School FAQ

What is a J-1 Visa and Cultural Exchange?
The J-1 Visa is a special nonimmigrant visa type which enables foreign nationals the opportunity to participate in the U.S Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program (“EVP”). The EVP provides opportunities for around 300,000 foreign visitors per year to experience United States (U.S.) society and culture and engage with Americans. There are fifteen different categories under the J-1 visa program. Exchange visitors may study, teach, do research, share their specialized skills, or receive on-the- job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years. EVP participants are young leaders and entrepreneurs, students, fledgling and more seasoned professionals eager to hone their skills, strengthen their English language abilities, connect with Americans, and learn more about the U.S.

Most individuals choosing to come to the U.S. on a J-1 visa exchange program are funded privately. J-1 visa exchanges include a cultural component that gives participants the opportunity to engage more broadly with Americans and share their own cultures with their U.S. host communities. They return home eager to stay connected, to expand their networks, and to explore future exchange opportunities as “citizen ambassadors.”

What role does Teachers Council play in the J-1 Visa Process?
Teachers Council is a sponsor for the J-1 Teacher Category, designated by the U.S. Department of State. Only designated sponsors are authorized to issue the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (the DS-2019) which is the basic document to support an application for the J-1 Visa. Teachers Council screens and selects prospective exchange visitors based on the criteria set forth in the governing regulations of the Exchange Visitor Program.
What is the Certificate of Eligibility (DS-2019) document?
The Form DS-2019 or Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status; is the basic document used in the administration of the exchange visitor program. This form permits a prospective exchange visitor to seek an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in order to obtain a J visa to enter the United States. The Form DS-2019 identifies the exchange visitor and their designated sponsor and provides a brief description of the exchange visitor’s program, including the start and end date, category of exchange, and an estimate of the cost of the exchange program.
Who is the sponsor when participants are in the United States?
Teachers Council is the participant’s sponsor throughout his or her time in the United States, up to the end date listed on the DS-2019. Teachers Council is available to participants throughout their programs to help with general questions about life and procedures in the United Sates, or about their Program. In case of emergency, Teachers Council offers an emergency contact line which is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Teachers Council also collects periodical evaluations from participants and their host schools to ensure that the experience is positive and that outlined objectives of the program are being met.
I am interested in hosting an international teacher. How do they get their J-1 Visa?
In order for your teacher to obtain their J-1 Visa to work at your school, the teacher must engage in a full application and review process with Teachers Council. The Teachers Council application process will assess both the teacher’s application as well as your host school’s application for eligibility and compliance with the Exchange Visitor Program. If the application is approved, Teachers Council will issue your teacher’s DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility and provide further instruction on how he or she will then apply for a J-1 Visa appointment at their home country’s U.S. embassy or consulate. Issuance of the J-1 visa, like all non-immigrant visas, is at the discretion of Consular Officers viewing visa applications at U.S. embassies and consulates. This means that even if Teachers Council accepts the exchange visitor program and issues a DS-2019, the Consular Officers ultimately will decide if the teacher receives the J-1 visa.
How much does the program cost?
The cost of participation in the program will vary, depending on whether you use our placement services, the length of time you plan to host the teacher in the U.S., if they will bring any dependents, and if you select any premium processing options. Program costs may be paid your school, the teacher, or a third party (such as an attorney or a government organization), in any combination. To calculate the application and program costs, please refer to our fee and refund policy.
Can Teachers Council find a qualified teacher to work at my school?
Teachers Council is pleased to be able to offer teacher placement services for your school! Please reach out to us and we will discuss your school’s specific teacher role needs. We will be able to present you with teacher profiles that match your job openings and then lead you and your chosen teacher through the process of obtaining a J-1 visa.
Do I have to pay my J-1 teacher?
Yes. Program regulations require that J-1 teachers be paid the same wage that you would normally pay a domestic teacher for the same role at your school, for a person with the same level of experience as the international teacher. This pay rate may be dictated by your specific school district. The particular arrangements for the amount of your school’s offered wage, stipend, and any other benefits to the teacher will need to be decided and clearly communicated to your teacher during the application process, and in a formal offer of employment.
Do I have to withhold U.S. taxes from my teacher’s paycheck?
Yes. Most J-1 participants will be subject to any applicable local, state, and federal taxes on income gained from working at your school, unless he or she is exempted under a specific tax treaty or special rulings of the U.S. tax authority (rare). So these should be withheld from their pay.

