Moving to America >> Graduate Visa Guide

Are you thinking of taking advantage of the US graduate visa after college? Or perhaps you need a break before final year to refocus, get some experience and adventure? Whatever your reasons for wanderlust I hope that over this series of posts on the J1 Graduate Internship Visa I can shed some light on the application process, arrival tips, job hunting suggestions and a guide to general survival in this strange and wonderful foreign place. 

This is the second post in a series, for the first click here

Picking up from where we left off last week: you’re eligible to go, you’ve started saving and all that’s between you and a great American adventure is…bureaucracy. Exciting stuff right?

To apply for a US Graduate Visa there are a couple of simple and pretty basic forms to fill out. There are a limited number of visas available in this category each year (so don’t leave it until the last minute to apply!). USIT is pretty good about publicising how many are left and when the deadline for applications is so keep your eyes peeled to their website. While the application process is open there is an online form (click here) which kickstarts the application process.

Once this form is filled in you will receive an email welcoming you to the programme with a link to…yes, you guessed it, another form. This one we printed and posted in to the designated US Graduate Visa person in USIT (her name and details were included in the email). There was an option to email as far as I can remember but we felt it would have a better chance of being processed faster if it landed on the desk of an actual person. 

Once USIT had a hold of all our information things started to really get going. We were each assigned a designated person to assist in the processing of our application. Rich’s girl emailed him with all the details and mine rang me. It was through these emails/phonecalls that we let USIT know where we wanted to go and when. Then we paid our deposits through a secure-link and our flights were booked for us. After the deposit is paid you have a little over a month to pay the balance in full.

Included in this ‘visa-fee’ is the cost of the actual visa, health insurance (very basic—don‘t go jumping out of airplanes), flights and a US sim-card. 

Not included in this fee is the $160 price of the mandatory US embassy interview. 

USIT made the process so smooth for us, I can’t recommend them enough. I was able to email with any questions I had which were always answered quickly and kindly. They also provide all the information on booking and acing your embassy interview which can be a somewhat daunting experience…because if they deny you a visa there is nothing you can do and no way to get your money back. 

Things to note about the Embassy Interview:

  1. You will have to book a time, usually early morning. This does not mean you will be seen at that time. 
  2. Expect to wait a long time. And then some more time. 
  3. Bring a book. You are not allowed bring your phone into the embassy and people watching can only entertain you for so long. 
  4. Have all your papers to hand in a folder, this is not the place for dog eared pages. Bring your CV, job references, proof of academic status, bank statement and necessary visa forms. Double, triple check that you have everything before you head there. 
  5. Be friendly and be honest. The people behind the glass are usually lovely and for the most part this interview is a box-checking exercise. I didn’t know the answer to one of my questions and simply said ‘I don’t know’—my interviewer laughed and then explained the answer to me. So long as you’re not a criminal you’ll be grand. 
  6. Expect to part with your passport and some of your documents. They will be returned to a pre-selected collection point within ten days.

The actual interview part of my embassy visit took less than 2 minutes (and Richard’s was even shorter), though we were there for at least three hours…I’m being serious about that book, you’ll want it!