J1 Visa for the USA for work experience overseas

Are you looking for work experience during the Summer or after you graduate. Are you an international student struggling to get sponsorship for employment in the UK under Tier 2 or Tier 5 visas? Are you looking ultimately to get some experience as an international student and bring this home with you? Or are you a UK/EU student looking to expand their experience on their CV and go overseas for a while?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then a J1 visa could be the answer for you.

What is the J1 visa?

Well it is the Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa category for the USA and is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. Graduates from the UK whether you are a British National, EU citizen or International student you are eligible to apply for Internship programmes in the USA for up to 12 months. These internships enable university students or recent graduates to go to the USA to gain exposure to culture and to receive hands-on experience in USA business practices in your chosen occupational field. It enables graduates and students to get some great brand names on their CVs and experience abroad range of business opportunities. Equally all students no matter where you are from can apply within the UK to get their J1 visa and there is no limit to how many J1 visas you can have as long as you meet their criteria. Unlike the UK the employer is not your sponsor for a J1 visa it is an agency and a full list can be found here https://j1visa.state.gov/participants/how-to-apply/sponsor-search/?program=Intern

So what now? Well the first step to getting experience in the USA and a J1 visa is to find opportunities.

Finding Experience

You can do this by using the websites Vault, Glassdoor.com (ensure Glassdoor is .com not .co.uk) and LinkedIn. In the USA you will be looking for opportunities titled “internships” whether it is graduate experience or summer experience. In the USA the terms “graduate scheme” or “graduate programme” does not exist and in fact the term “scheme” means something illegal in the States.

You can search the 3 websites mentioned above with your field of interest for example if you are looking at engineering then you would search “engineering internships” On the various websites there are filtering options which include location, salary etc. When using LinkedIn ensure in your Summary section you have the phrase “J1 Visa Candidate” at the start so employers who view your profile know that they are not responsible for your visa. If you use LinkedIn you can apply with your profile instead of a CV and cover letter so ensure your profile is up to date with a professional photo. Similarly if you applying using a cover letter and CV ensure “J1 Visa Candidate” is visible on both documents. A CV in the USA is 1 page only so make what you put on there count. Use Glassdoor to help find work but also to research what an intern can earn as it contains company, interview and salary reviews.

If you are applying via the company directly and are filling in an online application form then make sure when they ask “Are you authorised to work in the United States?” you answer yes as you will have a J1 visa. When the question comes up about sponsorship on the application form “will you now or in the future require sponsorship for employment visa status?” you answer no as you have an independent sponsor and you will not require the company to sponsor you.

We recommend using the cover letter from Parenthese a J1 Visa Sponsor who visits the University of Manchester twice an academic year to talk to students about J1 visas. On their website under the Student tab you will find links to really helpful information including how to get started and most important the “Pick Me” section which details application advice. You can click on the following link to access their recommended cover letter format which informs the employer in the USA of the advantages of hiring an overseas intern as well as the financial benefits http://www.parenthese-london.co.uk/students/internship/pick-me/let-us-be-your-network/ use the cover letter template keeping the sections in bold only changing the sections not in bold. There is lots of great advice and information on this website.

Paid or Unpaid Internships?

We recommend only looking at paid internships rather than unpaid. Do your research regarding the company using Glassdoor.com and LinkedIn. Make sure you know what the basic living costs are for the area of the USA you want to work in and that the job you are applying for will cover those expenses. For instance San Francisco you would require a job that paid $3500 per month and new York $2500 for basic living costs: food, rent, internet, travel etc. These salaries are not unreasonable for these areas. Avoid companies that want you to pay a fee up front to work for them to cover the cost of materials etc as these are usually not legitimate. If it sounds too good to be true the rule is it usually is too good to be true. If in doubt however contact the Careers Service at the University or your chosen J1 Visa Sponsor and they can let you know if it is a reputable organisation.

Getting a J1 Visa

To get a J1 visa you will need to have successfully been given a job offer. Once you have your job offer and you have ensured the salary is good enough to sustain you in the USA then you can approach your sponsor. As previously mentioned we have worked with Parenthese in the past and you can access slides from one of their sessions on our website for more details: http://www.careers.manchester.ac.uk/media/services/careersandemployabilitydivision/careersservice/talkshandouts/Parenthese-J-1-USA-Visa-talk-for-Engineers.pdf

What do you need to look for when picking a sponsor?

  • Ensure you research your sponsor and you understand what is included with the offer of a visa.
  • Make sure the medical cover is high enough although $1million may sound like a lot health cover for a broken finger can be very expensive.
  • Does the sponsor do checks on your potential employer to ensure your safety at work and that you will receive proper training and supervision!
  • Do they offer support while you are in the USA in case you need help or get into trouble?

I have my job offer and a sponsor what next?

Well after you have been approved by the sponsor and the company you are working for is checked and confirmed you can then apply for the visa which includes a trip to the US Embassy for your fingerprints, fee and short interview. This is standard and very straight forward as long as you do not have a criminal record. Your sponsor should give you all the information you need to know regarding fees for your sponsor as well as your SERVIS fee and what steps need to be taken. It can take as little as 3 weeks to turn around an application for a J1 Visa.

Good luck and remember to make the most of your experience.

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