J1 Visa & Your Embassy Appointment
You have been placed at an American summer camp and you have signed your contract. The next steps include physically getting your J1 visa to work in the states. But what is a J1 visa?
The J1 is a cultural exchange visa that supports visitors (you), who are promoting and participating in a cultural exchange (summer camp).
The maximum length for a J1 visa is 4 months. The J1 Visa lasts for the length of your summer camp contract. For as long as you are employed by your camp, your visa is active. You can only work for your summer camp under this visa.
Built into your visa is a ‘grace period’. This is your travel time. You are allowed up to 30 days after the end date of your camp contract to travel around the USA. After these 30 days you must leave the country.
Now to actually receive this visa you will have to travel and visit the US embassy. I know, visiting government buildings can be scary, and may fill you with anxiety. Yet this blog post is designed to relieve those feelings and help give you an insight into what you might experience. This is based on my personal experience, and what is needed for those going to the embassy today.
Before you even attend your appointment you will need the following:
DS-160 confirmation page
Appointment booking confirmation
US-style visa photos (2inches X 2inches)
At least 2 documents of proof of return
What is proof of return you might ask? Well this is anything that proves that you have a life back in your home country. Types of proof of return include: proof of returning to education, or returning to work. A signed lease to show you have committed to living somewhere in your home country. Bank statements are great, as these show that you have left them open to return to. Phone bills or home utility bills, again, show that you will return to keep paying them. And finally, showing a booking confirmation of a return flight home.
The US embassy has airport style security. This means you will have to walk through a metal detector, and if you have any bags, they will be x-ray scanned like at an airport. I would also suggest to arrive 15 minutes before your appointment time. This is in case there are some lines and you are waiting at security.
After going through security you will check in at the front desk. They will make sure you have all the documents in the checklist above. After confirming, you will be handed a number and asked to go to the first floor and take a seat.
Your number will get called; this is where you hand over your documents. After the staff member has gotten everything they need, they will ask you to sit down again and the waiting begins. You could be waiting anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours, so be prepared. There is free wifi in the embassy which is a plus, but do not forget to bring water and a snack.
After waiting, your number will be called for a second time. You will be directed to a numbered window and this is where you will be interviewed. The staff member will ask some questions, not to trick you, but just as a formality. ‘Have you been to America before?’ ‘What are you doing at camp?’ ‘What are your plans when you get back from the US?’
After answering these questions, you will move onto getting your fingerprints taken. If you are here, CONGRATULATIONS, your visa has been approved! The staff member will direct you to line up to the cashier desk with your approved documents.
Once at the desk, you will hand over your documents and passport. You will be asked to pay for your passport to be mailed back to you. This is totally normal. The US embassy will then keep your documents and passport for up to 10 working days whilst they stamp your new visa into your passport. So do not plan to go abroad or use your passport straight after your visa appointment, you won’t be able to.