If you have been offered an internship or training program in the U.S., the appropriate visa for you is the J-1 Visa.
Put simply, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (also known as ESTA) is for tourism. Even if your internship is unpaid and/or short term, such as under 90 days, you will always need to apply for a J-1 Visa with a designated U.S. sponsor organization, such as InterExchange.
Per the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, "ESTA is not a visa. It does not meet the legal requirements to serve in lieu of a U.S. visa when a visa is required." Not only is the J-1 Visa and J-1 Visa sponsorship a legal requirement for U.S. internships, but there are also many advantages to applying for the J-1 Intern/Trainee Visa program through a sponsor.
Your J-1 Visa sponsor can:
- Advise and assist you throughout the J-1 Visa application process
- Answer your questions about the program and eligibility, including your employer's questions
- Support you and advocate for you throughout your time in the U.S.
- Provide accident and sickness insurance for the duration of your program
- Help you in an emergency, 24/7
- Facilitate your cultural exchange experience by providing access to and information on events and activities
- Serve as an important resource for living in the U.S.
Learn more about J-1 Visa sponsorship with InterExchange.
Have a question about whether the J-1 Visa is right for you? Email us.
Still looking for an internship in the U.S.? Check out our resources.
Allison joined the InterExchange team in 2011 and holds a B.A. in International Affairs and an M.A. in Higher Education. She oversees the daily operations of the Career Training USA program where she has the privilege of working with students and professionals from around the world pursuing U.S. internships and training programs. Allison is originally from Massachusetts and studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.