J-1 internship visa: Q&A

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What is the purpose of the J-1 internship program?

The purpose of the J-1 internship program is to enhance your skills and experience in a particular academic field and expose you to U.S. techniques or methodologies. Additionally, the J-1 program is supposed to increase your knowledge about American culture (for example, the internship placement plan has a section asking what cultural activities you will engage in while in the U.S.).

The goal of the J-1 visa is that you will return to your home country after completion of your J-1 visa and share the experience you gained in the U.S. with your peers in your home country.

Do I need a degree to participate in the J-1 intern program?

Yes and no. You can qualify for the J-1 Intern visa if:

  • You are currently full-time pursuing a degree or certificate at a post-secondary academic institution, or
  • You graduated from such an institution mentioned within 12 months prior to your J-1 internship start date.

Please note that the academic institution you are currently attending/you recently graduated from must be outside the U.S.

Therefore, you cannot participate in the J-1 internship program if you are, for example, currently studying for a Bachelor’s degree in the U.S. If you are currently studying in the U.S. or if you recently graduated from a U.S. University, please click here and here to find out about your internship/employment options.

Can the internship be part-time?

No. The J-1 internship must be full-time (at least 32 hours per week).

How long can I stay in the U.S. on a J-1 intern visa?

12 months.

Can I renew my J-1 visa?

No, but you can participate in additional J-1 internship program if the second program will focus on development of more advanced skills or a different field of expertise. For example, if the first J-1 program was during/after you graduated from your Bachelor’s program, you can participate in a second program after you finish your Master’s. You still have to meet the requirements above (you are currently studying at a post-secondary institution/graduated within 12 months before internship start date).

Please note that you can also apply for a J-1 trainee visa after you have been residing outside the U.S. for at least 2 years. Please see more about J-1 trainee visa when you click here.

What level of English do I have to speak to qualify for the J-1 intern visa?

Your level of English must be such that you have to be able to function at the internship on a day to day basis. The sponsor agency will verify your English level skills (often by giving you an English test/conducting an in person interview in English).

Are there any restrictions on programs I can participate in?

Yes. you cannot get J-1 internship visa in the following areas:

  • Unskilled/casual labor positions
  • Programs including child or elder care
  • Programs that would involve patient care or contact (e.g. internship that would require that you prove medical care, therapy, prescribe medication to patients etc.)
  • Programs in aviation field
  • Any program that would put the J-1 trainee program into disrepute

What programs can I participate in?

The particular occupational category must be approved by the Department of State. We have listed examples below:

  • Arts and Culture
  • Construction
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Information Media and Communications
  • Management
  • Business
  • Commerce
  • Finance
  • Law
  • Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Mathematics
  • Industrial Occupations

What is the Internship Placement Plan? Who needs to fill in this plan?

Your sponsor will need to complete and get signatures from the company where you will be interning. The Internship Plan will contain information such as:

  • Information about the host organization (organization where you will be interning)
  • Description of your role
  • Description of specific goals or objectives
  • What specific knowledge, skills, techniques you will learn

The Internship Placement Plan will have to be signed by you, the sponsoring agency, and the organization where you will be interning.

How do I find an internship in the U.S.?

To find an internship in the U.S., you should visit the Department of State website that has a list of authorized sponsors for the J-1 internship visa.

You can set up a consultation by clicking the link below.

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To find out more about our services and fees contact Scott Legal, P.C


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