes. However, J-1 visa holders are exempt from paying FICA taxes, which include social security and Medicaid taxes. Taxes may also be affected by Tax Treaties, which cover visa holders from certain countries, under specific conditions.
Depending on the amount of income you will earn in a year, you will normally file a 1040 or a 1040-NR. This is normally determined by your status as a J-1 resident, or a non-resident for tax purposes.
Settling in abroad after you get your J-1 visa
Once you’ve received your J-1 visa and you’re travel ready, there are also a few things you should consider before you arrive in the U.S.
Finding a place to stay is definitely a priority. There is a wide variety of housing options in the U.S. including:
- On or off campus university housing
- Apartments for rent or sublet
- Rooms for rent
- Staying at a friend or family’s house
Some interns pick an AirBnB or a hotel to stay in while they pursue more stable housing options. While searching for a place to stay online can be handy, being able to visit the location you want to rent is far more reliable than just a search on the internet.
When you find somewhere you’d like to stay, it’s important to ask a lot of questions, so you can be sure the location will fit your needs. These questions might include:
- Are utilities included with the rent?
- If not, how much will they be?
- Is there a washing machine or dryer on site?
- If there’s an issue with the location, who should you call? (Ex: the heater or air conditioner stops working)
While touring the location you intend on renting, open cabinets, test the door locks, turn on faucets and look for smoke detectors to make sure your housing is up to your standards. It can be helpful to take pictures and take down notes to compare places and make the best choice.
There are many different options for transportation in the U.S. which can vary depending on your location.
- Public transit is normally cost-effective and a low risk way to travel, and can offer discounts for students. Delays on public transport are common though, and you should be prepared to leave at least 15 minutes earlier than you normally would
- Ridesharing is common in most major cities, and the most popular services are Uber and Lyft. Rideshares can be faster than public transit, but are much more expensive
- Car rentals normally have strict rules. In most cases, you need to be at least 25 years old, have a driver’s license, and a credit or debit card. If your license is not in English, it may be a good idea to get an international driver’s permit, which is a translation of your license
- Biking: Cycling is popular in the U.S. but can sometimes be unsafe. Not all streets are designed to accommodate bikers, and it can be difficult for local drivers to share the road. It’s best to be aware of the risks, and local laws concerning cycling in public areas
Making sure you’re able to keep in touch with friends and family in the UK and in the U.S. should be a priority once you arrive at your program location. You can choose to upgrade your current plan to one that will cover service in the U.S. or you can open a new plan with another carrier in the U.S.
There are a lot of different cell phone providers in the U.S. but the most popular ones are:
- Mint mobile
- Cricket wireless
It’s a good idea to carefully read your contract once you choose a new cell phone provider to ensure it fits your needs and your budget. You can also look into prepaid phone plans, which can be found online, or at stores like Walmart and Target.
Having health insurance is an absolute must to receive your J-1 visa. You can buy an insurance plan through a sponsor, or independently. This step cannot be skipped, and your J-1 visa will not be issued without health insurance. Healthcare bills in the U.S. are also extremely expensive, and you want to avoid those inflated bills whenever possible.
The minimum requirements for J-1 program health insurance are:
- Provides at least $100,000 USD for medical benefits per accident or illness
- Allocates $50,000 USD to evacuate individuals to their home country for medical reasons
- Allocates $25,000 USD to return remains to the individual’s home country in event of death
- Has deductibles for at least $500 USD per illness or accident
- Covers both sickness and accidents
In addition, interns and trainees will still need to pay deductibles and copays.
If you decide to choose us as your sponsor, you’re likely to receive coverage from our insurance partner, Envisage Global Insurance.
Opening up a bank account in the U.S. and setting up direct deposit is probably the easiest way to get your internship or training stipend.
When you choose a bank, try to consider your local area. We recommend picking a bank with several locations nearby. Once you choose your bank and open an account, you’ll need to know your routing and account number to set up direct deposit with your employer, so money can be deposited directly into your account.
Local travel and events
Along with making connections with others and gaining more work experience, internships or training programs are also a great time to see the world.
Locally, you might have a lot of options for events and weekends away. Some events often held include
- Sports games
- Art shows
Depending on your area, you can also take a short trip, try out camping at any local campgrounds, visit a national park, a museum or even a theme park. There’s normally no shortage of fun things you can do, especially if you’re in a more populated or urban area.
Ready to get your J-1 Visa from the UK?
If you decide that an internship or training program in the U.S. is for you, great! You’re going to have the experience of a lifetime, make incredible memories, and grow your skills.
We’d love to be part of your journey!
At Global Internships, our goal is to simplify what can be a confusing, intimidating process. If you’d like to connect with us for internship placement support, or a visa sponsorship, you can contact us here.
Until then, you can refer back to this guide whenever you need it.
For more information about traveling to the U.S. with a J-1 visa, check out these other articles: