Program Overview&Eligibility&Benefits | Application Process | FAQ's


Q. What is the difference between an Intern and a Trainee?

A. The main difference between interns and trainees has to do with the education and experience required of each.

Interns must be current students or recent graduates of a post-secondary academic institution outside the U.S. that grants degrees or certificates. If you’ve completed your studies, you must start the internship program within one year of graduating.  Interns are permitted to work in the USA for up to 12 months, and your field of training must be related to your field of study.

Trainees must have earned a degree or professional certificate from an overseas post-secondary academic institution and have at least one year of related professional experience acquired outside the U.S. Alternatively, if you do not have a degree or certificate, you must have at least five years of related professional experience acquired outside the U.S.  As a trainee you are permitted to work in the USA for up to 18 months, unless you are participating in a Hospitality/Tourism program, which cannot exceed 12 months.  Your field of training must be related to your professional experience.

Q. What is the difference between the J-1 Visa Sponsorship Program and the Placement Program?

A. The J-1 Visa Sponsorship Program is designed for applicants who have already arranged an internship and simply need a J-1 Visa sponsor.

With the Placement Program, applicants can apply to one of our available placement positions.  If placed, we will also provide J-1 Visa sponsorship.

Q. How long can I stay in the USA?

A. The maximum duration of the J-1 Intern Visa is 12 months.  The maximum duration of the J-1 Trainee Visa is 18 months.  Hospitality/Tourism training programs are limited to 12 months, per the program regulations.

Q. I am starting university next month. Can I apply as an intern?

A. Not yet. You must be a full-time student currently enrolled in and pursuing studies at a university outside the U.S. You will be eligible to apply once you start your degree program.

Q. What is a J-1 Visa?

A. The J-1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa issued through the Exchange Visitor Program. Recipients of the visa must complete the objectives of their specific exchange program.  The program categories offered through InterExchange Career Training USA are “Intern” and “Trainee.”

Q. What is a DS-2019?

A. In order to apply for a J-1 Intern/Trainee visa, an applicant must first be approved for sponsorship and be issued a DS-2019, which is a U.S. government document certifying that we have agreed to sponsor your J-1 Intern/Trainee visa.

Q. What is an I-94 card?

A.  The I-94 card is used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to track the arrival and departure of foreign nationals.   You will receive an I-94 card upon entering the U.S., and you will be asked to give the card back when you leave.  Please note the date indicated on your card-this is the date by which you must leave the U.S.  If it is marked “D/S”, that means you may remain in the U.S. for the duration of your program status.  That is the end date of your program, plus your 30-day grace period.

Q. What is SEVIS?

A. SEVIS is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. All Interns/Trainees must be registered in the SEVIS database.

Q. What is the SEVIS fee?

A. You must pay the $180 SEVIS fee prior to your visa appointment at the U.S. Embassy. Exchange International will give you instructions for making your SEVIS payment after your application has been approved. This fee goes to the Department of Homeland Security-not to Exchange International.

Q. I am already in the U.S. Can I apply?

A. No. Applicants must return to their home country to apply to the Intern/Trainee program.  If you require a change of status from another visa to the J-1 Visa, Exchange International will not be able to assist you.

Q. I am currently participating in the J-1 Visa Work & Travel program.  Can I apply to be an Intern or Trainee:

A. You may apply to the Intern or Trainee program, but you must first return to your home country. The Intern/Trainee program may not function as an extension of the Work & Travel program.

Q. I have already done an Intern/Trainee program.  Can I do the program again?

A. Yes. To qualify for a new J-1 Intern Visa, you must show that you are learning new or more advanced skills. Exchange International cannot sponsor back-to-back J-1 Intern Visas.  You must return to school for at least one more term before applying to another J-1 Intern program in order to demonstrate that you are actively pursuing a degree.

Interns/Trainees who have previously completed a J-1 Intern or Trainee Visa must wait at least two years before being eligible for another J-1 Trainee Visa.  This is required for all participants who have previously done a J-1 Intern or Trainee Visa and is not related to rule 212(e), also known as the 2-year home residency requirement.

