Take your teaching career to the next level with the Teach USA program. Teach USA provides experienced international educators with the opportunity to explore a new educational and cultural environment through full-time teaching positions in the United States.
Participants gain exposure to American teaching methods while host schools bring a fresh perspective and valuable viewpoints into U.S. classrooms.
Through its role as a U.S. Department of State-designated Exchange Visitor Program sponsor, Cultural Vistas can provide qualified individuals with the J-1 Visa necessary to pursue full-time paid teaching positions at accredited K-12 schools.
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.
Cultural Vistas can offer limited assistance to schools who are seeking international candidates. Contact us to learn more!
Once individuals secure a teaching position or host schools identify individuals they wish to bring to the United States, Cultural Vistas evaluates the prospective teacher and host school for eligibility. Upon program approval, our staff issues the relevant government form (DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility) allowing teachers to apply for the J-1 Visa. Our staff provides an array of resources and information to support both host schools and teachers throughout the duration of the exchange program.
- J-1 Visa sponsorship (up to three years) for qualified individuals for full-time paid teaching positions at accredited K-12 schools where a need for educators exists.
- Option to request extension for an additional two years.
- J-2 Dependent sponsorship for spouse or children to join J-1 teacher
- Options for expedited service guaranteeing completed applications are evaluated in five business days
- Medical insurance options for J-1 and J-2 which meet federal requirements
- 24-hour emergency support for participants and host schools
- Cultural and educational activities and networking events in select cities
- Access to free tax software for participants
- Program monitoring through a dedicated client relations team and regular evaluation
- Ongoing guidance throughout your program, including professional development resources or opportunities.
- Non-U.S. citizen
- Minimum of two years of full-time teaching experience at K-12 schools outside of the U.S.
- Is currently teaching at the time of application, or, if not has had at least two years of full-time teaching experience within the past eight years and is currently pursuing an advanced degree in education or the subject he or she plans to teach/has received such a degree within the 12 months prior to application with us
- Meets the qualifications for teaching in primary or secondary schools in his or her country of nationality or previous legal residence
- Must, at a minimum, possess the equivalent of a four-year university degree
- Satisfies the teaching standards of the U.S. state in which they will teach
- Formal written offer from an accredited U.S. primary or secondary school to a candidate
- English proficiency (as determined by online interview)
- Seeks to come to the United States for the purpose of teaching full-time, and share their culture, in an accredited primary or secondary school.
- Is of good reputation and character
Note: These are costs strictly related to obtaining the visa and to Cultural Vistas’s services. It is critical that teachers assess all expected costs for the program including the non-immigrant visa fee $160, rent, food, transportation, flight, cell phone, TV/internet, electricity, funds for emergencies and medical costs among others. Refer to this budgeting article for assistance on estimating these costs and planning for your arrival.
|3 to 12mo.||$1,750*|
|12 to 24mo.||$2,575*|
|24 to 36mo.||$3,400*|
|Standard SEVIS Fee||$220|
|Optional Health Insurance||$48 or $88 per month|
|Dependents Processing||$500 (regardless of number of dependents)|
|Expedite Fee||$500 (Call to discuss your case)|
|Family Insurance||$510 per month (all dependents)|
|Visa Extension||$825 (12 mo.)*|
$1650 (24 mo.)*
|Extension Beyond 3 Years||$1950*|
*Includes Medical Evacuation and Repatriation insurance for the J-1
Note: The fees listed here do not include fees assessed by Cultural Vistas’ partners with whom applicants may contract for additional services. These fees can range from $1,000 to upwards of $5,000 depending on the specific services they offer.
If a teacher is found ineligible for the program, Cultural Vistas will reimburse all but $500 of program fees paid. If teacher is approved for the program but denied a visa by the U.S. Embassy, program and SEVIS fees will be deemed non-refundable.
|Participant Status||Administration Fee||J-2 Visa Fee||Expedited Processing Fee||Health Insurance Fee||SEVIS Fee|
|Withdrawn before approval or rejected by Cultural Vistas||All but $500||100%||0%||100% *||100%|
|Cancelled after approval but before arrival||0%||0%||0%||100% *||0%|
* Health insurance administration fee is non-refundable and will be subtracted from any refund.
Scroll to the right for complete chart.
- Program Duration: Teachers are expected to start their program at the beginning of the school year. The duration of each teaching program is determined by the host school and can be for 1, 2, or 3 school years. The program cannot exceed three years without special permission from the Department of State.
