J1 Visa & How to Find a US Internship

The J1 visa as we have mentioned before is probably the most diverse US visa in terms of the range of types of roles it applies too. It is often, along with the F1 visa for students, the avenue for hundred of thousands of foreigners each year to come to the US for the very first time.

Now many foreigners who ultimately want to work in the US on a full time bases and possibly ultimately live here permanently use the J1 visa as their initial stepping stone to find a more permanent role and later on green card sponsorship.

The reason why so many people choose this route is that in many ways it is a far easier US visa to obtain as there is no quote limits each year compare to the other visas. Then additionally to find a Internship role under this visa is also slightly easier because employers are willing to state they want to hire a foreigner for the Internship. This is because for them, unlike full work visas like the H1B visa, they don’t actually do the visa sponsorship of the candidate themselves and there is no application costs or really legal costs for them to incur.

Types of J1 Visa roles:

The J1 Visa Internship or Trainee program is broadly split into 2 types called Internship or Professional Career Training (PCT). The link in this paragraph goes into more detail about each role type. However in a broad sense the difference between the two is that the Internship stream is for current tertiary level students or very recent graduates. A recent change to this stream states that you can only apply for this while still a student, however you can start your role within 6 months of graduation.

Where as the Professional Career Training stream is for those who have a tertiary qualifications but have graduated longer than a year ago. It also can apply to those who may not have that level of academic qualifications but have at least 5 years of relevant work experience to the Internship role to which they are applying.

The one important thing to note about the PCT stream since July 2007. Anyone from any country now has a 2 year bearer rule apply to them (also known as a home residency rule). This basically means after a PCT program you have to remain outside the US for at least 2 years before being allowed to apply for any other US visa (not including visa waiver program). There is a 2 year residency rule waiver that can be applied for but you should know it is not a quick process. This had made this stream slightly less desirable as a stepping stone visa to a full work visa as there is an additional hurdle to overcome.

So you can transfer from the J1 visas to other visas like the H1B visa but if you have that 2 year rule apply to you then that must be dealt with first before you can transfer to another visa.

How to find a position:

Assuming you are a foreigner with few contacts in the US to utilize to help you find a role, there are ways that most people achieve this. The first being utilizing the various sponsor organizations who will actually sponsor your J1 visa like Intrax, InterExchange, CIEE, etc. If you click on each of the links below you will be taken to their Internship Job Search Engine where you can see some of the roles on offer via these organizations

  1. Intrax Internship Job Search
  2. InterExchange Internship Job Search
  3. CIEE Internship Job Search

You should bear in mind that if you utilize there job search utility that your first point of screening will tend to be someone at one of these sponsor organizations before they pass the most suitable and best candidates on to the employer (or officially known as your host company) themselves. Additionally there is always additional fees paid on top of the regular J1 visa program fees if you are using these organizations as opposed to finding an Internship yourself and then just using these organizations as sponsors.

All of these organizations will sponsor your J1 visa, regardless if you actually via the Internship role via them. The difference being that if you do it on your own that once you have found a role, you and your host company need to fill out application forms on their websites (and in your case pay the program fees) and then they will contact you both about processing the application.

If you are planning to search for a role on your own then there are many avenue where you can find internship roles that are similar to where you would search for full working positions. In addition to sites like Craigslist which are listed there, other sites to look at for both all types and specific types of Internship roles include;

Unlike with the full work visas, there are companies willing to hire foreigners without face to face interviews. Often they will be willing to hire you based on phone interviews and even video chats like Skype. These companies that are willing to do this often have hired foreigners before as Interns.

Finally you should read the Internship job description wherever you find them as many will state they are either unpaid or have a very minimal pay or basic stipend. Now if you are happy with that there is additional condition you also have to meet when applying for your J1 visa stating that you will be able to support yourself financially.

Well paid Internship positions are harder to find mainly because those same roles are highly demanded by US citizens and also in general these employers like getting cheaper labor given they are hiring people for more entry level roles for the most part. However you can negotiate your terms with your employer and don’t be afraid to ask for some or more money. One benefit you could say to them is to pay you as a contractor meaning they don’t have to withhold taxes from your pay and thus avoid US legal payroll obligations and costs. However you should note that if they pay you like this it means you will have to pay taxes to the IRS when you file your tax return.

