Want to advance your career through an internship or training opportunity in the United States?
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program provides countless ways for individuals around the world to gain hands-on professional experience in their chosen academic or occupational field while deepening their understanding of American culture.
Annually, more than 4,500 individuals from over 100 countries and over 900 U.S. businesses, companies, and NGOs turn to Cultural Vistas as their trusted solution for J-1 Visa sponsorship for internship and training programs.
|J-1 Intern Programs||J-1 Trainee Programs|
|For: Students and recent graduates||For: Experienced professionals|
|Program Length: Up to 12 months||Program Length: Up to 18 months|
What We Offer
As a J-1 Exchange Visitor Program sponsor, Cultural Vistas is responsible for administering exchange programs in compliance with the U.S. Department of State’s public diplomacy goals and visa requirements.
Once individuals secure an internship or training opportunity or hosts identify individuals they wish to bring to the United States, our staff provides assistance and services to both parties.
- Flexibility to sponsor programs from most countries in most fields at any time of year
- Arrival and acculturation assistance, including comprehensive orientation materials
- Issuance of the “Certificate of Eligibility for J-1 Visa” (Form DS-2019) to successful applicants
- Options for expedited service guaranteeing completed applications are evaluated in five business days
- Training plan and application assistance
- Host organization and applicant vetting
- Comprehensive health and medical insurance
- 24-hour emergency support for participants and host organizations
- Program monitoring through a dedicated client relations team and regular evaluation
- Cultural and educational activities and networking events in select cities
- Access to free tax software for participants
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a J‐1 Visa?
The Exchange Visitor Visa (J-1) is a non-immigrant visa issued by the U.S. Department of State that provides countless opportunities for international candidates looking to travel and gain experience in the United States.
The multifaceted J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, managed by the State Department, enables foreign nationals to come to the United States to teach, study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills or receive on the job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years.
It was developed to expose individuals from around the world to the culture and institutions of the United States and to foster a better understanding between nations on a variety of issues through educational and cultural exchange programs.
What is the J‐1 Visa for training?
There are 15 categories of the J‐1 Visa, one of which is the trainee category. This non-immigrant visa is used to allow foreign nationals to train with a U.S.‐based host organization for up to 18 months. You must have either a degree or professional certificate from a post‐secondary ministerially recognized academic institution outside the United States and at least one year of prior related work experience in your occupational field outside the United States OR have five years of work experience outside the United States in your occupational field.
What is the J‐1 Visa for internships?
There are 15 categories of the J‐1 Visa, one of which is the intern category. This non-immigrant visa is used to allow foreign students and recent graduates to train with a U.S.‐based host organization for up to 12 months. You must be either currently enrolled in and pursuing studies at a degree or certificate granting post‐secondary ministerially recognized academic institution outside the U.S. OR graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to your internship program start date.
What is on‐the‐job training?
The focus of on‐the‐job training is “learning‐by‐doing.” On‐the‐job training should not be compared to the “apprenticeship” that is practiced in many nations. Instead, on‐the‐job training is a less‐structured approach to developing job skills and knowledge, one that puts the responsibility of learning on the individual. It is important for international participants to understand this difference, because it requires the participant to be an equal partner in the learning process. It might be useful to consider that the host organization provides the “classroom,” through the written training plan, and the tools for learning about a specific activity or industry. However, it is left up to the participant to be the proactive learner.
What is Cultural Vistas’ role in the J-1 Visa process?
Cultural Vistas has been designated as an Exchange Visitor Program sponsor by the U.S. Department of State which means that Cultural Vistas is responsible for reviewing the participant and host organization applications to ensure that they meet the criteria established by the U.S. government for this visa.
Unlike other visas, Cultural Vistas acts as the legal visa sponsor of the participant for the duration of the program in the United States. The participant is the individual who is coming to the U.S. on an Exchange Visitor Program and the host organization is the company that will be providing training to the foreign participant.
Cultural Vistas’ designation allows it to sponsor individuals who are pursuing training in most career fields. Please consult the Eligibility section; it details fields that are and are not eligible for intern or trainee sponsorship through Cultural Vistas.
What documents will Cultural Vistas issue to applicants?
Cultural Vistas will issue three important documents.
The first is the Training/Internship Placement Plan (DS‐7002). This is issued before approval of the program and must be signed by Cultural Vistas, the participant, and the host organization.
Upon approval of the participant and host organization applications, Cultural Vistas is authorized by the U.S. Department of State to issue the Certificate of Eligibility (DS‐2019) form to international exchange visitors to participate in either a training or internship.
