J1 Visa Internship

J1 Visa Internship Requirements

J1 Visa Internship Category: What is it?

The J1 Visa Internship category is one of the many cultural exchange programs to the US. It was also featured in our first blog post “4 Things You Need to Know Before Starting a USA Internship“.

It was created specifically for you to gain additional training in a field you have experience in. Unlike a work visa, you are not there to fill a labor need. You and your company work together to outline an experience that has your learning and professional growth as the primary goal.

Two Ways to Qualify

While you must meet certain requirements to be eligible for the J1 Visa Internship category, there is more than one way to qualify. You can be either a current university student or a recent graduate of a university.

Requirements for Current Students

Full-time varies by institution. Make you you can show your sponsor your university considers you a full time student.

Generally, just enrolling at an institution is not sufficient. You also need to be actively participating in classes now, not just in the future. Exceptions are for holidays or planned breaks where no classes are held.

Secondary school must be an entrance requirement for your studies. Your program must also be primarily academic, not vocational, in nature.

If you’re studying marketing, don’t expect to be approved for an architecture internship. 

Most sponsors will require you to have completed some courses in your field. For example, if you want to do an accounting internship, your sponsor may require you to have completed 5 courses in accounting first.

For your own health and safety, having a conversational understanding of Enlish (both written and spoken) is a good idea. It is also a requirement for sponsor and visa approval.

You do not have to be fluent, but most sponsors will have an interview conducted in English. Be prepared to talk about yourself, what you have studied, and what you hope to learn during your time in the US.

If you studied abroad in the US, that should not disqualify  you. This is referring to your primary degree-granting institution. While a degree at MIT or Harvard is impressive, it will not help you get a J1 visa.

Requirements for Recent Graduates

To be eligible, secondary school must have been an entrance requirement to your program. Your program must have been be primarily academic, not vocational, in nature.

If you studied abroad in the US, that should not disqualify  you. This is referring to your primary degree-granting institution. While a degree at MIT or Harvard is impressive, it will not help you get a J1 visa.

If you graduated January 1st, 2018, your internship would have to begin sometime in 2018.

For your own health and safety, having a conversational understanding of Enlish (both written and spoken) is a good idea. It is also a requirement for sponsor and visa approval.

You do not have to be fluent, but most sponsors will have an interview conducted in English. Be prepared to talk about yourself, what you have studied, and what you hope to learn during your time in the US.

What Does Post-Secondary Academic Mean?

Most of the requirements for the J1 Visa Internship category are pretty simple. There is one in particular that stands out as needing additional explanation. Post-Secondary Acadmic is a complicated phrase that can be broken down into two parts:

1. Post-Secondary

In the United States, high school is considered “secondary school”. This is typically four years and ends for most people around the age of 18. Education and/or training that is considered “post-secondary” means it is completed after secondary school. It also means that you must complete secondary schooling in order to be accepted into a true post-secondary program.

Outside of the United States, this is often more complicated as vocational programs are more popular. There are often multiple different educational pathways with more levels than exist in the US. This presents a challenge for your sponsor to ensure you meet the eligibility requirements. It is also a challenge for you, to show that you do.

2. Academic

The J1 visa intern category is specifically for bridging the gap between theory and practice. An academic background provides the theory on which the practical training is based. We’ve added a comparison between academic and vocational training below. 

Academic

  • Four Year Universities
  • Two Year Community College
  • Classroom based education
  • Focus is on theory
  • Results in Associates, Bachelors, Masters, PhD (Doctoral) degrees
  • Considered tertiary level education
  • Prepare you to work in a particular field or disciplin

Vocational

  • Technical Institutes
  • Applied somethings
  • Focus is on practical application
  • Minimal theory based classroom education
  • Usually results in certificate
  • Often secondary level education
  • Minimal education requirements for entry
  • Prepares you for a specific job

To make matters more complicated, the Department of State recognizes some dual education programs that have both academic AND vocational components to them. It is important to note that the vocational portion of the program can be no more than 50% of the total program. 

Not Sure if Your Education Qualifies?

If you’re not sure that your education qualifies, or you want to make sure that you can prove to your sponsor that it does, there are a few steps you can take:

1. Discuss the requirements with your university. Even if you are the first student from your university going to the US, there is a good chance they have had similar questions before.

2. Ask your university for a document explaining how your program or degree meets the J1 visa internship category requirements.

3. Make sure any supporting documents you obtain are as official as possible, and are in English or have been translated.

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