What is a J-1 Visa?
All participants must receive a J-1 visa in order to participate in an Odyssey sponsored Internship or Management Training program. The J-1 Visa was created by the U.S. government to offer foreign university students and young professionals the opportunity to participate in educational and cultural programs in the United States for a limited period of time.
These structured and guided work-based cultural exchange programs offer the chance for cultural immersion in the United States and professional development in the Intern’s or Trainee’s specific academic or occupational field. The J-1 Visa, or Exchange Visitor Program, is a non-immigrant visa overseen by the U.S. Department of State. More information is available on the U.S. Department of State website http://j1visa.state.gov.
About Odyssey – Our Partner J-1 Visa Sponsor
Odyssey International Exchange is a cultural exchange organization headquartered in Los Angeles, CA. We are designated by the U.S. Department of State to sponsor foreign university students, recent graduates and young professionals through the J-1 Intern and Trainee exchange programs. Every year we sponsor thousands of students and young professionals to study visit the United States and participate in internships and management training programs with American host companies.
Odyssey has a long standing partnership with all schools of AEE and there fore the natural choice for MSI to sponsor its international students on its training programs.
Why Do I Need A J-1 Sponsor?
The J-1 exchange program is a highly structured, highly monitored non-immigrant visa program which allows students and young professionals to visit America to further the goals of mutual understanding between cultures via person-to-person diplomacy. Unlike immigrant visas which allow relative autonomy after arriving in the U.S., a J-1 visa requires constant monitoring and proof that program goals (ie. cultural exchange) are being satisfied. The United States government designates sponsor organizations to screen, select and monitor J-1 exchanging visitors during their stay in the United States. Sponsors are legally required to uphold the rules and regulations of the J-1 program and ensure participant safety and satisfaction.
Can I Apply If I Have Received A J-1 Visa In The Past?
There are several scenarios where you may be eligible to receive another J-1 visa even if you have already participated in the past. Please refer to the table below:
|Current situation||Minimum waiting period between programs|
|You completed a program as an Intern and you still qualify as an Intern||You must wait 90 days before beginning a new program|
|You completed a program as an Intern and you now qualify as a Trainee||You must wait 2 years before beginning a new program|
|You completed a program as a Trainee and you wish to do another Trainee program||You must wait 2 years before beginning a new program|
|You completed a program as a Trainee and you now qualify as an Intern (returned to university to continue education)||You must wait 90 days before beginning a new program|
Why Do I Have To Pay Fees To Participate In The Program?
- Gathering, reviewing and processing all of your registration documents.
- Generating a tailored training and internship placement plan (DS-7002) for your specific program.
- Issuing your DS-2019 document.
- Medical insurance for the duration of your program.
- Detailed pre-departure orientation.
- Comprehensive handbooks, guides and resources to facilitate the arrival and orientation process.
- 24 hour/7 days a week support from Odyssey staff
- Constant monitoring, evaluating and follow-ups during your program.
- Cultural events and activities sponsored by Odyssey.
How Long Does The Process Take?
In general, we recommend interested candidates apply at least 4 months before the date they would like to begin their program. This is to allow ample time to secure an internship or training offer, gather and submit all of the necessary documents, receive the DS-2019 and apply for the visa in your home country.
When Can I Buy My Plane Ticket And Start Making Travel Plans?
Odyssey recommends you do not purchase any non-refundable items (plane tickets, accommodations) until after you have received your J-1 visa from the US Consulate in your home country. While rare, delays and visa denials do occur unexpectedly. We understand that purchasing tickets and accommodations early can save you money. However, please be aware that Odyssey will not be responsible for any additional expenses due to delays or visa denials.
What Is Rule 212(E) And Does It Apply To Me?
When you agree to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program and your program falls under the conditions explained below, you will be subject to the two-year home-country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement. This means you will be required to return to your home country for two years at the end of your exchange visitor program. This requirement under immigration law is based on Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Two-year Home-country Physical Presence Requirement Conditions – An exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement if the following conditions exist:
- Government funded exchange program – The program in which the exchange visitor was participating was financed in whole or in part directly or indirectly by the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitor’s nationality or last residence;
- Graduate medical education or training – The exchange visitor entered the United States to receive graduate medical education or training;
- Specialized knowledge or skill: Skills List – The exchange visitor is a national or permanent resident of a country which has deemed the field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of the country, as shown on the Exchange Visitor Skills List.
Restrictions – When you, as an exchange visitor are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement, you must return to your home country for a cumulative total period of at least two years before you can do any of the following:
- Change status while in the United States to the non-immigrant categories of temporary worker (H) or intracompany transferee (L);
- Adjust status Detailed participant handbook and orientation.