- School: The school must be a public school (including public charter schools) or a private accredited primary or secondary school offering a position in grades Kindergarten through 12th grade. Schools may offer teaching positions in pre-kindergarten if they are part of a regular course of study in an accredited language-immersion K-12 institution.
- Positions: The J-1 Teacher program allows for full-time positions as teacher of record where the teacher is responsible for delivery of instruction, lesson planning, grading and assessment of student progress. Positions, including duties, responsibilities, hours of employment, and compensation must be commensurate with those of similarly situated teachers in the school or district. Teachers are expected to meet all applicable state licensing and background check requirements.
- Assistants, aides, administrative positions or other non-instructional positions are not permitted.
- Speech, Language and Hearing pathologists or other occupational services are not permitted.
- Special education teachers may qualify depending on the position.
- Teachers should be assigned to one school and cannot act as itinerant teachers
- Written Offer: The primary or secondary school in the United States must make a formal, written offer to the international candidate outlining the terms and conditions of employment, compensation and benefits, and all costs or deductions associated. (Schools must provide a copy of this offer as part of the application)
- Medical Insurance: Teachers and their dependents must maintain medical insurance that meets the specific requirements of the J-1 visa regulations and it is our responsibility to ensure they are covered on an appropriate policy at all times. Most school policies do not offer all the coverages that are required. New teacher applicants must purchase a policy from Cultural Vistas or alternate options provided by Cultural Vistas for at least the first year. Enrollment on a school policy may be substituted later if it meets requirements. Teachers are free to enroll in both school and CV policies to secure the coverage they desire.
- Taxes: Generally speaking, a J-1 teacher is likely considered to be a Non-Resident alien for tax purposes during the first two years. Thus, a teacher may move from Non-Resident to Resident over the course of their program and the withholdings from their paycheck may change. While a Non-Resident, the teacher should NOT pay FICA (Social Security and Medicare) or FUTA (Unemployment) taxes. Otherwise, J-1 teachers are subject to all other federal, state and local taxes unless exempted such as in accordance with country-specific tax treaties. It is important to note that J-1 visitors may be subject to the requirements of the PPACA which is also based on the teacher’s tax status. Cultural Vistas provides a free software for Non-Residents for federal tax returns which also allows the teacher to file state taxes where available for a fee.
*Schools that utilize recruitment partner organizations should contact Cultural Vistas. We are not permitted to work with unauthorized recruiters.
Participants in U.S. teacher exchange programs play an invaluable role in facilitating cross-cultural learning. As part of the Exchange Visitor Program, international teachers are expected to facilitate at least two opportunities for cross-cultural learning between their home country and the United States.
- One activity should highlight their home country’s culture with a U.S. audience. This can take place in the host classroom, school, or the local community.
- The other should create dialogue between American students and students in their home country through virtual or other means.
Teachers must report to Cultural Vistas annually on the details and impact of these activities. Host schools are expected to actively participate in and support teachers in these activities in order to amplify its impact on their students and communities.
The Teach USA Experience: Learn more about teaching in the U.S.
How to Apply
Complete applications (from the teacher and host school) need to be received no later than July 15. However, to ensure sufficient time to obtain the visa and avoid missing the start of school or the expedite fee, you should apply earlier.
Teachers should begin at the beginning of the academic year in August or September, but may be considered during the school year under special circumstances.
STEP 1: REQUEST + SUBMIT APPLICATION
Evaluation of the completed application will take place once both components are submitted to Cultural Vistas. We encourage you to apply as soon as you are able and to plan the entire process to obtain the J-1 visa may take 2 months. Applications are due July 15 at the latest. Please call to discuss expediting your case for an additional fee. Either party may start the application process.
Please submit an online individual application request. A Cultural Vistas staff member will review your request and send you instructions on how to complete your application online within 2 business days. Be prepared to submit official documentation which substantiates your education and employment qualifications.
Please download and submit a Host School Application to request sponsorship for your teacher. A staff member will reach out to with further instructions and schedule a call.
STEP 2: APPLICATION EVALUATION
Once you submit your application, Cultural Vistas evaluates your information and issues a sponsorship decision within approximately 4 weeks. During this step, a Cultural Vistas staff member may reach out with additional questions, to schedule a phone interview, or request additional documentation. Payment of Cultural Vistas fees is due prior to a decision.
STEP 3: DS-2019 ISSUED
If we are able to approve your program, we will issue the DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility which is required for the participant to schedule the visa interview appointment. It is then mailed to the participant along with other important arrival documents. At this time, applicants are also e-mailed instructions on how to apply for the J-1 Visa in their home country.