Cultural Vistas also issues a receipt of payment for the mandatory federal SEVIS fee.
What is the Certificate of Eligibility (DS‐2019) document?
This is a legal document, which is issued by Cultural Vistas as a designated sponsor of the J‐1 Visa under the authority of the U.S. Department of State. The Certificate of Eligibility is the document that entitles and authorizes the exchange visitor participant to participate in on‐the‐job learning in the United States, and to receive wages for such activity. The Certificate of Eligibility is null and void if the exchange visitor does not obtain a J‐1 Visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for entry to the United States. The application for the J‐1 Visa can only be made once the Certificate of Eligibility has been issued, and application must be made through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas (preferably in the applicant’s home country).
Can applicants change status to a J‐1 Visa?
The J‐1 Visa is a non‐immigrant visa, which means that applicants must show ties to his or her home country. If an applicant is currently in the U.S., Cultural Vistas requires applicants to return to their home country. During this time, the applicant should either work or attend classes related to the proposed training. It should be noted that Cultural Vistas will not issue any documents to someone who is in the United States. They must leave the country to apply for a J‐1 Visa.
How can I find out about changes in the regulations or processes that may affect my J‐1 Visa program?
Cultural Vistas is constantly monitoring changes in the regulations that govern the J‐1 Visa and communicates these changes online at culturalvistas.org.
Does my host organization have to pay me overtime?
Not necessarily. Overtime is usually earned after 40 hours per week, and it is typically earned at 1‐1/2 times base rate of pay.
There are two types of positions in the United States: “exempt” or “non‐exempt.” Anyone deemed an “exempt” employee will earn a set wage to perform a particular job, while a “non‐exempt” employee earns a wage for the actual time they work. The determination is based upon the position, not the individual.
Therefore, in a J‐1 program, if a position held by a U.S. employee is considered “exempt,” then J‐1 participants in that same position will be considered “exempt,” and so on in the case of “non‐exempt” positions.
U.S. organizations are not required to pay overtime to “exempt” employees. On the other hand, participants who are considered “non‐exempt” are eligible for overtime. Determination of overtime varies by organization and by state.
Can a host organization pay me a bonus?
Yes. There are no regulations that prohibit participants from earning a bonus during their program.
Does the organization have to provide the participant with paid vacation or paid sick leave during the program period?
No. U.S. organizations are not legally required to offer their employees any leave with pay, including vacation and sick time. Therefore, U.S. organizations are not legally required to offer J‐1 participants any type of leave with pay.
Participants are subject to the leave policies of their specific host organizations. In most cases, participants will have to “earn” paid vacation and sick time. That is, participants will be eligible for paid leave only after spending a certain period of time with the host organization.
As a guide, in the United States, new employees typically earn one to two weeks of vacation in their first year of employment. Therefore, participants should not expect any more than two weeks of vacation during their program period in the United States.
Do participants have to pay taxes?
Participants who earn income from a U.S. source must pay federal, state, and local income taxes. State income tax rates vary (and some states do not have an income tax), but the federal income tax is indexed by the level of the wage. Participants should expect to pay about 25 percent of their gross salary in federal income taxes. The organization will automatically deduct federal and state income taxes from the paycheck. Participants do not pay Social Security and Medicare taxes (FICA) or Federal Unemployment tax (FUTA) because they are not eligible for these benefits. Generally, all J‐1 Visa holders are considered non‐residents. Participants must file both a federal income tax return and a state income tax return (if there is a state income tax). These returns must be filed by April 15 for each year they earn income in the United States. For example, if the program lasts from July 3, 2015 to July 2, 2016, participants will have to file tax returns for two years. In this example, participants must file the first return by April 15, 2016, for income earned in 2015, and must file the second return by April 15, 2017, for the income earned in 2016. Participants will use either the form 1040NR‐EZ or form 1040NR to file their federal tax return. These forms are available after January 1 at Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offices, at local public libraries, or from the IRS website at irs.gov.
Information about forms used to file tax returns for state income taxes can be found after January 1 at local public libraries or from the state’s tax website.
Can participants work a second job?
Trainees and Interns may NOT work a second job. The J‐1 Visa for on‐the‐job learning allows participants to legally earn a wage only from the organization listed on the DS‐2019 form. Participants cannot legally earn a wage at any other organization during their program, and would not be authorized to be at a workplace other than the one for which the program is approved, as indicated on the Certificate of Eligibility.
How do I use the health insurance that Cultural Vistas provides?
Please see the Health Insurance Information Guide for more detailed information.
