Working in the United States (U.S.)? You will need a work permit to be legally allowed to work for your co-op work term.
There are various types of work permits. We provide support for the J-1 visa, which includes an intern category that applies for students on a co-op work term. If your employer wants you to obtain a different work permit (like a TN), please contact email@example.com for more information.
Please note, if you are a U.S. citizen or if your work term will be remote from Canada, then you do not need a work permit. The following information applies if you will be working from within the U.S.
About the J-1 visa
What is a J-1 visa?
The J-1 is a visa or authorization specifically for cultural exchange visitors. This visa is used by most undergraduate students completing work terms abroad. The intern category of the J-1 allows students to gain exposure to the culture and to receive hands-on experience in the business practices of an occupational field in the U.S.
Once your application is granted, you will be issued a Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitors (J-1) Status (DS-2019 form).
For Canadian citizens, the DS-2019 form will allow you to enter the U.S. to work and acts as your J-1 visa.
For Permanent Residents and international students, you will need to use your DS-2019 form to be formally issued a J-1 visa — which will be required to cross the border and complete your work terms.
Important note for international students: We recommend that international students who are studying at Waterloo on a study permit complete at least two (2) full-time academic study terms before applying for a work abroad term in the U.S. This recommendation is based on guidance from the U.S. consulate. International students who have concerns about their eligibility for a J-1 should contact the nearest U.S. consulate before applying to U.S. jobs.
How do I apply for a J-1 visa?
The process to get your J-1 begins once you have found a job in the U.S. Our international employment specialist (U.S.) works closely with you, your employer and the visa sponsor throughout the process. If you have questions, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the steps to apply:
Once you have a job offer or match, check with your employer to determine their preferred visa sponsor. Your employer must choose the visa sponsor. If they do not have a preferred visa sponsor, the University has two preferred agencies that we recommend: Cultural Vistas and Intrax.
Once your opportunity abroad is processed, whether through a match or if you arranged your own job, our international employment specialist will reach out to you with information and next steps. Watch your email inbox for this important message.
Carefully review the information that the international employment specialist will provide including:
Sponsor-specific application instructions for your visa.
A deadline for submitting your application.
Mandatory requirements for work term credit outside of Canada.
Complete your portion of the application instructions well ahead of the deadline and submit to the visa sponsor as soon as possible. Processing your application can take time. The deadline we provide to you and your employer is to ensure you are approved on time to start your work term.
Discuss with your employer which application fees you may be responsible for paying. Learn more about application fees in our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.
When you and your employer have submitted the required documents and paid the associated fees, the application process normally takes three to four (3-4) weeks. The visa sponsor may have questions about your application. Monitor WaterlooWorks messages and your UWaterloo email regularly and respond quickly and accurately.
If your application is approved, the visa sponsor will issue your Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitors (J1) Status (DS-2019 form).
What happens after receiving my DS-2019 form?
For Canadian citizens:
The DS-2019 form acts as your J-1 visa, so no further steps are needed. Your visa sponsor will provide information about what else you need to bring to enter the U.S. You are now ready to start planning travel and accommodations for your work abroad experience based on the information your employer provides. Congratulations!
For Permanent Residents and international students:
You will need to formally obtain the J-1 visa using their DS-2019 form. To do so, you will need to complete the following additional steps:
Once you are issued the DS-2019 form, book an appointment at a U.S. consulate (the U.S. consulate in Toronto is the nearest to Waterloo, but you can search all U.S. consulate locations in Canada). Upload the required documents to the U.S. consulate website prior to your appointment as per the instructions you received with your DS-2019 form.
Attend your U.S. consulate interview. Bring all the required documents, as specified in your visa sponsor package, with you to your appointment.
Alert our international employment specialist if you are told by the U.S. consulate that your visa application requires further administrative review.
Once your passport is returned to you and the J-1 visa has been issued, you can begin to plan your travel and accommodations. Congratulations!
J-1 visa applications
Regardless of how you obtained employment, spring 2024 J-1 visa applications will start on Friday, February 9, 2024. You cannot apply for the visa unless you have been approved for co-op credit and your work term is listed on WaterlooWorks.
- The last date international students may apply for a J-1 U.S. visa is Friday, May 3, 2024, at 4:30 p.m. ET
- The last date Canadian students may apply for a J-1 U.S. visa is Friday, May 10, 2024, at 4:30 p.m. ET
Once you have the necessary authorization for travel for your U.S. work term, there are a few other requirements to ensure your work term is eligible for co-op credit:
Visit the Co-op requirements checklist to learn more about the Risk Management Form, the Anvil App and more.
Access the Co-op Work Term Readiness course on LEARN. It provides great information and resources including what to bring with you to the airport.
Once you have arrived in the U.S., let your international employment specialist (and your visa sponsor) know that you’ve arrived at your location.
Update your emergency contact and location information in WaterlooWorks and contact your visa sponsor as soon as possible after arriving in the U.S.