An internship in the United States can be a life-changing experience: nothing compares to the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new friends in a new environment. But getting a global internship can be overwhelming and exhausting. After finding a host company for their internship, exchange visitors to the United States need to complete the J-1 visa application process, which involves multiple stages and dozens of papers. You might feel like you’re in the middle of a never-ending procession of J-1 visa documents and J-1 visa forms.
Thankfully, with the right advice, you can keep yourself organized and navigate the J-1 visa application procedure with ease. Knowing the documents required for the J-1 visa is a great first step to making sure you’re prepared for your exchange visit.
Visa Application Forms and Process Overview
The J-1 visa application process includes many steps, as we’ve explored in other articles. Although it’s easy to get stuck in the details, let’s start with a quick J-1 visa checklist to summarize the procedure Intrax Global Internships uses:
- Once you know the host company for your internship or training, complete an online Intrax DS-2019 application.
- Submit the required DS-2019 documents (more on that later).
- Pay remaining program fees.
- Your host company will confirm your internship with Intrax.
- Complete Intrax online pre-departure orientation to learn some rules and helpful tips for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program.
- Intrax will ship your DS-2019, which you’ll need for your J-1 visa interview.
- Schedule and attend a J-1 visa interview at a nearby U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
- Receive your J-1 visa foil and get ready for the experience of a lifetime!
Throughout this process, there are a few key steps that require you to have a variety of documents:
- The J-1 visa DS-2019 application requires you to fill out some forms and submit documents.
- You will need to bring many documents to your J-1 visa interview. In order to get an interview, you’ll also need to fill out an online DS-160 application form and pay an application fee.
Make sure you have all the documents required for the J-1 visa before you complete each stage of the J-1 visa application process to avoid any delays or problems with receiving your visa.
J-1 Visa Documents: The DS-2019 Form
One of the first steps to obtain your J-1 visa is to apply for the DS-2019, the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status. You will need your DS-2019 when you go to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for your J-1 visa interview.
Intrax Global Internships is one of a handful of J-1 visa sponsors that can issue a DS-2019, in addition to providing other services that are necessary for a successful internship experience. In order to get your DS-2019, you’ll need to:
- Complete an online application.
- Submit required documents.
- Pay your program fees.
Let’s walk through this process step by step.
DS-2019 Online Application
Once you know where you’ll be interning in the United States, you can fill out our online DS-2019 application. This form requires that you know the following information:
- Start date of your internship/training
- End date of your internship/training
- Host Company Street Address
- Host Company Website Address
- Host Company Contact Person (hiring manager or direct supervisor)
- Host Company Contact Phone Number
- Host Company Contact Email Address
The form will also include your personal information and information about the subject or field you will focus on during your exchange visitor program.
Once you have submitted your DS-2019 application and Intrax Global Internships has accepted it, you will need to upload a handful of required J-1 visa documents.
Host Company Agreement
We will send this form to your host company, who will complete it and return it to us.
Internship or Training Placement Plan
You and your host company will work together on this placement plan, which will include details about your goals and responsibilities for the duration of your exchange visitor program. This is your DS-7002, which you’ll need for your J-1 visa interview.
English Test Results
You will need to prove your English comprehension with an internationally recognized test score. You can take a free Test Podium English Test right now, or you can send us the results from another test like the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC).
University Diploma/Certificate or Proof of Enrollment
Most trainees and interns will need to submit a copy of their diploma, certificate, or proof of enrollment at a university or college.
Intrax Global Internships will need information about your prior education and work experience.
You will need to submit a copy of the Biographical page of your passport, which includes your date and place of birth and an ID photo.
Out of all of these documents, the Internship or Training Placement Plan is the only one that will require you to fill out a lengthy form. Work with your host company to obtain the following information:
- Personal information, like your name, your field of study, and your educational and work experience
- Site of activity information, like your host company’s Employer ID Number (EIN), Worker’s Compensation (WC) policy, annual revenue, and number of full-time employees
- Training and internship information, like your role and responsibilities, specific tasks, planned cultural exchange activities, and methods of supervision. This section should be personalized — for example, use your full name instead of writing “trainee/intern” — and detailed.
After you’ve completed the application form and submitted the required documents, the rest of the DS-2019 application process is fairly simple. We will send you an invoice for any remaining program fees. We will also reach out to your host company to confirm that you will be an intern or trainee there and to ensure that we have the correct contact information. Let your host company know that we will be sending an email so that this step can occur as quickly as possible.
Once all of that happens, Intrax Global Internships will process and send you a DS-2019 form in no more than four weeks. Congrats! That’s one major piece of the J-1 visa application process that you’ve finished.
We will also email a link for the online pre-departure orientation around this time so that you can learn about living in the United States and prepare for the next major part of the J-1 visa application procedure: the J-1 visa interview.
The J-1 Visa Interview
You will need to schedule a J-1 visa interview at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate before you can finally receive your J-1 visa. The J-1 visa interview doesn’t have to be scary: in fact, we have a list of 10 smart tips to confidently answer J-1 visa interview questions. However, getting ready for the interview is a lengthy process in and of itself. Once you’ve received your DS-2019, there are a few steps you will need to complete before going to the U.S. Embassy for a J-1 visa:
- Complete form DS-160, the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- Pay the $160 visa application processing fee.
- Schedule your interview.