Participants should always carry the health insurance card with them. If participants are in an accident or need medical attention unexpectedly, they will need to show proof of coverage under a health insurance policy. Except in potentially life threatening medical emergencies, clinics, doctors, and hospitals will ask to see the health insurance card before treatment is administered.
Procedures for payment of medical treatment vary, but participants should expect to have at least some out‐of‐pocket costs for each medical treatment they receive.
Please note that pregnancy is not covered by the Cultural Vistas health insurance policy. Any pregnancy related medical expenses would be incurred at the expense of the participant and/or spouse.
Who is the sponsor when participants are in the United States?
Cultural Vistas is the legal visa sponsor during the J‐1 program. All decisions about participants’ visa status during the J‐1 program are made by Cultural Vistas, not by the host employer.
How do I contact Cultural Vistas?
Contact Cultural Vistas by telephone at 212‐497‐3500, by mail at 440 Park Avenue South, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10016, or by e‐mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What must I do when I arrive in the United States?
Participants must contact Cultural Vistas here to confirm the date of arrival, and must provide Cultural Vistas with the current residential address, telephone number and e‐mail address within 5 days of arrival.
Cultural Vistas must confirm arrival with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within 30 days of the date listed in line #3 of the Form DS‐2019, otherwise Cultural Vistas will be forced to withdraw sponsorship.
Participants who do not have a Social Security number will need to apply for one in order to be added to the host employer’s payroll. See www.ssa.gov for information about applying for a Social Security card. Make sure to bring proof of identity, as well as the I‐94 card and the Form DS‐2019.
On the first day of the J‐1 program, the participants will be asked to complete an I‐9 form and W‐4 form in order to enroll in the host employer’s payroll. Make sure to bring the Form DS‐2019. If you did not receive a paper version of your I‐94 it can be obtained at cbp.gov/I94. Please see instructions herein for tax information.
What documents must I keep with me?
Participants should always carry their I‐94 record and the Form DS‐2019. The I‐94 is the document that confirms participants have legally entered the United States. The Form DS‐2019 is the document that confirms that participants are in the United States legally on a J‐1 Visa, and entitled to be at a workplace on a J‐1 program. Therefore, it is important that participants have both documents with them at all times so they can prove they are legally in the United States on a J‐1 Visa.
How do participants apply for a Social Security number/card?
If participants do not have a U.S. Social Security number, they will have to apply for a Social Security card. They will need to travel to the local office of the Social Security Administration (SSA). These are located in major cities, as well as in the county seats of all U.S. counties. Participants can find address information by searching ssa.gov. Participants must carry their passport, the I‐94 record, and the Form DS‐2019 with them for identification purposes. They should also bring the copy of their birth certificate in case the SSA needs to further confirm their identity. Participants will complete an application for a Social Security card and will have to show these documents to prove their identity. Please note that participants need to submit their arrival information for validation (U.S. address, etc.) prior to applying for a Social Security Number.
Participants should prepare to spend at least one hour applying for their Social Security card. Depending on the number of people who have come to the office on that day, participants will likely find a long line of customers in front of them. (The Social Security Administration manages benefits to senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and those individuals who rely on publicly funded health insurance.) Participants will likely be asked to take a number and wait for the number to be called. Once called, participants will submit their application and show their I‐94 record and Form DS‐2019. The customer service agent will make copies of these forms, and return the original copies. Participants should not leave the original of the I‐94 or the Form DS‐2019 with the customer service agent.
For security purposes, the customer service agent is required to confirm participants’ arrival information in the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, which receives information from the Department of Homeland Security. Once an applicant is verified in this database, the Social Security Administration can process that individual’s application. Participants will get a receipt indicating that they have applied for the Social Security card, and that they will receive the card within two to four weeks.
If the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been slow to update its records, the customer service agent may not be able to confirm the information. In that case, participants will be given a receipt that they have applied for a Social Security card, but that the Social Security Administration was not able to confirm their security clearance. The Social Security Administration will have to make a formal inquiry to DHS about their records, a process that can take four to six weeks. Participants can be added to their host employer’s payroll without a Social Security number. They can show the receipt of having applied for the card, and the host employer will be able to use a “dummy number” to enroll them on the payroll until they get their number. Participants must give their host employer their Social Security number as soon as they know it.
Do participants need a Social Security number in order to begin their training?
No. Participants can be added to their host organization’s payroll without a Social Security Number. They can show the receipt of having applied for the card, and the host organization will be able to use a “dummy number” to enroll them on the payroll until they get their number. Participants must give their host organization their Social Security Number as soon as they receive it.
Can participants change their location of training?
