As you might know, I have been lucky to get an internship in the US next semester and to be able to work there temporarily for six months, I need a visa. Here is the tedious process and the costs of getting a J-1 visa. Hopefully, this explains it for you a bit better and easier than all the complicated official websites.
Getting a job
This is the first thing you need to do obviously. You can only start the visa process if you already have your job. If you are in the hospitality industry, like me, you can find these jobs the same way as I have described in this post. You can also use job agencies in the US to get these but these are not always the perfect jobs you are looking for. Do not start the visa application process before you have a job, since you will not get far.
Contact a Visa Sponsor
Once you have received an offer letter from a company, you can start the actual visa process. I have decided to go with the WISE foundation and am very happy with them. They will give you the first set of paperwork to send in. This paperwork will include some basic information about you, about the company, and much more. You will also have to submit a medical check, and confirmation from the university (if you have not graduated yet). With this form, you will also have to submit your payment method. The visa for 6 months with WISE costs 800$ and for 12 months it is 1200$. You also have to have mandatory health insurance with comes at about 40$ per month. Overall you will pay around 1000$ to 1500$ for this process.
Creating a training plan
For this step, you have to do nothing. The visa sponsor now has to create a training plan for you that they can submit along with your paperwork. This will be used to keep track of what you are doing during your time with the company and to hold them accountable. This can be a swift process if the company is responsive and working with the sponsor.
Waiting for your DS2019 form
To be able to continue with the process you have to wait. The visa sponsor has to submit your paperwork to the office in the US and they will issue you your DS2019 form. This can take about 4 to 6 weeks. During this period, you can ask your visa sponsor all the questions you have and they will keep you updated about the process. Please be aware that the offices will not be working during public holidays, so that might delay the process. Once you have received it via post, you can keep going.
So once you have received your DS2019 form, you have to pay the government processing fees. These are called SEVIS fees and will cost you about 180$. You can do this easily online. All you need is the SEVIS number on your DS2019 form. This is the website where to do this payment.
Fill out DS160 form
The DS 160 is the online nonimmigrant visa application. You have to complete this long and tedious form before making an appointment at the embassy. This will take forever since you need about every conceivable information you could think of. Furthermore, you need to answer about five pages of useless questions with no. At the end of the process, you will have to pay for your appointment at the embassy. This step may change depending on the country you are applying in. Some embassies allow you to pay on the spot while others want online payments. The total will cost you 160$. Once this is complete you are almost there.
Appointment at the Embassy
Now you are almost there. Once You have filled out the DS160, you can make an appointment at the embassy for your interview. Make sure you have enough time before your departure date, since it may take up to one month to get an appointment, depending on how many people are applying for them.
Once you have one, make sure you arrive at least fifteen minutes earlier because you still need to go through security. If you know anything about the US, you know they take their security seriously so it will take more than five minutes to pass through. Also if you are going during a time when it is cold, make sure to dress warmly since you will be waiting outside.
The interview in the embassy I went to was easier than expected. I was imagining me sitting down with someone from the embassy in a room and talking. Turns out it is a more standardized process (at least in the embassy I was at) where you just talk to three different people during three steps. The first window will check your DS160 form and asl you a couple of questions. The second will take your fingerprint. The third window is the actual interview. They will ask you where you are going, what you will be doing, and if you are coming back.
In terms of what to bring to the embassy, I can just say everything. You definitely need your DS2019 form, your DS160 confirmation, SEVIS fee payment confirmation. You will also need documents confirming you are coming back home. This can be a school enrolment confirmation, a job offer, bills tying you here. Print anything you think you might need. You should get more information about this from your visa sponsor. You can also check online if there are any specific requirements for your country.
If you get your visa you will find out on the spot. In that case, you have to leave your passport and they will send it back to you via post within two weeks. You will get notified about this via email.
That is it. This is the whole process of getting your J-1 Visa. Now all you need is to book a flight to your destination and enjoy your time there. If you have any more questions or suggestions for others, feel free to leave them in the comments below or on social media.