The IRS is not an organization to try and avoid in anyway because if you eventually in your US Immigration get to point of applying for a green card and permanent residency in the US, one of things they will look at during your interview process is all your Tax Returns.

So as you can see there are many avenues to finding a role in the US as an Intern. You should generally plan for the application process to take 1-2 months on average with your sponsor organization. Some organizations like CIEE work via partner organizations in most countries around the world where as others deal directly to the US office for the application process. Once they have confirmed everything you can then go for your US Consulate or Embassy interview to actually get the J1 visa in your passport.

Good Luck,


31 thoughts on “J1 Visa & How to Find a US Internship

  1. I work with several foreign workers who are here on their visas and hope to one day gain citizenship. The promise of a green card is something I have never experienced before. They work hard every day with the goal of having the things I take for granted. I have a lot of respect for all foreigners, and potential immigrants especially have my respect and best wishes.

  2. I need an internship in about a year from now. How much time does it take to get a J1 visa and what are the steps, like where do I apply for it etc?

  3. Hi Tanja,
    Well this article shows you both where and how to apply and the organizations who you have to go through to get J1 visa sponsorship. The links are there for CIEE, Intrax, InterExchange, etc. As for timings well once you have a company they have to be processed by those sponsor organization which can be quicker if they have hired foreign interns before but they usually give a guideline of 1-2 months.
    Good Luck,

  4. hello i got sme agents working 4 a internship. whats are the steps 4 J1 visa ??i would nt catch up nay agents .do it individually if possible. i wish 2 trained in US . i have no an idea …i m 12 passed studend. can i apply 4 an internship ???plz guide me .mail me at himal_gaire2005@yahoo.com. it would be ur great help ….anyone ????????knowing about it ….

  5. Hi Himal,
    All your questions are discussed in this article. However I would advise if you need official help, use the official organizations listed in this article that are authorized by the US Government and not 3rd parties who may take your money with no result for you.
    Good Luck,

  6. I am a Fresh graduate. I got an internship offer from USA. I am asked to apply for J1 visa. Whether I am subject to 2 yr home residency or not, as I am not PCT?? Plss reply me as the internship means a lot to my academic career!!!

  7. Hi Bharat,
    It is up to the US consulate where you apply to determine the 2 year home residency but if you are on the 18 month program then yes you would be subject to it.

  8. Thanks CJ. My internship is for a 6 month duration. I am applying from India. My internship is in the field of Biological and biomedical ‘sciences'(Group 26 of skill list). My internship is funded by a professor’s ‘grant’. Group 26 does not fall into the skills list for which Indians are subjected to 2yr home stay. What are the odds that I may be subjected to 2 yr home stay??? My prof couldn’t guarantee anything and said that only after getting VISA one can know. He left the decision to me. I am planning to go ahead with the internship, as I am very interested in the topic. Unluckily, if I was subjected to 2 yr home stay in my VISA can I skip going to intern?? As I am a fresh graduate I am planning to pursue to higher studies in US. If I am subjected to 2yr stay the point of going for intern is futile. So even after getting VISA(with 2yr stay) can I snub the intern and join a med school in nxt acad year(2011)???

  9. Hello,
    You mentioned above that one would have to state that they can support themselves financially to qualify for the j1 visa. By that do you mean bank account statements showing sufficient funds? (and if so, how much money is ‘sufficient’ in their eyes?) Or if one had secured a paid internship, would they take that into account? Thanks for your time.

  10. I got accepted into a 3 month paid summer internship at an architecture firm in the U.S.
    The firm says it does not assist international students in the visa process.

    So now I need a sponsor. I know there’s a list of sponsors on this site.
    But what do I tell them?

  11. Hello CJ,

    I just wanted to thank you for this article, and for the feedback support you’re giving in the comments. Thanks again it’s really helpful for me.

    Kind Regards, Taha

  12. Dear sir / madam,

    I’m a Vietnamese student. My major is English and my graduation day is 10/25/2010. I used to be an exchange student of Work & Travel program in 2008 and 2009 in the USA. Now, I’m looking for a sponsor company which helps me with my papers for internship in the USA. I don’t know if your company can sponsors for me to work in the USA for internship. Please let me know if I can work with your company for my papers.

    I look forward to your reply!

    Best regards,
    Nha Le

  13. Hi, Menna!
    Where did you get paid internship in architectural field? I study architecture and going to go for summer internship too, just wanted to talk more.

