Participant Resources Guide
Download the Exchange Visitor Program Welcome Brochure here.
Certain J-1 Exchange Visitors are subject to a two-year home country physical presence requirement. J-1 visitors “subject” to this rule must return to their country of last legal residence for an aggregate period of two years or obtain a waiver of this requirement before they are eligible for:
- H (temporary employment)
- L (intracompany transfer)
- Permanent Residence (Green Card)
- Change of status from within the U.S.
This requirement does not restrict a visitor from returning to the U.S. in any other immigration status. For example, if the visitor wishes to return as a tourist, student, or scholar within the two-year period and meets the requirements for those statuses, the two-year physical presence requirement does not prohibit this. However, the visitor will still be subject to the two-year requirement until the total two-year period is reached or a waiver is obtained.
There is a provision in U.S. law for a waiver of this requirement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), when applied for by the former exchange visitor and recommended by the Department of State, Waiver Review Division.
Who is subject to the 212(e) requirement?
J-1 visitors who meet at least one of the criteria listed below are subject to this rule:
- Home Government Funding: J-1 visitors who receive funding directly from their home country’s government.
- U.S. Government Funding: J-1 visitors who receive funding directly from the U.S. government. Funding received as salary from government grants to academic departments is not considered government funding for this purpose. However, there are some exceptions which include grants that are specifically targeted for international exchange. Fulbright funding is U.S. government funding.
- Funding from an International Organization or Bi-National Commission: J-1 visitors who receive funding from International Organizations or Bi-National Commissions (organizations that receive their funding from government sources), such as, United Nations, NATO, or the European Community.
- The Exchange Visitor Skills List: J-1 visitors whose area of specialization has been identified as being in short supply by their home government or country of legal permanent residence, as indicated on the J-1 Exchange Visitor Skills List.
- Medical Education and Training: J-1 visitors pursuing a medical degree or training.
Are J-2 dependents subject to the 212(e)?
J-2 dependents of J-1 visitors who are subject to the 212(e) requirement are also subject to this requirement. Please note that J-2 dependents must rely on the J-1 to apply for a waiver of the 212(e) requirement. J-2s may not apply for the waiver separately from the J-1.
This application type is for program applicants whose host companies have been identified and who apply with confirmed training/internship placements. In addition to your portion of documents, your host company’s documents must be provided as well.
The information below summarizes the process and steps required for a self-placement application submission. Please consult the “How to Apply for Sponsorship – Submitting Application Documents” section of the Participant Handbook for detailed descriptions of required application documents that are mentioned in Step 1 below.
Step 1: Agent submits the following to the CETUSA database:
- Applicant Documents
- Passport Copy
- Proof of Education
- Proof of Funds
- Participant Handbook
- Application (downloadable file)
- Proof of Work Experience (trainees only)
- Applicant Documents
- Host Company Documents
- Form DS-7002 (completed)
- Host Company Agreement (signed)
- Worker’s Compensation Policy Certificate
- Host Company Documents
*For more details about the required host company documents, please contact CETUSA.
Step 2: CETUSA’s program administrator reviews the submitted files, and…
- Feedback is provided.
- Document correction and clarification may be requested.
- Additional application documents may be requested.
Step 3: CETUSA’s program administrator screens host company, and…
- Additional host company documents may be requested.
Step 4 – CETUSA’s program administrator completes application review, and…
- Applicant and supervisor interviews are conducted.
- A site visit is conducted (if applicable).
- Application review is completed.
- Sponsorship decision is provided to the agency.
- Acceptance packet, including signed Form DS-2019 is emailed to the program participant after payment confirmation.
Q. Will I be placed with a host company?
A. We cannot guarantee a placement for all applicants interested in our programs. We do our best, however, the needs of businesses, skills possessed by different applicants, and the number of available positions in certain fields often determines different outcomes.
Q. Does CETUSA seek positions specifically for me?
A. Due to the large number of applicants, CETUSA cannot conduct outreach to find specific programs for specific applicants. CETUSA has a frequently updated list of available positions that applicants can check weekly. If you are interested, let us know, and we will happily recommend you for any suitable program.
Q. How long can I expect to wait for interviews?
A. Depending on the field and program availability, the process may take one week, or it may take several weeks. For example, hospitality positions move quickly, whereas positions in the business or engineering fields may take more time. We cannot guarantee that all applicants will be interviewed within a certain time frame.
Q. How can I make the process more efficient?
A. Before recommending applicants for interviews, CETUSA must ensure that applicants’ profiles are complete and that they have uploaded all necessary documents to verify program eligibility. By preparing in this way, CETUSA can recommend you sooner.
Q. Will the hiring manager provide feedback on my interview if I am not selected?
A. Not always. Due to the large number of applicants, most hiring managers do not provide feedback or explain their applicant selection preference despite our requests to provide comments.
Q. Can I negotiate a higher stipend during the interview?
A. In most cases, companies have a limited budget for internship/training. However, you may discuss the compensation terms with the hiring manager during an interview.