- Receive an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate; or
- Receive a temporary worker (H), intracompany transferee (L), or fiancè (K) visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Before you apply (for a J-1 program) – what to expect
Coming to America as a J-1 intern or trainee is an amazing experience which can expand opportunities and allow you to learn what American culture and values are all about. At the same time, the J-1 program is very structured with strict rules and regulations that must be followed in order to remain in good standing. Please make sure you are comfortable with the following points before applying:
- The J-1 program is not going to be a holiday or excuse to travel. Your J-1 visa is tied to your host company which must maintain your training for the duration of your program. Failure to follow your host company rules and regulations can result in termination from your internship, which in turn can result in the termination of your program. Therefore, be prepared to train for up to 40 hours per week and follow host company rules. If you have any doubts about your relationship with your host company, please contact Odyssey for clarification.
- The J-1 program is not supposed to be “easy”. You would not be participating in such a program if you were not looking for a challenge. You can expect to experience various degrees of culture shock, awkward situations, deadlines from your host company, and stresses that come with establishing a new life in a new country. However, these challenges also eventually turn into the rewards of the program in the form of new skills and a deep understanding of a new culture and way of life.
- There are fees required to participate in the program. For a complete outline of all fees and where they go, please click here.
- The J-1 program is not a stepping stone to another visa. All participants are expected to return to their home countries upon completion of their J-1 experience. J-1 visas are not meant to facilitate a change to another type of visa to extend your stay in the United States and Odyssey will not support any change of visa.
- The J-1 program is for students and young professionals who wish to experience American culture and interact with Americans on a daily basis through hands on training with professionals in their chosen field of study.
Prepare for your program
Before you leave your country, please be sure you have packed the following documents which you will need at some point during your program. Please be sure to make photocopies of all documents in case you lose one.
- Passport: You must have a passport valid for at least 6 months after the end date listed on your DS-2019.
- DS-2019 Form: This document shows that you are authorized to train in the United States. It indicates that you have the sponsorship and support of Odyssey, and should be taken to the U.S. Embassy in your home country when you apply for your J-1 Visa. The document contains the dates of your internship, as well as your sponsorship identification number (DS-2019 Number). If you intend to travel outside the U.S., Odyssey will need to fill out the travel validation box on your DS-2019 form, and issue you a Letter of Good Standing. Please make sure that you have signed and dated the bottom of this document.
- J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa: This document is issued by the U.S. Embassy in your home country, and will be inserted into your passport. Your passport and J-1 Visa are required for entry into the U.S. Additionally, your J-1 Visa will specify the number of times you are allowed to enter, or reenter, the U.S.
- I-94 Arrival Card: You will receive this document during your flight to the U.S. Your I-94 Card is required when applying for your Social Security Number, and you will have to present it if you plan on leaving and reentering the country during your program.
- Program Handbook: This should serve as your primary resource during your program. Please be sure to read the handbook thoroughly, and refer back to it often.
- Letter to Social Security Officer: This letter explains your J-1 Exchange Visitor status to the Social Security Officer who will process your Social Security application.
- Confirmation of Insurance Form + Insurance ID Card: This Odyssey-issued document serves as a confirmation of your health insurance coverage dates. You should not be in the United States outside of these dates because you will not have insurance coverage.
- SEVIS Fee Receipt: The receipt confirming that you have paid your SEVIS fee.
- DS-7002 Training/Internship Placement Plan: This is the official summary of your training. You should keep a copy with your other important documents in case you need to refer to it. Visit the Applicant Resources section to learn about the DS-7002 in more detail.
US Embassy Interview
You will need to make an appointment for an in-person interview at the American embassy. The US embassy does not accept walk-ins. Please consult the website of the US embassy of your country (http://www.usembassy.gov/).
Note: For most countries, the embassy requires you to fill out the DS-160 before scheduling an interview.
Please see guidelines below:
- Fill in your DS-160 online, click on: (https://ceac.state.gov/genniv).
- Choose the city where you will have your J1 visa appointment. Once you have chosen the city, you can no longer change to a different embassy.
- Upload a photo – see U.S. requirements for the format. In case you experience difficulties uploading, try slightly changing brightness or size.
- Click on Start Application
Scheduling Your Appointment
You may be asked to give the following information:
- You name and address
- Your place of birth
- Your passport number and nationality
- Your Email-address
- Your DS-2019 Exchange Visitor Program Number: P-4-29241 (Internship) or P-4-29242 (Training)
How To Pay For The Interview:
- Visa fee: Currently US$160; non-refundable; separate from the program fee.
- Please refer to the embassy website of your country for information on how to pay: credit card, which credit card, debit card, wire transfer, bank payment etc.