Q. Do I need insurance?

A. Yes. Beginning January 1, 2011, accident and sickness insurance will be included in your program fee.  This insurance meets all U.S. Department of State requirements and will cover you through your 30-day grace period at the end of your program.

Q. Can I bring my dependents (spouse and children) to the U.S.?

A. Yes. Your spouse and/or dependent children may accompany you for the duration of your program. However, they must apply for the J-2 Visa . Please indicate on your application that you will be bringing your spouse and/or children with you and provide the dependent information requested in the application.

Q. Do my dependents need insurance?

A.  Yes. Please include the appropriate insurance payment when applying. Independent coverage may not be used in place of the insurance provided by Exchange International.

Q.  I lost my I-94 card.  What do I do?

A.  If you have lost your I-94 card, you can apply for a new one from the State Department. Please note that you will have to pay for a new I-94 card, so it is a good idea to staple it to one of your passport pages.

Q. Is my employer required to pay me?

A.  Programs may be paid or unpaid. Any pay or benefits should be arranged between you and your host company.  However, you may only work at the location of your internship/training program, per the program regulations.  If your position will be unpaid, please ensure you will have sufficient funds to support yourself while in the US, as you will not be able to work anywhere else.

Q. How do I apply?

A.  Please review our application process.

Q. How long does the application process take?

A.  Once we receive a complete application, the processing time for J-1 Visa Sponsorship is approximately 2 weeks.  For the Internship Placement Program, the process can take up to 2-3 months, depending on your qualifications and the availability of jobs.  The review process will begin once we have received a complete application and full payment.

Q. I found my internship.  Are there any requirements my employer must meet?

A.  Yes.  Please review our summary of employer requirements.

Q. If my application is approved, am I guaranteed to get a visa?

A.  The decision to grant a visa is the U.S. Embassy/Consulate’s alone.  While visa denials are rare, they do occur. Exchange International has no control over the U.S. Embassy/Consulate’s decision to grant or deny a visa application, but we will discuss alternative options with you if you are denied a visa.

Q. Do my dependents need to complete an application for the program?

A.  No. There is a section in the application where you can add your dependent’s biographical information.  If you are bringing more than one dependent, please submit an additional document with the biographical information requested in the application.  Dependents must also submit a copy of their passport, copies of all previous visas, and full dependent program and insurance fees.

Q.  I received my degree from inside the U.S.  Do I qualify for the program?

A. To be eligible for the program, the regulations state that your degree must be earned in a post-secondary institution outside of the U.S.  Therefore, your U.S. degree does not qualify you for the program.  If you are currently attending a U.S. institution, you may be able to pursue practical training after graduation as part of your current academic visa.  Visit an international student advisor at your school to learn more about your options.

Q.  My work experience was in the U.S.  Do I qualify for the program?

A. Per the regulations for the program, only experience earned outside the U.S. is counted towards your eligibility.  Therefore, you must first earn sufficient work experience outside the U.S. in order to be eligible.

Q.  Can I submit recommendations from U.S. employers/professors?

A.  You should submit two letters of recommendation from employers/professors from outside the U.S. who can comment on the education and work experience you have gained outside the U.S.  You may submit additional letters from U.S. employers/professors to supplement your application if you would like.

Q.  How do I prove I have the requisite work experience for the Trainee visa?

A.  If you are trying to show eligibility based on your degree plus one year related professional work experience or based on your five years related professional work experience earned outside the U.S., your recommendations must show that you have earned the appropriate number of years of related professional work experience.  If you cannot document the required number of years of experience through letters of recommendation, you may provide verification of employment by submitting a letter from your other past employers simply stating your dates of employment.

Q.  What is the estimated cost of renting an apartment?

A.  Housing costs vary greatly throughout the U.S. Generally, it is more expensive to live in large populated urban areas, like New York or San Francisco and less expensive to reside in rural regions.  Ask your employer what the average cost of housing might be in the area, and check out online listings in the area to get a sense of the average costs.

