The Korea WEST exchange program provides top South Korean university students and young professionals the opportunity to intern, complete an intensive English study program, and explore the life and culture of the United States through immersion and independent travel.
As part of Cultural Vistas’ sponsorship, WEST scholars come to the United States for up to 18 months on a J-1 visa for a personalized exchange experience which includes:
Formal English language instruction and cultural training (up to four months)
Career-focused internship with U.S. host company (between four to 12 months)
Independent travel (up to 30 days following successful internship)
Cultural Vistas’ Korea WEST program is a joint initiative of the Republic of Korea and the U.S. Department of State. Since 2009, Cultural Vistas has provided over 1,250 students and young professionals with the opportunity to enrich their academic studies and advance their careers through Korea WEST.
Korea WEST candidates are South Korean students who have completed at least two years of university study, recent graduates, and young professionals who are nominated by the Korean Ministry of Education (MOE) after a rigorous application and screening process.
After MOE’s nomination, candidates must apply to Cultural Vistas for J-1 visa sponsorship and complete an English-language interview to receive final approval and MOE’s acceptance to participate in the program in the United States for up to 18 months.
The Korea WEST program includes:
Up to four months of study in a well-respected English language program
Guaranteed placement in a professional internship matches one’s field of study
Cultural and educational activities and professional networking events
Comprehensive medical insurance coverage, including free access to Talkspace online therapy and counseling
Ongoing guidance from our dedicated Korea West program team, including: Pre-departure virtual orientation conducted by Cultural Vistas staff; cultural immersion and orientation seminar upon your arrival; assistance coordinating and preparing for interviews; and 24-hour emergency support and assistance
Korea WEST candidates must pay a program fee to participate. This fee covers tuition for language school studies, select participant events, and internship sponsorship, including personalized placements, host employer vetting, health insurance, visa sponsorship application, and SEVIS fee.
A refund is available should a candidate choose not to participate in the program after payment. Information on refunds is included in the Korea WEST application.
Candidates must first be accepted by MOE to the Korea WEST program.
Once accepted, we will review your skills and experience and begin identifying internship opportunities. We draw on a vast network of partners across the U.S. to provide placements relevant to your field of study, experience, and professional interest. Placements are with companies of all sizes and industries, including:
Small and medium-sized private companies
Non-governmental and nonprofit organizations
Federal, state, or city government administrations
Please note that we cannot guarantee placements with a particular company or in a specific location. Our obligation to you as your Korea WEST sponsor is to find you a suitable offer that matches your academic background and professional experience and meets the qualifications for a suitable Korea WEST internship.
We thoroughly investigate all potential host employers to ensure they are reputable and offer a substantive professional training opportunity. In addition, we will arrange and coordinate interviews with potential host companies, conduct a resume workshop to provide resume support, including templates to create an American resume, and assist with interview preparation.
Once you are selected by a host employer, we will present you with an official internship offer. Korea WEST interns are expected to attend all scheduled interviews and accept your official interview offer in writing as required for the J-1 visa.
2 Months of English Study
4 Months of English Study
4 Month Internship
8-12 Month Internship
1 Month Independent Travel
1 Month Independent Travel
Internship Placement Duration Most internships last between six to 12 months. The length of internship positions varies based on host company requirements. The Compact WEST program provides internships for four months.
Travel in the United States Upon successful completion of their professional internship, Korea WEST participants have 30 days to travel independently throughout the United States. While travel is allowed during language school and internships, it should not conflict with one’s language training or internship.
Hosting a Korea WEST intern can bring numerous benefits to your company, including fresh and diverse perspectives, mutually beneficial skills development, increased productivity, brand ambassadorship, and advancement of your ICDEI initiatives.
The exchange of culture, knowledge, and perspectives between U.S. staff and Korea WEST interns is often invaluable. The benefits of hosting Korea WEST interns include:
Free* access to skilled talent from some of the best universities in the world. Interns are available 32 to 40 hours per week from 4 to 12 months. (There is no program fee for host companies.)