The Wait Time For Scheduling An Interview:
Please visit: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/wait-times.html/
J-1 Visa Interview With A Consular Officer:
Make sure you have the following documents with you during your visa interview:
- DS7002p1&2 signed
- Signed Training Plan
- SEVIS Receipt
- School Certificate/Diploma/Transcript (if applicable)
- Work Certificates (if applicable)
- Completed Visa Forms (please check you US Embassy website for more information and how to pay your visa fee)
- DS-160 proof of payment
You must have an in-person interview with a consular officer at the US Embassy in order to receive your visa. Please remember that it is your responsibility to convince the officer that you qualify to receive a J-1 visa. The consular officer will assume that you do not qualify unless you can prove otherwise. Here are some tips for your interview:
- Have all of the documents listed above organized and ready to present if requested.
- Remember that the goals of the J-1 program are cultural exchange and training and career development. The J-1 program is NOT a work program and not an excuse for you to travel America. Try and frame all responses around your desire to experience American culture and business practices.
- Memorize your Training Plan (DS-7002). This means to memorize all of the phases, your supervisors, cultural activities, responsibilities etc. Your training plan is the blueprint for your program and the consular officer will want to see that you understand it.
- Below are some questions you may be asked during your interview:
- Why do you want to go to the US?
- What are your qualifications?
- What are you currently doing?
- Which university are you enrolled at (or, have you graduated from?)?
- What program are you applying to?
- When did you apply for your program?
- How much was your placement fee?
- Who is going to pay for your expenses? How much do you/they make?
- Tell me about your housing.
- What will you be doing in the US?
J-1 interviews are typically very brief, only 2-5 minutes long. Be polite, dress professionally and only tell the truth. The consular officer should inform you the same day whether your visa has been approved or not. Most embassies will not issue your passport with the visa for 2-3 days after the interview.
Housing arrangements vary depending on the location and host company. Regardless of whether housing options are provided by a host company or not, Odyssey requires you to have at least temporary housing reserved before you depart your home country.
The cost of housing will vary widely depending on your location, time of year and how many people you share an apartment with. In general, you should expect to pay the expenses listed below for a 2 bedroom apartment with 4 people (per person):
Deposit: One month’s rent The deposit goes to cover any damages to the apartment during the rental. In general the deposit should be refunded at the end of the lease as long as it is returned in the same condition as it was rented. Some landlords may withhold a certain amount for a cleaning fee regardless of the condition. Be sure to ask beforehand.
Monthly Rent: $450-$600 per person
Utilities: $50 – $60 per person – Utilities include things like water, gas, electricity and trash. Some apartments have utilities included in the rent. Be sure to ask beforehand.
Cable and Internet: Service will typically cost about $50/month.
Please remember that these are just general estimations. If your internship is in a popular tourist destination or if your program is for less than 12-months then this can greatly increase your housing costs. Be sure to do some research into the cost of living in the city where you will be staying to get a better idea of how much it will cost.
Please make sure you have budgeted a sufficient amount of money to participate in the program. All of Odyssey’s internships and traineeships are paid. However, you will need access to at least $1,500 USD upon arriving to cover the costs of establishing yourself before you begin receiving your stipend checks. This money will also be needed in the event that your monthly stipend does not cover all of your expenses.
Below is a sample budget for what a J-1 participant can expect to pay in a typical month during the program. Your actual cost of living will depend on many factors including location, length of apartment lease, season and number of people you are living with. This is just to give you an estimate for an “average” program. Please also keep in mind that your first month may cost more than this since there are costs associated with any move and getting set-up.
The below budget is for someone sharing a 2 bedroom apartment with 4 people and not owning a car.
|One Time Expenses|
|Transportation||Airport to housing||$50|
|Transportation||Taxis, public transport||$50|
|Entertainment||Movies, parks, concerts etc||$150|
|Phone||Phone plan/phone card||$50|
|Supplies||Cleaning, laundry, decorations, kitchen.||$50|
Medical insurance for the duration of your program is provided as part of your program fees. Your proof of insurance will be emailed to you automatically once you provide your arrival information in the United States to Odyssey. Your insurance will begin on the day you arrive in the USA and will end three days after your program end date.
Your insurance provider is Secutive. Odyssey is your program sponsor, not your insurance provider. Below is an outline of your coverage and benefits which can also be found in detail in the insurance pamphlet which was provided to you along with your DS-2019. If you arrive before your program start date or decide to stay for any period of time during your 30-day grace period after your program end date, you will need to purchase additional insurance for this time. Please contact Odyssey for assistance.
