In 2023, the Exchange Visitor Program, also known as BridgeUSA, approved 15,905 U.S. J-1 visas for German nationals, with Germany being one of the top 10 countries with the highest number of participants. If you are a German citizen, this could mean that you may be in luck if you want to train in the United States, as the chances of getting the J-1 visa are high. 

But what is the J-1 visa, and how do you even apply for it? In this article, we’ll be covering how to apply for the U.S. J-1 visa program, answering questions such as: 

  1. What is the J-1 Visa? 
  2. How do you apply for the J-1 Visa? 
  3. What are the benefits of international work? 
  4. What are people’s experiences with working abroad? 

At Intrax Global Internships, our mission is to help students like you be able to gain international work experience to connect people and cultures, inspire personal growth, and prepare individuals to succeed as global citizens. 

As a U.S. Department of State designated J-1 Visa sponsor, we simplify the legalities across borders and provide ongoing support to students throughout the program. That means that we are here to help you navigate the process of participating in an exchange program from Germany in the U.S. to expand your career to international heights. 

What is the J-1 Visa? 

The first step in answering how to apply for an internship in the U.S. is learning about the J-1 Visa. 

The J-1 visa program is a cultural exchange program that allows individuals from other countries (like Germany!) to come to the U.S. to gain experience and knowledge in their field of study or profession. 

Administered by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), this program is meant to help the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and skills in various fields. It also allows foreign nationals to come to the United States to participate in exchange programs that enable them to learn and train in their fields of interest. The J-1 visa creates a win-win situation where students can get cultural exposure and companies gain new global perspectives. 

If you are thinking about training in the U.S. with the J-1 visa, you should know whether the type of training you want to do falls under the visa’s qualifications. The qualifying jobs include: 

  • Au pair 
  • Camp counselor
  • Government visitor
  • Intern
  • International visitor selected by Department of State
  • Physician
  • Professor and research scholar
  • Short-term scholar
  • Specialist
  • Student in a college or university
  • Student in secondary school
  • Summer work travel
  • Teacher
  • Trainee

For example, if you are hailing from Berlin and want to spend your summer as an international student intern in the U.S., you would need the J-1 visa to work.

What are the types of J-1 Visas? 

There are different categories of J-1 visas depending on what type of work you will be pursuing in the U.S. Some of these include: 

  1. J-1 Trainee Visa: Meant for young professionals who want to participate in on-the-job training programs. They must possess a degree or certificate from a university or college outside of the U.S. and 1 year of related professional experience OR have 5 years of related professional experience. 
  2. J-1 Internship Visa: Meant for those who wish to participate in an intern role in the U.S. A J-1 intern would be enrolled full-time in a university or college outside of the U.S. or for recent graduates who have received their degree within 12 months prior to the start of the internship. 
  3. J-1 Camp Counselor Visa: Meant for individuals who want to participate in a U.S. summer camp program. Note that you must be sufficiently proficient in English and be 18 years or older to be eligible. You can find summer camp counselor opportunities through organizations like AmeriCamp
  4. J-1 Summer Work Travel Visa: Meant for those who want to work and travel in the United States during their summer break from school. 
  5. J-1 Teacher Visa: Meant for individuals who want to teach in the United States as part of an exchange program. You could, for example, teach German in a high school or teach in other subject areas in public and private schools througout the U.S.. 

There are even more visa categories that you can choose from depending on your work and intentions, and it’s important to do some research on which category best fits your needs as you apply for the U.S. J-1 visa from Germany. 

U.S. J-1 Visa: How Do I Apply? 

With so many categories, processes, and work types, it might feel like it’s easier to stay at home than take the steps to travel to the U.S. But don’t worry–this section will cover exactly what you need to do so that the only question you’ll be asking yourself is “why not do an internship and start my career in San Francisco?” 

Generally, the application process can be broken down into: 

  1. See available trainee or internships opportunities 
  2. Apply and secure your U.S. internship or trainee position 
  3. Secure a visa sponsorship
  4. Apply for a J-1 visa
  5. Attend a visa interview 
  6. Get packed and ready! 

