Students and young professionals looking to participate as an intern on the J-1 exchange visitor program are required to work with a sponsoring organization in the United States. Cultural Vistas, the non-profit organization that administers the IAESTE U.S. program, is a U.S. Department of State designated J-1 visa sponsoring organization for the intern and trainee categories. The J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program allows students and recent graduates to complete internships and traineeships in the United States with the goal of promoting cultural exchange and mutual understanding between the United States and other countries.
To apply for your visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy, you must bring a DS-2019 form (Certificate of Eligibility) and a Training and Internship Placement Plan (DS-7002). These documents will be issued and sent to you after you have completed the online J-1 visa application. Please remember to return all necessary forms as quickly as possible.
Once your DS-2019 form has been issued, contact your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country to schedule a visa appointment. Please keep in mind that every U.S. embassy or consulate has its own procedures, but all will require an in-person interview. The interview can only take place after you have received your DS-2019 form. Carefully follow the directions provided by the U.S. consulate or embassy. Visa processing time depends on your home country, so contact your nearest embassy or consulate as soon as you have received your DS-2019 form.
Eligibility and Program Requirements
- Non-US citizen
- At least 18 years old
- The applicant must intend to enter the United States solely for the purpose of internship or training and not to abandon non-immigrant status. Applicants must not intend to change status while in the United States.
- Applicants must be interviewed by the U.S. host or Cultural Vistas to assess their eligibility and qualification.
- Applicants must be able to demonstrate recent experience in the field for which they are requesting an internship experience. Applicants must have related work or education within the six months prior to the program start date.
- If the applicant’s most recent work or educational experience has been in the United States, Cultural Vistas may require that the applicant return to his or her home country to gain additional experience for one year or more, and then apply to the program.
- Applicants in the United States for other work or study programs must leave the United States for at least 90 days before beginning a J-1 Intern program with Cultural Vistas in most cases. Please call to discuss your case. Working remotely for a U.S. company will not count towards qualification for sponsorship.
- Applicants must know English well enough to function in an English-speaking environment, both during the normal work period and non-working hours. This must be verifiable via documentation from an educational institution, English language test, or interview with Cultural Vistas.
- Applicants are expected to apply in their home country in most cases. Cultural Vistas does not allow applicants to change status to the J-1 visa.
- Participants are required to be covered under the health and accident insurance policies provided by Cultural Vistas. Any other insurance held by the participant will be primary, and Cultural Vistas insurance will be secondary.
- Participants must notify Cultural Vistas of arrival in the U.S., and provide notice of all address changes.
- Mid-term evaluations are required for programs 6 months or longer and final evaluations are required for all programs.
- Participants are responsible for reading and complying with all information provided by Cultural Vistas including orientation materials detailing program requirements.
- Participants cannot have a break of more than 30 days during their program.
The following documents must be uploaded to your online application. Your application will not be evaluated until all documents are uploaded.
- Photocopy of a valid passport photo page and name/issuance page (name and birth date must be clear and legible). The passport must be valid for at least six months after your program’s end date.
- Provide proof of English language ability, dated within the past three years (certificate, standardized test score, or school course verification). If you do not possess such documentation, an interview will be scheduled with Cultural Vistas.
- Copies of any previous DS-2019/DS-7002 forms if you have already participated in a J-1 visa program.
- Copies of any other previous US non-tourist visas to the United States.
If you are a student, provide (in English):
- An official letter from your university confirming your current full-time university enrollment. It may be issued by a professor or university official.
- An official copy of your most recent transcript.
If you are a recent graduate, provide (in English):
- An official copy of your certificate or diploma.
- Employment verification letters (in English) confirming your related full-time work experience outside of the United States (if applicable)
The following application items must be completed.
- Essay section: You must write at least 3-4 complete sentences per question.
- Personal funding: For this section please enter the total amount of funding, either through your own savings or from your family, that you will have while you are in the U.S. This field cannot be left blank. We recommend that you have access to $2,000 for the first month and access to $1,000 – $2,000 for the following months, depending on your training location and whether you have a paid or unpaid training position.
- Government Funding: Please only enter an amount in this section if you are receiving funds—either from your government or from the U.S. government—for the sole purpose of training in the U.S. Do not include money received for your university studies in your home country.