Please note: J-1 program participants may be subject to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
|Category||Secutive Coverage||Minimum Required Coverage|
|Coverage per accident/illness||$250,000||$100,000|
|Repatriation Coverage||100% of actual expense||$25,000|
|Medical Evacuation||100% of actual expense||$50,000|
As you may have heard, health care in the United States can be very expensive if you are not familiar with your insurance plan. To avoid receiving a large medical bill after treatment, please follow the below steps:
Call your insurance company before seeking treatment. Not all doctors or hospitals will accept your particular insurance. It is crucial that you call the number provided on your insurance card to ask for the closest “In Network” doctor or facility that accepts your insurance. If you go to a facility that does not accept your insurance you could be responsible for a medical bill which you cannot afford!
In non-life threatening situations, choose urgent care, walk-in clinics and doctor’s offices, NOT hospital emergency rooms (ER).
You should always take your insurance card, photo identification, and DS-2019 form with you to the doctor.
Every time you see a doctor, you should be prepared to pay a deductible. A deductible is a normal fee that all insurance providers charge. The deductible for your plan to see a doctor is $50. If you go to a hospital instead of doctor for treatment, the deductible can be much more. Therefore, whenever possible, call your insurance and ask for the closest “In Network” doctor.
If you receive medical care that you think your insurance should pay for, you MUST contact your insurance provider either before or within 48 hours of receiving care. If you do not, you will need to pay all the bills upfront yourself then try to have the insurance company reimburse you for the care you received. This can be a long and difficult process and the claims are sometimes not reimbursed, leaving you to pay for everything. Therefore, it is important to contact your insurance provider early and often if you are going to receive medical care!
IN-NETWORK VS. OUT OF NETWORK
In-Network:This group is always the best option. In-Network medical providers will bill the insurance company directly, so you will only pay the co-pay amount. The In-Network medical providers can be found on the insurance company’s website or by calling the insurance company directly. The insurance contact information can be found on your insurance card.
Out of Network: The out of network providers will not bill the insurance company directly. Therefore, you will need to pay for your entire visit upfront (out of your pocket) at the time of service. This payment may be reimbursed to you by the insurance company once you file a claim. You must submit a Claim Form to the insurance company for Out of Network medical providers. With the Claim Form you are required to submit the itemized bill, any additional receipts and medical records from your visit.
Your visa has been approved and you are ready to leave for America! Before you get on the plane, please make sure you have researched and accounted for the following:
- Send arrival information to Odyssey including date, time, airport and flight number.
- The climate in your destination. Weather can vary dramatically depending on your location and season. Be sure to research whether you should be packing winter coats or swimming suits, or both!
- Confirmed housing after arrival. Some host companies provide housing but some do not. Unless you were explicitly informed that housing is provided then you should assume it is not provided and you will need to reserve something on your own. Please refer to the Housing section click here.
- Confirmed how you will get from the airport to your housing.
- Confirmed that you have access to at least $1,500 USD immediately after arriving to cover costs of getting settled before your first stipend check arrives.
- All of your important documents are packed, including your passport, DS-2019, DS-7002 Training Plan, Sponsor Letter, Insurance Card, Odyssey Handbook and all other documents which were mailed to you. Be sure to make photocopies of everything.
- International driver’s license (if available). Even if you don’t intend to drive, it is good to have alternate sources of identification.
- Prescription medications AND the original prescription from your doctor, translated to English if necessary. Some medicines which may be sold over the counter in your home country may be illegal without prescription in the United States.
- The city where you will be living. It will be useful to familiarize yourself with your new host city before you arrive through maps and research. Look up important locations like banks, groceries, your host company, and the social security office so it is more familiar when you arrive.
- And of course, all personal items you will need to be comfortable for the duration of your stay.
Arrival in US
Immigration & Customs
When you enter the U.S., you will be seen by a U.S. Customs Official. This person is responsible for ensuring that you are authorized to enter the country. Here are the steps you can expect to follow upon arrival:
- Present the U.S. Customs Official with your travel documents (Passport, J-1 Visa, DS-2019 Form, and the I-94 card you received on the plane). The U.S. Customs Official will take your I-94 card and stamp it. One part of your I-94 card will be stapled to your passport and the other part will be kept by Immigration as a record of your arrival. Make sure you get part of the I-94 back, and if it is not stapled to your passport, make sure that you attach it as soon as possible.
- The Customs Official may ask you some general questions about your visit, the purpose and duration of your program, and where you will stay during your program. Answer clearly and respectfully, they are routine questions.
- The Customs Official will ask you to submit digital finger scans and a digital photograph (part of the US-VISIT program, required for most visa holders).
