June 30, 2009

Does My Field of Study Relate to My J-1 Internship?

Yes, we know that this is a difficult question for all you English and History majors out there.

In order to qualify for the J-1 Intern Program, applicants must be studying a subject that relates to his or her internship. The J-1 regulations are quite clear on this, yet common practice in the U.S. is for companies is to hire individuals with specific skill sets necessary to excel in a position. For U.S. students or recent graduates the field of study can sometimes take a secondary role to professional experience and extracurricular activities and the field of study may only indirectly relate to the position.

So it is not surprising that some potential J-1 interns run into problems proving that their field of study relates to their proposed J-1 program. History majors preparing to go to law school will find that J-1 sponsors are resistant to sponsor their programs due to the fact that their major has no law component.

Recently we had to turn away an applicant that was applying for an internship at a large consulting firm. The applicant was studying physics and the proposed internship program would consist primarily of financial and operational analysis for a pharmaceuticals company. The applicant's physics background related to neither the business nor the chemistry components and we were forced to turn the program down.

In this case, the internship program plan should demonstrate that even though it is primarily a finance and operations internship, it has an essential physics component. For example, a program requires the observation and analysis of a laser used in a factory to determine if it is cost effective. In order to effectively complete this program it would be necessary that the J-1 participant have a physics background.

Your first step should always be to discuss your case with J-1 sponsors. Each sponsor interprets J-1 regulations slightly differently, so you should pick one that you are comfortable with and then explain your situation. We are happy to share with you exactly what you will need to do to make your internship program compliant with J-1 regulations.