Is it required to go through a sponsor organization to get a J-1 Visa?
Yes. In order to make an appointment to apply for a J-1 Visa at a US Consulate, you must first submit the DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility. The DS-2019 certificate can only be issued by a State Department authorized sponsor organization. The German American Chamber of Commerce in New York is one such sponsor organization.
Can the GACC guarantee that I will receive the DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility?
No, no one can guarantee this. Whether or not your application for a DS-2019 is successful depends on whether you and your host company meet the requirements for the J-1 Visa, and that you submit all the required information and documents on time.
Common reasons for the rejection of an application for a DS-2019 include, for example, a lack of cooperation on the part of your host company, insufficient relevance of the internship for your studies, insufficient financial means to support your exchange visit, or insufficient familial, financial, or other ties to Germany/ your home country.
Will I be refunded for any costs if my J-1 Visa is rejected?
In the event of a program cancellation, the following refund policy will be in effect:
- If a J-1 Visa application has been submitted, but the DS-2019 has not yet been issued to the participant, the regular J-1 Visa service fee will be refunded minus a $200 administrative fee.
- Once the DS-2019 has been issued to the participant, only 50% of the J-1 Visa regular service fee will be refunded.
- If a participant has already received the J-1 Visa from a U.S. Consulate, no refund of the regular service fee will be given.
- If the DS-2019 has been issued to the participant, but the J-1 Visa was denied by the U.S. Consulate, only 50% of the J-1 Visa regular service fee will be refunded.
- If the DS-2019 has been issued to the participant, none of the priority processing fees will be refunded.
How long is my J-1 Visa valid for?
The J-1 Visa is valid for the exact time-frame of your internship/training. You may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the start of your internship/training and may leave the U.S. up to 30 days after your internship/training has ended. This so-called "Grace Period" after the internship does not appear on your visa. You are not allowed under any circumstances to continue your internship/training during the "Grace Period".
What do I have to keep in mind regarding my program start and end date?
The program dates stated on your DS-2019 are binding, so if any changes need to be made either before you enter the U.S., or after you have entered, please contact your case manager so we can change those dates on your documents.
What is the J-2 Visa? Is it possible for my spouse and/or children to accompany me on my J-1 Program?
The J-2 Visa is a visa for the spouse or child of a J-1 Visa holder. The holder of a J-2 Visa is allowed to stay for as long as the holder of the J-1 Visa is allowed to stay; the J-2 Visa is dependent on the J-1 Visa. It is possible to receive permission to work while on a J-2 Visa, but not if the salary from that work is needed to support the J-1 Visa holder during their internship/training. For more information on the J-2 Visa please contact your J-1 Visa Case Manager.
Can I apply for a J-1 Visa a second time?
You can apply for the J-1 Visa INTERN Category multiple times. The following conditions apply:
You must still be a student.
In the case of completing a second internship at the same firm, the training plan for your application must clearly show that you will be undertaking different responsibilities from your first internship, and that you will learn new skills through the work you plan to accomplish. A second J-1 Visa can only be granted when it has been clearly proven that the internship is not a repeat of the original position.
It is also possible to apply and be granted a J-1 Visa after having had a J-1 Visa in a different category (e.g., Au Pair).
What is the "Two Year Home-Residence Requirement" and will it pertain to me when I apply for a J-1 Visa through the GACC New York?
The "Two Year Home-Residence Requirement" requires a J-1 Visa holder to not stay in the U.S. after the visa expiration and apply for another visa, but to return immediately to the home country. The visa holder must then stay in the home country for at least two years before reapplying for a U.S. visa. An entry under the "Visa Waiver Program" is possible, though.
The "Two Year Home-Residence Requirement" applies to:
- program participants which receive financial support from the U.S. or the government of their home country
- participants which have acquired skills during their program that are considered as rare by the government of the U.S. or their home country (excluded are West-European States)
The decision is within the discretion of the respective U.S. Consulate at which the applicant applies for the J-1 Visa. The GACC does not have any influence on this decision.
What does the U.S. Consulate charge for issuing a J-1 Visa?
The U.S. Consulate currently charges $160 for the issuance of a J-1 Visa. For up-to-date information on consulate fees and the application process in general you can visit the home page of the U.S. Consulate in Germany.
How does one go about applying for the J-1 Visa at the U.S. Consulate?
Every J-1 applicant must book an appointment for an interview in person at the U.S. Consulate. The simplest way to book an appointment at one of the three U.S. Consulates in Germany (Munich, Berlin, or Frankfurt) is to register online at the U.S. Consulate's home page.
A list of US Consulates and Embassies in other countries can be found on the US Embassy's website.
What is the SEVIS fee and how can I pay it?
