Do not waste your time at the airport trying to enter the US as a tourist if you are planning to work for a US company as an intern, paid or unpaid! You will likely be asked to apply for a J1 visa.
Applying for a J1 visa is easy. Everything can be done online and it should not be very time consuming. The right visa sponsor will make sure you and your host business meet a few requirements before they issue the necessary documents needed to show to the officer at the port of entry.
The application processing time and supporting documents may vary from one sponsor to another, but it usually takes from 2-4 weeks once you submit all supporting documents to get the DS 2019 form for the J1 visa. In order to speed up the vetting process, before you contact the visa sponsor, you may want to make sure you get:
- proof of student status from your university or a copy of your certificate if you already graduated
- letters of recommendation from previous employers outside of the US where you gained experience in your field of degree (if applicable)
- a copy of your passport’s biographical page
These documents will help the sponsor to determine your eligibility .
J1 visa sponsors charge a fee for their services. You will need to pay U$160 application fee for the J1 visa. Additionally, there is a U$180 for a fee for SEVIS, the government database used by all arms of the government to facilitate your visa, social security, boarder entrance, etc… You will also be required to carry insurance, which is provided by the visa sponsor in most cases. The program cost varies depending on the length of the internship, but you can expect to pay an average of U$1300 for your program, which includes administrative support throughout your stay In the US and of course, issuance of all visa documents you will need to hand in when you apply for the J1 visa at the airport.
To wrap things up, the steps you should follow are:
- Contact a J1 visa sponsor
- Collect and submit all supporting documents to the sponsor
- Wait 1-2 weeks for the sponsor to run a vetting process to your host business
- Pay for the fees
- Get your visa required documents (DS 2019, DS 7002, Insurance, and Sevis fee receipt) in the mail
- Get your ticket, take all documents with you to the airport and apply for the J1 visa
- Have fun during your internship
You might find these links helpful for more information: