Visas for REPs in the United States

uscustomslogoIf you are thinking about doing your REP in the United States, you may not be able do this on the Visa Waiver programme (ESTA).

Please contact the WRoCAH office if you are thinking about a REP in the USA to discuss the visa requirements.

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What visa do I need?

First, talk to your Host Organisation – they may have specific requirements and be able to offer you guidance.

The US Embassy advises as follows:

If you wish to pursue practical training through an internship with a U.S. based employer you will require either an exchange visitor (J-1) or trainee (H-3) visa. Such activities cannot be conducted on a B-2 visa or visa free under the Waiver Program, even if you will receive no payment from a U.S. source.

The first step is to determine if the prospective employer is a designated exchange visitor program sponsor. Training opportunities exist in variety of occupational categories including the arts and culture, information media and communications, education, management, business, commerce and finance. If the prospective employer is a designated exchange visitor program sponsor they will issue you with a Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, form DS-2019, which you will be required to furnish when applying for a J-1 visa.

If no exchange program exists, you may be eligible to obtain the requisite sponsorship for the J-1 visa through an approved work exchange program. There are a number of work exchange programs between the United Kingdom and the United States which allow participants to perform any employment which is available to them; others are restricted to a specific field. Further information is available from the individual program sponsor.

If you are unable to obtain sponsorship for an exchange visitor visa, your prospective employer will be required to file, on your behalf, a petition to accord you trainee (H-3) status. The petition, Form I-129H, is filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) having jurisdiction over the area of intended employment. The petition will take several months to be processed.”

So, depending on your host organisation you will need a J-1 visa or an H-3 visa.

Visa costs

J-1 and H-3 visas cost between $160 and $190 (2016 prices). On top of that, for J1 visas, you will also be required to pay a SEVIS fee of around $180.

Click here for more information:

The 24 month bar

From 2006, an individual who participates in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program in the Research Scholar category becomes subject to a 24-month bar on ‘repeat participation’ in that category after completing the program, and may not apply for a green card. This is a particularly important consideration if you are thinking about developing a post-doc application to work in the US after you have completed your PhD.

You can read more about this on some useful pages from the University of California Berkeley International Office.


Please contact the WRoCAH office if you are thinking about a REP in the USA.

Talk to your partner organisation sooner rather than later to ensure you apply for the correct visa, and make sure that you:

  • allow plenty of time for the visa application to go through
  • include the visa application fee in your REP costing.

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