The withholding of Social Security and Medicare taxes (“FICA”) and Federal Unemployment tax (“FUTA”) should NOT be withheld from the teacher’s pay for the first TWO YEARS at your school, because until that point they are considered non-resident aliens for tax purposes. After two years, you will need to also withhold FICA and FUTA from their pay, as they then become resident aliens for tax purposes.

Every J-1 teacher who has earned wages during their exchange will need to file for a U.S. tax return, due each year in April for wages earned in the previous year. We understand that there are differences in how a non-resident alien files their taxes than perhaps what your school is used to with regular domestic employees. Therefore, Teachers Council recommends that your teacher utilizes the assistance of a certified tax professional familiar with the J-1 Visa and associated regulations when filing. The IRS website also provides thorough explanation of Taxation on Nonresident Aliens.

My school offers health insurance to domestic teachers. Can the J-1 teacher use our health insurance?
The U.S. Department of State requires that all individuals engaging in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program be covered by a health insurance policy that meets minimum standards of coverage. Most health insurance policies from outside of the United States, and/or those offered by U.S. host companies to regular domestic employees, do not meet these minimum standards of coverage. Teachers Council has therefore arranged for an accident and illness health insurance policy for all of our participants in compliance with Department of State standards, which is mandatory for the duration of the program. You may still offer health coverage through your school that can be used in combination with the Teachers Council insurance to give your teacher additional coverage.

*Note about ACA compliance for J-1 Teachers:
As with U.S. tax considerations, whether or not the teacher is required to have ACA compliant insurance beyond the insurance offered by Teachers Council, depends on the length of time they have been in the United States. For the first TWO YEARS of their program, teachers are considered non-resident aliens and therefore are not mandated to hold ACA compliant insurance. However, if the teacher’s program at your school continues past two years, then the teacher will need to obtain ACA compliant insurance coverage. While the school is not obligated to provide coverage at any point to the J-1 teacher, it would be very helpful to do so at this point in the teacher’s program, if not already offered. Otherwise, the teacher would need to acquire their own ACA compliant plan on their own, which could be very expensive, or pay the penalty.

Can my teacher arrive early to the U.S. before their program?
Yes. The teacher may arrive to the United States on your J-1 Visa up to 30 days prior to the start date indicated on their DS-2019 document. You may wish to encourage your teacher to arrive during this period so that you can get them set up with human resources or payroll, and to complete any necessary pre-hire orientation or paperwork. However, the teacher may NOT begin actually teaching or working at the school until the start date listed on their DS-2019.
Can I hire my teacher after their J-1 program?
No. As the J-1 Visa program is a non-immigrant cultural exchange program, the expectation is that the teacher will return home to share their experiences with friends and colleagues in their home country after the program is complete. Therefore, Teachers Council will not advise, assist, or permit any change of visa status that would extend their stay past the end date on their DS-2019.
I am interested in hosting a teacher that is currently in the U.S. on a different type of visa. Can they change status to a J-1?
Teachers Council is unable to change a teacher’s status directly from one U.S. visa to another. In order to be eligible to apply for the Teacher Exchange Program, the teacher must currently be working as a teacher in his or her home country or country of legal residence*. Therefore, the teacher is unable to apply for the Teacher Exchange Program if he or she is currently in the United States on a different type of visa. Additionally, all applicants must complete their nonimmigrant J-1 Visa appointment outside of the United States in their home country’s American embassy. The teacher will need to be able to demonstrate strong ties to their home country and non-immigrant intent to the United States during their appointment.

*The only exception is if the teacher has within the past 12 months completed an advanced degree beyond a bachelors degree, in education or related teaching area, and also has worked as a teacher for at least 2 years within the past 8 years outside of the United States.

I am interested in hosting a teacher that is currently on OPT in the United States. Can they participate in the J-1 Program at my school?
Qualifying school experience for the intern/trianee’s J-1 Visa must have been completed outside of the United States. If the person has been in the U.S. for some time on a student visa, it is unlikely that they will have the recent qualifying experience within the past 12 months. Therefore, in most cases Teachers Council will be unable to sponsor the person for a J-1 Visa directly after completing OPT. The person will likely need to return home for some time to gain qualifying experience, and regain ties with their home country.