- You will then go through a baggage checkpoint. You may be asked to open your luggage and allow another U.S. Customs Official to examine your belongings. The purpose of this search is to ensure that you have not brought any restricted items with you into the U.S.
- Finally, you will present the Customs declaration form that you received on the plane.
Activate Your Program
As soon as you arrive safely at your housing and after the start date listed on your DS-2019, you MUST activate your J-1 program on the Odyssey website. Once you activate your account, Odyssey staff will activate your program in SEVIS, which is the online government database that monitors all exchange visitors in the United States. Failure to activate your program after your arrival will automatically cancel your program and you will not be allowed to continue! Therefore, as soon as you have arrived safely at your housing, please log into your Odyssey participant portal and complete your check in. You can find a link to the program activation page here.
Please be aware of the following:
- You cannot register before you arrive in the U.S. or before the start date on your DS-2019 form.
- If you are staying in a hotel or apartment, you MUST include a room or apartment number.
- Your address cannot be the same as your host company address (unless you are actually living in the same building).
- SEVIS will not accept P.O. (Postal Office) boxes.
- If you move, you must register again with your new address. If you do not provide this information correctly, your SEVIS registration will be delayed. You cannot apply for a Social Security Card until you are correctly registered with SEVIS (see below section titled “Social Security”).
REMEMBER: Any time you change your housing address, contact information or any aspect of your training (host company, supervisor, role/position) you must update your information in by logging into your Odyssey participant portal and making the changes. Failure to update changes within 10 days may result in the cancellation of your program.
You must have a Social Security number to work legally in the United States. To obtain a Social Security Card, you have to go in person to your local Social Security office and bring the following documents with you (originals and two photocopies of each on separate pages):
- Passport/ Visa
- Sponsor letter
- Training Plan (DS-7002) Letter (Company Specific)
- I-94 form
- Birth Certificate or at least one official picture ID (identification document) that is at least one year old. (If the passport and other official ID, such as a driver’s license, are both less than one year old, a birth certificate is required.)
The address of your nearest Social Security Office is provided in your Arrival Package. You can also find it by following this link: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp. The Social Security Administration recommends that you always wait at least 10 days after registering with SEVIS to apply for your card to be sure you are validated in SEVIS. The mailing address on the application should be the host company’s address. The Social Security card will be mailed approximately 6-8 weeks later to your host company.
You should ask the Social Security officer for a Form SSA-5030 proving that you have applied for the card and give it to your host company. Host companies may use temporary numbers in their payroll system (zeros) if the actual number is not available before the first payroll. If your host company is not sure how to report your wages before you have received your Social Security number, please ask them to go to the Social Security Administration’s website at: http://www.ssa.gov/employer/hiring.htm
The Social Security office will not process your application until you have been validated in the SEVIS system. If your SEVIS verification process is delayed, your host company may not be able to issue stipend checks until you have received this card (although you must be paid for all the time you have spent training). You should bring sufficient funds to cover living expenses during this period, which could be at least one month.
If you have a social security number from a previous experience in the United States then you can use this and do not need to apply for another.
During your program
In order for Odyssey to ensure your safety and well being while in the United States and to ensure J-1 program rules, regulations and goals are being achieved, you are required to check-in with Odyssey every month through your online portal. You will receive a reminder in your email inbox every month to remind you when it is time to check in. Please be sure to log into your participant portal as soon as you receive a reminder and complete the check-in. It is our responsibility to monitor your progress while in the United States and it is your responsibility to maintain contact with us.
Every monthly check-in will be quick and request the same information, including a short survey asking you questions about how your program is going thus far, the positives, negatives and any feedback you would like to communicate. Your feedback will help us to improve your program as well as the programs of all current and future participants.
There is a chance that after arriving in the United States, you may feel overwhelmed by all of the new languages, cultures and customs you come into contact with. This feeling may grow into more severe feelings of panic, depression, dread or homesickness. These feelings are often referred to as “culture shock” and are a very common experience for any international traveler regardless of their origin or destination.
Culture shock can be difficult but ultimately makes your experience even more rewarding. You would not have embarked on such a journey if you were not open, adventurous and ready to experience something completely new!
Culture shock is temporary and should pass depending on how quickly you can feel comfortable in your new surroundings. Below are some tips to help:
- Set realistic expectations for your J-1 experience: Participants may become disappointed when they first arrive if the location, host company or fellow interns do not fit the image of what they were expecting their experience to be. The best advice we can give is to not set many expectations and be as open as possible to whatever your experience has to offer. There will always be some positive and some negative aspects and it will be up to you to make the best of it.
- Get involved as much as possible in company activities and attend social activities, clubs, etc.
- Find something from home that is comforting: a book in your own language, a favorite food, music from home, etc.
