10 Things To Know When Preparing to Intern in the United States

You’ve gone through the process of submitting your documents, you’ve reviewed things over and over again and finally your application has been approved for visa sponsorship with Cultural Vistas!  Congratulations!  You’re now one step closer to starting your J-1 internship or training program in the United States.  But what comes next?

At Cultural Vistas, we are committed to providing support throughout your exchange program.  We want to help you to navigate through the process of applying for your visa.  We facilitated exchanges for over 4,600 students and professionals last year alone, and we are here to help your process go smoothly too.

Passport full of visas Photo credit: J Aaron Farr

Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions for those who have been approved for sponsorship with Cultural Vistas and are ready for the next steps.

Q: I’m a Canadian citizen, do I need to apply for a visa at the consulate?

If you’re Canadian, we have good news for you!  In this case, you do not need to attend a consulate appointment.  Proceed directly to the border when you are ready to start your internship with your passport, DS-2019, DS-7002 forms, and SEVIS I-901 receipt.  You’ll receive a visa stamp when you cross the border.

Q: I’m from a country other than Canada and I’ve just received my documents from Cultural Vistas. I’m anxious to get started! Can I leave tomorrow?

We’re glad you’re excited, but you have a few more steps before starting your internship!  You still need to apply for your visa appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country.  Start by using the information from your approval email in order to fill out the DS-160 form.  Check out our orientation site (included in your approval email) for more detailed information.

Q: Will I have to wait a long time for my appointment?

The appointment wait time depends on where you are.  Consulate wait times vary by city and country.  The Department of State updates its website daily and lists approximate wait times by city.  Keep in mind that these estimates can change, but provide a good idea of how long you can expect to wait.

Grand Canyon, Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn

Q: I’ve booked my consulate appointment and I can’t wait to arrive in the United States!  Should I go ahead and book my flight?

The enthusiasm is great, but we highly recommend that you wait until you after you receive your visa to book your flight.  Sometimes there are unpredictable delays in consulate processing.  It’s best to wait until you have your visa in hand, just to be safe.

Q: Can I apply for the visa in a country other than my citizenship country?

You should apply for your visa in the country where you have the strongest home ties.  If you are a resident of or studying in a country that is different than your country of citizenship, you may be eligible to apply for your visa in that country.  If you have questions about your eligibility to apply for your visa in a country that is not your home country, please reach out to the U.S. consulate for more information about your situation.

Cultural Vistas staff and J-1 interns ice skate in Washington D.C.

Q: Can I enter the United States as a tourist and apply for my visa while I am there?

Unfortunately, this is not an option.  Because you must enter the United States on your J-1 Visa, you must apply outside of it.  We recommend that you apply in the country where you have the strongest home ties.  It is not possible to apply for your visa in the United States.

Q: Is there a cost to schedule a visa appointment?

Yes, when you are filling out the DS-160 form, you will be required to submit a $160 payment online directly to the U.S. Department of State.

Q: My dog ate my DS-2019 form.  Do I really need it?

Don’t let your dog eat your visa! Photo Credit: Georgie Pauwels

Yes, the DS-2019 is a very important document!  You must present the original document during your consulate appointment and when you cross the border.  If your DS-2019 is lost, damaged, or stolen before you enter the country or at any point during your internship, please let your designated Cultural Vistas representative know as soon as possible.  A replacement fee may apply.

Q: Obtaining my visa is taking longer than expected, can I change my training or internship dates?

If you are afraid that you won’t be able to start your program as planned, be sure to keep your designated Cultural Vistas representative updated on the situation.  As long as your host company agrees, you can adjust your training dates up until when you enter the United States.  It’s important to let your Cultural Vistas contact know that you would like your dates changed before you enter the United States.

Q: I’m worried about adjusting to life in a new country.  Does Cultural Vistas provide any resources?

Cultural Vistas interns in San Francisco enjoy a fall boat cruise

Of course! Our orientation materials are designed to help ease the adjustment process and are essential to review before beginning your program.  Additionally, our staff hosts cultural, educational, and networking events throughout the year all across the country that are designed to help you get to know fellow interns, American alumni of our overseas programs, and our staff on a more personal level. It is our job as your sponsor to look out for your health, safety, and well-being at all times, so if you worries persist after arriving here – you can always call on us for counsel.

The U.S. Department of State is another great resource for information. In addition, your host company and colleagues can often provide you with information on the local area where your will be living or put you in contact with past interns.  And don’t forget, we are always a phone call away!

Still have questions?  Check out other Frequently Asked Questions, reach out to your Cultural Vistas representative, or email us at