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Tips for Enjoying a Positive J1 Visa Experience

How to Enjoy a Positive J1 Visa Experience

Yet even with these reports of visa abuse on the J1 scheme, the program is certainly not off-limits to overseas students. What should you do if you are interested in spending time working and studying in the US on this visa? Your first step, if you are interested in the J1 visa experience, is to choose a program (au pair, camp counsellor, intern etc.). Be aware of the requirements and eligibility before you sign up. For example, you must “possess sufficient proficiency in the English language to participate in their programs”. You also need to have medical insurance at the minimum level of benefits as stated in the regulations for the chosen program. In order to get the correct coverage, it is advisable to check with the sponsor organization and then find the right package for your needs. If you do not have the appropriate medical insurance then you are at risk of being expelled from the program.

After you decide on a program you are interested in, the next step is to find a sponsor. Unfortunately for some students, not all “sponsors” are legitimate. Unscrupulous third-party agencies promise steady jobs and a chance to travel but end up providing nothing or – perhaps even worse – dangerous working conditions and unattractive jobs. Students applying for the J1 program can lower the risk of falling into the same trap by only working with reputable agencies – look at the list of Designated Sponsor Organizations on the list provided by the State Department. While, as discussed above, these agencies are not constantly vetted by the government they do have to apply and be granted the status of Designated Sponsor Organization by meeting certain requirements. There are thousands of organizations on the list so students do not need to work with organizations in their home country that are not officially linked to the cultural exchange program. Many of the organizations place workers and students all over the country, regardless of where they are located in the USA.

Check the Credentials

Students and other interested participants should get feedback about the organization they are interested in working with. Ask on J1 visa forums or Google the name of the organization and “review” or “feedback”. If no feedback is forthcoming, ask the organization directly if they have past participants that are available to talk about their experience in the program. Be very careful about giving money to any organization, whether they are on the Designated Sponsor Organization list or not, until you are absolutely certain what you get for your money, and how you can claim money back if you are not satisfied. Find out about the pay and the benefits, as well as the accommodation and any extras. Be aware of what is not included, for example meals or transport from the airport to your workplace. Ask plenty of questions about the role, what you will be asked to do, how long you will work, whether you get any vacation, and what the organization expects from you.

Bear in mind that sponsors have certain obligations to the participant in terms of supporting them and monitoring them throughout their stay. Sponsors must provide the participant with information about the program and any relevant related matters before the participant leaves from the US. Specific program information must be made available and the contractual obligations must be clear. If this information is not available, ask. If it is not provided, do not work with the sponsor – the job and the experience should be properly explained, otherwise you risk turning up to the United States and getting a shock when you discover what you need to do. Orientation materials should also be provided, with details about the region and the state, and other information about what to expect when you are living in the USA.

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