Getting a Visa
If you are going to do an internship in the US, you need a J-1 VISA. There are two different J-1 VISA:
The maximum Intern program duration is 12 months. Applicants can qualify for an internship if:
they are currently enrolled in a degree or certificate-granting post-secondary institution outside the US
they have already graduated with a degree or its equivalent but not more than 12 months prior to the program start date
The maximum Trainee program duration is 18 months. Applicants can qualify for a traineeship if they have either:
a degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution and at least one year of prior related work experience acquired outside the United States
five years of work experience acquired outside the United States
Caution: You must wait 6 months between two J-1 intern Visa and 2 years after any J-1 Visa to get a J-1 trainee Visa.
As an Arts et Métiers ParisTech student you will need a J-1 intern Visa, even for a gap year internship. The US government requires your VISA application to be approved by a US sponsor. A US sponsor is an administration that will organize and review your application.
As an individual, you have a choice between three sponsors:
- CIEE www.ciee.org
- InterExchange www.interexchange.org
- French American Chamber of Commerce, if your company is a member
You cannot work with CIEE directly. If you want them to sponsor you, you will work with Parenthese, their French representative.
You can work either with InterExchange or one of their French partners: Aquarius and Experiment. There are both more expensive than InterExchange and provide the exact same service as they just transfer your application to InterExchange. The only difference is that they speak French, but in all cases you will apply in English.
InterExchange & Arts et Métiers ParisTech partnership:
InterExchange appears to be the cheapest sponsor and Audrey Stewart negotiated a cooperator price for the Arts et Métiers students, you will get an additional $200 discount. In the field “International cooperator/university/law firm assisting with application (if applicable)” of the application put: ENSAM - Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Arts et Metiers
Go to www.interexchange.org in the "Career training program" section, and fill out the Info request form to receive the application folder by email. The application is long and requires to gather a lot of documents (resume, certificate of enrollment, reference letters, pictures, forms, employer forms,…). Everything will be detailed in the application.
Caution: the J-1 is a non-immigrant VISA and the US government wants to be sure you will leave the US at the end of your stay. During the entire VISA process do not mention any desire to come back or live in the US in the future. Do not mention any relatives or friends in the US. Do not give them the smallest doubt about your coming back.
You must have a medical insurance that meets the sponsor requirements to get the approval. If you do not, they propose a cheap but basic insurance to purchase.
Send your application back to your sponsor and wait for them to review it. After two weeks, if everything is ok, they will call you to check your English level by asking you 3 simple questions:
How did you locate your internship program?
Have you ever been to the US before? If so, for what purpose?
What is your plan upon returning to your home country?
If you pass this easy test, you will be approved and get a DS-2019 form which is required to get a J-1 Visa. Be careful, you will need both your passeport and this form to get through US customs and immigration.
It takes about a week for you to have your form after the interview. When you have it, you must pay the SEVIS fee online at www.fmjfee.com and print the proof of payment for the embassy appointment. You do not need to bring the original SEVIS proof of payment with you, the printed version is ok. You must also fill out the DS-160 form online and print the confirmation for the embassy.
Caution: If you read some J-1 Visa detailed processes on the internet, they may mention DS-156 157 and 158 forms. In 2010, they have been replaced by the DS-160. To fill the DS-160 form, you will have to upload a scanned photo of yourself. Take a look at the embassy website for the requirements: http://french.france.usembassy.gov/photos.html
You can now make an appointment at the US embassy in Paris: http://french.france.usembassy.gov/rdv.html. You usually can have your appointment in the following 2 or 3 days.
Before the appointment, you must pay an application fee by “mandat-compte” to the embassy in a post office. Check the embassy website for the amount to pay and the account to use: http://french.france.usembassy.gov/niv-tarifs.html/ The original receipt will be asked as a proof of payment.
The embassy appointment
For the embassy appointment, bring:
Confirmation of appointment at the embassy
Proof of SEVIS fee payment
2 pictures (see the embassy website for the requirements)
Anything showing that you will come back: flight ticket for the return, family record book, letter of the school saying you did not finish,…
Caution: You cannot bring any electronic devices inside the embassy. They keep cell phones, keys, MP3 players, etc. at the entrance door but refuse laptops.
The appointment consists of two short interviews with a US consulate Representative. If everything goes well you may be asked a few questions in English, they will take your fingerprints, and you are good to go. They keep your passport and DS-2019 and you receive them a few days later by mail.
You should plan a minimum of two months for the whole process.
For your information, in 2010 for 2 months, the total cost was about 700€. This cost increases with additional months. These prices are subject to change every year and should be checked.
VISA fees: starting at $545 for two months with the cooperator price of InterExchange and the insurance (which is compulsory to get in the US).
SEVIS fee: $180
Embassy appointment: $14
Chronopost envelop: 23€