U.S. Work Culture

Resources for Current J-1 Participants

Your workplace in the United States may be very different from what you are used to. Office culture varies greatly between companies; however, there are some general guidelines you should follow during your internship.

Responsibilities and the Training/Internship Placement Plan
It is important that you become familiar with the Training/Internship Placement Plan (Form DS-7002) that you and your supervisor signed during the visa application process. This document should serve as a general outline of your responsibilities and tasks.

You should expect to take on additional tasks not listed on your training plan, as flexibility is highly valued in the American workforce. If you feel that your employer is not following the training plan, ask to speak with your supervisor and find out how you both can best benefit from a renewed plan of action.

The Training/Internship Placement Plan should be seen as a contract between you and your employer; therefore, under most circumstances, you are not allowed to change host companies as a J-1 visa holder. In extreme cases, you may petition Cultural Vistas for a host company change. Speak with your Cultural Vistas representative for more information.

Discrimination and Harassment
In the U.S., workplace discrimination and harassment based on race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age, or disability are illegal and should not be tolerated. You should not make jokes related to these attributes. These norms reflect many Americans’ desire to be sensitive to individuals coming from very different backgrounds.

Similarly, if your colleagues make comments or engage in behavior that makes you feel uncomfortable, you should inform your supervisor or human resources representative. If your host company does not promptly take action to resolve the problem, please notify your Cultural Vistas representative. Learn more about U.S. laws concerning discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Workplace Safety
All employees and interns are entitled to a safe work environment. If you notice conditions that could lead to serious injury or death, contact your supervisor or human resources representative immediately. If your host company asks you to complete tasks you deem unsafe, notify your Cultural Vistas representative.

Drug Testing
Your host company has the right to test you for any illegal drug use. Every organization operates differently, but you should be prepared to submit to a drug test before your internship begins and at random times throughout your program. A positive result will most likely lead to your dismissal from the company and termination of your visa status.