USA Internship Glossary

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Who are J1 visa sponsors and if I get one does it mean they will get me into the United States for free? Is J1 internship and J1 training the same thing or are they different? What’s the difference between a host company and an employer? What is a stipend?

We will answer all these questions with this extensive USA internship glossary of terms you will often hear before and during your internship in the United States.

This post will likely be extremely long so feel free to read through terms that you are not familiar with and refer your J1 intern friends to this USA internship glossary if they need help sorting through the J1 and OPT-related terms. Let’s start with the Aliens!



And we are not talking about Star Wars here or anything like that. Aliens is how the government of the United States calls foreigners, people from other countries. You can guess that there are two kinds of aliens inhabiting the United States: legal aliens and illegal aliens. If you play by the rules and follow our After Arrival instructions, you will be considered a legal alien during your IIUSA internship. Isn’t that neat?

Clerical work

All the boring, administrative, bureaucratic and monotonous office work is considered clerical work: photocopying, faxing, making coffee, typing documents and filing – you get the idea.  Since interns come here to learn and grow professionally and not just do mundane work day in and day out, the US State Department made a special rule to minimize the amount of clerical and office support work done by interns to no more than 20 % of total time spent training.

If you feel you are doing excessive amounts of clerical work during your IIUSA internship, contact us immediately.

Customs declaration

US customs declaration form

Also known as Form 6059B, this blue form will be handed out to you towards the end of your US flight. Fill it out on the plane – you probably won’t have time to do it afterwards. The rule to remember is that you can bring up to $10,000 undeclared into the United States. We discuss the form extensively in our After Arrival page so if you have questions on how to declare gifts and food items, I highly recommend reading it.



Your J1 visa stamp, your passport and the form DS-2019, also known as “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status”, are the most important legal documents you will have during your J-1 program. Do not lose them and have them ready whenever you need to prove your legal status in the United States (at the Department of Motor Vehicles, at the US embassy, at the airport, at the Social Security Administration office and at the International Student office of a US college or university).


Also known as “Online J Visa Waiver Recommendation Application”, this is the form that you have to fill out to waive your Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement, also known as the 2 -year rule.


ds7002 training plan

It used to be that training plans were made in a Word document on a company letterhead but a few years ago the US Department of State made everyone switch to form DS-7002, also known as “Training/Internship Placement Plan”. This important document describes your internship from beginning to end: who your training supervisor will be, how many hours per week you will be working training, what your salary training stipend will be and what things you will be doing during each training rotation or training phase.

Treat your training plan as a contract between you and your employer host company, and if you feel that you are doing completely different things from those written on your training plan, contact us immediately.


During your IIUSA internship program, forget that this word exists. You are here for training and the company training you is your host company. Keep that in mind as you go to the US embassy and talk to the US immigration officials at the airport.

Exchange Visitor

An Exchange Visitor is any foreign national (or legal alien, if you wish), who comes to the United States on a J1 visa. Though IIUSA works with J1 Interns and Trainees only, there are many different types of J1 Exchange Visitors:

Of the ones listed here, I took part in 3 programs: Secondary School Student, International Visitor and Trainee. All of them were great and life-changing in many ways. On our blog you can read more about my J1 internship.

Host company

Also known as a host organization, host company is a US business that interviewed you on Skype, liked you and graciously offered to train you for the next 6, 12 or 18 months. Once again, they are not your employer, they are your host company. You are not working for them, you are training with them. If you want to successfully pass your embassy interview, please remember this important difference between employment and training.


i94 form

Also known as “Arrival-Departure Record”, this small paper will be stabled to your passport at the US port of entry. You can read more about this form on our After Arrival page.


iap 66 form

IAP-66, also known as “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status”, is an old version of the form DS-2019. The State Department switched from IAP-66 to DS-2019 in 2002 so if you were a J1 program participant after September 1, 2002, it’s very likely that you will never come across the IAP-66 form. The only place where I hear this name is immigration forums and old blog posts about J1 exchange programs.

J1 program

Anything J1 means exchange, more precisely, cultural exchange programs in the United States. Many people think that exchange literally means that if one person comes to the United States from, say, China, then someone from the Untied States must be heading over to China to learn about its culture.

Though there are plenty of outbound exchange and study abroad programs for US citizens, J1 exchange means that you as a foreign national are not only in the US to gain experience and improve your skills but also to give back. 

Share your culture with your neighbors, roommates, office colleagues and pretty much anyone you meet in the US. In a way, you are the face of your country so act accordingly and work hard to break those annoying stereotypes. I truly feel that if more people did cultural exchange, the world would be a kinder and safer place for us all.

J1 internship

Though we use terms internship and training as synonyms, in the J1 world these two words mean slightly different things. J1 internship is a program for young people from overseas

  • who are currently enrolled in and pursuing studies at a foreign degree- or certificate-granting post-secondary academic institution outside the United States; or
  • who have graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to their exchange visitor program start date.

