Process for U.S. J-1 visa

Update on USA visa restrictions due to COVID-19

On June 22, 2020, the US Government extended and expanded on previously-issued immigration restrictions to freeze several visa classes until the end of 2020, including the J-class visa. As this is a fluid situation with several implications and interpretations, we will continue to monitor advisories and seek counsel to determine what the impact may be to future work terms. We will update students and employers as we learn more.

For more information on how the COVID-19 pandemic may affect you as an employer, visit our 2020 co-op work term updates webpage.

If you are a non-Canadian employer hiring co-op students from the University of Waterloo, be sure to discuss logistics about the job.

Communicate the following with your co-op student (intern):

  • Start and end dates of the work period
  • Compensation details
  • Relocation expenses, such as travel and housing assistance
  • Cultural onboarding resources, local transit information
  • Confirm their visa sponsor choice
  • Payment of administrative fee for visa

U.S. Visa Information

Students will most likely require a U.S. J-1 visa to intern in the U.S. Contact your HR department for your organizations best practices when attaining and processing J-1 Visas for students outside of the U.S.

Note: Begin obtaining a J-1 visa as soon as possible after you have been matched with your student(s). This process takes multiple weeks, and is increased if the student hired from Waterloo is not a Canadian citizen.

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

As the employer, you are required to prepare for your student’s entrance into the U.S. This includes:

  1. Choosing a sponsor
    1. Check if your organization uses a sponsor.
    2. Consider using one of our preferred sponsors: Cultural Vistas or Intrax.
      1. To get started with one of our preferred sponsors, please contact our International Employment Services team at
    3. If the organization is matched with one of interns, and is using one of our preferred sponsors, IES will automatically email both employer and student after match with a reminder to start their applications.
  2. Prepare the J-1 application documents
    1. Prepare J-1 application documents in accordance with the guidelines provided by your sponsor.
    2. Cultural Vistas and Intrax will provide assistance with this process, though not all sponsors do.
  3. Pay fees
    1. Pay the sponsor’s application and processing fee
      1. more information about fees can be found on our Co-operative Education site here.
  4. Have your sponsor issue the DS-2019 form
    1. After processing, the sponsor issues the DS-2019 form to the student which takes about 4 weeks. This allows Canadian students to obtain the J-1 visa at USCIS (immigration at the point of entry).
      1. NOTE: Non-Canadians and non-U.S. citizens have an additional step, which includes an interview at a U.S. Consulate, which increases the processing time to approximately 6 weeks.

The department of Co-operative and Experiential Education at the University of Waterloo and the sponsor provide the students with pre-departure orientation that includes information on taxes, SSN, health insurance, risk management and more.

Outside of the U.S.

If you are an employer located outside of Canada and the U.S., contact our International Employment Specialist for more information international co-op employment.