Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the J-1 visa
Questions about our J-1 program
Where and how do I apply for the J-1 visa?
Each visa application is primarily issued by a sponsor licensed by the U.S. Department of Foreign Affairs to provide the visa application document — the DS-2019 form. By participating in our visa program, you will receive the DS-2019. Without this DS-2019 you cannot obtain a visa.
Once you finish the free registration form, simply fill out your online account with all the important information and then you can enroll in our J-1 visa program. You will find further detailed information after completing your online account. After reviewing your credentials, if you meet all the prerequisites, you will be officially admitted into our program and you will then receive a payment request. As soon as we receive the initial program fee, your application will be processed and we will provide you with detailed instructions on how to proceed and the step-by-step process. Just follow our instructions and the DS-2019 can be in your hands after approx. 6-10 weeks!
Once you have received the DS-2019, you are responsible for scheduling an interview at the consulate. We will provide you with all the necessary information as well as additional documents to fill out as a participant of our visa program during this interview process. The consular officer who interviews you has ultimate jurisdiction on whether or not to approve your visa application.
What criteria do I need to fulfill as a J-1 visa applicant?
First of all, you must determine which J-1 category you qualify for — J-1 Intern or J-1 Trainee. As a J-1 Intern, you must have completed at least 2 full semesters at a university outside the U.S., or have received a university degree. If you already have a degree, your internship must start within 12 months after graduation.
As a J-1 trainee, you must have proof that you have completed your university degree in addition to having at least one year of full-time professional experience after graduating in the same field. Alternatively, a J-1 trainee visa is also possible if you have at least 5 years of professional experience in the same field.
In general, an age limit of 35 years applies. Additionally, the internship must be directly related to your academic/professional career.
What are the exact qualifications to be eligible to apply for a J-1 visa?
You can participate in the J-1 visa program if you meet the following requirements:
Intern (students and graduates)
- Your internship does not exceed 12 months
- You are at least 18 years of age
- You can complete your internship either during your studies (after the second semester) or within 12 months after graduation
- You have secured an internship placement
- You have proficient English language skills
- Sufficient financial support of at least USD 1300 / month
- You must account for a processing time of at least 8 weeks
Trainee (graduates and professionals)
- Your internship does not exceed 18 months (exception: tourism industry, hotel industry, and gastronomy)
- You have completed a university degree and have at least one year of professional work experience in the field or have at least five years of professional work experience in the field.
- You have secured an internship directly related to your education
- You have proficient English language skills
- You are earning at least minimum wage of the respective city or higher (exceptional remedies)
- You must account for a processing time of at least 8 weeks
How can I register for the program?
By completing this registration form, you will receive a login that will give you immediate access to your personal online account. There you will find all the necessary information and documents to register for the J-1 visa program.
After creating your account, please fill out all the fields and submit the necessary documents. This can be done all at once or you may go back to complete each section at your convenience, all the information submitted will be automatically saved.
Note: This application for the J-1 visa program is not binding yet. The binding registration will be issued once your booking has been completed and we have received all registration documents. Creating this account is free of charge and without obligations. Do you already have an account? Just log in here.
Do all the documents have to be complete in order for processing to begin?
Yes. All information and documents required in your online account are mandatory for registration. We will request any additional documents via email.
Do I need a biometric passport?
No, a biometric passport is not required. However, your passport must be machine-readable and valid at least until the end of your internship.
When should I apply for a visa?
From our experience, it takes about 8-10 weeks to apply for a visa.
However, this timeframe depends on the cooperation from your host company as well as how rapidly you submit all of your required documents. Therefore, to avoid any delays, we advise you to start your visa application as early as possible.
Do I really need a visa for an internship in the US?
Yes, you always need a J-1 visa, which covers the entire duration of your internship – regardless if it is a paid or unpaid internship. The J-1 visa includes a residence permit as well as a permit to partake in internship activities within a U.S. company. Without a J-1 visa, you will be denied entry into the USA and not be able to complete the internship. There are no exceptions.
