You have secured a job through your J1 Visa sponsorship company, now what? Before signing, read through the offered contract to ensure you understand it. I know exactly how you feel right now, as I was in this position a few years ago. At this stage, your sponsor company should be sending you several emails in preparation for securing the visa. In this blog, I’ll share what your next steps will be.
Applying for a J-1 Visa: The Essentials
Your J1 Visa sponsor company will issue you a Form DS-2019. This is also known as the Certificate of Eligibility and is required to apply for the visa. The COE notes your acceptance to an exchange program that is sponsored by a State Department-designated EVP sponsor. To apply for the COE, your sponsor company will have to register you into the SEVIS database. For some sponsor companies, you will have to pay the U$ 220 for this. However, the company I used, EPI covers the SEVIS fee. Your sponsor company will send a signed DS-2019 to you via courier and you should also sign in the place indicated.
Once you have the signed copy, you can schedule a J1 visa interview at the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country. This means the country which issued the passport you will use for the visa. If you live in another country, you must arrange to go home for the visa interview. The visa application fee is currently U$185. Once finished with the application, you will receive information on how to select an interview date. If the available dates are too far away and you will risk missing school days, speak to your J1 sponsor company. They can give you an expedited letter which explains the need for an earlier interview date.
The J1 Visa Interview
At your visa interview, you will need to present your:
- DS-2019 form
- SEVIS receipt
- DS-160 (the visa application) confirmation page and receipt of payment
- Current passport
- Any additional documentation to prove you plan to return home at the end of the three years
The questions you will be asked will be tailored to what you indicated on your application form. However, ensure you know what state you will work in, the name of the school and the subject/s you will teach. If you are successful, the consular officer will sign your COE and will present you with a Know Your Rights pamphlet for you to review. Depending on the embassy in your home country, your passport will be delivered to you via courier or you can arrange to collect it at the embassy.
Getting Ready for Your New Life in the USA
Once you have your passport in hand, it is time to book your flight. My J1 sponsor company paid for a one-way ticket for me (up to a limit) to fly to the US. I met with one of their representatives who booked a flight from my preferred airport and ensured that I would arrive in time for their orientation.
Now that you have booked your flight, it is important to start wrapping up business in your home country and begin packing. When packing your bags, be sure to pack everything you will need for your stay in the USA. This includes clothing, spices, food items, and any necessary medications that will last for at least one month. You should also pack any documents that you will need, such as your Form DS-2019, passport, driver’s licence and Social Security Card (if you have one).
Navigating the J1 Visa journey for teachers can be a bit daunting, but it is definitely possible. By following the steps above, you can make the process as smooth as possible. In my final installment in this series, I will talk about life in the USA on a J1 Visa, including the requirements to maintain your visa status.
If you have any questions about the J-1 Visa program, please feel free to leave a comment below.