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Apply for a J-1 Visa: The Internship Program

Apply for a J-1 Visa: The Internship Program
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Questions About the Internship Program

What is the Internship Program?

Internship Program

The Internship Program allows college and university students to intern for a U.S. company. Made available through the
J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa, the Internship Program allows young people from all over the world to experience U.S. culture. In 2012, the Internship Program paired 20,000 foreign nationals with U.S. employers1. Placements range from construction sites to luxury hotels to medical labs; there are opportunities available of all kinds!

The Internship Program is a part of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa. Through 14 diverse programs, the J-1 Visa provides unique cultural exchanges between foreign countries and the U.S. Currently, there are 170,000 monthly participants in the U.S., working, studying and teaching through J-1 programs2. Some of the most popular programs are:

  • The Holiday Work Program, which allows college and university students to work in the U.S. on their summer holiday.
  • The Au Pair Program, which allows young people to experience U.S. culture by living with a host family, babysitting the family's children, and studying in the U.S.
  • The Student Exchange Program, which allows college and university students to study at a U.S. college or university.

Learn more about the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa here!

Who qualifies for the Internship Program?

Internship Program

To qualify for the J-1 internship program:

  • You must be enrolled in a full-time course of a study at a higher education institution outside the U.S. Universities, colleges and academies may all qualify as higher education institutions.
  • Vocational studies at a tertiary level (post-secondary) do not qualify as such; OR
  • You must have graduated from college or university within the last 12 months;
  • You must be able to communicate in English; AND
  • You must have enough money to pay for your trip in the U.S.

Steps to follow when applying for the J-1 Visa, Internship Program

Step 1: Apply for and be accepted into the Internship Program.

You will need to apply for and be accepted into the Internship Program before you can apply for a J-1 visa. You must find a program sponsor and apply through them. The sponsor will set you up with an internship. You will need to have a sponsor before you can apply for a J-1 visa. The program sponsor issues participants a Certificate of Eligibility which they will need in the visa application process.

Step 2: Receive a Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status and pay the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee

You will need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee of $180 USD upon receiving the Certificate of Eligibility. Be sure to print the receipt after paying this fee; you will need it at the visa interview.

Step 3: Complete Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application and submit to the U.S. Department of State.

You will need to upload a digital passport-sized photograph with this application. If you have trouble uploading the photograph, you can bring one to the visa interview.

Be sure to print the confirmation page after completing the application; you will need it at the visa interview.

Step 4: Pay the visa application fee.

The fee is $160.00 USD.

Step 5: Schedule an interview with a U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live.

Step 6: Collect required documents for your visa interview.

You will be required to bring the following documents to your visa interview:

  • The interview appointment notice
  • A passport that is valid for at least six months past your planned date of departure
  • The confirmation page from your Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  • Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before the interview (MRV fee)
  • Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (issued by your program sponsor)

The U.S. embassy or consulate where your interview will take place may request you provide additional documentation, such as evidence of:

  • The purpose of your trip
  • Your intent to leave the U.S. after your trip
  • Your ability to pay all the costs of your trip

Step 7: Attend the visa interview.

The visa interview will take place at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live. You will be interviewed by a consular officer who will determine if you are qualified to receive a visa. He or she will review your documentation and visa application, ask you questions about your personal history and the reason for your trip to the U.S.

If the consular officer approves you for a visa, he or she will take your passport and have a visa placed in it. When your passport with visa is ready, you will be notified to pick it up or it will be sent to you.

The consular officer should return Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility to you. You will need this to enter the U.S.

In most cases, you will also have biometrics (fingerprint, photograph and signature) taken during, before or after your interview.

Step 8: Pay the visa reciprocity fee.

Depending on your nationality, you may have to pay a visa issuance fee if your visa is approved.

What kind of internships are available?

Internship Program

The Internship Program offers internships in the following fields:

  • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
  • Arts and Culture
  • Construction and Building Trades
  • Education, Social Sciences, Library Science, Counseling and Social Services
  • Health Related Occupations
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Information Media and Communications
  • Management, Business, Commerce and Finance
  • Public Administration and Law
  • The Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics and Industrial Occupations

Do I need to get an internship before leaving my country?

Yes. Only after you've been accepted into Internship Program and placed in an internship with a U.S. employer, will you be able to apply for a visa and travel to the U.S.

How long before my Internship Program starts can I arrive in the U.S.?

With a J-1 visa, you can arrive in the U.S. up to 30 days before the start of your program. If you wish to travel in the U.S. more than 30 days before the start of your program, you must obtain a visitor visa. However, this is discouraged as you will have to adjust your status and if there is a delay, you may miss the start of your program.

What is the Internship Program's maximum length?

The maximum duration of the Internship Program is 12 months.

How many hours per week will I have to work in my internship?

Internship programs are full-time, a minimum of 32 hours of work per week.

How can I extend my Internship Program?

J-1 participants should contact their designated program officer to extend their status. Generally, extensions are not granted if it means the participant will stay in the U.S. beyond program's maximum length (12 months).

What are my employer's responsibilities?

Along with abiding all federal state and local employment laws, your employer must ensure that you obtain skills and knowledge related to the field of your training.

What happens if I quit my internship or am terminated before my program ends?

If you withdraw are terminated your program, you must notify your program sponsor immediately. Your sponsor will enter this information into SEVIS and you are expected to depart the country immediately.

Can I bring my family with me to the U.S.?

Yes! The J-2 visa is available for family members of J-1 visa holders participating in the Internship Program. The spouses and children of J-1 interns may accompany them to the U.S. on the J-2 visas. They are even permitted to work during their stay by applying for an Employment Authorization Document, commonly known as a work permit.

What are the other J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa programs?

The other J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa programs are:

1 retrieved Oct. 18, 2012, http://j1visa.state.gov/basics/facts-and-figures/
2 retrieved Oct. 14, 2013, http://j1visa.state.gov/basics/facts-and-figures/

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Standard Apply for a J-1 Visa: The Internship Program Application Government & Filing Fees:

  • USCIS Application Filing Fee undefined(Due upon submission of application to USCIS)
    • Filing fee may vary by application reason
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