- Seek out friends when you are lonely. Odyssey can connect you with other interns at your host company or in the area.
- Get outside and explore, even if no one is available to go with you. Go for a hike, visit downtown, watch a game in a restaurant or bar. Leaving your apartment and getting to know your environment will help you feel more comfortable with your surroundings.
Culture shock is a very natural and common emotion and can affect people differently. However, if you feel severely depressed, lonely or homesick for an extended period of time, please call Odyssey to see how we can help.
Your Host Company
Your host company is here to provide you with a safe, educational and culturally immersive environment. At the same time, they are also running a business and have rights afforded to them through the J1 program, same as you. Let’s review some important points about training and interacting with your host company.
Exchange Visitor Conduct
Before you get to know your host companies and supervisors, you should assume that formal is better. You will hopefully develop a friendship or more relaxed relationship with your managers as your program progresses. However, until you are able to gauge how to act when reporting to your host company, we advise you:
- Arrive to work on time or even better, 10 minutes early
- Notify your supervisor as soon as possible if you will be late or absent from work
- Dress professionally or wear company uniforms if provided
- Follow company policies
- Speak English at all times
- Maintain your personal hygiene
- Be polite and considerate
- Smile! A lot!
Please remember that your J1 visa status is tied to your internship. If you fail to follow company policies, your host company may terminate (fire) you. In general you will be given three warnings before a termination takes place but this can vary depending on the severity of your infraction. Please be sure to contact Odyssey immediately if you feel you are in danger of being terminated or have been terminated.
Some host companies do require all interns and trainees to complete mandatory drug tests upon arrival. Regardless of the state you are living in, marijuana is still illegal on a federal level and testing positive for marijuana will result in your program being terminated. Please note that marijuana can stay in your system for up to 30 days.
Also, certain types of prescription drugs can cause you to fail a test, especially opioids. If you are taking prescription medication, be sure to bring a copy of the prescription translated to English as necessary.
If you fail a drug test you will be terminated from your host company. Depending on the situation, you may be required to return home immediately. Several participants end up in this situation every year, don’t be one of them!
Problems with Your Host Company
Most issues arising at the training site can be resolved by your immediate supervisor. If your immediate supervisor is not available or you do not feel comfortable speaking with them, you can also go to the HR department of your host company. It is their full time job to ensure trainees and interns alike are being treated fairly. They can also answer any questions about your stipend, hours and scheduling.
If after speaking with your supervisor and/or the HR department your issue is still not resolved, please contact Odyssey. We can ensure that your host company is following all the rules and regulations of the J-1 program.
Please note that you cannot change host companies simply because you are having issues or the location or host company is not what you were expecting. Learning to adapt is part of the program experience and it is in your best interest to work through any issues you encounter and enjoy your training. Again, Odyssey is available to ensure your rights as a J-1 intern/trainee are honored. However, it is your responsibility to try and make the best of your experience. Odyssey only allows a change of host company when a participant’s safety or well being is in jeopardy or if the host company is unable to follow the rules and regulations of the J-1 program.
As an exchange visitor in the U.S., you have the right to:
- Be treated and paid fairly
- Not be held in a job against your will
- Keep your passport and other identification documents in your possession
- Report abuse without retaliation
- Request help from unions, immigrant and labor rights groups and other groups
- Seek justice in U.S. courts.
A copy of the Wilberforce Pamphlet for Temporary Workers will be sent to you in your DS-2019 package from Odyssey. For more information on your rights visit: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/pamphlet/pamphlet_4578.html
If you are mistreated or your rights are violated, call these toll-free numbers:
- National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s 24 Hour Toll-Free Hotline +1-888-373-7888
- Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force Complaint Line (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm Eastern Time) +1-888-428-7581
- Department of State J-1 Visa Hotline (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) +1-866-283-9090
- If you are in immediate physical danger, Call 911.
Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual manner including the following:
- Sexual innuendoes, jokes, or comments
- Repeatedly asking for a date after the person has expressed disinterest
- Unwelcome touching of a person’s body, hair or clothing
- Visual pictures or images degrading someone based on their sex
- Letters, notes, telephone calls, or material of a sexual nature
If you feel uncomfortable in your work environment for any reason, please inform your immediate supervisor or Odyssey.
You may not hold a second job during your J-1 intern or trainee program. You may only participate in activities and for the host company listed on your DS-7002 Training Plan.
You should receive a guaranteed stipend at the rate listed on your DS-7002 Training Plan. All interns and trainees should receive at least 32 hours per week at the rate listed. Most companies issue stipend check bi-weekly (every two weeks). You may have left the country by the time your final stipend check is issued. In this case, it is best to have your host company deposit your check into your bank account and you can withdraw it using your Debit/ATM card from any ATM in the world.
