USA work permit/J-1 visa

Please review the process for obtaining your USA J-1 Visa

U.S. J-1 Cultural Exchange Visitors Status: Intern Category

Applies to most undergraduate students completing international work terms - called the U.S. J-1 Cultural Exchange Visitors Status.

Intern category:

The intern category is intended to “promote the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, sciences, and technology.”

If you’re a Canadian citizen, you can:

  • obtain a J-1 intern status without needing to be screened at a U.S. consulate prior to departure in most cases
  • proceed to the border crossing once your Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitors (J1) Status (DS-2019 form) has been received. No consulate appointment is required in this case

How to get your U.S. J-1 status

Your Certificate for Eligibility for Exchange Visitors (J1) Status (DS-2019 form) must be received through a designated J-1 sponsoring agency. Your employer is the host, not the sponsor.

Co-operative Education has two preferred sponsoring agencies, Cultural Vistas and Intrax. They will work with you and your employer throughout the year.

You will have to confirm with your employer which sponsoring agency you will use, to ensure you fill out the right application.

If you don’t have Canadian citizenship and you're either a permanent resident or an international student, you’re required to submit your Certificate of Eligibility to the nearest U.S. Consulate (Toronto) before travelling to the USA only after your sponsor has issued your DS-2019 form. The processing fee at the U.S. Consulate in Toronto is US$160 in addition to the J-1 application fees. There may be additional charges depending on your nationality.

Sponsoring organizations and fees

There is an administration fee for the sponsoring process. You and your employer will have to discuss who is responsible for paying the fee. If you’re responsible for paying the fees, check with your visa sponsor to determine the payment method.

If your employer is paying the fees, then check with them to ensure payment occurs on time, or you may not receive your DS-2019 form before your scheduled internship/work term.

We have relationships with these sponsoring organizations. Basic information is listed below. For more details on suitability for your business context, please contact the International Employment Specialist:

  • Cultural Vistas (preferred partner with special pricing for uWaterloo)
    • All inclusive application and processing fee (includes SEVIS fee):
      • US$980 for up to 4 months
      • US$980 for up to 8 months
      • Student is required to cover health insurance for the period; the university's FEDS/GSA Health Insurance plan might be accepted on a case-by-case basis
    • New employer fee: US$250
    • Processing time: four weeks
    • Training program: Available year-round for co-op undergraduate and graduate students
    • Co-op, regular, and graduating students for a four-to-twelve  month internship
  • Intrax (preferred partner with special pricing for uWaterloo)
    • All inclusive application and processing fee (includes SEVIS fee):
      • US$1,190 for up to 4 months
      • US$1,590 for up to 8 months
      • Includes student health insurance for the period
    • New employer fee (only applicable if you do not meet certain size and revenue requirements): US$250
    • Processing time: four weeks
    • Training program: Available year-round for co-op undergraduate and graduate students
    • Co-op, regular, and graduating students for a four to twelve  month internship
  • SWAP
    • Register online at least five weeks prior to departure
    • USA Internship + Professional Career Training Category: available from May 15 - September 01
    • Must be paid at least minimum wage to qualify
    • International students and PR students must be enrolled full time and have pre-arranged employment to qualify.
    • Merit Travel (University Plaza, Waterloo, ON) is the local representative
    • Fee: US$1,850.00 plus taxes (four months)
    • Fee: SEVIS US$180
    • Must purchase at least four months of Bon Voyage Plan B medical insurance from SWAP

Travel health insurance for a work term in the USA

You might have to purchase additional coverage through the sponsor, as per the sponsor's guidelines. Please check directly.