Internships in the USA - OPT, J1

J-1 Visa

A J-1 visa is a type of US study and exchange visas that you can get for a temporary stay while on an exchange visitor program in the US. To qualify for a J-1 visa, the first thing you need to do is apply for an exchange program (study or work) through an assigned sponsor in the US. Only after you are accepted into a program, you can apply for a J-1 visa.

J-1 Visa Types
J-1 visa has several categories you can choose from depending on what exchange program you belong to:
  • Au Pair and EduCare
    To get a J-1 visa for Au Pair, you must be between 18-26 years old, proficient in spoken English, and be a secondary school graduate. For Au pair, you will be placed with a host family for 12 months with the option to extend your visa for 6,9, or 12 months and more. Before you start your work with the host family, you will undergo a training program on working with children so you can be better prepared.
  • Camp Counselor
    For the camp counselor category, you must have enough knowledge of the English language so you can interact with the campers, and you must be at least 18 years old. During the camp work, you will be paid and receive the same benefits as your American counterparts.
  • Government Visitor
    You can apply for this category of the J-1 visa if you are selected by a US federal agency or local government to visit and engage in various activities to strengthen your relationship with America. During this time you can take part in observation tours, discussions, consultations, professional meetings, workshops, and so on.
  • Intern
    To qualify for a J-1 visa in the intern category, you must either be currently enrolled at a university or certificate-granting post-secondary academic institution outside of the US or, have graduated from one of these institutions in the last 12 months. The internship is offered only in some specific fields which include the following: 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. andThe Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics, and Industrial Occupations.
  • International Visitor
    You have to be selected by the United States Department of State to qualify for this J-1 visa. As an international visitor, you must take part in consultations, observation, research, training, or demonstration of special skills and you must be a recognized individual in a special field.
  • Physician
    For this J-1 visa, you must have completed your education and have adequate medical training to participate in the program. You will also need to provide a statement from your country (to show why you need to participate in the program and that you won’t overstay), and an agreement or contract from a US accredited medical school, hospital, or scientific institution. Additionally, you must complete one of the following: Part I or part II of the National Board of Medical Examiners ExaminationThe Foreign Medical Graduate ExamStep I and Step II Visa Qualifying medical Examiners (VQE)
  • Professor and Research Scholar
    To get a J-1 visa as a professor and research scholar, you have to meet several criteria. For one, you must not be a candidate for a tenure track position, you mustn’t have participated in a J-visa program in the last 12 months unless exceptions apply.
  • Short-term Scholar
    Usually, you can stay only up to six months with this type of J-visa. To get the short-term scholar J-visa, you must be a professor or research scholar or have a similar background education, and experience. You can contribute to special research projects, teach a semester at a college or university. For this program, you cannot extend your stay or change your category.
  • Specialist
    To get a J-visa for the specialist category, you must be an expert in your field, and you must not be looking to be employed full-time in the United States. Under this category, you can usually stay for a year.
  • Student, college/ university
    For a student J-1 visa, you must be sponsored, and have your stay funded either by your home country via a government program, by the US, or by both governments. Usually, you can stay for up to two years, but the validity of this J-1 visa type changes according to the program you are participating in.
  • Student, secondary
    For this visa type, you must be at least 15 years old, but you cannot be older than 18 years and six months before the program starts. You must also have less than 11 years of primary school education, not including kindergarten and you must have not participated in a previous similar program under an F-1 visa or J-1 visa.
  • Summer Work Travel
    You can get a summer work visa if you are a student enrolled in a university and pursuing a degree, you must have completed at least one semester of your program to qualify for this visa. Additionally, you must have a job secured before you enter the US unless you are from a visa waiver country.
  • Teacher
    You must have the qualifications to work in a primary or secondary school, and you must have a degree equivalent to a US bachelor’s degree in education or the academic subject you intend to teach. Moreover, you must be either employed in a teaching position in your country at the time of application, or you must have a minimum of 24 months of work experience as a teacher.
  • Trainee
    If you want to qualify for the trainee visa category, you must have a degree or a professional certificate from a university or a similar institution. You must also have at least one year of work experience related to your occupation before applying for the program or five years of experience in the occupational field where you are seeking training.
You can stay with a J-1 visa for up to two or three years. However, the length at which you are allowed to stay in the US under J-1 visa changes depending on what program you applied for.

For example, if you are a university student, your visa is valid as long as your study program lasts, but with a short-term scholar, you can only stay for six months. Usually, all J-1 visa holders are given a 30 day grace period after their visa expires to arrange their travel back home.

The article was written in collaboration with American Corporate Services Law Offices, Inc.

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