Because this visa is tailored to your specific placement, you are not allowed to change your plans while in the US. Any change must be agreed upon with your visa sponsor.
Can the GACC California guarantee that a DS-2019 is issued?
No. No one can guarantee this. The success of your DS-2019 application depends exclusively on whether you and your host company selected for a J-1 visa are appropriate and all necessary information is presented.
The respective criteria are outlined by the U.S. Department of State and the task of visa sponsors, such as GACCCA, is to examine all applications strictly according to these guidelines. Common reasons why your application for a DS-2019 can be rejected are e.g. Lack of co-operation of your potential internship company, insufficiently proven the relevance of the internship for your studies, your profession or training, insufficient financial resources or a lack of family, economic or social ties with your home country.
Is it guaranteed that I will be issued a visa after I get the DS-2019?
Unfortunately, no. The final decision on the issuing of a visa is always made after the visa interview and all necessary documents have been submitted to the consulate. Our task as a visa sponsor is to prepare you for this interview with the consular officer in the best possible way. Rejections may occur when, for example, it is clear that you have intentions of obtaining permanent residence status with a J-1 visa in the U.S.
Can my child / spouse accompany me to the USA for the duration of my internship?
Generally yes. Your spouse and any biological children up to the age of 21 can accompany you for the duration of your internship. However, in order to do so, you must apply for a J-2 visa for each additional traveler. We are happy to help with this if necessary.
Can I get the J-1 visa to do an internship before university?
No, unfortunately, this is not possible due to the provisions of the Department of Homeland Security. You must have completed two or more semesters of university or have at least 5 years of full-time professional experience to qualify for the J-1 program. If you’d like to go prior to enrolling in university, it is possible to go to the U.S. as a volunteer. We would be happy to advise you on the application process of the B1 Volunteer Visa.
Is it possible to begin an internship with the J-1 visa in the U.S. immediately after high school graduation?
No, unfortunately, this is not possible due to the provisions of the Department of Homeland Security. Only when you have completed two or more semesters of university or have at least 5 years full-time professional experience, you qualify for the J-1 program. If you’d like to go prior to enrolling in university, it is possible to go as a volunteer to the USA. We would be happy to advise you on the process of the B1 Volunteer Visa.
Why is there a J-1 visa program?
According to the provisions of the U.S. Department of State, internships in the U.S. are not regarded as work stays, but rather, as cultural exchanges. Therefore, they are carried out within the framework of appropriate exchange programs. This requires a so-called J-Visa (cultural exchange visa).
What does it mean to have a "sponsor"?
Unlike many other countries, the U.S. authorities have delegated part of the visa procedure to organizations that act as a ‘legal sponsor.’ These can be viewed as an extension of the U.S. Embassy and are responsible for implementing programs in accordance with all U.S. regulations. You must work with a legal sponsor without exception as the U.S. embassies or consulates only issue the J visa after presenting the DS-2019.
The DS-2019 is available by participating in our visa program and will be issued by GACC CA as a designated sponsor. However, our task is not only to issue the DS-2019, but also to ensure compliance all official U.S. regulations. In order to apply for a DS-2019 you need an internship offer first, which is checked according to strict criteria. If the internship offer is well received, approved, and all further program points are fulfilled, the DS-2019 is issued. Only after this can you apply for a J-1 visa at the U.S. Embassy. The process is as follows: first secure the internship, then complete the DS-2019, and lastly apply for the J-1 Visa.
Why does the J-1 program have to include an intercultural component?
The J-1 program provides participants and Americans with the opportunity to exchange ideas, opinions, and share experiences to promote relationships between the U.S. citizens and people from other nationalities and cultures. The intercultural component during the stay gives participants the opportunity to experience American culture and interact with society outside of their internship while sharing their own culture with U.S. citizens. This promotes respectful collaborations with diverse cultures and the opportunity to discover difference and similarities.