Additional Requirements After Arrival
Social Security NumberA Social Security Number is a unique identification number issued by the U.S. government. It is required for tax purposes and is valid for life. Your host company will need your Social Security Number in order to add you to their payroll system; you may also need it to open a bank account, rent an apartment, or apply for a driver’s license. It is important that you apply for a Social Security Number as soon as possible. If you already have one from a previous stay in the United States, you should not apply for another one.
To ensure your application for a Social Security Number is processed correctly, you must wait a few days after arrival before applying. This is to allow all U.S. government databases time to communicate with each other and to recognize that you have arrived in the United States. You should wait at least two business days after you have confirmed your arrival with your Cultural Vistas representative.
Social Security Number Application: Your Cultural Vistas representative will send you an email acknowledging your arrival confirmation and SEVIS validation.
Apply for your Social Security Number by visiting the Social Security Administration Office nearest to you. You will need to present the following original documents (not photocopies) during the application:
- A completed Form SS-5
- A letter of employment from your U.S. host company
- Passport including your J-1 visa and Form I-94
- Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility)
- Training/Internship Placement Plan (Form DS-7002)
Your Social Security Number card will be mailed to you, so it is very important that you include an up-to-date address on Form SS-5 when applying. If you are staying in temporary housing during the application process, you may want to enter your host company’s address.
Be sure to get a receipt or confirmation of your application while you are at the Social Security Administration Office. It usually takes three to six weeks for you to receive your Social Security Number; however, this receipt can be used immediately by your host company to enter you in payroll.
Once you receive your number, be sure that the Social Security Card reads “Valid for Work with DHS (or INS) Authorization”. If this phrase does not appear on your card, return to the Social Security Office immediately and request a new card.
You should memorize your Social Security Number and keep your card at home in a safe place (not in your wallet). Never give your Social Security Number to an unreliable source and never email it, not even to Cultural Vistas. If you are asked to provide the number online, make sure that the connection is secure.
If you have difficulty obtaining a Social Security Number, notify your Cultural Vistas representative immediately.
Per the U.S. Department of State J-1 visa regulations, all exchange visitors are required to have health insurance for the duration of their training program. In order to ensure compliance with these regulations, Cultural Vistas includes health insurance coverage in our program package.
Participants should always carry the Cultural Vistas-issued 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 the event of 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.
Participants are required to have insurance through Cultural Vistas as part of the J-1 Visa. We offer two options for individual health insurance ($55 – $95/month) in addition to a family plan that covers the participant and accompanying family members on a J-2 Visa for $510/month). For further information and to compare plans see: https://culturalvistas.org/participant-health-insurance/
Please note that if you extend your training program, you must purchase additional months of health insurance. Likewise, if your program ends early, you may request a reimbursement for any full, unused months. Payment in full for insurance is due with the application.
State income tax rates vary (and some states do not have an income tax), but the federal income tax is indexed by the level of the wage. Participants should expect to pay about 25% of their gross salary in federal income taxes. The host organization will automatically deduct federal and state income taxes from the paycheck. Participants do not pay Social Security and Medicare taxes (FICA) or Federal Unemployment tax (FUTA), as they are not eligible for these benefits.
Generally, all J-1 visa holders are considered non-residents. Participants must file both a federal, state, and local income tax return and a state income tax return (if there is a state income tax). These returns must be filed by April 15 for each year they earn income in the United States.
Participants will use either the form 1040NR-EZ or form 1040NR to file their federal tax return. These forms and the 8843 (required of J-1 exchange visitors) are available after January 1 at Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offices, at local public libraries, or from the IRS website. Information about forms used to file tax returns for state income taxes can be found after January 1 at local public libraries or from the state’s tax website.
Please note that Cultural Vistas’ staff members are not tax experts and that tax advice will not be given to exchange visitors or host employers. However, we will provide each participant with access to software that will aid in preparing tax documents.
As a J-1 visa holder, you should pay the following taxes:
- Federal Income Tax
- State Income Tax (if applicable)
- Local Income Tax (if applicable)
You should not pay the following taxes:
- Social Security and Medicare Tax (FICA)
- Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
It is your responsibility to inform your host company of the taxes you do not have to pay. When you receive your first paycheck, review it and discuss anything you do not understand with your supervisor or human resources representative.