Q.  How long does it take to secure housing?

A.  This, too, will depend on where you are living and when you start looking.  In large cities, there are usually more options and it can be easier to find something quickly.  It is recommended that you arrange short-term housing before your program so that you can look for something more long-term after you arrive.

Q.  Do I have to start searching while still in my home country?

A.  No.  We recommend finding a hostel for a few days or weeks initially, and then conduct a more thorough search while here.  However, it is helpful to do initial research on the area and begin to identify some housing options you want to check out once you arrive.

Q.  Does it matter that I will only be in the US temporarily?

A.  No.  As long as you make this clear to your landlord.  Do not sign a 12 month lease on an apartment if you only plan on being here 9 months.  You will be required to pay for the entire year even if you don’t stay the whole time.

Q.  What safety precautions should I take when searching for housing?

A.  Use the same caution you would when searching for housing in your home country.  Be sure you know what the neighborhood is like at night and the nearby transportation options.  Also ensure you carefully investigate any housing options you find online and try to secure prior to arrival—if you wire money to a person you have never met, it could be a housing scam.

Q.  Which documents will be required when I sign a lease or contract?

A.  This will vary depending on what type of housing you have but can include identification, proof of income, and the signature of a guarantor.

Q.  Do I have to live with a roommate?

A.  No.  For both personal and financial reasons, many participants find it beneficial, but the choice is yours.

Q.  Are apartments furnished?

A.  Generally apartments are not furnished.  However, there are ways to find furnished housing.  Often sublets are furnished and if you’re living on a university campus, rooms will be furnished.  This will always be specified within the details of the listing.  If it is not, be sure to ask.

Q.  Is Internet/cable provided?

A.  Unless you are staying in university housing, Internet and cable is generally not provided.  If you sublet an apartment, these amenities may already be in place, but be sure you know if this will be an additional monthly cost for you.

Q.  Will my employer help me find housing?

A.  It depends on the employer.  Most will be able to make suggestions and answer questions but probably cannot actually find or offer you a place to live.  Don’t hesitate to ask your employer questions about housing in the area, the general costs, resources they can recommend, etc.

Q.  What if I don’t like my housing?

A.  You can change your living situation at will, but depending on what kind of lease or contract you signed, you may have to pay for the unoccupied apartment for the time you were supposed to be living there.  This is one reason we suggest finding short-term housing (e.g. a hostel) at the beginning of your program and then conducting a thorough search while here.

Q. I am moving to a new address.  Is there anything I need to do?

A. You must notify your sponsor within 10 days of any change of address so that your record can be updated in SEVIS.

Q. How do I get a Social Security Number?
A.  The instructions for getting a Social Security Number can be found in the Intern/Trainee Handbook that was sent to you with your acceptance packet.  You can also refer to the Participant Handbook for more details.

Q. What do I do if I lose my DS-2019 form?

A. Please notify Exchange International immediately.

Q. I’m not making enough money.  Can I get another job to earn some extra money?

A. No. The J-1 Intern/Trainee regulations prohibit you from holding a second job.  You may only work at the place of employment indicated on the Training/Internship Placement Plan (DS-7002).

Q. I was fired, but I do not want to return home.  Can I stay in the U.S.?

A.  If you were fired, you must contact Exchange International immediately.  Depending on the circumstances of the termination of employment, you may be eligible to apply for a Change of Host Employer.  If you do not switch host companies, though, you will not be able to remain in the U.S.

Q. My program has ended.  How long can I remain in the U.S.?

A. Although you are not permitted to work past the end date on your DS-2019, Interns/Trainees are permitted to stay a maximum of 30 days past the end date to travel within the U.S. and gather their belongings.  This is referred to as the “grace period”.

Q. I really like my Internship/Training program, but it is ending soon.  Is there any way that I can stay in the U.S. and work at my internship a little longer?

A.  The maximum duration of the Internship program is 12 months and the maximum duration of the Trainee program is 18 months (12 months for Hospitality/Tourism).  If your program is shorter than the maximum durations listed above, you may be able to extend your program. Please contact us for additional information and an application. All extension applications must be submitted at least one month prior to your original end date.  Please note:  You cannot extend your program past the maximum duration listed above.

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