Momey on Hand
It can sometimes take several weeks after arrival before you receive your first stipend check, either because of delays in receiving your social security number or because you started at the beginning of a pay cycle. For this reason, we require all participants to have access to at least $1,500 to help cover the costs of living which can include housing, transportation, food, utilities etc. We also advise all participants have access to at least one credit card and one debit card.
Opening a Bank Account
We highly recommend you open a bank account during your stay. It makes it easier for your host company to pay you and it is safer than keeping large amounts of cash on hand. Recommended banks are included in your arrival package, or you can simply ask other employees or interns at your training site what bank they recommend.
Many banks offer ATM/debit cards that can be used like checks or cash at most stores and restaurants. Many of these cards are sponsored by VISA or MasterCard and can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted. You can also use the card for cash withdrawals from cash machines 24 hours a day. This can be convenient, especially when you are traveling. However, it is important to remember that this is not a credit card. The money will be withdrawn directly from your checking account when you use the ATM card. Often there will be service charges for cash machine withdrawals. Keep careful records of how much you have spent. Remember to deduct any service charges from your records as well.
Your host company is required by law to withhold income tax from your stipend and pay it directly to the government. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of your stipend will be withheld for federal income tax. Depending on regional laws, state and local income taxes may also be withheld from your stipend check. State and local income taxes can take out another 5 to 8 percent of your total stipend.
J-1 Students MUST pay U.S. income tax. Please look carefully at your first stipend check to ensure that these taxes are being correctly withheld. If you or your host company has questions regarding your tax status, they can contact ODYSSEY.
Some participants are surprised at the amount of taxes they need to pay. When calculating your net monthly resources from your stipend, assume 20% of the total with be withheld for taxes and take this into account when developing a budget.
Luckily, you do not need to pay all the same taxes as an American citizen:
Taxes You Have To Pay:
- Federal income taxes
- State income taxes
- City income taxes
- I-9 – Employment Eligibility Verification Form
Before you can begin training and receiving a stipend check, you must complete an I-9. This will be provided to you by your host company. When you complete the I-9 you will need to show your DS-2019 and your passport with your J-1 Visa. Be sure to check the box “an alien authorized to work until” and enter the program end date listed on your DS-2019. Use your I-94 number on the line requesting the Alien # or Admission #.
Some states impose a sales tax on most goods and services you purchase. Therefore, the price listed on a menu or at a clothing store may not be the actual price you pay. Sales taxes can range from 5-11% of the total price depending on the state.
Taxes You Do Not Have To Pay:
- Social Security & Medicare Tax (FICA)
- Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
If any of these seem to be deducted from your stipend check, please speak with your HR department.
W-4 – Employee Withholding Allowance Certificate Form
Host companies should also ask you to complete a W-4 form when you begin training which will be used to determine how much tax will be withheld from your stipend check. Here are some helpful tips for filling out the W-4 form:
On line 3, check only “single” marital status (regardless of marital status)
On line 5, claim only one withholding allowance
On line 6, write “Non-Resident Alien” or “NRA” above the dotted line
On line 7, do NOT claim “Exempt” withholding status
Laws and Legal Information
While you are in the United States you must follow both national and state laws. National laws are the same everywhere in the United States. State laws can vary depending on the state.
Claiming that you did not know something was illegal will not protect you from law enforcement. Therefore, if you are ever in doubt whether something is legal or not, it is best to wait to ask someone that knows for certain.
If you are arrested, you should follow police instruction and never resist. Do not give any information beyond what you are required to give and ask to speak with a lawyer. Be sure to inform ODYSSEY as soon as you are able.
We cannot give you any legal advice or support but we can help find you a lawyer and contact friends or family who can help.
The following acts are illegal in the United States and may differ from your home country. Please be mindful:
- Buying or drinking alcohol under the age of 21.
- Drinking alcohol in public places.
- Purchasing alcohol for anyone under the age of 21.
- Driving while intoxicated.
- Illegal drug use and/or possession. (Please note that while marijuana is legal for recreational use in some states, it is still illegal on a federal level. Even if you are in a state that allows recreational marijuana use, there is still some risk that you could be arrested by federal police. Never get on a plane with marijuana or cross state lines).
- Threatening another person or touching another person in any undesired way
- Disorderly conduct (including treating police officers disrespectfully)
- Property damage
- Hitchhiking (asking strangers for a ride in their car)
- Driving a vehicle without a valid license and insurance
- Having a sexual relationship of any kind with someone under 18
- Theft (stealing goods or anything that is not yours)
- Smoking in many public places. (Smoking is not allowed in any indoor areas and often not allowed in public spaces such as parks, beaches, or sporting venues. If in doubt, look for a designated smoking area or ask).
