In case you missed it – In our last post we talked about 4 things you need to know before doing a USA internship. One of the topics covered was visa sponsorship. In this post we go more in depth about what J-1 Visa sponsorship is, how long the process takes and what you get out of it.
Do you need visa sponsorship?
The short answer to this question is “Yes”. As we covered in our previous blog, you need to have a visa sponsor before you can even apply for a visa.
Remember, a visa sponsor means something different depending on what type of visa you are applying for. If you are applying for a J-1 visa but not sure if you have a sponsor yet, head over to our page “What is a Visa ‘Sponsor’?”.
How do you get visa sponsorship?
1. Find a visa sponsor: You can find a list of Department of State sponsors on their website.
2. Apply: Each sponsor will have their own method of starting an application and approval process.
3. DS-2019 Form: If your visa sponsor approves you, then you will receive a DS-2019 form. Congratulations, you have visa sponsorship!
How much does it cost?
Expect to pay at least at least $800 USD for a six month internship, not including insurance.
Visa sponsorship, like most services, can vary in cost quite a bit. Make sure to look at what services are included in their basic price, and what extras you have to add on. Look for a sponsor that charges a lower base price and lets you add on only services that you want or need. Extra fees may be optional, or part of the total cost you have to include yourself.
What are possible extra fees?
Extra Review or Submission Fee: Some sponsors expect your application to be perfect when you submit it the first time. They might have a separate charge to edit or review additional submissions if there is a problem. Fees vary.
Insurance: This will make the price of sponsorship look higher if it is included in the basic fee. If you already have adequate insurance, than this fee is extra for you. You may want to look for a sponsor that allows you to use your own insurance. Insurance fees can range from $50-$120 USD per month.
Site Visit: Your visa sponsor must send a local representative to your host company if it is a small organization. Cost ranges from $150-$500 USD.
Rush or Late Fee: To process your application faster you can sometimes pay an extra fee for that service. Some sponsors will add a mandatory charge if you apply too close to when you want to start your program. Expect to pay $400+ for a rush fee, and $200+ for a late fee.
Visa Sponsorship Length: The longer your program is, the higher the basic fee is. If you have a long program such as an 18 month traineeship, a company that charges a flat fee might be a better value for you.
How Long does it take?
If you have already looked at sponsor websites you will see a number of promises or estimations for processing time. What sounds like a quick turnaround may not be as fast as you think. It may be worth a phone call or email to a sponsor to have a better idea on how long they really take. There are two common ways sponsors provide estimates on how long it will take:
1. Full Application Time:
This is the time it takes you to apply, collect your documents and go through the whole application process before you find out if you are approved or not. Most of the time this takes 4-8 weeks. A large part of the time in the application process is you and your host company getting your completed documents and payment in.
2. Processing Time:
Sponsors will quote a short processing time to make it sound like you will know if you are approved right away. In reality, the processing time often begins only when you and your host company have submitted everything. That stage often takes the longest and is not included in this estimate. This means a faster processing time does not always mean your application will be finished sooner.
Sponsor A has a 4-6 week full application time. Their processing time is 7 business days. You receive a sponsorship decision 6 weeks after you apply.
Sponsor B has a 5-7 week full application time. Their processing time is 3 business days. You receive a sponsorship decision 6 weeks after you apply.
What does a Visa Sponsor do?
Having visa sponsorship is more than just an expensive process so you can apply for a J-1 visa. Your visa sponsor is also responsible for:
Maintains your immigration (SEVIS) record: If there are any changes to your program, you will need to let them know so they can update your record. If there are any regulatory changes that impact your immigration record they are responsible for updating it.
Looking after your safety and well-being: This topic alone is worthy of its own post. Before you arrive to the US, they make every effort to make sure your host company does not have the intention of exploiting you for free or cheap labor, or putting you in sub-standard conditions.
During your stay, talk to your sponsor if you are having any problems. This can be problems with your host company, your housing or your health. It is important to communicate with your sponsor. If they are not aware of a problem they cannot help you. Even if you are just feeling homesick. Unless the sponsor is brand new, they will have experience in these situations and can be an advocate for you in difficult situation.