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USA FAQs - J1 Visas

Frequently Asked Questions

Please see below a list of the most frequently asked questions for US J1 Visa Programmes.
It's a good idea to read through these, but if there's something you can't find the answer to feel free to get in contact with us.
If you're looking for eligibility questions you can check this on our main USA page - or get in contact with the team (details at the bottom of this page).

Quick tip: You can search for the word you're looking for by (on a PC) using ctrl+f - or (on a Mac) cmd+f.

  • My job in the USA is unpaid - do I still need a J1 Visa

    YES. You are only allowed to go on a tourist visa (or visa Waiver with ESTA if you qualify) if you are going to the US purely for tourism and travel. ANY type of work related activities, paid OR unpaid MUST be done under the visa programme. For students and young people this is the J1.

  • I've finished my A levels but haven't yet gone to univerisity. Can I do an internship or Work and Travel USA?

    Sorry, no. Under US regulations you are only allowed to take part in these programmes once you have started full time university level study on a course of at least 2 years' duration.
    The EXCEPTION is the Summer Camp Programme - you don't have to be at university for this but must be at least 18 on the 1st June.

  • Can I apply for a J1 at the embassy without going through a Legal Sponsor

    Sorry NO. In order to apply for the J1 Visa you must be on an approved programme run by a Designated Legal Sponsor. This is an organisation that has been authorised by the US Government to take responsibility for you in the USA. Once you've been approved you'll get a DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility - this is required in order to book and attend the face to face interview at embassy.

  • Will I need to go to the US Embassy for an interview

    In almost all cases the answer is YES. If however you have held a previous J1 Visa that expired within the previous 12 months you may be able to use the embassy Visa Re-issuance service. You'll still have to pay the embassy fee but can organise for their courier service to collect all your docs and take them to the embassy for the visa processing. They MAY still ask you to come in however:)

  • What is the DS-2019 Certificate

    The DS-2019 Certificate of eligibility is the document we and our partner are authorised to give you once your programme has been approved. Once you have this you are able to coplete the DS-160 form and book your face to face interview at the US Embassy.

  • How long does it take?

    We recommend applying as far as possible in advance of when you plan on travelling. We strongly recommend allowing at least 6 weeks for the whole process including embassy interviews etc.
    In the months leading up to the summer holidays wait times at the embassy can get much longer so its even more important to get an application in early!

  • Does my internship have to be related to my field of study at university?

    Under the US government regulations YES. If you are in doubt or need help you can contact us to discuss this.

  • I finished Univeristy more than 12 months ago - can I still do an internship?

    You are able to do an "internship" but it must be as a Trainee on the J1 Trainee Visa (Professional Career Training USA) programme. This is because US Government regulations state that in order to qualify for an Intern Category J1 you must be either:

    • in full time university level education
    • within 12 months of finishing full time study at the time you start your programme in the USA

    In order to qualify for PCT USA you must have either:
    • A degree plus one years' full time work experience in your chosen field
    • in the absence of a degree or professional qualification at least five (5) years' full time work experience in your chosen field.

  • What is the J1 Visa?

    The J1 Visa is issued by the US Embassy once you have had a successful face to face interview. There are various types of J1 Visa depending on the programme you are going on - i.e.: Work and Travel, Camp Counselor, Intern or Trainee.

  • Why do I have to pay for all this?

    The fees you pay cover lots of different things:

    • Legal Sponsorship and documentation required to apply for the J1 Visa (including DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility)
    • US Government SEVIS Fees
    • Medical and Liability insurance (specific insurance required for J1 Programmes)
    • 24/7 support from our teams in the USA
  • Is the company I'm working for my "sponsor"

    The company or organisation you are working for in the USA is your employer/ host organisation but they are NOT your legal sponsor!

  • What happens if I don't like my job in the USA

    Luckily its pretty unusual for there to be problems at your job in the US - but if there are there are certain things you can do!

    1. Try and speak to your boss/ supervisor to explain the issue.
    2. If this doesn't work or can't resolve the problem get in touch with your legal sponsor (either CIEE or Interexchange)
    3. They will assist and guide you - in some cases they will then mediate between you and your boss to get things sorted out.

  • I want to change jobs - can I do this ON Summer Work an Travel USA?