If you are arrested, you always have the following rights:
- You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to answer any questions, make any statements, or offer a confession if you do not desire.
- You cannot be forced to provide evidence against yourself.
- You have the right to be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” This means that the police need a warrant to conduct a search unless there is an emergency situation. Do not interfere with the police if they insist on conducting a search without a warrant, but be sure to tell your attorney.
- You have the right to an attorney. If you desire legal representation you have a right to request an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint an attorney to represent you.
- You have the right to a fair trial.
- You are presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is the burden of the prosecution to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in court.
Leaving The US During Your Program
Please note:You cannot leave the United States during your program without first informing Odyssey! This is especially true if you plan on re-entering the United States to continue your program.
Exiting the United States during your program should only be considered for personal or emergency reasons, not for pleasure travel even if it is approved by your host company. You should save personal travel for the one month grace period at the end of your program.
If you do need to leave the country for any reason, please follow the below steps:
- You must send the following documents to Odyssey. We strongly recommend when mailing your documents that you request a tracking number and delivery confirmation. For that purpose, we advise using FedEx or UPS service to mail your documents to Odyssey.
- Your original DS-2019 to be authorized for international travel.
- Host Company Letter (stating that they allowed you to take the vacation).
- Flight Details
- A PRE-PAID, SELF-ADDRESSED ENVELOPE, so we can return your documents to you. It is highly recommended that you use Fedex or UPS for this return shipping. If the envelope is not pre-paid and does not contain your address then we cannot return your documents to you.
- A short LETTER summarizing where you will be travelling, why you are going and the dates that you will be out of the country.
The mailing address for Odyssey is:
Odyssey International Exchange
6300 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 610
Los Angeles, CA 90048
You should mail these materials to Odyssey 3 to 4 weeks before you plan to travel so there is enough time to complete the process and return your DS-2019 to you. Please remember that you will not be permitted to re-enter the United States if you do not have the DS-2019 form authorized for international travel by Odyssey.
Odyssey will need to confirm your departure with your host company before we can validate any travel requests. You must have a multiple entry visa in order to leave the USA and re-enter on the same visa. You cannot re-enter the USA after the end of your program as listed on your DS-2019. This includes during your 30-day grace period and for travel to Canada and Mexico.
After your program
All J-1 participants are allowed to stay in the United States for up to 30 days after the end date listed on their DS-2019. Now is the time to do any traveling you have planned! During this time you may no longer train, work or receive money from an American business, but you may travel anywhere within the United States. If you leave the country, including Mexico or Canada, you will not be able to re-enter. Please be mindful of the date you must leave the country to avoid any problems at immigration or with future visa applications. You do not need any additional documents or verification in order to use your 30 day grace period. However, you must update Odyssey with the date you intend to depart the country.
IMPORTANT: Please note that you will NOT have medical insurance during this time. You should contact Odyssey and arrange to extend your coverage for one additional month if you plan on staying in the United States during your 30 day grace period.
Final Stipend Payment
Be sure to make arrangements with your host company to receive your final stipend payment since it may be issued after you have left the country. The easiest way is usually to have it deposited into your bank account so you can withdraw it from any ATM at a later date.
Be sure to leave your home address with the HR department at your host company so they can mail you your W-2 form at the end of the year. You will need this in order to file for a tax refund (Page : www.irs.gov).
Departing The USA
ODYSSEY must receive your departure information (Departure date, time, airport and flight number) in order to close your program in good standing.
The J-1 visa is not intended to be a long term visa and is only valid for the dates stated on your DS-2019. Overstaying your visa could have negative consequences for future visa applications. If you would like to apply for another type of visa you must first return to your home country and begin the process there. ODYSSEY does not support change of visa statuses while in the United States.
You do not need any special documents in order to leave the country. Simply present your passport with your J-1 visa and as long as you are departing within the allowed period of time (30 days after the end date listed on your DS-2019), then you should not have any issues.
Some of the taxes you pay during your J-1 program can be refunded to you after you leave the country provided you file the correct forms. The deadline for declaring all taxes paid in the year you worked is April 15 of the following year. If you do not file your tax declaration, you will not receive a tax refund and you could also have problems on future trips to the United States.
Your host company is required to provide you with a document by January 31st of every year which outlines the total amount of money you earned and the total amount of taxes you paid for the previous year. This is called the W-2 form and you will use this to file for your tax return. Host companies will often mail your W-2 to your home address in your home country so be sure to contact the HR department and make sure they have your address on file. ODYSSEY cannot provide or relay W-2 forms. Your host company must send them directly to you.