How do I compare different offers from other Visa agencies?
It is always crucial to assess your options, outside of the price differences.
At first glance, an offer may seem appealing but it is important to pay attention to every detail of a particular program.
Here is a list to help you determine the best provider:
- How much experience does the agency have?
- What is the total price for the entire process?
- How much guidance will they provide in filling out the application forms? How much will your host company be involved in this process?
- Is the insurance optional or a mandatory part of the program? What are the benefits of the specific insurance plan? What are the additional costs per incident/illness?
- How many documents and proofs do you have to provide?
- How bureaucratic is the program? I.e. number of reference letters required, how does the submission of mandatory documents affect the processing period?
- What are the exclusion and constraints? I.e. full-time student after the second semester
- How long is the processing time?
Is the GACC California also a contact for other visa types outside the J-1?
The GACC California is responsible for arranging DS-2019 forms required for J-1 visa applications, for the purpose of this program. However, we also offer you our support with other visa applications, such as The B-1 visa for tourism and business purposes. We also offer our service for the E-1 visa and the L-1 visa. Just ask us!
Questions about fees and conditions
What is the cost of the J-1 Visa Program?
The fee for our service depends on the length of the internship and starts at EUR 750 for trainees and EUR 950 for Interns (plus consulate and SEVIS fees). Further information and a detailed price list can be found in your online account.
Can my host company cover my visa costs?
If your host company has agreed to cover part of or the entire cost of the visa application, please let us know and we will issue your invoice to your company.
Why is participating in a J-1 Visa program so expensive?
Examining a visa application is a very complex procedure that involves a lot of effort given that the U.S. Ministry of Foreign Affairs has extremely intensified the entry regulations since 9/11. Additionally, the DS-7002, your training plan, is a challenging procedure for most companies, which may cause host companies to be hesitant in moving forward with the internship offer.
By joining our program, we help you minimize the risk of problems arising during any step of your application. Both our German and our American office maintain consistent contact with the host company and assist in the preparation of the training plan. Therefore, it is worth covering this expense to ensure every step of the process is executed efficiently by our experienced professionals and be confident that your visa application will most likely be approved.
Can I withdraw from the J-1 Visa program within a certain timeframe?
You can withdraw from the program within two weeks without further explanation or cause. The period begins as soon as you submit your application online, which indicates that we have officially received your registration. Sending your withdrawal notice within this timeframe in text form by e-mail is sufficient. The cancellation notice is to be directed to email@example.com.
Do I need insurance for my internship?
Yes. All interns and their companions (J-Visa) must be insured for the duration of the internship in accordance with the requirements of the U.S. Department of State. We provide the required health insurance directly and has to be purchased through us for participation in the program. For more information, please visit J1 Insurance
Do I need to purchase insurance through GACC CA as a part of the visa program?
Yes, insurance offered by our licensed insurance provider is mandatory for participation in our visa program. The offered insurance, of course, fulfills all the conditions of the US Foreign Ministry. The insurance must be valid for the entire stay in the USA. Therefore, we offer a day-to-day billing.
What is included in the insurance offered by your licensed insurance provider?
The insurance fulfills all requirements of the US Foreign Ministry.
Please visit J1 Insurance for detailed information, terms and conditions and pricing information.
What is the expedited visa service?
Our normal processing time is 6-10 weeks. However, if you register for our visa program under a tight schedule, our expedited service is a good option for you. An expedited processing is always available upon request and can not be completed if a company visit (On-Site Visit) has to be carried out at the company.
In the expedited process, your documents are processed faster and with top priority, so that we guarantee a processing period of 2 weeks as soon as all the documents are received from you and your host company. The fee for our express service can be found in the current price list in your online account.
Please note that this fee is not refundable in the case of a refusal, cancellation of the application or delayed processing of the guest company.
What is the consulate fee?
