How To Travel And Work In The USA Legally - Complete Guide on Getting a J1 US Visa
Have you heard about the J1 Visa? It’s a visa that would let you travel and work in the USA legally. Here are my tips for Filipinos who wants to go to the United States.
A lot of us have been dreaming of traveling and working in the US one day for our own special reasons. It could be because you wanted to see their scenic landscapes and infrastructures, your admiration for their culture and ideals and health care benefits, their way of life in general, or your respect on the way they treat their workforce.
Our little family has been based in Florida for months now and I must say that one of the reasons why I love being here is how straightforward and direct people are. It’s not very often to see people who are real to you. If you’ve been following us, we have experienced and survived Hurricane Irma-- it was really devastating but the way everyone (especially the US Government and NGOs) responded to this disaster was beyond commendable. I’ve seen how humans were there for humans without any discrimination on race or color. In a way, the US has become our safe haven, our comfort zone. This is where we started having our home and it is definitely our home too.
Good news is whatever your reasons are, you can definitely work and travel to the US with a J1 visa. In fact, I have met a lot of Filipino fresh graduates and college students here who are doing their internships for hotels, restaurants, camps, companies, etc. and they’re all on their J1 Visa! Did you know that even Maine Mendoza (who I absolutely adore!) spent 6 months working as an intern at The Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing, New York before she got really famous?? This internship was arranged by her school and she was on her J1 Visa as well. I wish I knew all these details too when I was in college. Haha!
The USA is massive and countless opportunities are out in every corner so I’m sure there’s one or two here for you! Wag ka lang mag inarte at wag kang masyadong choosy, you’ll make it and love it here! :)
J-1 US VISA OVERVIEW
This is an Exchange Visitor (J) Non-Immigrant Visa which is issued to individuals who are approved to participate in a work and travel program, or as a short-term international student or scholar. This allows holders to study and work in the US at the same time.
It is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences. Participants include students at all academic levels; trainees obtaining on-the-job training; teachers or professors; housekeepers, maintenance workers, office assistants, kitchen workers, culinary chef-- it is basically open to everyone who is willing to study, work for a fee, travel, and learn about the US Culture.
HOW TO APPLY FOR THIS PROGRAM
STEP 1: Find a designated sponsor and apply. Among the factors that you have to consider are the duration of the program and the location. You also have to assess your skills and interests so you know what organization or company would best suit you and would contribute to your career growth. For example:
Disney International Program- Are you someone who can represent a country well in a Walt Disney World® Resort and is eager to talk to people? Then this is your chance! Participants have the opportunity to share the unique culture and customs of their country with Guests, while working different front line, guest facing roles.
A Cultural Exchange Service- They have all kinds of job relating to the kitchen, maintenance, office, laundry, housekeeping, and security.
Alliance Abroad Group, Inc.- Looking for an Intern-Trainee Program, Summer Work Program, Teacher Exchange Program and Seasonal Program? No matter what time of the year it is, there’s always a room for you and your skills here.
American Work Experience- They accept Summer Work Travel Applicants, Counselors, Special Needs Counselors and Camp Support Staff.
Camp Group, Llc.- If you’re a student who needs an internship in the field of athletics, sports management, coaching, teaching, dance, theater, fine arts, child development, child psychology or management, then working at this Summer Camp could be really a good way to have fun, learn, and to jumpstart your career.
Greenheart Exchange- This is open to all potential global leaders who can attain such through personal development, volunteer service, environmentalism, fair trade, and cultural exchange. They offer F-1 High School Academic Program, ESL Summer Camp, and various Short-term Homestay and Group programs for international participants.
Life Adventures, Inc.- Most participants here work in semi-skilled to non-skilled service positions at resorts, hotels, restaurants, and amusement parks. They are also accepting internships in US businesses and other organizations in the field of architecture, science research, graphic art/publishing and other media communication, advertising, computer software and electronics, and legal offices, etc.
The application process differs which may include written and oral interview. There are a total of 40 Organizations/Companies on the official list of designated sponsors. I’m sure there’s one out there which is perfect for you so just keep on trying in case you get rejected! :)
STEP 2: Obtain a DS-2019 Form (Certificate of Eligibility) from your sponsor once you get accepted for internship. This is a document that allows you to apply for the J-1 Visa as an Intern or Trainee in the USA. This form which is issued by the sponsor is unique to you, and identifies you in SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). It is only issued by them after you apply and are accepted for sponsorship in the J-1 Internship or Trainee Program.
