Congratulations! You have been offered an internship or training program in the United States. Now what?
You might be asking yourself, "Do I need a visa?" or, "What type of visa do I need, and how do I get it?" "Do I really need a visa sponsor? Why?"
The answer to the first question is yes. You need a J-1 Visa in order to legally participate in an internship/training program in the U.S.
Before you can apply for a J-1 Visa, though, you first need to apply for J-1 Visa sponsorship with a U.S. Department of State-designated J-1 Visa sponsor organization, such as InterExchange.
And Why Do I Need a J-1 Visa Sponsor?
Per the official J-1 Visa website, "foreign nationals must be sponsored by one of the State Department-designated sponsors." You cannot apply directly for the J-1 Visa without first applying with a program sponsor. Program sponsors, like InterExchange, are responsible for selecting participants for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, as well as supporting them during their entire program stay.
Once you apply for and are approved for J-1 Visa sponsorship, InterExchange will issue you the required documentation needed to apply for your J-1 Visa. This documentation is the DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility and the DS-7002 Training/Internship Placement Plan, which indicate where and when you can intern/train in the U.S. and outline the program your host employer has agreed to offer you.
After you have received your documents, you can apply for the J-1 Visa in person at the Embassy and Consulate. Without these sponsor-provided documents, you will not be granted a visa. Even if you are doing an unpaid internship, you still need a J-1 Visa, as ESTA is not a legal option for pursuing an unpaid internship.
Allison joined the InterExchange team in 2011 and holds a B.A. in International Affairs and an M.A. in Higher Education. She oversees the daily operations of the Career Training USA program where she has the privilege of working with students and professionals from around the world pursuing U.S. internships and training programs. Allison is originally from Massachusetts and studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.