The U.S. Consulates charge a consular fee for each visa processing. The current fee is $160.00 USD and is due before the interview. This consulate fee is non-refundable.
What is the SEVIS fee?
Since September 1, 2004 an additional fee has been implemented, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee of $220.00 USD for students and participants in exchange programs. The proof of payment must be submitted at your consulate date. Taking this charge/fee was agreed upon to electronically identify all foreign students and researchers as well as their relatives. The data collected includes biographical data, the structure for the planned internship project, and a proof of the financial resources and necessary insurance.
SEVIS is also responsible for regulating your stay, you are required to confirm your U.S. residential address within the first 20 days after arriving in the U.S. and to inform us of any changes to your accommodation in the U.S. within 10 days. This applies for the entire duration of your stay in the U.S. If you do not comply with this reporting requirement, the U.S. immigration authority will automatically ask you to leave the U.S. without further questions or exceptions. If this is the case, you will be illegally staying in the U.S. from this point onwards. In addition, you may face problems with future visa applications.
What costs are refundable if my J-1 Visa application is rejected?
If your visa is rejected by the US Embassy, you can recover part of the visa costs, however, some restrictions and condition apply. For further information, please refer to our price list, which is available for download after your free registration in your online account.
However, the fees for the consulate and for the SEVIS registration can not be reimbursed under any circumstance.
Questions about the internship and training on a J-1 Visa
Is the visa service only for companies based in California?
No. Our visa service is available to you regardless of where your company is based in the U.S. We are more than happy to help you find a suitable internship in any state outside of California.
Can my internship be with a small company?
Generally, an internship is possible within a smaller company. However, if your company has not participated in our visa program before and has under 25 employees and less than $3 million annual revenue, it must be visited by U.S. authorities during the visa process.
The fee for this ‘on-site visit’ is found in our current price list, which is available in your online account. The participant or the host company are responsible for covering this additional cost.
Can my internship be paid?
Yes. If your host company has offered you a stipend or any sort of payment, you may accept it. However, it is prohibited that participants earn money on the side/have another job while doing this internship. Not following this restriction may result in immediate expulsion from the U.S.
Can the GACC CA help me find an internship in the U.S.?
Yes. In addition to our visa programs, we also offer an internship placement program. We have excellent contacts due to our close relationships with U.S. companies. Visit our placement service site for more information and fill out our contact form to tell us more about your career goals. We will respond with further information promptly.
Must the host company be a member of GACC California?
No, your host company does not have to be a member of the German American Chamber of Commerce California, Inc. We care for you, no matter what kind of company you have chosen and regardless of where it is based.
Must I present a written internship contract?
No. For the visa application, a conclusive commitment from your host company, in any form is sufficient.
When is an on-site visit required?
In some cases, it is necessary for your host company to be visited by the US authorities to ensure that the necessary prerequisites for an internship are met. If your company has already worked with us, this is no longer necessary.
If it is a new company, an on-site visit only needs to take place if the host company has fewer than 25 employees at the place of work and the annual turnover is less than 3 million dollars.
During the site visit, the potential workplace is inspected, questions regarding the internship are addressed, and the work space itself is photographed.
The fee for the on-site visit can be found in the current price list in your online account. The participant of the host company is responsible for covering this additional fee.
What are the restrictions specific to internships within the tourism sector, hotel industry, and gastronomy?
The duration of the internship in the hotel industry is limited to a maximum of 12 months in the J-1 Intern as well as in the J-1 trainee category.
The same applies to internships in the tourism sector (eg travel agencies, travel agencies) and in gastronomy.
What are the requirements for host companies?
In order to receive a J-1 visa in the INTERN or TRAINEE category, your host company needs to fulfill the following:
- Employer Identification Number (IN) must exist.
- From the website of the host company, the postal address, e-mail address and telephone number must appear.
- Worker’s Compensation is compulsory, which must also cover the trainee.