Pre-screened interns with the skills necessary to support your projects, including English-language skills
J-1 visa sponsorship with all necessary visa documents, pre-arrival, on-program, and post-program support to both you and your interns.
The Korea WEST program is a J-1 visa program. To participate, a Korea WEST host employer is expected to provide a meaningful experience that enhances the interns’ professional skills and provide insight into American business practice and culture.
Your role is, first and foremost, to provide an effective and well-rounded program. In addition, your company will need to provide the following:
An English-speaking environment
A suitable office space
A designated supervisor
Work that is no more that 20% clerical in nature
A 32 to 40-hour work week that offers no more than two days of remote work
Further official paperwork e.g. Tax ID Number, Worker’s Compensation
Complete a mid-program and final evaluation.
*Cultural Vistas encourages host companies to offer some form of payment or stipend to support your interns while they are in the U.S.
For complete eligibility requirements and additional Korea WEST program information, contact our Korea WEST team.
Inside the Korea West Experience
English Study Locations
Participants are placed in four-month intensive language training programs in one of two major U.S. cities: New York City or Washington, D.C.
Each training program features a comprehensive curriculum focused not only on building English language proficiency, but also with assisting participants to develop the confidence and skills, both interpersonal and professional, necessary to succeed in any business environment.
Live and study in one of the world’s most diverse and influential cities: New York. Through its partnership with Kaplan International, Cultural Vistas provides Korea WEST participants with the opportunity to advance their English language skills and begin immersing themselves in American culture – right in the heart of bustling Manhattan!
At Kaplan, Korea WEST participants study together with students from all over the world in SoHo, a trendy, student-centered neighborhood in the middle of the Big Apple. English language courses are taught by experienced English teachers, and all classrooms are equipped with smartboards. Students will be placed in morning or afternoon classes, and will take part in Business English courses.
Live and study just blocks away from world leaders in the multicultural hub of U.S. politics: Washington, D.C. Through its partnership with the International Language Institute (ILI), Cultural Vistas provides Korea WEST participants with the opportunity to advance their English language abilities and begin immersing themselves in American culture in the nation’s capital.
Located in the heart of Washington, D.C., ILI has provided quality language instruction to thousands of students from around the world since 1970. ILI’s intensive ESL program consists of five hours of daily classes daily, Monday through Friday. Business English courses are held two times a week and focus on academic writing, presentation skills, career management, and American cultural orientation. Korea WEST participants attend classes that are exclusive to the program, as well as ones where they are integrated with ILI students from around the world.
Korea WEST participants are nominated and competitively selected by the South Korean Ministry of Education (MOE). Prospective candidates cannot apply directly to the program through Cultural Vistas.
Korea WEST candidates must pass a rigorous application and screening process conducted by MOE. After receiving MOE’s nomination, candidates then apply for Cultural Vistas’ sponsorship. After conducting an English-language virtual interview with all nominated candidates, Cultural Vistas submits the list of accepted candidates to MOE for final approval.
If you are accepted to the Korea WEST Program, Cultural Vistas will provide you with all the necessary documentation you will need to apply for a visa to the United States.
As a J-1 Visa sponsor designated by the Department of State, Cultural Vistas will issue the necessary form (DS-2019) for your in-person visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Korea. Cultural Vistas and the Korean Talent Support Team (KTST) will provide detailed instructions upon your acceptance to the program.
As a Korea WEST participant, you receive a J-1 Visa that allows you to stay in the United States for up to seven, 12 or 18 months depending on which type of program you take part in. It is not possible to extend your visa past the 18 months originally assigned to you. There are no exceptions. The goal of the Korea WEST program is for you to gain skills in the United States that you can take home to Korea to contribute to the growth of your nation.
