What Documents are Required for the J-1 Program?


J-1 Interns and Trainees come to the United States to grow their careers in a wide variety of industries. At HPUSA, we specialize in the tourist, hotel, and culinary industries. Our program is designed to help aspiring students, graduates and young professionals in the hospitality industry to secure their Visa and travel to the U.S.

Securing a J-1 Visa to allow you to travel to the United States and further your education is an exciting — and paperwork-filled — process. You have lots of requirements that you have to meet and if you miss any single piece, you can be sent back to the beginning or denied completely.

You need to meticulously prepare your documents if you want to avoid being rejected. We’ve worked with people in your position before, and we know what it takes to reduce your denial chances. We have some unique insights into the process and the documents that you need.

J-1 Program Documents: Everything You Need to Know

There are quite a few documents that you will need to gather before you can apply for your J-1 Program. If you miss any of those documents or if they aren’t the right quality, your chances of being approved are significantly decreased.

Before You Gather Documents, Ensure that You Meet the Program Criteria

Applying for a J-1 Visa will be complex and tedious. Before you start that journey, make sure that you won’t be simply wasting your time. Review the program requirements and make sure that you meet them all.

The requirements include:

  1. For internships, you are required to be a full-time student or have graduated in the past year with hospitality, hotel, tourism-related or culinary degrees. For trainees, you must already hold a hotel-related degree or diploma in addition to full-time related work experience.
  2. You will be required to have proficient English skills.
  3. Have strong ties to your home country (such as family, home-ownership, or a job) that would make you want to return back home after your program is completed.
  4. You have to be willing to stay in the U.S. for the duration of your program.
  5. You will need to qualify for basic health insurance provided by your sponsor.
  6. You’ll need to be over 18 years old and in good health.
  7. You will also need to plan your budget and have all the funds that you need for expenses and accommodation.

For more detailed requirements, please read: Do I Qualify as an Intern or Trainee?

Pay Close Attention to Document Quality as You Gather Your Documents

For obvious reasons, the Embassy, HPUSA, and your Sponsor will all require your documents to be legible.

In general, your documents must be:

  1. Sharp, not blurry or out of focus.
  2. Scanned in neatly, not a photograph.
  3. Free from damage such as water damage, tears, or other signs of misuse.
  4. Compressed so they aren’t a large file size.
  5. Complete, you cannot present a document with cuts or missing margins, logos, or letterhead.

Some documents have additional specifications that you need to be aware of.

  1. Passports must be valid for at least 3 months after you return home. For example, if your program ends on June 30th, your passport should be valid until September 30th. The laminated picture cannot have any peeling or damage. You cannot have reported it lost or stolen — even if it was found.
  2. Your professional photo will need to be a headshot and have you smiling. If you’re applying for a culinary position, you need to be wearing your chef’s uniform in the photo.
  3. Work certificates, reference letters, and training certificates will need to be on company letterhead.

Provide Personal Information to Prove Your Identity

Before you can secure a J-1 Visa, you will have to provide proof of your identity.

This includes:

  1. Your complete address — we provide our applicants with a form to fill in for this information.
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  1. Your valid passport.
  2. Copies of any previous DS-2019 and U.S. Visa if you previously worked or visited the USA.
  3. Additionally, we require our applicants to submit a video introduction that we use when we’re presenting their resumes to hotels to help secure them a position.

Include Your Relevant Experience & Qualifications

Many employers and J-1 programs, including ours, require you to have some level of experience and qualifications before they will agree to be your host during your program. You will need to supply records showing that you meet this requirement.

This includes:

  1. A copy of your degree or graduation certificate. If you have a degree, it must include your date of graduation and major. For a graduation certificate or letter, it must be on university letterhead and confirm the degree earned, course of study, and your exact graduation date.
  2. A complete transcript of your records. If you do not have that available, you can provide proof of your grades.
  3. Work certificate(s) that are signed and presented on company letterhead. These must state your name, the dates you worked, and the position that you held. Additionally, they should prove that you have 12 months of paid hotel-related work experience outside the U.S.
  4. Reference letters or training certificates that are presented on company letterhead. They can be from a university, previous employer, or from a training seminar that you’ve previously attended.

Provide English Versions of Your Documents

All of your documents must be provided in English. If your documents are not in English, then you need to have them officially translated into English and provide the original document along with the translated document.

You Don’t Have to Go Through This Process Alone

Obtaining your J-1 Visa, securing a sponsor, and landing a paid internship with a high-quality US host company is a big task. For many of you, this will be the first time you’ve gone through this process. It’s easy to miss a step or not provide your documents exactly like you’re supposed to. This slight misstep is enough to delay your journey or get you denied altogether.

We help hundreds of aspiring young people like you every year. We know what it takes to navigate the hurdles of J-1 applications and we can guide you through every step.

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