Warning: This information is not intended to constitute legal advice on immigration and should not be relied upon in lieu of the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services website or consultation with appropriate legal advisors. It may not be current as the laws in the area change.

J-1 Traineeship/ Internship Visa

I wanted to break into the world of international relations and so decided to come to New York to work at the United Nations. I found an international Non Governmental Organisation which had consultative status at UNHQ through an agency called the Centre for International Career Development. The agency acted as my J-1 internship/ traineeship sponsor and assisted me with the three-month application process each step of the way.

Pros & Cons: The J-1 is designed as a cultural exchange for people to get a taste of what NYC is like. It’s a great way to gain experience, learn new skills and make contacts. Unfortunately, the vast majority of internships in the US are unpaid, and under the J-1 visa you are not permitted to work outside your allocated internship/ traineeship.

F-1 Student Visa

I auditioned in London for one of the many revered acting schools in New York City. After being accepted, the international advisor at the school guided me through the F-1 student visa application process. After completing several online stages I eventually had one meeting at the US embassy before my visa was approved. Initially you must fill out the I-901 form online and pay a SEVIS fee. Then the visa application form DS-160, before paying a visa application fee. Then you will schedule an interview at the US embassy, followed by a wait period before your visa is approved. There are many details and forms needed throughout the process however the school’s international advisor should guide you through this.

Pros & Cons: The F-1 visa is a great way to study abroad for a limited amount of time. Normally you may enter the USA up to 30 days prior to the start of your course and must leave within 60 days of completion. However after completion of your course of study, there is also an option to apply for an Optional Practical Training (OPT) visa. This further visa essentially allows you to reside in the US and gain practical training directly related to your field of study, for up to 12 months. It’s a great way to gain experience in your industry. Unfortunately you are unable to legally work in the USA while on this visa except for Work-Study programs within your institution/College, these normally pay minimum wage but are a good supplement to your educational studies.