No. Information about participants’ location of training is listed on their Form DS‐2019. As applicants are entering the United States for on‐the‐job training in a specific field at a specific location, they will not be able to change training locations. If financial or other conditions with the host employer change dramatically during the training program, participants must contact Cultural Vistas in order to determine if arrangements can be made to allow them to secure training at a different site. However, as the visa sponsor, only Cultural Vistas can make a decision on a change in training location. It is important to remember that participants can legally earn a wage only at the host employer listed on the Form DS‐2019.
Substantial penalties exist for both the employer and the participant if the participant is not legally authorized to earn a wage at that employer.
What if a participant loses his or her Certificate of Eligibility (DS‐2019)?
Participants should contact Cultural Vistas immediately. Cultural Vistas will issue them a new Form DS‐2019 for a small administrative charge. They must always carry this document with them.
What if a participant was issued a paper I‐94 card and loses his or her I‐94 card?
Participants must apply to the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a new I‐94 card. It is important to remember that the I‐94 card is the document that the U.S. government uses to determine that participants legally entered the United States. Without this card, participants have no proof that they have legally entered the United States, and will be subject to deportation. To obtain a replacement card, participants will complete and submit the I‐102 form to USCIS. They will be asked to pay a fee to replace a lost I‐94 card. Participants should also contact Cultural Vistas immediately to inform us that they have lost their I‐94 card.
What if a participant loses his or her passport?
Participants’ passports are a valuable form of identification, and, if lost or stolen, can be used by someone else. Passports will also contain participants’ J‐1 Visas issued by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate (except for Canadian citizens). Participants should immediately contact the nearest embassy or consulate of their country of citizenship located in the U.S. to inquire about applying for a replacement passport. Participants will be able to obtain new passports while remaining in the United States.
Please note that if participants travel outside of the United States (including Canada and Mexico) after they have obtained a replacement passport, they must obtain a new J‐1 Visa before they will be allowed to re‐enter the United States (because their new passport will not have the J‐1 Visa in it).
If the I‐94 card was inside the lost passport, participants must remember that they will have to apply for a replacement I‐94 card (see above). If the Form DS‐2019 was inside the lost passport, participants must remember that they will have to obtain a replacement Form DS‐2019 from Cultural Vistas.
Participants should contact Cultural Vistas immediately to notify us that they have lost their passport.
Can participants travel outside the United States during the training program?
Participants are able to travel outside of the United States during the training program for up to 30 consecutive days. Before they travel, participants must send the Form DS‐2019 to Cultural Vistas for a signature. The signature confirms that the participant continues to be sponsored by Cultural Vistas, and they should not be questioned at the border when returning. The signature is valid for one year.
You must have a valid multiple entry visa in your passport to re‐enter the United States. If you have a single entry visa, or if your visa has expired, contact Cultural Vistas well in advance of your trip so that necessary documentation can be provided.
When traveling to Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days, if the participant received an I‐94 card, participants do not surrender the I‐94 card at the border. Participants can keep the card and show it to the border official when they return. It is important for participants to make sure they can enter Canada or Mexico without a visa. Remember that the J‐1 Visa is only valid for the United States. And, while U.S. citizens do not need a visa to visit Canada or Mexico, the participant’s home country may have separate visa requirements for travel into Mexico or Canada. Participants do not need to obtain a travel validation signature for travel to Canada or Mexico.
What if a participant changes his or her home address?
It is imperative that Cultural Vistas maintain an accurate, current home address for all participants in the United States. Participants must notify Cultural Vistas of any address changes within 10 business days, or risk losing visa status.
How should a participant notify Cultural Vistas that he or she has moved to a different address, or if he or she has a different telephone number or e‐mail address?
Participants should contact Cultural Vistas here.
How long can participants stay in the United States after the training program?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) currently allows individuals to legally remain in the United States for 30 days after the end date indicated on their DS‐2019 (Certificate of Eligibility). It is very important to comply with this regulation. If a participant’s training program ends before the end date indicated on the DS‐2019, he or she should contact Cultural Vistas. Anyone who remains in the United States beyond their legal status, even for one day, is subject to stiff penalties if the individual ever wants to return to the United States.
Can a participant stay in the United States as a tourist after his or her training program?
If a participant wants to travel around the United States for more than 30 days after his or her training program has been completed, he or she should exit the United States and reenter on a tourist visa. Tourists visa requirements vary based on citizenship, participants should consult the Department of State website for details.
Please note that the participant cannot remain on the payroll of his or her host employer beyond the last day of the training program that is noted on the Form DS‐2019. Substantial penalties exist for both the participant and the employer if he or she is not legally authorized to earn a wage at that employer.