    If you are on a Summer Work and Travel USA Programme ( and you're job has not been secured through CIEE) then it is possible to do this - but before you can start any new job it needs to be approved by CIEE. Your new employer will need to fill out an Employment Offer Agreement Form and you will need to submit this to CIEE.

  • I want to change jobs (Internship USA, Graduate Internship USA and PCT USA)

    The State Department only allows this "in extenuating circumstances" - for example if your company has gone out of business/ there has been a total breakdown of relations between you and your supervisor/ the Host Company are not sticking in any way to the training plan.

    Your Sponsor will always try to get things resolved with your company before allowing a change.
    You can not change companies just because you have found something you would rather do - this is because you have been authorised to enter the USA based on legal documents that stated you would be undertaking your programme at a specific company and location.


  • I want to come home for a holiday. What do I need to do?

    You can travel outside the US during your programme but only once you have been authorised by your legal sponsor.
    For CIEE Programmes you will need to contact them, then send your DS-2019 Certificate back to them for travel validation (there's a section on the bottom right of it that needs to be completed by them).
    The best thing to do is to call ten on their toll free number: 1-888-268-6245

    They will then send it back to you with a letter of good standing (this shows you are still actively engaged in the programme).

    Important: If you travel outside the USA without going through this process you may well be refused re-entry - even though you have a valid J1 Visa in your passport!

  • I want to leave the US early - do I need to tell you?

    If you're planning on leaving the US earlier than the end date on your DS-2019 Certificate you should always inform your legal sponsor BEFORE you travel.

  • I need to see a Doctor - what do I do?

    Medical treatment in the USA is extremely expensive. There is no NHS.
    As such before seeking medical treatment (unless in an emergency) you should contact your legal sponsor to inform them, and make sure the doctor you are planning on seeing is covered by your insurance!
    For CIEE participants you can just go to www.ciee.org/insurance for details on this

  • Can I stay in the USA past my insurance end date?

    No. You must be out of the USA before the end date as listed on your Insurance documents - NOT the date on your J1 Visa or DS-2019.

    If you stay past this date you will not be covered by insurance and will be in the US illegally.

  • Can I do more than 12 months on an Internship?

    No. The maximum the US Government allows you to be in the USA on an Internship is 12 months at your Host Company.
    Depending on your circumstances you may be able to do another internship - please see our information on repeating programmes here

  • Can I do 2 internships in the USA?

    Yes you can. You will need to make sure you have a DS-7002 Training Plan from each of your Host Companies before you can apply. You can't do the internships/ traineeships at the same time however.
    For example, if your first internship finishes on the 1st December the second MUST have a start date of the 2nd December - there can't be any official break between them!

    You can also do more than one programme in the US as long as you still qualify - see our Repeat Programmes page for full info on this.

  • Can I extend my Summer Work and Travel Programme?

    Sorry no.

  • Can I extend my PCT USA Programme?

    As long as your original programme was for less than 18 months you can extend to a max 18 months at your Host Company*
    Please see the PCT USA Programme page for full info on this.
    * Programmes in tourism and hospitality are normally limited to a max 12 months.

  • Can I take my partner/ family with me on a J1 visa?

    On some J1 Programmes you are able to take family.
    You are allowed to on the J1 Intern and J1 Trainee programmes - but NOT on the Summer Camp Programmes or the Summer Work and Travel Programme.

    Any family members will need to apply for a J2 visa - you can get the application for these here

    Additionally, each J2 will required additional funds of $1000/ month for the time you are in the USA. For example, an applicant planning on going with their husband or wife will need to she EITHER a salary of at least $2000/ month for the duration of their time in the USA OR (if your salary is less than this) proof of additional funds to meet this figure.

    EXAMPLE: J1 Salary of $1000/ month on a 12 month programme planning on taking a J2 dependent will need to show access to funds equivalent of $12000 US Dollars at time of application.

    This figure will increase by $1000/ month for each additional J2 Application.

    Please contact us for a J2 Application

Useful Videos

How to Fill in the DS-160

What to Expect at the Embassy

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IST Plus was formed in 2003. Since then we have worked with thousands of students and young people from all over the world to help and guide them on their international journeys.
We work with partners across the globe to provide the best service possible.


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International: +44 (20) 7788 7877


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