If you are coming to the US on an exchange visitor program, you will need to complete a visa application. You can do this either in your home country (or country of legal permanent residence) or abroad. Here is what you should consider before making your decision:
Completing a Visa Application in Your Home Country
The recommended option is to complete your visa application in your home country, or country of legal permanent residence. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- When you apply for your visa you give the embassy your passport. They hold onto this for several days for up to several weeks. Being without your travel documents in a foreign country is not a great idea. Imagine if you’re from Germany and you are in Cambodia and you suddenly have to leave the country but your passport is with the embassy.
- The wait time for appointments and visa processing times are typically more favorable if you are applying in your home country.
- If you are applying for an Exchange Visitor Visa: It is typically easier to show home country ties if you are already in your home country.
Completing a Visa Application Abroad
It is possible to complete your visa application and interview abroad. In some cases it may be a better option if:
- Travel costs are substantially cheaper
- Visa wait times are substantially lower
- There is no US Embassy or Consulate in your home country
Keep in mind that you are not able to apply for a visa within the US, as there are no US embassies or consulates in the country. There is a process called “change of status” that is possible but not recommended. This can take a long time to process, and may result in you overstaying your current visa. This option is also generally not supported by J-1 visa sponsors.
Tip: If you are currently in the US, and applying for an exchange visitor visa, ask your sponsor if they can process your application while you are in the US. Make sure to also ask if they require you be outside the US for a certain period of time before your new internship begins.