In general terms, J1 interns are the younger brothers and sisters of J1 trainees. To learn the difference between J1 internship and J1 training and see which program you qualify for, please take a look at this infographic.

J1 status

It’s important for you to understand the difference between J1 status and J1 visa. The way I remembered it is that if you have J1 visa you will be on J1 status but having J1 status doesn’t mean that you have the J1 visa. Let me give some examples.

Citizens of Belarus, my home country, are issued US visas for no longer than 1 year. So, when I got my J1 training visa it was valid for 1 year only. My DS-2019, however, was valid for 18 months, which means that once I get into the US, I will be on a J1 status for 18 months.

Another important distinction between a visa and a status is that visas allow you to enter the United States and the status lets you remain in the United States.

J1 training

In general terms, J1 trainees are the older brothers and sisters of J1 interns. You are a trainee if you

  • have a degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution and at least one year of work experience in his or her occupational field outside the United States; or
  • have five years of work experience outside the United States in the occupational field in which you are seeking training

To learn the difference between J1 training and J1 internship and see which program you qualify for, please take a look at this infographic.

J1 visa

That’s how the J1 visa looks. It’s a stamp in your passport that allows you to intern or train in the United States. If your visa dates are shorter than your training dates on your DS-2019, do not worry. You can remain in the United States legally for as long as your DS-2019 valid. To understand the difference between visa duration and actual internship duration, see the “J1 status” entry.

J1 visa two year rule does not apply

Port of Entry

Port of Entry, also known as POE, is the place where you legally entered the United States. For most people, port of entry is an airport but seaports, road and rail crossings are also considered ports of entry where immigration and customs staff check your passport, visas and luggage to make sure you are legally allowed to enter the country.


Also known as training phases, rotations are parts into which your training is divided. If your training is 12 or 18 months long, you are probably going to have anywhere from 2 to 5 training rotations. Each training phase is supposed to be dedicated to developing a certain skill (sales, technical support, online marketing, etc.). It could also divide training into different departments (human resources, accounting, marketing, etc.).

For interns who are training in the US for more than 6 months, the US Department of State requires host companies to build training plans with 3 or more rotations.


During your IIUSA internship program, forget that this word exists. You are not going to receive a salary but rather a training stipend. For more information, see “training stipend”.


See “Visa Sponsor” below.


During your training program you will get paid a certain amount of money per month. Though in regular work situation this pay would be called a salary, in your case it’s called a stipend.


During your training, you will be assigned a personal training supervisor. Treat this person as your personal mentor at your host company and as a go-to person when you need to solve problems with housing and need help with choosing a company to file taxes for you.

Tax return

Just like the rest of the Americans, J1 participants are required by law to file federal and state tax returns. Failure to file your taxes during your internship may cause difficulties with future visa applications to the US. To calculate your return, you can use Taxback’s J1 Tax Refund Calculator and if you have more tax questions, take a look at their tax FAQs.

Note that unlike the rest of American workers, J1 interns and trainees are exempt from Social Security, Medicare and unemployment taxes.

Training Phase

See “Rotations”.

Training Plan

See “DS-7002”.

Two year rule

Certain participants Two year rule, also known as the Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement, is a For more information about the 2 year rule, please visit the US State Department’s 2 year rule waiver page.

Unskilled labor

Unskilled labor is any low-skill level work that provides limited economic value for the work performed. Unskilled labor workers typically have low education levels and earn small wages. Unskilled labor jobs usually require no specific education or professional experience. Needless to say, your J1 internship does not and should not fall into this category.

Visa sponsor

Visa sponsor, also known as J-1 visa sponsor, is an organization that works directly with the US Department of State to administer J1 exchange programs in the United States. Why are they called a sponsor? Because they provide you with the J1 visa, or sponsor your J1 visa. Note that they do not give you any money, grants or scholarships to take part in the J1 internship program. So they actually do not give you anything for free. A large part of your IIUSA program fees goes to your J1 visa sponsor, who will issue


In J1 language, waiver refers to J1 participant’s petition to the US Department of State asking them to remove the 2 year home residency requirement, also known as the 2 year rule.


During your IIUSA internship, forget that this word exists. You are here for training, not for work. It’s an internship program to learn about the US business and culture; it’s not an employment program. Hope you remember to say the right things at the embassy and set right expectations for the program.


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International education will change the world! J1 visas, F1 visas, OPT - been there, done that. Worked for a J1 sponsor, owned a technology business. Trail runner. Love search engines and Soviet history. Have a question about internship programs? Let's connect!

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5 Responses
    Aug 27, 2013

    j1 visa for professor

    YOGESH Aug 27, 2013
  • Iryna
    Aug 29, 2013

    This is so helpful! Thank you Tanya!

    Iryna Aug 29, 2013
  • anna
    May 29, 2014

    How to find a J-1 visa sponsor? Does de host company recommend one? Is it our choice?

    anna May 29, 2014

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