SEVIS is a software system that holds information on all international students, interns, and trainees who are taking part in an exchange program in the U.S. It serves to maintain the security of the U.S. while also easing the process of entering and exiting the U.S. for all exchange participants. The fastest and easiest way to pay the $220 SEVIS fee is to fill out the form found on www.fmjfee.com and pay the fee by credit card.
A receipt for the payment of the SEVIS fee should be printed immediately and then be brought to the U.S. Consulate interview as proof of payment.
For more information you should visit the home page of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Do I have to have health insurance for my entire stay in the U.S.?
All J-1 Visa holders must have health insurance from the day they entry the U.S. until the end of the Grace Period, which is the additional 30 days after the program end date. The health insurance must meet all of the requirements of the U.S. Department of State. You can find more information here
Are host companies required to pay J-1 Visa holders?
There is no requirement to pay J-1 Visa holders but we strongly encourage host companies to do so. Additional support, such as subsidizing transportation costs or reimbursing the cost of insurance, is also strongly preferred but there is no requirement on host companies to provide it.
What is the Financial Security Statement?
In order to be sponsored by the GACC for a J-1 Visa, the applicant must be able to prove an income/financial support of at least $1,500 per month. If the full $1,500 per month is not covered your salary paid by the host company, the applicant must fill out a Financial Security Statement. The statement constitutes a pledge by either your bank or your parents that you will have financial support for the entire duration of your program.
If the applicant is getting paid from their home country, they must submit documentation confirming that salary. Please note that the GACC does not support unpaid internships over three months.
Can I take on another job aside from my internship/training while in the U.S.?
No. The J-1 Visa is issued solely for the purpose of taking on an internship/training. Should the J-1 Visa holder take on other employment, they will be in direct violation of the conditions of the J-1 Visa and should understand that they may be instructed to leave the U.S. immediately. Additional legal consequences are possible.
How can I apply for a Social Security Number?
The J-1 Visa holder should make an appointment to visit the nearest Social Security Office and bring their passport, DS-2019 and the "Employer Letter" they received from the GACC. The nearest Social Security office can be found at Social Security Online. It is only possible to apply for the Social Security Number after about 10 days have elapsed since arrival in the U.S. and after about 2-3 days since submitting the required Program Check-in Form.
It is not required to apply for a SSN if the position is unpaid but we encourage doing so anyway.
Do I have to pay taxes on my income in the U.S.?
J-1 Visa holders must pay "Federal", "State" and "City Taxes" based on their J-1 occupation. However, they are exempted from "Social Security Taxation".
These taxes are automatically retained of the pay check by the employer of the visa holder.
Such as all U.S. tax payers, J-1 Visa holders must submit a tax equalization by April 15th of the following year, in which they got a salary in the U.S. and paid taxes. It is most likely that a big amount of the withheld taxes will be refunded.
At the beginning of each year all program participants receive an e-mail from the GACC which contains detailed information on tax filing. A tax declaration during the ongoing year is not possible.
For more information about the filing of taxes please consult the website of the U.S. IRS.
Can I take part in courses or seminars from local educational institutions outside my program?
Yes, given that the J-1 occupation will be continued on a full-time basis and won't be negatively influenced.
How long can a program be interrupted?
A J-1 Visa holder can interrupt her/ his occupation for two weeks without a separate permit. For interruptions longer than two weeks, the GACC requires a notification and a written approval needs to be obtained.
Can a J-1 Visa holder finish the program earlier?
It is possible to finish the J-1 Visa program earlier then initially stated if the host company agrees to that. In this case the GACC requires a written confirmation. The J-1 Visa holder has the right to acquire the 30-day grace period even if he/ she finishes the program earlier.
What needs to be considered when leaving the U.S.?
In order to leave the U.S. during the program you need a Travel Validation on your DS-2019 Certificate. Travels to Canada and Mexico are excluded from this rule (see backside of DS-2019).
To get the Travel Validation you have to send us your DS-2019 together with the filled-out Travel Validation Letter and an addressed envelope with a tracking number.
After receiving these documents we will send you your DS-2019 Certificate with the permission to leave the country. Please expect an overall process duration of approximately 3 weeks.
What is the "Grace Period"?
Before the start and after the end of your program you have a grace period of 30 days which you can use for your individual travel plans within the U.S. The period after the end of your internship serves as a preparation for the return to your home country.
In case you finish your program earlier, the grace period will be shortened or suspended.
During the 30-day grace period, participants are no longer in J-Visa status and it is therefor not recommended by the U.S. Department of State to leave and reenter the U.S. A renewed entry to the U.S. during the grace period could be denied.
You can find more information on the website of the U.S. Department of State.
Can I travel to Cuba during my program or grace period?
Unfortunately, it is not allowed to travel to Cuba on a J-1 Visa. You can find out more information about travel restrictions on the website of the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control.