See Available Trainee or Internships Opportunities 

This might seem common sense, but there has to be a positions available for you to snag the position in the first place! In the case of the J-1 visa, your goal is to find a host company, which is the U.S. organization where you will be completing your internship or training program. There is an entirely different list of host company eligibility requirements, so it’s important to make sure that you’re sending job applications over to companies that are qualified to hire J-1 visa holders. 

Both companies and J-1 employees alike have eligibility requirements. As you hone down on which companies you would like to apply to and figure out what category you see yourself pursuing, take a pause and see if there are category-specific requirements you need to consider. 

Interning and training, for instance, require that you can only work within these sectors: 

  • Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
  • Arts and culture
  • Construction and building trades
  • Education, social sciences, library science, counseling, and social services
  • Hospitality and tourism
  • Information media and communications
  • Management, business, commerce, and finance
  • Public administration and law
  • The sciences, engineering, architecture, mathematics, and industrial occupations

Since requirements are detailed and strict, make sure you check all of the boxes before spending precious time applying and interviewing for positionss. 

Apply and Secure Your U.S. Trainee or Internship Position

Once you have a list of opportunities that are eligible with the J-1 visa, it’s time to start applying! If you’re having a hard time finding those positionss, you can peruse our list of 10 Companies That Hire International Students For Valuable Internships for a head start. 

At Global Internships, we can also match you with host companies based on your goals, interest, and skill level. You’ll be able to receive services such as: 

  • Exclusive positions
  • Year-round start dates
  • Amazing customer service
  • Emergency support around the clock
  • Assistance with securing work authorization
  • An international network of connections 

As the market continues to be highly competitive, being equipped with the right resources and support, such as our services at Global Internships, can significantly enhance your chances of securing a valuable opportunity in the United States.

Secure a Visa Sponsorship

A J-1 visa sponsor helps prospective international candidates obtain their J-1 visas so they can travel to the U.S. for an Exchange Visitor Program. J-1 sponsors can help in:

  • Screening participants
  • Selecting participants
  • Monitoring participants throughout their stay in the U.S.
  • Explaining to participants how the program work

You can find an official list of approved J-1 visa sponsors online. You can also save time by staying right where you are while reading this, since Global Internships has been a designated U.S. J-1 visa sponsor for over 40 years! We’re here to support you so that your travels from Germany to the U.S. are seamless. You can find specific program information on our site or contact us if you have more questions. 

Apply for a J-1 Visa

With a sponsor who's got your back, it’s now time to apply for the visa. We’ll go over the basics of the application process, but you can look through our ultimate guide for step-by-step action items. 

  1. Submit your Application for J-1 Visa Sponsorship: The application form includes basic information about yourself and your host company, including addresses, phone numbers, and program dates.
  2. Submit Documents: Provide additional documentation, including the proof of English proficiency, diploma/work experience proof, resumé/CV, and a copy of your passport's biographical page.
  3. Pay Fees: There will be payments associated with visa interviews and J-1 visa sponsorship. You can use our J-1 pricing calculator for an estimate. 
  4. Receive DS-2019: After submitting all required documents and fees and all parties have signed the DS-7002, receive the DS-2019 within 4 weeks, and bring it to your visa interview. 
  5. Complete DS-160: Fill out the online nonimmigrant visa application to schedule your visa appointment,upload a photo and print the barcode page to take with you to your visa interview.

At Global Internships, we try to alleviate the process of getting all of your documents completed and in order through our sponsorship program, as we guide you through each form step-by-step. That way, you can be 100% sure that you have everything ready before your visa interview. 

Attend a Visa Interview 

Every J-1 visa applicant needs to complete an interview.  However, your J-1 visa application is going to vary by country. In Germany, you can go to three locations for visa services: 

  • U.S. Embassy in Berlin: Clayallee 170 14191, Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany
  • U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt: Gießener Str. 30 60435 Frankfurt am Main Federal Republic of Germany
  • U.S. Consulate General in Munich: Königinstraße 5 80539 München Federal Republic of Germany

You’ll have to pay a $185 Embassy fee on the website. The earlier you schedule, the better, as wait times might decrease if you schedule in advance. 

