Do I Really Need a Visa to Intern in the United States?

Do I Really Need a Visa to Intern in the United States?

New York. San Francisco. Miami. There’s no denying that the USA, in all of its vastness and diversity, possesses its own unique allure. And pursuing an internship in the United States is a great way to hone your skills, learn international business practices, and experience authentic American life without breaking the bank.


But what documentation do you need to do it right? The short answer: you’ll need a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa for any internship or training program you’ve been offered in the United States. Although you may be tempted to enter the States through ESTA (the Electronic System for Travel Authorization)--especially for a short-term or unpaid internship--ESTA is strictly for tourism. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, "ESTA is not a visa. It does not meet the legal requirements to serve in lieu of a U.S. visa when a visa is required."


Not only is the J-1 Visa a legal requirement for U.S. internships, even unpaid, but there are also many advantages to applying for the J-1 Intern/Trainee Visa program through a designated sponsor organization. A J-1 Visa sponsor, such as InterExchange, can:


  • Advise and assist you throughout the J-1 Visa application process
  • Answer your (and your employer’s) questions about the program and eligibility
  • Support you and advocate for you throughout your time in the U.S.
  • Provide accident and sickness insurance for the duration of your program
  • Help you in an emergency, 24/7
  • Facilitate your cultural exchange experience by providing access to and information on events and activities
  • Serve as an important resource for living in the U.S.


American job experience can add an invaluable boost to your CV, but it’s important to take all the proper steps to ensure you’ll be welcomed back to the USA once you’ve secured that dream job at home. As an official partner of the Erasmus Student Network, InterExchange can help make it happen with a streamlined application process and an exclusive ESN member discount.


For over 50 years, InterExchange has facilitated thousands of J-1 Visa programs and will be there to help you every step of the way as you embark on the adventure of a lifetime.


Make it happen today!