STEP 3: Apply for an exchange visitor J-1 Visa. Having the DS-2019 Form is the first step to your J1 US Visa application. Once you have it, you’re all set for the US Embassy! :)
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED TO OBTAIN A J1 VISA
These are the documents that you need in order to apply for a J1 Visa:
A Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160). This must be answered and submitted online prior to the interview. The DS-160 Barcode is unique to you and is very important to always keep a copy of this form.
A valid passport. The validity date must last at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States.
ID photo. One (1) 2"x2" (5cmx5cm) which must comply with the photo specifications.
The receipt of the US$160 non-refundable nonimmigrant visa application processing fee. This is required unless your J program is sponsored by the US Government (with a program code beginning with a "G"). This shall be paid in local currency and will vary upon the current exchange rate.
An approved DS-2019 from your U.S. program.
Form I-901 SEVIS fee and proof of payment. This is applicable unless your J program is sponsored by the US Government (with a program code beginning with a "G"). Nonimmigrant students with Form I-20 pay a US$200.00 SEVIS fee. Most exchange visitors with Form DS-2019 pay a US$180.00 SEVIS fee. Proof of payment is required before your student or exchange visitor visa will be issued and payment cannot be made at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. Instructions for paying the SEVIS fee can be found here.
HOW TO APPLY FOR THE EXCHANGE VISITOR J-1 VISA
STEP 1: Prepare all required documents as stated above. Bring all of it on the day of the interview.
STEP 2: Schedule a visa interview. On the day of your appointment, you must present an interview appointment letter confirming that you booked an appointment through this link.
STEP 3: Pay the required visa fee. You can easily read there on how to make your visa fee payment. You must keep your receipt number to book your visa appointment.
STEP 4: Complete the DS-160 form. Fill it out correctly and accurately. Make sure to read the Guidelines for Completing the DS-160 Form carefully before starting. Here is a preview of the DS-160 form in case you wish to take a look at it first.
STEP 5: Schedule your visa appointment here. Click on New User and fill out the required fields such as your visa type, personal data, dependents, document delivery location, visa payment. After which, you can schedule your appointment with the need of the following details:
Your passport number
The receipt number from your Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) or BancNet receipt
The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page
STEP 6: Go to the US Embassy on the date and time of your visa interview.
STEP 7: Wait for your passport together with your visa! If your visa has been approved (CONGRATULATIONS!), then it will be sent to your delivery address :)
1. How will I know if my visa has been approved or rejected?
They are really straightforward and will tell you outright. They usually say ‘I’m sorry, I can’t give you your visa right now’ or ‘Congratulations, your visa is approved’.
2. I can’t remember what the consul said during the interview. I was so nervous! How will I know if my visa was approved?
If he took your passport, then it is approved. Otherwise, he will give it back to you.
3. I have a non-immigrant visa before. Do I still need to go through the whole process?
4. My passport has expired but my visa is still valid. Do I need to apply for a new one?
No need. You just bring the old and the new passport. You may use this visa as long as it is valid, not damaged, and is the appropriate type of visa required for your principal purpose of travel.
5. I am married and the name on my visa is now different than my passport. What should I do?
Just bring your old and new passports together with your marriage certificate.
6. Can I apply for an extension of my visa?
No. You have to apply for a new one.
7. I got my J1 visa. When can I travel to the US?
You may only enter the United States within 30 days of the beginning of the program, as stated on your Form DS-2019, regardless of when your visa was issued.
8. What is the ‘Two Year Rule’?
This means that J-1 visa holders subject to the two-year rule are not permitted to remain in the United States and apply for an adjustment/change of status to a prohibited nonimmigrant status (for example, from a J-1 visa to an H-1 visa) or to apply for legal permanent resident status (Green Card) without first returning home for two years or obtaining an approved waiver.
9. How will I know if I am subject to the Two-Year Rule?
It is determined by a number of factors, including your source of funding and your country's "Skills List." It is not determined by the amount of time you spend in the United States.
10. Will they pay us to work?
Yes. they usually give a rate of 10USD/hr.
11. Can I stay longer than the term of the internship/exchange?
12. Is there an age limit to it?
Some sponsors provide an age limit while others do not. So always check the qualifications before you apply. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting your time.
13. What if my visa gets rejected?
You can always apply again. But make sure that your personal, professional, and financial circumstances change considerably.
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