Our J-1 Visa participants come from all over the world to train in the United States. We asked our participants what housing advice they have for future J-1 interns and trainees. Here are their top five tips, based on their experiences, on how to find housing for international interns.
1) Location, Location, Location
Individuals who move to the United States for internships and traineeships understand the importance of location. Whether it be the distance to the closest bus or train stop, distance to work, or the time it takes to walk/drive to the closest grocery store, location is important.
Some key suggestions from participants are to explore the area that you are interested in living in terms of finding out the different public transportation options and how long your commute will be to your host company. One J-1 trainee living in Louisville, Kentucky suggested living “near nice shops and restaurants to spend time on weekends.” Sometimes that is better rather than being five minutes away from your office. Another J-1 intern in the Bay Area recommends to check the location carefully on a map and get an idea of commuting time and cost. “It might look close, but is actually far away and traffic can be very bad at peak hours.”
One great tool that participants have suggested is to find out the walking score of your area. See how long it will take you to walk to shops around your neighborhood.
2) Do your research early!
Depending on your start date and your city, housing options may go very fast, especially during the summer months. Doing your research early can really help when moving to a new area. If you have not secured housing prior to entering the United States, having an idea of where you would like to live can really help streamline the process. Some tips from participants include to “start looking for housing as early as possible. I did it and was able to get a good place, near the office and at a relatively good price,” states a J-1 intern in San Bruno, California.
Please note that you should not send money from abroad for housing to unknown parties. Most apartment complexes and rental companies will not need payment until after you have signed the leasing documents. It is better to stay with a friend or stay in a hostel for the first few weeks to avoid scams rather than sending money.
3) Ask others
One of the easiest ways to get housing advice in your future city is to ask colleagues, other interns/trainees, and other contacts you know in the United States. Often these individuals have a wealth of knowledge and information and can provide you with the best advice. One intern says to “ask for help from former trainees or your colleagues” because they can provide the best information about neighborhoods convenient to your office. Another J-1 Trainee in Clark, New Jersey was able to secure housing after having “asked my colleagues a lot and ended up staying with one of the other trainees. I think that it is difficult to plan or even rent something from home, so wait until you arrive and ask your colleagues what to do and where to stay away from.”
Check out our Cultural Vistas regional Facebook groups for San Francisco, Boston, New York City, Detroit, and Seattle for J-1 interns and trainees to connect with other international students and young professionals, ask for housing tips, and find other resources.
4) Keep tabs on online postings and resources
Online postings are a great way to find housing once you’ve decided on a location. You can search by and look for housing with roommates. Many of our participants use these websites in order to find their new homes in the United States. One J-1 intern in New York City advises that you “book a room before you leave (AirBnB or other sites are good solutions) to be covered at least for your arrival. Then, if you want to change or it is too expensive, you can take a look in person at the apartments when you are in the U.S.” Here are some popular housing websites you can browse:
- Craigslist is the most commonly recommended website by our current and past participants. You can typically find a wide assortment of housing options posted (studio, 1-bedroom, shared apartments/houses). You search by what type of housing you are looking for (house or apartment), and then see them on a map and search by neighborhood.
- AirBnB is a website where homeowners list their own apartments or homes for rent. You can rent a room in an apartment, a complete apartment, or even just a spot on a couch. These options can be more expensive, but they are fully-furnished and you can rent them on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
- Apartments.com is another website similar to Craigslist where you are able to search for housing by neighborhood.
- Zillow allows you to search by neighborhood and look at the pictures on the site in order to get a feel for different neighborhoods.
5) Live with roommates
Our participants have nothing but great things to say about living with roommates. From making housing cheaper by sharing rent and utilities, to sharing furniture and housing items, having roommates helps relieve some of the stress of moving to the United States.
“I am living with 2 roommates, so I can share the rent and I had the chance to get to know local people who are as well interested in my culture. We can cook together, we go to restaurants together, and we can share our cultures and stories from both countries,” says a J-1 Trainee in Los Angeles, California.
Other J-1 participants have said that roommates can be instant friends to do weekend activities with and practice English conversation. However, keep in mind that not all roommates will be interested in friendship.
General Information on Housing for International Interns
College/University Housing: Many colleges and universities throughout the United States will open up their dormitories in the summer for college students and interns. Search for schools in your area to see if this could be an option. In New York City, both Columbia and New York University rent out their dorm rooms. In Washington, D.C., check out the options at George Washington University.
Security: Having security in your building is an added safety measure. Many buildings have strict, controlled-access points to ensure that people who do not live in the building are not able to enter. Some buildings have a front desk with is staffed during the day or 24/7. It is important to take into consideration the security of the apartment building for added safety.
Security deposit: The money a tenant must present up front as a form of collateral for the apartment or house—usually one or two month’s rent. For example, if your rent is $1,000 per/month you may have to pay $1,000-$3,000 up front the first day you move in.
Applications: When applying for an apartment there are many items that you may have to show in order to be approved for the apartment. These items include but are not limited to proof of income (pay stub or letter of employment), proof of good renters history, bank information to ensure you have enough funding along with other additional information.
Hostels: If you have not found housing, or are only going to be in an area for a short amount of time, hostels are great for low-cost temporary housing. Hostels are a good place to meet young people while staying in a shared, often dormitory-style bedroom with a shared bathroom. Here are three of the most popular hostel organizations to explore.
Homestays: Organizing a homestay is also an option for short or long-term housing. Here are a few websites to help find a homestay in the United States:
Current participants: Remember that you must notify Cultural Vistas of your new address within 10 days of any change in living situations to ensure that you contact information is updated in both Cultural Vistas and the U.S. government databases. Make sure to check out our website for additional resources for current participants. You can change your U.S. address through this link.
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