Guide to Teacher Visas in the USA
Updated: Oct 17
Finding a teaching opportunity in the US is surely a great way to take your teaching career to the next level. If you’re a non-US citizen and want to teach in the United States, you have a few visa options that allow you to come to the US and pursue your career as a teacher or educator.
When it comes to teacher visas in the USA, we need to explore opportunities like Cultural exchange programs that enable people from different countries to establish relationships. The J-1 visa is a common US exchange program that allows teachers, professors, students, and other professionals to visit the US and perform their duties.
Since we’re talking about teacher visas, it’s essential to determine whether or not qualified to serve in the US as a teacher. This article will try to cover everything you need to know about teacher visas, their processes, and major requirements. We’ll also address some of the most frequently asked questions related to J-1 and other teacher visas. Let’s get started with defining what a teacher visa is and how it allows you to get a teaching job in the USA.
What is a J-1 teacher visa?
The J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant cultural exchange allotted to teachers that meet a certain set of requirements. If you’re serving as a teacher in your country and have the qualification to do so, you probably have the opportunity to apply for this visa. You can teach in the accredited primary and secondary schools in the US for up to 3 years with the possibility of a one or two years extension.
At the end of your program, you return to your country with newly developed skills and a deep understanding of the US hosting communities. Your international teaching experience at a US-based school will help you bring about positive changes to your country’s educational landscape. You may be eligible to repeat the program provided you have resided outside the US for 2 years and met other requirements.
Teacher Council, a designated sponsor of The US Department of State Exchange Visitors Program for Teachers, is a non-profit educational organization that works towards fostering cultural exchange and study between the US and other nations. As an international teacher, you can participate in their J-1 cultural exchange program.
Let’s take a comprehensive look at things that qualify you to get a teacher visa.
Basic requirements for a J-1 teacher visa for the USA
Determining your eligibility is probably the first thing you need to figure out before applying for a visa. To be eligible for a J-1 teacher visa, you have to meet the following requirements:
First of all, you have met the qualifications for teaching in primary or secondary school in your country.
You must possess sufficient English language proficiency, so you communicate with US students without any language-related barriers.
You’re a non-US citizen.
You must work as a teacher in your legal residence or home country at the time you want to submit the visa application. If you’re not working as a teacher currently, you need to complete an advanced degree or have at least 2 years of full-time teaching experience in the past eight years.
You must have a degree equivalent to a US bachelor’s degree in the subject you want to teach.
Your professional teaching experience must meet the standards of the US state in which you want to serve a school.
You must not be involved in any criminal activities or anything that makes your reputation and character questionable.
You must enter the Us for the sole purpose of teaching full-time at a primary or secondary school.
So, do you meet all of these requirements? If yes, it’s time to move forward and learn more about the teacher visa.
Key documents required for J-1 teacher visa
Before we talk about the applying steps for a J-1 visa, let’s see what forms and documents you need to submit during the application process. DS-2019 is the main form you need to submit to apply for a teacher visa along with the sponsorship letter, which verifies your ability before the US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Before submitting the D-2019 form and teacher sponsorship letters, you need an employment offer from an accredited US primary or secondary school. The J-1 visa for teachers only covers the school that you mentioned on your DS-2019. This means you can’t work for or earn from any other teaching job. Let’s enlist the documents you need to produce or process during the application process:
Offer letter from a listed school
DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application
Benefits of obtaining a teacher visa in the US
Working in the US has been a dream of millions of people around the globe. International teachers come to the US and gain highly valuable teaching experience. You not only develop new teaching skills but also understand the dynamics of working in a different culture. Teaching diverse groups of students certainly enriches your teaching experience.
As a teacher, you must consider this an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the US teaching methods. The US students also get a chance to promote cultural exchange and develop a broader perspective and work with new ideas and ways of learning.
So, one of the leading benefits you get from a teaching job in the US is career development and personal experience. Not to mention the opportunity to meet new people and visit new places.
If a teacher exchange program has sponsored you, you can qualify for the J-1 visa for teachers under the Teacher Exchange Program. The Department of State designates public and private institutes to act as exchange sponsors. A sponsor is supposed to screen and select qualified foreign teachers and supervise their stay in the country to make sure they do the intended job.
When you apply for the visa, your sponsor will be the main point of contact throughout the application process. This means you can reach out to your sponsoring entity if you need help. Educational institutes sponsor directly in case of J-1 visa for professors and research scholars.
Applying for a US visa for teachers involves a considerably lengthy process. When applying for a teacher visa in the US, you have to go through the following steps:
1. Find a sponsor
As mentioned earlier, the first step is to locate a sponsor for your visa. In other words, get accepted by a J-1 sponsoring organization in the US. The sponsor will determine your basic eligibility and confirm your English language skills.
2. Submit DS-2019
DS-2019 form is also called the “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status". You need to submit a completed DS-2019 in order to schedule an interview with a US consulate or embassy in your home country. Your sponsor will provide you with a DS-2019 form. All you have to do is fill it out to the best of your knowledge.
3. Pay fees
You have to pay the application fees along with your DS-2019 submission. These fees include SEVIS 1-901 ($180) and the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Processing fee ($160). Some applicants participating through US government-funded cultural and educational exchange programs are exempted from the Nonimmigrant Visa Application processing fee.
4. Schedule and attend the interview
The final step is to get approved and interviewed by an immigration officer at a U embassy or consulate in your country. Your interview is one of the crucial parts of your application process. The interviewee may ask questions about the program, your teaching experience, and your personal background.
Make sure to gather all the required documents before appearing for the interview. Remember, J-1 is a nonimmigrant visa for teachers. You have to show evidence that you will return to your home country after you complete your visit.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I change my status from a J-1 visa to another visa, such as an H-1B visa, at the end of the program?
Typically, you can’t change your status from a J-1 visa to another visa, such as an H-1B visa. You have to show the full intention of returning to your home country when applying for a J-1 visa. However, you might be able to change your status if you meet the requirements for the visa type you want to switch to.
2. Can I travel outside the United States during the teaching program?
You can travel outside the US during your teaching program for up to 30 days.
3. Do I need a Social Security number in order to begin teaching?
You are added to your host school’s payroll without a social security number. Meanwhile, you can apply for the card.
4. Are there different exemptions based on whether you are a J-1 student, teacher, or trainee?
Yes, there could be different exemptions based on your visa status.
5. Do I pay any taxes on my U.S. income?
As a foreign teacher, you’re not exempted from federal, state, or local taxes. However, you don’t need to pay FICA or FUTA taxes.
6. Can a teacher visa be renewed?
Yes, you can renew your teacher visa. However, you must live outside of the US for at least two years after the expiration of your initial visa.
7. Do you have to be a US citizen to teach in the US?
The U.S. Embassy in the country of the non-citizen's home must issue a temporary or permanent visa before they can teach. The decision to teach in the United States should be thoroughly researched before arrival by foreign educators.
Still not sure? We have already gathered many additional frequently asked questions for teachers and schools you may have.
The J-1 teacher visa is truly a remarkable opportunity for foreign teachers to stay and work in the US as a teacher. If you meet the visa requirements and are passionate about teaching in the United States, feel free to apply and get your dream job. After you get your visa and start teaching, make sure to explore all the growth opportunities and get the career growth you need to fulfill your life goals.