Visa Time: How to Land Your J1 Visa
The J1 visa is your platform for an incredible summer in America.
For anyone who wants to go to summer camp, you'll need a J1 visa. There are no if's or but's; you've got to get one to work on any cultural exchange placement.
Thankfully, we're the experts when it comes to landing one. We've sent tens of thousands of applicants to camp over the past 20+ years, so we know the J1 process like the back of our hand.
If you're about to go through the process, here's what's coming.
You have your placement, and now we need to make it official. It's time to book that appointment and organise your exchange visitor visa; a J1 visa.
Applying for your J1 visa and heading to the American Embassy can feel a little daunting, but that's what we are here for; to take the weight off those shoulders, to break it down and make it simple.
I remember being afraid of the sheer amount of questions and paperwork. I had this interrogation-type scenario drilled into my head, with the added stress that if I got it wrong, I wouldn't go to camp.
Not sure if you can sense I was a bit of a worrier?
But I really shouldn't have feared, and neither should you.
We are absolute pros regarding your application and the process on the day.
So breathe, trust us and let's crack on.
Applying for your J1 Visa appointment
What you need in front of you right now;
'The instructions’ - You can find these essential words of wisdom here and on your camp leaders portal.
DS160 Guide - This important application is vital to landing your J1 visa. You can find the complete DS160 guide in your Camp Leaders application area.
Secondly - Crashes are common on the US embassy website (it is being used worldwide), so it is peak time at all times.
If it stops working, you'll lose your current answers even if you have saved them; I have been caught out here before.
To avoid frustration and hair-pulling, write down your personal reference number (it begins with an AA00). Then, if the page stops working or times out, you likely won't be starting again.
All you need to now do is to follow those instructions. Do not deviate!
Once you have completed these steps, you can book your appointment on the Embassy portal. A new set of instructions for this section can be found here.
I've completed it; what do I do next?
You've done it. There is now an appointment with your name on it. Wipe that unnecessary stress from your brow and check your inbox, as you'll be sent an important email.
Make sure that you upload it to your documents. Then boom. You're booked in.
Going to the embassy
People have so many presumptions as to what the Embassy will be like.
With my embassy interview, I genuinely believed that I would be interrogated, sweating, with an intense spotlight on my face.
The Embassy is, in fact, far less movie-like and a lot less intense. The inside is strikingly similar to a post office or bank, with plastic booths and an infuriating ding sound every few minutes to indicate if it's your number for the next free stand.
Nothing to fear.
Everyone will need to go to the American Embassy in person. Who doesn't love a day trip to London! (If you're in Northern Ireland, you can also head to Belfast.)
In London, we shall be stood outside, rain or hopefully shine, to ensure all went well.
You'll receive your DS-2019 documents back via post, so you've done everything you need to by this point.
What to take
Before leaving home, use this handy checklist to check (then triple-check) you have everything.
Your Embassy Checklist
- 'Appointment Instructions'
- DS-160 Form
- Copy of confirmation page
- SEVIS Receipt (I-901 form)
- Passport photo
- Evidence of Intent to return to the UK
- You have read about the Wilberforce Act
And if attending J Day at US Consulate in Belfast:
- DS-2019 Form
What not to take... When entering the American Embassy, you shall be checked in and then guided to a security checkpoint with scanners. Very much like an airport!
The American Embassy is very firm on its prohibited list; you don't mess with the Embassy. Below is a statement issued straight from the top dogs themselves, so take note:
"You can bring your mobile phone, e-reader, iPad or other tablet computer during your visit. But iPad and tablet keyboards are not allowed, nor are laptop computers, suitcases and other large bags. Of course, weapons and other dangerous items must also stay out. The Embassy does not offer storage; nearby businesses may be able to store some items for a fee."
What happens after your J1 visa appointment
If all paperwork is in order and they've taken your passport from you with a smile, then your J1 visa has been approved.
The Embassy will keep your passport for up to 10 working days and then return it to your selected location.
Once back, you must mark it as 'received' on your Camp Leaders' Visa' section; then it's real!
Your printed J1 visa, featuring an unflattering mugshot, is your way into the States for camp.
Ensure you don't lose any of the paperwork given to you, as you shall need it all at border control.
But for now, breathe; the ordeal is over!
Time to begin the countdown and focus on other exciting tasks… like the big shop, before packing.
J1 Visa application jargon buster
- J1 - This is the Visa programme you are on as a summer camp counselor.
- J-day - This is the specified day you must attend your J1 Visa appointment.
- Ds-160 - The online application from the US embassy; you'll soon know this from back to front. Print out the front page and barcode.
- Ds2019 - This will be posted to you before your J1 visa embassy appointment.
- SEVIS - We organise your SEVIS paperwork and payment for you. Still, we'll give you your unique code so you can print the receipt to bring to your appointment.