- If your company has not yet participated in our J-1 visa program and has less than 25 employees and less than US $ 3 million annual turnover, the company must be visited by the relevant authorities in the United States
- The ratio of the number of trainees to the number of full-time employees in the company must not exceed 1/3.
What internships can I take part in?
Your internship must be directly related to your studies or your career path. For example, if you hold a degree in the media sector, and wish to complete an internship with a recruiting agency and already have experience in the recruiting sector in addition to your studies, it would not be possible since the internship has no recognizable link to your studies, only an internship in the media sector would be possible.
Internships are possible in the following areas:
- Arts & culture (theater, film, fashion, photography, etc)
- Management (business management, hotel management, etc.)
- Business Administration (Marketing, Accounting, Controlling, Human Resources, Insurance, etc.)
- Economics and finance (international trade, banking, stock market, etc.)
- Natural sciences (biology, biochemistry, geology, organic chemistry, body of water, aviation, etc.)
- Engineering (civil engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering, etc.)
- Architecture (interior and landscape architecture, city planning, etc.)
- Mathematics (Mathematical Analysis, Statistics, Algebra, Applied Mathematics)
- Industrial activities (economic engineering, economic relations, etc.)
- Public administration and law (public relations, international law, corporate, labor, civil and environmental law, etc.
Some occupations do not require vocational training in the USA. These “unskilled occupations” may not be exercised with a J-1 visa during your internship. These include: receptionist, accountant, clerk, among others.
Please note that internships in the medical, social field (eg human and veterinary medicine, psychology, social work, therapy, etc.) are permitted, however some restrictions apply. Direct patient, child or animal contact is strictly prohibited, however, administrative activities, laboratory work, assistance with research projects, etc. are permitted. Please feel free to reach out if you have further questions about a specific circumstance.
Can I start a second internship with a J-1 visa in the U.S.?
No. A J-1 visa is always bound to a specific internship and thus to a company for a certain period of time. Therefore, you can not start a second internship with another J-1 visa at another company.
Questions about the J-1 visa process
How long does it take to get my J-1 visa?
The duration of the application process depends on how quickly you and your host company cooperate with us and provide the necessary documents and information.
Once we send you the issued DS-2019 form, you are responsible for scheduling an interview date with the consulate, thus, initiating the actual visa application process. Once the Consulate General approves your application, it will take up to 7 days to receive your passport with the valid visa by mail. Overall, you should expect a processing period of 6-10 weeks before receiving your visa. Please contact us if you have questions about the current processing times.
How do I make an appointment with the US Embassy after receiving my DS-2019?
Please make an appointment with the consulate, preferably in your home country or country of legal residency.
An appointment can only be arranged on the Internet. More information can be found at http://usembassy.gov/
To the appointment agreement: http://ustraveldocs.com/ OR https://ais.usvisa-info.com
Should I make travel arrangements during the DS-2019 application process?
We do not recommend making any binding travel arrangements during the application process (for example, booking flights/accommodations). No expenses can be reimbursed if you get denied a visa. Same applies to the interview process at the consulate.
We highly advise you to wait until your DS-2019 has been issued or your visa has been approved prior to making any travel plans.
How long can I stay in the U.S. before and after my internship / visa expiration date?
With the J-1 visa, you are allowed to travel to the U.S. up to 30 days before the start of your internship. After successful completion of your internship you are allowed to stay for another 30 days legally in the U.S. to travel, etc. This is referred to as a ‘grace period.’
It is highly recommended that you only travel within the United States during this period as problems may arise if trying to re-enter the U.S. during this grace period.
Questions about the stay in the USA
Is the income taxed during the internship?
Yes. Although, interns/trainees are generally exempt from Federal Unemployment, Medicare, Social Security, and Federal taxes because of U.S. tax treaties with different nations; you must still declare some income taxes. More often than not, the other tax types you are legally exempt from are usually deducted automatically from your paycheck by your employer. Therefore, you can request this back by filing a tax refund. For more information, please visit our tax assessment page.
