03 Nov Welcome to American bureaucracy: getting a visa

Getting a J-1 visa step by step. Image: Lotte van Woudenberg powered by piktochart

Do you want to get the most out of your studies, discover a new culture and make memories? Go on an internship abroad! That is exactly what I´m about to do: I’ll be leaving for California in less than a month. Do you also want to do an internship  in the USA? Read on to discover how you can apply for an intern visa. If you’re not interested in doing an internship in the USA specifically, just read this post on finding an internship and how to finance it. If you’re not looking for an internship abroad at all, I am sure you will enjoy this post on eating insects better!

I often heard friends and fellow students cry: ‘Arranging all the visa stuff is so much work!’ or ‘Damn American bureaucracy!’ However, based on my own optimism and immunity for the Dutch tendency to complain, I always thought: ‘It can’t be that bad. Or is it?’ I can now say to you: yes it is. Arranging an internship in the USA devours your time! So please let me give you a checklist and some tips to make your visa application a little more efficient.

Getting your J-1 visa: step by step

American visas come in all alphabetic characters. The one you will need during an (paid or unpaid) internship is the non-immigrant visa J-1. Before you start your visa application, make sure that you have a passport that is valid at least 6 months after the end date of you visa. Also, get a credit card, you can’t do without one! The ING offers a special credit card for students (in Dutch). Now, let’s start with the real work:

  1. The application for your DS-2019 form: funding, language and waiting

The first step of the visa process is the hardest. Believe me, after you have completed this part (and you’re done crying of joy) the rest will be easy! Usually scientific institutes agree on sponsoring your J-1 visa. If not, it will probably get a bit more expensive, since you’ll have to depend on a sponsor organisation (which you can find via a visa agency such as Visaversa or Kilroy (in Dutch)). The international office of your internship institute or the visa agency can apply for the DS-2019 form. In order to get this infamous form, you probably need to fill out a J-1 application form or submit your personal information in some other way. In addition to this, you need proof of funding and of English language proficiency.

In order to get a J-1 visa, you need to show that you have $2,583.33 for every month of your stay in the US! Yeah, it really is that much money. Are you about to give up at this point? I know I was. However, there is a way to fix this: the easiest way is to deposit the full amount in your savings account and ask your bank for a Solvency Statement in English (solvabiliteitsverklaring in Dutch) with your account balance stated in the letter. Once you have received this statement, you only have to add an overview of the current rate of exchange between euro and American dollar to state your exact personal capital.

The only problem: you’re a poor student that can absolutely no way get such a shitload of money together. If this applies to you, you may need some help of wealthier friends or relatives to temporarily boost your account balance a bit. Another way is to ask DUO for an English statement with the monthly amount of ‘studiefinanciering’ and loan in dollars for the months that you will be staying in the US. Using DUO to prove your funding will however make you subject to the 2-year-rule, meaning that you can’t work in the US for two years after finishing your internship.

To prove your English language proficiency you can take a recognised English test or provide proof from an English language class you have successfully passed. I used a statement of my Master’s programme coordinator that I was enrolled in a program that is fully taught in English.

Another thing you need to arrange is your medical insurance. There are insurances that are specifically designed for students living abroad for a few months. For me it took only 4 days to get my DS-2019 form after submitting all the documents. It can however take weeks to months. During the waiting process you have time to take a nice picture for your visa. It’s important that you have a photo that matches the U.S visa criteria (5×5 cm, white background, no smiling). I took the picture at Studio Heno, a photo studio close to the Faculty.

Next up:

  1. Sign the DS-2019 form (easy right?)
  2. Go to the website of the American Consulate and fill out the DS-160 form. It’s a long form with disturbing questions, but it shouldn’t be too difficult (if you’re an innocent student). Use a scan of your visa photo to upload in this form. Print the conformation page with the barcode to bring to your visa interview.
  3. To be able to make an appointment, you have to pay the US visa application fee of $160 by signing up on this website. You will receive the payment instructions by email. After the money has been received, you can make an appointment for your interview at the American Consulate. Print the internet-generated receipt to bring to your visa interview.
  4. Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee of $180 at least 3 days before your interview by credit card. Print the internet-generated receipt to bring to your visa interview.
  5. Visit the American Consulate at the Museumplein in Amsterdam. All you need for this is patience, all your paperwork and a lot of time. Don’t worry if you are still in line outside the building at the time that your ‘appointment’ is scheduled, just wait until you can get inside. The security at the consulate is very strict, so take a look of the list of items you cannot bring to your interview. Most importantly, do not bring your phone if you don’t want to wait until it has undergone an extensive check for explosive material. It will take hours! You can also store your phone in a locker at one of the many museums. Paperwork you should bring to your interview are:
  • a valid passport
  • form DS-2019
  • the DS-160 conformation page
  • your training plan on form DS-7002 (only for Research Scholars, not necessary for Short-Term Scholars)
  • your academic degree certificate
  • proof of funding documents
  • a letter of invitation from the institute you are visiting
  • the receipt of the SEVIS I-901
  • the receipt of the US Visa Application Fee
  • your CV
  • maybe some documents to proof your ‘strong ties’ with The Netherlands

Once inside and checked by security, you have to wait again for your interview. Luckily, the interview itself will probably only take a few minutes. After this, you receive your visa in your passport in less than a week. Time to book your fight and take a deep breath!

Interested whether it was all worth it? I’ll keep you updated! If you have any questions, let me know in the comments!


P.S.: UvA student wanting to go abroad and need help? Contact the Faculty’s International Office

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WTF lotte

WTF lotte

Master student Biomolecular Neuroscience
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