Are you eligible to work abroad?

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Full Year of Academic study

The US Consulate at Toronto says, “Once an international student completes a full year of academic study they are eligible to apply for an internship (J1 visa) in the United States, however the question is whether they will be found qualified to receive the visa based on their current ties to Canada. This decision can only be made by a consular officer at the time of their visa interview. So while it may be in the applicant’s best interest to establish some length of residence in Canada before applying for any type of nonimmigrant visa, they are in fact free to apply the day after they arrive in Canada.” For further information, please read that particular section of the law (214b).

A sponsor is an intermediate agency that arranges J1 visas between employers and students. Our two preferred sponsors, Intrax and Cultural Vistas, both require that any individual applying for the J1 Internship program must have completed one full-time academic year in a non-US university to qualify. Though, to prove they are still currently enrolled in a full-time program they should complete at least one term at uWaterloo to establish ties to the university (and to Canada).

CECA strongly recommends that international / visa students (students who are studying at uWaterloo on a study permit) have completed at least 2 full-time academic study terms before they apply for a co-op work term in the USA. Once visa documents are printed from our sponsors, international students (as well as permanent residents of Canada) are required to attend a U.S. Consulate appointment in order to complete the visa application. Decision to grant the J1 visa can only be made by a consular officer at the time of their visa interview.

This process does not apply to Canadian citizens.

​Eligibility criteria

In order to be eligible to complete a co-op work term in a foreign country, you must meet the following criteria

Work permit/visa

  • Work/training/intern permit that allows you to complete your approved international work term.
  • A valid passport that has an expiration date of at least six months past the date you’re scheduled to return from your work term. However, as a Canadian going to the U.S., your passport only needs to be valid until you return from your work term.
  • You must be 18 years of age or older to obtain a work permit.
  • If you have a valid passport in the country of employment, then you are exempt from having to obtain a work permit. You will still need to provide CECA a copy as proof of legal work authorization.
  • A tourist visa stamp in your passport doesn’t usually allow you to complete international work or training even if unpaid.
  • If you don’t have citizenship of the country of employment then your foreign passport must have a visa in it that allows you to work/train/intern in that country.
  • If you’re an international student on a study permit in Canada, you must ensure that your Canadian study permit is valid for at least the full duration of the academic term after your international work term.

Important things to note:

  • You can’t apply for a work permit for a country if you’re currently in the process of applying for another status within that country. For example, if you are:
    • in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen
    • getting your 'green card status'
  • Eligibility for a work permit is determined by the foreign government officials and may be restricted for a variety of reasons which may include:
    • existing criminal record
    • political conflict
    • economic circumstances
    • incomplete application
    • insufficient documentation
    • lack of employment verification
    • lack of funds
  • Some countries have negotiated treaties that allow their citizens to work in other countries without the need of a work visa.
    • A citizen of any European Union (EU) country can work in all EU countries.
    • Swiss citizens can work in any EU countries and EU citizens can work in any Swiss countries.
    • Explore whether your citizenship allows you direct employment access to a specific foreign country without the need of a work permit.

Applying for a work permit/visa

  • What is a work permit?
    • An official certificate that permits you to work (typically a separate piece of paper).
  • Work permits are usually arranged by you and your employer through the consulate or embassy of the country you will be working in.
  • What is a work visa?
    • An endorsement made by an authorized representative of one country upon a passport issued by another, permitting the passport holder entry into the country for the purpose of work (this is a stamp or sticker in your passport).
  • The processing time for a work permit and subsequent visa is typically four to eight weeks.

Factors to consider for an international work term

  • You’re expected to clarify with your international employer, all working conditions. For example:
    • specific job duties
    • start and end dates
    • the extent to which the employer will assist with the work permit
    • relocation expenses
    • accommodation
    • related costs and arrangements
    • how the salary range offered will relate to cost of living in the local area
    • workers compensation
  • There are additional costs involved for international work terms that may be your responsibility. For example:
    • cost of the visa
    • consulate fees
    • school letters
    • out of country health insurance
    • medical exams and shots
  • Additional appointments and meetings may need to be scheduled. These are usually off campus and may require you to miss classes for the day.
  • You’re expected to honour all rules and timing as outlined in the Undergraduate Calendar. If you plan to adjust the official co-op work term start or end dates, you must have prior approval from Co-operative Education.

Working in the U.S.?

Working outside of North America?