The U.S. government grants participants special permission to enter the United States as official guests sponsored by the Korean government, and it is important for the sake of diplomatic relations between our two nations that you graciously honor the terms of your visa arrangement.
Korea WEST participants are subject to a “two-year rule” because they have entered the United States on a J-1 Visa through the sponsorship of their own government. Under this rule, participants are not eligible to return for another training or work Visa until they have spent two full years out of the United States. This is intended to reinforce the understanding that J-1 exchange programs are meant for participants to return to their home country with improved skills and experience.
During the two-year period after your Korea WEST program, you may return to the United States anytime for tourism; if you become an international student or exchange student of a U.S. university, you may also enter the US through the university’s sponsorship. If you wish to enter the United States on a training or work visa before the end of the two year period, you must apply to the U.S. government for a waiver.
Most internships last between six to 12 months. The length of internship positions varies based on host company requirements. The Compact WEST program provides internships for four months.
If you and your supervisor agree to change the details of your internship (dates, duties, pay, supervisor) you and your supervisor must inform Cultural Vistas so that a new internship training plan can be signed. Cultural Vistas will always encourage you to find ways to succeed in your internship if you are having problems, and we will always place a top priority on your safety and well-being. Our team is highly-skilled in workplace conflict resolution techniques, and we will gladly advise you on how to work with your supervisor to improve your internship if you are having difficulties.
For the 18 month program, if you still have several months remaining on your J-1 Visa after completing your internship obligations, you may independently search for another internship. Cultural Vistas will be unable to assist you with your search. After you successfully receive a new internship offer, please contact Cultural Vistas before you begin working. We will need to speak with your future supervisor to verify the appropriateness of the internship. You will have 30 days after successfully completing your previous internship to begin your new internship. If you do not begin a new internship within 30 days, you must return to Korea and end your WEST program.
Cultural Vistas will coordinate with your new Host Employer to create a DS-7002 form (internship/training plan). After the host employer completes and signs the DS-7002, Cultural Vistas will send participants the form, which must be signed and returned to be approved. A new DS-2019 (work eligibility document) is then created and mailed along with the DS-7002 to your employer’s office for you to pick up when you arrive for your internship. A digital copy of your DS-7002 will also be provided to participants.
The English language training program is essential to the success of the Korea WEST program. Cultural Vistas has ensured that our language school partners provide first-rate instruction and service to our participants, and we expect that all WEST participants will take full advantage of this excellent learning opportunity by completing the entire duration of language training. All Cultural Vistas’ Korea WEST internships will begin after the required language training has been completed.
For the language training portion of the Korea WEST program, Cultural Vistas works with its program partners to recommend and provide participants with resources regarding suitable housing options, including information on accommodations at nearby universities or home stays with U.S. host families. Participants should secure housing only for the language training portion because internship locations vary.
Participants are responsible for finding their own housing during the internship portion of the program. Cultural Vistas staff will provide resources to help with your housing search.
Cultural Vistas conducts pre-departure webinars to provide more detailed information on how to find housing, transportation, language schools, and other logistics prior to entering the United States.
Yes, you must inform Cultural Vistas as soon as possible anytime you change any of your contact information. According to the U.S. Department of State regulations, Cultural Vistas must always have your current contact information in our records. Please tell us your new address, phone number, and e-mail address anytime you change your information. This is extremely important, especially if we need to contact you in the event of an emergency.
If you wish to travel outside of the United States, you will need to have your DS-2019 signed by a Cultural Vistas representative before traveling abroad, and take this document with you along with your passport. While travel is allowed during language school and internships, it should not conflict with your language training or internship.
You cannot find and apply for your own internship on the WEST Program. Our team will match you to an appropriate internship at a Cultural Vistas host company based on your major and experience.
Information on Korea WEST host companies can be provided by the Korean Ministry of Education in their recruitment materials.
Discover how an exchange program can connect you with others, increase global skills, and drive positive change in the world.