Exchange Visitor programs use the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to issue DS-2019 forms and report exchange visitor information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). You will not need to input your personal information yourself, as Intrax provides this information and also takes care of paying the SEVIS fee.
The DS-160 Form
At this point, you’re almost done with the J-1 visa application forms, but you will still need to complete Form DS-160, the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. You will need to complete this form on the U.S. Department of State’s website, but you can look at an example application to prepare.
Completing the DS-160 should be simple if you have the right J-1 visa documents available. You’ll need to have all of the following information at your disposal as you complete the form:
- Your passport
- A travel itinerary for your program
- Dates of your last five trips to the United States, if you have been there before, and general international travel history for the last five years
- Your resume or CV
- Your DS-2019, which will have your SEVIS ID and host company address listed on it
You will also need to upload a photo of yourself as part of your visa application. The photo requirements are very specific. For example, the photo rules include:
- Your head must be between 50% and 69% of the image’s total height.
- The photo must have a white or off-white background.
- You cannot wear eyeglasses in the photo, except for rare medical reasons.
You may want to use a professional visa photo service, if possible, to ensure that your photo meets these requirements.
Once you have all of your information ready, go to the J-1 visa application forms website and click “Start an Application.” Be sure to write down the application ID listed in the top right-hand corner of the website, since you will need the application ID to access your application if you don’t finish it in one sitting. If you experience any problems with the application, check out the DS-160 frequently asked questions.
J-1 Visa Interview Fees and Scheduling
At this point, the J-1 visa application procedure will look different depending on your home country. You can find the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate using this list. You will need to pay a visa application fee of $160; visit the embassy’s website to find out how to do so.
You should be able to schedule your interview online. It’s best to schedule an interview as early as possible because many embassies have very long visa appointment wait times — you can visit this website to see how many days you’ll probably have to wait for an exchange visitor visa interview. Some consulates and embassies have wait times that are hundreds of days long, so the earlier you can start this process, the better.
All that waiting will also give you time to prepare for the last step in the J-1 visa application process: the J-1 visa interview.
Preparing for the J-1 Visa Interview
Except for Canadian citizens, almost every J-1 visa applicant has to have an interview. This interview isn’t just a simple question-and-answer session: you will also need to bring a variety of documents to the embassy or consulate. These documents include:
You will need a passport that is valid for at least six months after the end of your program (when you leave the United States). If your country is in the “six-month club,” you are exempt from this requirement, and you only need a passport that is valid for the duration of your program.
Form DS-160 confirmation page
After completing the Form DS-160, you will be able to print out a confirmation page confirming that you applied.
Application fee receipt
If you had to pay the $160 visa processing fee, then be sure to bring a receipt.
You will need to bring a 2x2 photo of yourself that meets the Form DS-160 photo requirements — you should bring the same photo that you uploaded online.
This is the form that Intrax Global Internships will have sent you. Review the DS-2019 carefully, as your interviewer might ask you about the exchange program information listed on the form.
This is the Training/Internship Placement Plan that you and your host company should have filled out together to apply for the DS-2019. We will send you an official final copy of the form.
The following J-1 visa documents aren’t required for the interview, but it is still a good idea to bring them:
Visa appointment confirmation letter
You should receive a confirmation letter once you’ve scheduled your interview. You probably won’t need it, but it’s helpful to have it if there are any scheduling mistakes.
Bank statement or financial documents
Your interviewer might ask you about your financial status to ensure that you can pay the necessary travel costs. Bringing financial documents can help prove that you have the needed resources.
Transcripts or academic documents
Bringing documents related to your area of study can help demonstrate your expertise and qualifications for an internship or training program.
Demonstrations of nonimmigrant intent
Most J-1 visa holders have to return to their home country for two years after their exchange program. You will need to prove that you do not plan on permanently moving to the United States. It can be helpful to bring documents that prove you have financial, familial, or employment ties to your home country, like a letter from your employer explaining that you will resume a job in your home country after your internship.
You should also check the website of your nearest embassy or consulate to see if they want you to bring additional documents to your interview.
The Visa Wizard tool can also be useful. This website allows you to enter information about your nationality and purpose of travel. It will then provide relevant information about the J-1 visa you are applying for.
If you have any other questions about the interview, like what to wear or what questions to prepare for, check out our 10 smart tips to confidently answer J-1 visa interview questions.
Getting All Your J-1 Visa Documents Ready
And that’s it! The J-1 visa application process may seem like a complicated series of forms and deadlines, but you can get your visa with ease if you stay organized. As you start your application journey, try using this J-1 visa checklist to make sure you have all the necessary documentation.
Here are the forms you’ll fill out or obtain throughout the application process:
- Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status)
- Form DS-7002 (Training/Internship Placement Plan)
- Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application)
- 2x2 visa photo
- $160 visa application processing fee
And here are the documents and pieces of information you’ll need to get started:
- A passport that expires at least six months after the end of your internship
- English test results like the IELTS, TOEFL, or TOEIC
- University diploma, certificate, or proof of enrollment, and other optional academic documents
- Resume or CV
- Information about your personal history
- Information about your internship or training program, like start/end dates and internship responsibilities
- Travel itinerary and information about your international travel in the last five years
- (possible) Financial documentation and evidence of home country employment
If you can get all of your documents put together early on, then the J-1 visa application procedure will be as easy and stress-free as possible, giving you more time to prepare for the main event: an exchange program experience that could change your life!