Frequently asked questions

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What is a legal authorization/an employment authorization?

  • Is also commonly referred to as a permit or visa. A legal document that grants a non-citizen permission to conduct the activities necessary for your work term in another country.

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What is a work permit?

  • Is also commonly referred to as a visa, or employment authorization.
  • An official certificate that allows a non-citizen permission to work in another country (typically a piece of paper).

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What is a visa?

  • Is also commonly referred to as a work permit, or employment authorization.
  • 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 intended purpose of the work term (this is a stamp or sticker in your passport).

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Do I need a permit/visa?

  • You need a valid permit/visa to complete your work term in another country, unless you have a valid passport in the country of employment.

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How long does it take to get an employment authorization (visa/permit) or passport?

  • The processing time can take a couple of months, typically four to eight weeks. The sooner you apply, the sooner you’ll receive your legal documents.

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Who pays for it?

  • It varies: Sometimes you pay, sometimes your employer pays. This needs to be arranged between you and your employer.

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If I work in the USA, how does that affect my income tax?

If you have questions regarding USA (United States) income tax, you must talk to an authorized tax accountant. Co-operative Education is not an authorized tax accountant.

The information provided here is only for the purpose of informing Waterloo co-op students about the forms and publications required for a USA tax return.

Co-operative Education can’t be liable for any mistakes that may occur when filing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). For the most recent information from Internal Revenue Service (IRS), please view:

W-2 form: Similar to the Canadian T4 slip. This will be mailed to your Canadian permanent address. Remember to file your taxes early.

Personal tax filing deadline with IRS: April 15, regardless of whether the USA government owes you money.

You’re subject to state, local, and some federal income taxes: For more information, research online specific taxes in the state of your international work term.

If you’re a J-1 participant, you’re generally considered an exempt individual. This doesn’t mean you’re exempt from tax. You’re to file:

  • Form 1040NR (non-resident) or 1040NR-EZ (short version) as your income tax return, if you have income that is subject to tax, such as wages, interest, dividends, etc. Ensure you also file the state income tax return.
  • If you’re a J-1 participant and you don’t receive income, only file Form 8843.
  • To document your exempt status, complete Form 8843 and submit with your income tax return.

Still have questions about income tax?

  • Request forms from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You can also call them at 1-800-829-3676.
  • If you’re no longer in the USA you can request forms from the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

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What is a sponsor? (USA jobs only)

  • J-1 program sponsors are organizations authorized by the U.S. Department of State to supervise the application process and are the main point of contact throughout the exchange program process. Program sponsors are responsible for administering this program in accordance with the U.S. Department of State's public diplomacy goals and visa regulations.
  • They are also responsible for screening and selecting eligible foreign nationals for participation in their designated exchange visitor program, as well as supporting and monitoring them during their stay in the USA. Sponsors help prepare participants for their program experience and provide the necessary documents needed to obtain the visa.
  • Program sponsors issue the Certificate of Eligibility for the J-1 program (DS-2019 form), but they do NOT actually grant the visa. Students are required to apply for a J-1 visa at either a USA Consulate (in the case of non-Canadians) or at the USA port of entry (in the case of Canadians).

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What does ‘preferred’ sponsor mean? (USA jobs only)

  • While there are several USA J-1 visa sponsors, Waterloo has preferred relationships with Cultural Vistas and Intrax. We get discounted rates for visas through them.

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Can I extend my J-1 visa? (USA jobs only)

  • If you have not arranged for a visa for both work terms on back-to-back work terms prior to your departure for the first work term, if you plan on staying with the same employer, you must get in touch with your Student Advisor as soon as you hear from your employer. This extension process takes up to a month. Ideally, you should start this process as soon as the employer indicates they want you for the consequent four-month term. Additional fees will apply.

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Arranging a visa if you change employers (USA jobs only)

  • If you plan on changing employers after you have started your work term, it is not possible to arrange for a visa for your second work term. Hence, you must get in touch with your Student Advisor to review your options for Canadian jobs or jobs in other countries outside the USA.

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Can I arrange a visa for two different USA employers? (USA jobs only)

  • If you plan on working with two different USA employers on your scheduled eight-month term, the international employment specialist will need to review and approve the eligibility of visa possibility for such work terms against a set list of criteria before you apply for your visa for your first back-to-back work term. Please contact your student advisor immediately.

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What can delay a visa? (USA jobs only)

  • Visas usually take four to six weeks to process. For our international students, those travelling on a passport other than a Canadian passport, the visas can take up to eight weeks.
  • Several things can delay a student’s visa: the employer not submitting payment on time; employer and students failing to submit their documents by the posted deadline; new employers being processed for the first time (meeting eligibility requirements); scheduling U.S. consulate appointments, and reviewing applications.

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What if I get sick while on my international co-op work term?

  • You are required to have health and dental coverage during the duration of your international work term, to cover expenses while working in a different country.
  • Please visit health coverage for more information.

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