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As the teacher shortage in the United States continues, school boards are seeking educators from across the world to fill the gaps. 

If you’re looking to shape young minds and have been working as a teacher in another country, why not bring your skills to the US, the Land of Opportunity? You would be giving children and high schoolers a chance at a premium education and enjoying local cuisine and scenery different from anywhere you’ve been. 

Moreover, spending 3-5 years at a K-12 school in the US can offer valuable career development opportunities. This experience can be leveraged to excel in international schools, especially if you come from a public teaching background in your home country. The multicultural environment in US schools will also enhance your ability to work effectively in diverse settings, further expanding your professional horizons.

If you’re considering making this move, Teach Away can help! From the complexities and nuances of attaining a J-1 visa through a verified J-1 visa partner, to applying to US job postings, Teach Away can help support you through the process.

Be sure to create an account to get updates on our upcoming J-1 visa program and US job postings.

What is a J-1 visa?

A J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category in the United States that allows individuals to participate in exchange visitor programs for a temporary period of up to 3 years.

For teachers, the J-1 Teacher Exchange Program provides an opportunity for foreign teachers to enhance their teaching skills, experience the U.S. education system, and engage in cross-cultural exchange. It also allows U.S. schools to benefit from the expertise and perspectives of international educators.

What’s the purpose of a J-1 visa?

The purpose of the J-1 visa program is cultural exchange. It allows foreign teachers to share their expertise with local teachers while experiencing the US.

How long is a J-1 visa valid?

J-1 visas are valid for up to 3 years. 

The timeline from application to acceptance varies depending on the country you’re coming from. Also, once your application has been approved, you cannot enter the United States until 30 days prior to your new teaching position’s start date. 

When you enter the US on a J-1 visa, you cannot work anywhere that is not designed on your form. For instance, if you are hired as a biology teacher at a high school in California, you cannot take another job on the side or apply for another teaching position in a different state for the duration of your stay in the United States. 

Each year approximately 300,000 visitors from 200 countries and territories around the world are able to take advantage of the J-1 program. 

What are the qualifications for J-1 visas?

To qualify for a J-1 visa you need to have the following under your educational belt:

  • Sponsorship: The J-1 Teacher Exchange Program requires sponsorship from an approved exchange program sponsor, such as an educational institution, government entity, or cultural exchange organization. The sponsor facilitates the program and ensures compliance with program requirements.
  • Must hold proper teaching qualifications: You’ll need to meet the standards for teaching in primary and secondary schools in your country of nationality or last legal residence. If you received your education outside of the United States, your degree must be equivalent to a US bachelor’s degree in education or the specialized academic subject you want to teach. Let’s say you have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from a university in Europe, you’re good to go!
  • Must be actively teaching: At the time of your application, you must be currently teaching. Otherwise, you will not be eligible to apply.
  • You must have at least two years of experience teaching or experience in a related profession in the field of education like teacher’s assistant, special education worker, etc. Each state is different so you’ll also need to satisfy the requirements in the specific state you wish to teach in.
  • English-speaking: Are you proficient in the English language? Great! You’ve met this requirement.
  • This may seem like a no-brainer but you must want to live and work full-time in the United States. Teaching positions are generally a Monday to Friday job with hours that vary – although most primary and high schools operate between the hours of 8 am and 3 pm. 
  • Must agree to a temporary stay: Very important to keep in mind, J-1s are not a green card. It’s a temporary exchange, only. Anybody seeking permanent residency will be denied at the time of application, specifically when you’re asked about intentions.
  • You must be a good person. Character and reputation go a long way in the field of education. But, if you’re looking into J-1 visas to become an educator in America, you’re probably a solid individual who wants to give back and strengthen young minds through teaching.

What are the benefits of teaching in the United States?

Besides the food, scenery, and culture that await you, there is so much more to discover and experience. Imagine living in a country where each state offers its own unique travel opportunities. From the breathtaking red rocks of Arizona to the Statue of Liberty in New York City, and the rich culture and vibrant music scene of New Orleans‘ French Quarter.

But the benefits extend beyond travel and leisure. The US education system is widely recognized as one of the pinnacle systems in the world, attracting educators from all corners of the globe. Many international schools even follow a US curriculum, which means that by teaching in the US, you gain valuable skills and knowledge that can be extended to new opportunities back in your home country. The transferable American teaching skills you acquire will enhance your professional growth and open doors to further advancements in your home country when you return home.

Speaking of returning home, you can reapply for a J-1 visa if you’ve been away from the United States for two years as long as you continue to meet the requirements. There are also extension options for the program that you can apply for once your three years are up.

What is an H-1B visa?

In addition to a J-1 visa, there’s a similar program, called the H-1B visa program.

An H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa category in the United States that allows US employers to temporarily hire foreign professionals with specialized skills and knowledge in specialty occupations. It’s specifically designed for individuals who possess specialized knowledge and expertise in fields such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), as well as other professional occupations.

The main differences between H-1B visas and J-1 visas are their purposes and eligibility criteria. The H-1B visa is for US employers to hire foreign workers in specialized occupations, while the J-1 visa is for individuals participating in cultural exchange programs. Additionally, the H-1B visa requires employer sponsorship, while the J-1 visa requires sponsorship from an approved exchange program.

The United States recognizes that teachers are valued contributors to American life and some schools have petitioned for H-1B visas to include those who specialize in education. In fact, a school in Framingham, Massachusetts successfully lobbied for 8 teachers from Brazil to make their move to the US through the H-1B program. 

H-1B visa, in summary:

  • Allows US employers to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations (e.g. STEM fields) for a temporary period of up to 3 years, with the possibility of extending for another 3 years
  • The purpose of the program is to facilitate the exchange of skills and expertise, to promote economic growth and development in the US

J-1 visa, in summary:

  • Allows US employers to hire qualified foreign teachers for a temporary period of up to 3 years, with the possibility of extension
  • The J-1 Teacher Exchange Program is a category within the J-1 visa program that allows qualified foreign teachers to come to the United States and teach in primary and secondary schools
  • The purpose of the program is to promote cultural exchange, facilitate the sharing of teaching practices, and provide an opportunity for foreign teachers to enhance their skills while experiencing the US education system

Make educational magic courtesy of the J-1 visa program

As a teacher, you’re on a path to enriching the next generation of thinkers and making the world a better place. With your J-1 visa in tow, you can unlock the potential of children everywhere.

Interested in learning more? Create your teacher account and keep an eye out for updates on our J-1 visa program and US job postings!

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