Can I file a tax refund?
Yes, as a J-1 visa holder, you are required to submit a tax return to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the American Department of Finance, in the calendar year after the internship. In this case, it is quite possible that you qualify for a refund if the payroll tax is paid for taxes you are exempt from. We are happy to assist you with the application for the refund of Federal Taxes. For more information, please visit our tax assessment page.
Even if you accept an unpaid internship position, you are still required to inform the U.S. of your stay for the respective calendar year. Please contact us for more information.
Who should I contact if I have problems during my internship?
The GACC CA is always available to you and happy to provide assistance should you encounter any issues during your stay in the U.S. Do not hesitate to reach out should you have any questions or concerns.
Can I leave the U.S. during my internship?
The J-1 Cultural Exchange Visa is designed to encourage you to grow professionally and interculturally by giving you the opportunity to reside in the U.S. Therefore, it is not designed for participants to leave the U.S. for long periods of time. In order to leave the U.S. for a short term, you need a travel validation on your DS-2019 form.
To apply for this, you must send your original DS-2019 to our office in San Diego. If you are planning a trip please contact us 2-3 weeks in advance for more information.
Special conditions apply for visiting neighboring countries. You do not need a travel validation to visit Canada and Mexico. However, we advise that you always carry your original DS-2019 and visa for reentry to the U.S.
You may not be outside the U.S. for more than 30 days during your internship timeframe. Additionally, entry and reentry is prohibited with the J-1 visa during the 30 day grace period after completing your internship.
What are my obligations during my internship?
During your internship, you must check in monthly with us to confirm your visa status.
At the end of your internship, you and your host company must participate in a final evaluation. Additionally, if your internship is longer than 6 months, you and your host company must also complete a mid-point evaluation.
If there are changes in your U.S. residential address, telephone number, or any other changes related to your internship, you must inform us. You must update us of any changes throughout your stay, as your sponsor we are responsible for updating your visa status.
Do I need to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN)?
You can always apply for a Social Security Number as an intern. However, it is only mandatory to have a Social Security Number if you receive payment, as it must be taxed.
Having a Social Security Number can be very important for other matters as it is issued as a personal identification number. For example, an SSN is required to open a bank account, to apply for a driver’s license and to file your tax refund.
You must present your passport, I-94 form, the DS-2019, and the ‘Employer Letter’ to the Social Security Office in order to apply for an SSN. The nearest office can be found on the official Social Security website: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/locator
Can I extend my J-1 visa?
Yes. This is possible as long as you have not yet exceeded the maximum total duration of 12-18 month stay, which is the maximum timeframe supported by the J-1 visa.
For example, if your visa has been issued for a 10-month internship, you can only extend it for 2 or 8 months depending on the circumstance. In this case, please contact us before your visa expires if you need an extension of your DS-2019 form. An alternative could also be to go back to Germany to organize everything.
Can I apply for a J-1 visa twice?
Yes. The J-1 visa for interns and trainees can be applied for multiple times. However, the certain requirement apply:
Interns: it is possible as long as you are officially enrolled as a student.
However, you must return to your home country after your J-1 stay in the U.S. and a certain level of progress in your career is evident (eg another semester, completed studies, etc.).
Trainee: A 2-year regulation applies. There is a two-year mandatory standby period in between visas. If you wish to apply for another J-1 Trainee visa, you must wait a period of at least two years between two visas. The same applies if you already had a J-1 Intern visa and want to apply for the J-1 Trainee visa.
Note: If possible, the second internship should not take place in the same company and must contain tasks other than the previous one.
Can I work in a different job outside of my internship while in the U.S.?
No. The J-1 visa has been issued solely for one particular internship. If you partake in any other activities outside of this internship, you are explicitly violating visa regulations and run the risk of immediate expulsion from the United States. Further measures / punishments may be taken.