  14. Hi Bharat,
    Ultimately it is the sole discretion of the Consular officer to apply that 2 year rule. So even if you technically may not be subject to it, they still could apply it and there is a little you can do about it except go through the standard waiver process which is long and there are no guarantees. So if you are planning to go to grad school in the US, maybe that might be the way to go straight away.

  15. Hi Julia,
    Yes they take a paid internship into account and sufficient funds would be a normal amount of money to pay for accommodation, food, etc.

  16. Hi Menna,
    You just have to contact an organization like CIEE and direct them to the Employers/Host Company section for JI visas. They have to be approved by the sponsor organization especially if it is their first time sponsoring an international student.

  17. hello!
    I am a little confused.I am applying for internship in new york after my course ends which is in march 2011.
    Is it possible to get internships online?
    Should i apply for j1 visa simultaneously while i send my resumes to the companies in nyc?

  18. hi, I really want to have internship in USA next year. If I seek help from organizations like CIEE etc., would I be required to return home after finishing the internship? Because I am searching for possibility to work permanently there.

    One more thing, what is the major disadvantage if I do not seek help from that organizations? Because I notice I gotta pay quite amount of money to them.

    Thank you.

  19. Hello,

    With regards to the 2 year rule, does it mean as long as you haven’t applied to any other visa, to any other country, you are fulfilling the 2 year rule?

    I ask because, my J1 visa expired on Jan 2009. I left the US and re-entered on my Non Visa Waiver (on holiday), and remained until March 2009, where I returned home to the city where the visa was issued. Since then I’ve not worked or live anywhere else, no other visa applied for.

    So, I wonder if my 2 year rule has been satisfied at Jan 2011? Or is it till April 2011?


  20. Hi Jane,
    Your tourist visa entries shouldn’t matter as it relates to the 2 year rule as that is relevant for living outside the US.

  21. Hi,

    I was wondering if you knew anything about gaining residency after an internship. I am a Canadian citizen, received an internship in Florida, and will get my J-1 visa soon. I was just wondering if I could gain residency in Florida from interning there (if I intern for at least a year). I would like to pursue law school there and getting instate tuition would be key.


  22. Hello,
    I am an applicant for j-1 work and travel visa,i am from the Philippines and i was not granted at my first interview. i dont know what happened but i admit that i was very tensed at that point because it was my first time in this kind of interview which prompted me to go into a mental block, my question is that would it be much harder for me to get a visa in my 2nd time interview? in the sense that they already had a record of me. I was really disappointed right now, i hope you can help me. thank you!

  23. Hi Myra,
    To get a J1 visa, ultimately it has to be sposored by an organization designated by the US Government. So even if you secure an approved internship yourself directly, they will have to go through on the approved organizations. Yes this is cheaper than going directly but far more difficult to achieve but certainly people do it. You can transfer from the J1 visa to visas like the H1B visa to work permanently if you find an employer willing to sponsor you and the application is submitted by the employer prior to your J1 visa expiring.

  24. Hi CJ,

    Is it possible to work part-time while doing an internship on the J1 VISA? Internships that pay enough money to cover living costs are pretty scarce.

  25. Hi I am a Dutch student and did an internship from Jan 2011 until June 2011 in the US. However I got the two year rule.

    Now I would like to apply for another internship and I was wondering if I still can get the J-1 visa ? Or do I need to apply for the waiver?

  26. Hi Mina,
    Yes you need to apply for a waiver before you can successfully apply for any US visa in the next 2 years.

  27. Hi Cj,

    Could you tell me if it’s worse getting my J1 visa through a third party agency? Also, could you recomend some other agencies? I have already found a host company in the US for a 12 month internship.

    Thank you!

  28. Hi Cj,
    I am sorry but are you sure about the case of Mina? Because I do not have seen any rule that states that a person cannot return with a J-1visa in less than in 2 years. What I see is that you cannot change your visa state to H, L and another before you stay 2 years outside USA. Can you confirm that? Because I have the same problem that Mina.
    Thank you

  29. Jorge it depends on whether you have the 2 year bearer applying to you. You cannot successfully apply for any other US visa within that 2 year period unless you get that condition waived.

  30. Lpanema your J-1 visa ultimately has to be sponsored by an organization designated by the US State Department even if your source your Internship yourself. The costs are of course less if you find the job yourself than via one of these 3rd Party designated organizations. Try CIEE.org.

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