You will have to bring documentation for your interview. This includes: 

  • Passport
  • Form DS-160 confirmation page
  • SEVIS fee payment receipt (Intrax will provide directions on how to print the SEVIS fee payment receipt))
  • Your personal photo from the DS-160 application (2x2 format)
  • The DS-2019
  • The DS-7002

Some nice-to-bring documents, though not required, include: 

  • Bank statements or financial documents
  • Visa appointment confirmation
  • Transcripts (especially for intern and training programs) 
  • Demonstration of nonimmigrant intent

The final step is to prepare for the interview itself! Look through our 10 smart tips to confidently answer J-1 visa interview questions so that the interview feels like  a breeze. 

Get packed and Ready! 

Once you complete your interview and are approved, it’s time to pack your bags and get ready to travel across the globe. Make a packing list, talk to your sponsor for additional tips and guidance, and make sure you have everything in order with your host company. This could also be a great time to brush up on your English skills, research the city where you will be working, and sort out logistical things such as housing and flights. 

How You Can Benefit From the U.S. J-1 Visa as a German National

Two employees coworking in a busy cafe, an experience you can have as part of the Germany U.S. Visa program.
Image Source: Unsplash

With Germany ranking 12th in global quality of living, you might be wondering if it’s better to stay at home rather than travel to work. However, there are research-backed reasons to intern internationally

A 2022 study on international internships and skill development showed that international work offers students experiential learning opportunities and intercultural context that is especially unique to work environments prioritizing intercultural and international team constructions.

As a German student, you’ll be able to gain insights on U.S. work culture and engage with peers who provide new perspectives on how they work and what projects they prioritize in an American company. You’ll also develop new relationships with your coworkers, form friendships, and gain skill sets as you are exposed to a foreign workplace setting. Working in a U.S. based company will also give you the opportunity to improve your English skills. 

As one of our students have said: 

“One of my main expectations, when I started to write this blog, was that I was going to come out of this a different person, and I think that I have. This has been a crazy chapter in my life and it's all thanks to this program.”

This experience can boost your career growth, making you a unique candidate with global experiences which can appeal to future employers. Outside of work, the J-1 visa lets you explore the U.S., so you can visit the tourist attractions and cities you’ve had on your bucket list. 

How Host Organizations Benefit From Hosting J-1 Visa Trainees and Interns from Germany 

Two co-workers waving their hands while they are in a video meeting. Employers can benefit in numerous ways from Germany U.S. J-1 visa holders, gaining new insights and skillsets in their team dynamic.
Image Source: Unsplash

Host organizationss benefit greatly from your perspective and experience. Host organizations may want individuals who are fluent in German, have experience with EU policies and companies, or have specific projects that require your skills that may be hard to find by simply looking through their domestic candidate pool. Finding exceptional talent, therefore, can start with them finding you! 

Your international background can also expose your host organization to a gateway for diverse markets. Organizations often seek individuals with a global mindset to navigate international collaborations, ensuring a seamless integration of business practices and cultural nuances.

International students also bring in new modes of innovation, creativity, and cosmopolitan thought. What may be considered as common practices in German company culture may be completely unique when applied to your work in the U.S., meaning that you’ll be offering novel ways to approach brainstorming, project blockers, and team cadence. 

When organizationss recruit internationally and develop a world-class international internship program, they are investing in corporate diversity and cultural growth, all of which you can provide with your talents.

Applying for a U.S. J-1 Visa from Germany: Get Started Today

Phew, that was a lot of information to take in, right? At Global Internships, we want to make your trip from Germany to the U.S. as easy as possible, so that you can focus on your resume, meetings, and cultural experience rather than piles of documents. 

As a U.S. Department of State designated J-1 Visa sponsor, we can help you get a J-1 visa, show you available internships, guide you through specific programs in hospitality and teaching, and more. If you’re interested in starting your abroad experience today, you can request information, begin your registration, or contact us today! 

Not from Germany but still interested in getting your J-1 visa? Check out our other resources: 

Mar 12, 2024

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