This post is the first a series on teaching in the US with a J1 visa.
Have you ever wondered about teaching in the US school system? One legal way of doing so as a non-US citizen is with the J1 teacher exchange visitor visa. The J1 program issues non-immigrant visas for teachers, camp counselors and college students among other categories. This visa allows participants to live in the US for the duration of their program. For teachers, the initial visa is 3 years, and you can extend for 2 additional years. It is an excellent way to gain experience working in the US education system and it is what I used to enhance my resume for other international teaching positions.
Steps to the J1 Visa for Teaching in the US
Your first step is to find a sponsor company from the designated sponsor list the US State Department provides. Different companies have the authorization to operate in different states, so think about this when selecting a company. Also some companies will solely recruit for certain roles, for example elementary roles or the sciences. I used Educational Partners International (EPI), which sponsors teachers for school districts in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and recently Florida. This post will show the process I went through with EPI, however, it is mostly standard and will closely resemble all J1 sponsor companies.
Requirements for Teaching in the US
To be eligible for the J1 visa, you need to:
- Not have US citizenship or a Green card
- Be visiting the US solely for teaching at a primary, middle or high school school full-time
- Have over two years teaching experience within the last eight years
- A Bachelor’s Degree in Education or in your specific area that is equivalent to a US 4-year Bachelor’s Degree
- Be Fluent in English
Application Process with the Sponsor Company for Teaching in the US
- Personal Information – which included my contact information, passport info and pages and profile photo.
- Family Information – marital status, dependents (if any) information and information on any relatives you might have in the US.
- Education History – copies of diplomas/transcripts, teaching licenses, credential evaluation. The credential evaluation happens during the process of gathering all your information, so it is not needed before completing the initial evaluation.
- Teaching History – as the name implies you will list all relevant teaching jobs. However, you will have to show proof!! Only a letter from your school/Ministry of Education on official letterhead will do. When I applied in 2016, they also accepted pay stubs, but not any more. Contact information for two references, which of course have to be your supervisors.
- Assets & Legal Documents – Driver’s license info, Social Security number and card (if you have one), bank statements, criminal history including your criminal record check, evidence of home ties. Finally travel history and any possible issues you had with US immigration.
Fees Associated with the J1 Sponsor Company Application
Sponsor companies are not supposed to charge you fees!!! If they do, maybe they are an agency working to supply teachers to the designated sponsor companies. There are fees associated, however, none that you will pay to a J1 company. The fees you will have to pay during the application process are:
- The cost of getting your criminal record.
- Cost to request transcripts from your university.
- The cost to have your degrees evaluated. Please wait to hear from your company about the type of evaluation needed before proceeding. EPI gave the names of the companies approved by the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES), that they have a working relationship with. The credential evaluation can cost between U$ 150 – 260.
The Next Steps
Once approved by the sponsor company, the real work begins! It is an ongoing process that takes time, so apply with your desired start date in mind. Approval means placement in a candidate pool where schools and districts will have the opportunity to review your profile. Please note, however, that approval does not automatically mean you will have a job. You will need to be selected for an interview with the school/district. They will then contact your sponsor company if they are interested in moving forward with you. Once offered a contract, you will have additional tasks to complete. I will discuss these tasks and more in the next post in this series.
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