STEP 4: U.S. CONSULATE/EMBASSY APPOINTMENT
After making an appointment online, applicants attend an appointment at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy with the original DS-2019. Visa approval and issuance is at the discretion of the consular official. Visa appointment and processing wait times vary by city and time of year. On average, this process takes 2-4 weeks. Up-to-date information can be found on the U.S. Department of State website.
Interested in Becoming a Host School?
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the J-1 Visa for Teachers?
There are 14 categories of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, and “teacher” is one of them. This visa is used to allow international teachers with at least two years of experience to teach in an accredited primary or secondary school in the United States for up to 36 months. After this period, teachers may be eligible for a 12 or 24-month program extension.
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 a foreign national to apply for the J-1 Visa necessary to take a temporary, paid teaching position in the United States through the Exchange Visitor program.
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 after 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).
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. Cultural Vistas is also responsible for acting as a resource and support system for visitors to ensure they have a safe and positive exchange experiences.
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 school district that will be providing a teaching position to the participant.
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 their home country and do not intend to immigrate to the United States. If an applicant is currently in the U.S., Cultural Vistas requires him or her to return to the home country. Cultural Vistas will not issue any documents to someone who is in the United States. He or she must leave the country to apply for a J-1 Visa. Teachers must either be currently working as a teacher at home or, if pursuing an advanced degree, have teaching experience at home in the 12 months prior to application.
What documents will Cultural Vistas issue to participants?
Cultural Vistas will issue three important documents:
- Certificate of Eligibility (Form DS-2019), issued to the participant after Cultural Vistas reviews the participant and host organization applications, and agrees to sponsor the teaching program.
- Receipt of payment for the mandatory SEVIS fee.
- Letter for Social Security Office for ease of process.
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 the Social Security website for information about applying for a Social Security card. Make sure to bring proof of identity 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. Your I‐94 can be obtained on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. Please see instructions therein 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.
Why is it recommended for applicants to register with Cultural Vistas' partner organizations?
Our partner organizations provide our international applicants with additional services, such as: assistance with the J-1 Visa process; in-country representation of Cultural Vistas to verify credentials and identity; assistance with tax status while abroad; and assistance with the U.S. consular office in the exchange visitor’s home country.
These partners also provide Cultural Vistas with assistance in communicating with participating host schools. Many of the partner organizations provide services that allow the applicant to remain in compliance with J-1 Visa regulations.
Do I need a Social Security number in order to begin teaching?
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 “temporary number” to enroll them on the payroll until they receive their social security card with actual number.
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 1.5 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.
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.
How do I use the health insurance that Cultural Vistas provides?
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.
Can I travel outside the United States during the teaching program?
Participants may travel outside of the United States during the teaching program for up to 30 consecutive days. Before they travel, participants must send the Form DS-2019 and pay a $30 fee to Cultural Vistas for travel validation. The signature confirms that the participant continues to be sponsored by Cultural Vistas, and they should be allowed to re-enter at the border when returning. The signature is valid for one year. When possible, Cultural Vistas asks the participant to submit the DS-2019 for travel validation at least 3 weeks prior to intended travel.
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.
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.
Can I extend my teaching program?
The maximum time allowed on the J-1 Visa for teaching is five years. Please note that Cultural Vistas charges a fee to extend a program, and requires submission of a plan for the extension period of the program. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to request an extension.
Can I change my teaching location?
Not without pre-approval from Cultural Vistas. Information about participants’ teaching location is listed on their Form DS-2019. Applicants enter the United States to teach at a specific location, and will not able to change locations unless the host employer’s application stated that your teaching would include more than one location. If financial or other conditions with the host employer change dramatically during the program, participants must contact Cultural Vistas to determine if arrangements can be made to allow them to secure a teaching position at a different site. However, as the visa sponsor, only Cultural Vistas can make a decision on a change in teaching 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.
How long can I stay in the United States after the teaching 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 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 I stay in the United States as a tourist after my teaching program?
Yes, if granted permission by the U.S. government. To travel around the United States for more than 30 days after a J-1 program has been completed, apply to the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change of status to a B1/B-2 Visitor’s visa. This will allow the participant to extend his or her stay in the United States. The participant must apply for this change of status before the last day of his or her program that is noted on the Form DS-2019.
Please note that the participant cannot remain on the payroll of his or her host employer beyond the last day of the teaching 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 is granted on the basis that you are not attempting to remain permanently in the U.S.
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. Schools who repeatedly obtain H1b or other visa status for their teachers may not be able to work with Cultural Vistas in the future.