Moving to America >> Graduate Visa Guide.

Are you thinking about taking advantage of the US graduate visa upon finishing 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. 

Deciding to move to San Francisco was a challenging decision emotionally but, thankfully, logistically it was pretty simple. A couple of forms to be filled in, money to be paid and bags to be packed—it can be stressful if you let it be but on the whole the process was very simple and pain free.

Today, let’s talk preliminary steps.

In order to be eligible for this particular visa you must be enrolled in college or have graduated within one year of your arrival into the United States. Lots of our friends here completed undergraduate degrees and then masters before coming to SF. Rich had graduated almost a year prior to our departure whereas I had only a couple of days before. Another of our friends is taking a year between his third and fourth years of a five year programme. So long as your fall into the eligibility category there is no right or wrong time to come. 

Once you determine if you are eligible for a visa the next step is to work out if and how you can afford it. Look at your income, figure out your outgoings and work out a savings plan. This sounds boring but it’ll save you stressing about money down the line (or worse, having to take out a loan). While the initial cost of the visa is not huge you also need a significant amount of money to get you going. If the visa costs €2,000 then I would multiply this number by at least 2.5 and factor that into your savings. I worked throughout my final year of college and saved like crazy all summer long, taking on as many jobs as I could handle to make it all work.  

There are two ways (that I know of) to get a J1 Graduate Internship Visa, through USIT and through the Irish Pastoral Centre. Both myself and Rich and most of our friends went through USIT. It is less flexible because you must take whatever flights USIT book for you within you specified date range (the IPC allow you to book your own flights which can sometimes work out cheaper) but I found them to be exceptionally helpful, forthcoming with information and quick to respond to my hundreds of questions. It’s good to look at both options and pick whatever suits you best. USIT allows you to pay your visa off in stages, first a deposit and then the rest by a specified date. This allows you to get a chunk of the expenses out of the way so you’re left saving for your time in the States. We paid a little over €2,000 for our visa with USIT—this includes flights, health insurance and the visa itself. 

I’ll leave it there for now before your brains melt with all the details. Next week I’ll get into the application process, embassy interview and pre-departure to-dos.