Moving to the U.S. is not only an option for students. Your teaching degree in your home country can actually help you work as a teacher in the U.S. We want you to know that the J-1 visa exists specifically for you.
What is a J-1 visa?
A J-1 visa is U.S. authorization given to non-U.S. citizens to participate in approved “work- and study-based exchange visitor programs.”
The J-1 visa is open to professionals and scholars, but one of its stronger programs is the teaching exchange program that allows qualified teachers to move to the U.S. to work in “accredited primary and secondary schools”, also known as elementary and high schools.
How to Apply
Although this is a government sponsored program, there is no quick application which can be done online. The State Department has a list of approved designated sponsors, which you must get in contact with directly.
The job of your designated sponsor is to guide your through the application process, find you a host school, and provide you with support while you are in the U.S. In addition to this approved list of organization in the U.S., there are private agencies that can also provide this service.
Teacher Program Basics
Like any other government program, in order to be approved as a teaching exchange visitor there are certain requirements that you must meet.
You will be placed in an approved primary or secondary school, which means you have to show proof that you are a qualified or current teacher. You must
- be qualified to teach in primary or secondary schools in your home country and
- have a degree in education or in the subject you wish to teach in the U.S.
2. Work experience
Having a teaching degree is not enough to be approved for the program. You must have a minimum number of years working as a teacher. You must
- be teaching at the time you submit an application.
- also have a minimum of two full years of teaching experience within the past 8 years.
If you are not currently working as a teacher when you apply, you must
- show proof that you have worked as a teacher in the last 12 months or
- have two full years of teaching experience within the last eight years.
3. English skills
You must prove that you have proficient English skills. This is often evaluated through language tests and interviews. The process can change depending on the sponsor organization you work with.
4. Satisfy the state standards
Each state in the U.S. has the autonomy to set up its own educational standards. Because of this, you must speak with your designated sponsor or agency to find out if there are any additional requirements needed to be eligible to teach in a certain state or to teach a certain subject.
5. Proof of good character
You will be asked to prove your good character by submitting a list of references. You will need to provide the name and contact information of coworkers and employers who can speak well about your work ethic, teaching skills, personality, and more.
What else should I know about the J-1 visa teaching program?
This exchange program on its own is already a great opportunity. But the best part – you don’t have to come alone. Teachers who participate in this program are given the opportunity to bring their families with them.
If accepted into the teaching exchange program, you will become a J-1 visa holder and your spouse or children (must be unmarried and under the age of 21) are eligible to apply for a J-2 visa.
It is never too late to achieve your dream or set new goals. Being able to move to the U.S. to teach and bring your family will give you the opportunity to share this amazing experience with those you love the most.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does the program last?
Teachers who participate in the J-1 visa exchange program are normally granted placements of three years. But J-1 visa extensions are possible. Extensions are usually given for one or two extra years but are not automatic. Your host school must begin the process of applying for an extension.
Although extensions are normally given for either one or two years, the State Department does not have a limit on how many times you can apply for or receive an extension.
Where will I get placed?
As mentioned above, you must get in contact with a designated sponsor or agency. Through the program you can be placed in any U.S. city or state that has a participating and approved primary or secondary school. You will have to speak with your sponsor or agency regarding preferences and what schools they have worked with in the past.
Will I get paid?
Yes. But your designated sponsor or agency will be the ones to give you detailed information regarding your estimated income.
Can I participate in the program more than once?
Yes. If you do not request an extension or if it ends and you move back to your home country, you will be able to apply for the program again. In order to be eligible to reapply, you must have spent at least two years in your home country. After those two years, you must still meet the requirements mentioned above to participate in the program again.
If you are interested in doing less work and receiving more support, we at Epro 360 can recommend working with Travelingua. We have worked with this company in the past, and they have successfully provided support and resources to teachers wishing to learn more about this exchange program.