Can I change status from a J-1 visa to another visa, such as an H-1B visa, at the end of the program?
The J‐1 Visa is a non‐immigrant visa, which means that participants are supposed to leave the U.S. at the end of the program.
As part of Cultural Vistas’ sponsorship, the participant and host employer sign the obligations and responsibilities form confirming that the participant does not intend to abandon his or her non-immigrant status.
Can a participant have a second J‐1 training program?
Yes, under certain conditions. For both trainees and interns, additional training and internship programs must address the development of more advanced skills or a different field of expertise. Interns may participate in additional internship programs as long as they maintain student status or begin a new internship program within 12 months of graduation. Trainees are eligible for additional training programs after a period of at least two years residency outside the United States following their initial training program.
Can someone participate in a training program right after an internship?
No. Participants who have successfully completed an internship program and no longer meet the selection criteria for internship programs have to reside outside of the United States for two years before they can apply for a training position.
Can a participant extend his or her training program?
The maximum time allowed on the J‐1 Visa for on‐the‐job training is 18 months. The maximum time allowed on the J‐1 Intern Visa is 12 months. If a participant has entered the United States for a six‐month training program, and he or she and the host employer find it would be valuable for him or her to continue the training program for another 12 months, Cultural Vistas can process an extension to the program. Please note that Cultural Vistas charges a fee to extend a program, and requires submission of a training plan for the extension period of the program. The extension approval period may take 2‐3 weeks, therefore please plan accordingly to apply for an extension in advance of the original program end date. For information on how to request an extension, please contact Cultural Vistas by email at email@example.com.
What is the two‐year home‐country physical presence requirement?
An exchange visitor is subject to the two‐year home country physical presence requirement under the following conditions:
- Your J‐1 Visa program is funded in whole or in part directly or indirectly by the U.S. government or the government of your nationality or last residence.
- You are a national or permanent resident of a country which has deemed your field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of the country, as shown on the Exchange Visitor Skills List.
Whether you are subject to this rule will be determined by the consular officer and indicated on your J Visa.
Who is considered an eligible dependent?
Dependents must be spouses or children of the J‐1 Visa holder. Common law marriages are not recognized and are not eligible for J‐2 Dependent Visas. The age limit for dependents is 21.
What happens if a child is born to a participant during the J‐1 program?
The Cultural Vistas health insurance policy does not cover pregnancy. If a participant decides to remain in the United States while pregnant, they will have to pay for all the medical care themselves, which can be very expensive. All children born to participants in a Cultural Vistas J‐1 program must be covered by a valid health insurance policy within 30 days of the birth of the child. Dependent children can be enrolled into the health insurance program offered by Cultural Vistas at an additional cost, or they must be enrolled into a health insurance policy that meets the minimum requirements established by the U.S. Department of State.
Children born in the United States are considered to be citizens of the United States. J‐1 participants who wish to maintain their children’s U.S. citizenship should arrange to obtain a U.S. passport for children born in the United States prior to the end of their J‐1 program.
Can the spouse of a participant work?
Yes. Upon arriving in the United States, a dependent spouse who has a valid J‐2 Visa is able to apply for work authorization through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Dependents on a J‐2 Visa are eligible to apply for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) under the provisions of Category 274a.12(c). When making application, the most important thing to show is that the J‐2 dependent spouse does not need to work to financially support the J‐1 Visa participant.
Please note that the time for USCIS to process an application for work authorization varies considerably depending on the region of the United States in which the application is processed. J‐2 dependent spouses should expect at least a 60‐day wait for employment authorization. Such an application is usually made on I‐765 form along with the appropriate application fee and a statement of family expenses. The most up‐to‐date information on filing fees and where to file the Form I‐765 can be found on the USCIS website. The statement of family expenses may include customary recreational and cultural activities and related travel. The I‐94 record of the participant and the I‐94 record of the family member applying for work permission should be submitted with the I‐765 form. If permission for the
employment is granted, it is valid for any kind of employment without limitation as to full‐time or part‐time. Work permission for a J‐2 dependent expires at the same time as the authorized stay noted on the J‐1 Visa holder’s Certificate of Eligibility.
Whereas Social Security and federal unemployment taxes are not deducted from the earnings of a J‐1 participant, they are deducted from the earnings of J‐2 dependents, because their services are not performed “to carry out a purpose for which the individual was admitted.” Therefore, J‐2 dependents are subject to Social Security and federal unemployment taxes, federal income taxes, and, where applicable, state and local income taxes.
Please note that Cultural Vistas is not involved in the J‐2 dependent spouse’s application for work authorization.