Q. Can I get a second job during the program to supplement my income?
A. Any outside employment is strictly prohibited by program regulations and is illegal.
Q. I have a friend who is also an applicant, what are the chances we get placed together or near each other?
A. Due to the individual nature of our programs, the chances of two applicants being placed together are low. Even if there are several positions at one company and both get selected, there is always a risk of visa denial. Applicants who are unprepared to travel alone on the program should be discouraged from applying.
Q. I want to be in a specific city, but there are no positions listed on your website in that city. What should I do?
A. CETUSA does not reach out to find individualized programs for single applicants. Your applicant may wish to try securing a position in their preferred city on their own – CETUSA can provide some aid, such as support letters, in this process.
Q. I cannot find a program in my occupational category on the website. When can I expect to see one?
A. It is hard to predict which positions will become available and when. Hospitality positions tend to appear more frequently, whereas business and STEM positions are scarcer and more competitive.
Q. I want to apply for a position, but with a later start date. Will the company wait?
A. Some host companies may be more flexible with the start date than others. Please contact the CETUSA Placement team for specific details.
Q. How often do you update your website with new programs?
A. On average, every 3-7 business days. We recommend frequent visits to our website for program updates.
Q. Do you have other programs which are not listed on your website?
A. No, CETUSA advertises all current programs on the website.
Q. If I send you my CV, will you arrange my interview right away?
A. Only screened applicants can be recommended for interviews. You must submit your eligibility documents to our database first. To see which documents are required, please reference the CETUSA Participant Handbook.
Q. Does CETUSA charge me fees for participating in an interview with their host company?
A. CETUSA does not charge fees for participating in an interview with the hiring manager. However, if you are offered a position, accept it in writing and then cancel, a cancellation fee will apply.
Q. How long does it take to find out the interview results and if I was selected?
A. Sometimes the hiring manager provides feedback right after the interview, but if several applicants are interviewed for the same position, the decision may take several days. In some cases, there will be a follow up interview and/or technical assignments provided before the decision is made.
Q. What are the top reasons why some applicants are chosen to be interviewed over others?
A. Some of the top reasons include a professional CV appearance and video introduction, English skills, and technical skills (software, portfolio of projects/past work).
Q. I have a spouse and a child I want to bring on the program on the J-2 status. Is this feasible?
A. Most CETUSA programs provide an entry-level stipend. Due to the high costs of living in the U.S. and the funding requirements for J-1/J-2 applicants, most CETUSA Placement programs are unable to provide the necessary financial support or accommodations for families to ensure a successful program. CETUSA will advise you on the funding requirement and may recommend that you search for a suitable placement on their own.
Q. Can I continue working for the U.S. company after my program is finished?
A. No. All participating host companies are aware of the conditions of the program, and you must return home at the end of your internship or training.
Q. The program offer indicates that no housing assistance is provided. What do I need to do to find housing?
A. The CETUSA Participant Handbook provides extensive information on housing and how to approach a housing search. CETUSA staff are available to provide additional guidance if requested. Each applicant is responsible to search, locate, and secure their own housing for the program and reserve temporary accommodations prior to their arrival.
Q. Will the company help pay for housing or living expenses?
A. Unless the program offer specified additional benefits, most companies only offer a stipend that helps cover housing and living expenses. Not all programs provide a sufficient stipend to cover all living expenses, as those largely depend on an individual’s spending habits. The applicant is required to have additional savings in case their spending exceeds their stipend income (see the CETUSA Participant Handbook for more details).
Q. When will I know the name of the host company in the position description?
A. To protect confidentiality between the host company and CETUSA, host company names will only be revealed once you are selected for an interview.
Q. How many times will my documents be screened?
A. There will be two instances where a full document screening is done; once before interview recommendations, done by the CETUSA placement team, and one final review will be conducted by the CETUSA operations team before you are confirmed for J-1 sponsorship.
CETUSA Interview Tips
The information below will provide you with pointers and other details that will help you prepare for the interviews before being placed at a host company, sponsored by CETUSA, and granted your visa. Please review this information prior to your interviews to have a successful and beneficial interview process.
Before your interview, you should:
- Ensure that your surroundings are quiet, distractions are removed, and that you have a strong internet connection.
- Be punctual (at least 5 minutes early).
- Dress appropriately (business attire).
- Be attentive to your interviewer, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Study any materials you receive that will aid in your interview (host company website, position details, DS-7002 training plan, etc.)
- Download or create an account with the interview application (Skype, Zoom, Teams, etc.), if necessary.
- If your interviewer is late, please do not wait more than 10 minutes before informing your agency or CETUSA.
- Double check the time zone of your scheduled appointment.
- If any last-minute changes occur and you are unable to attend your interview, please contact your interviewer, then contact your agency or CETUSA. CETUSA will handle rescheduling your interview.
- If you have any doubt that you will be able to attend an interview, please inform your agency or CETUSA. The interview should fit the host company’s schedule, but yours as well.
A J-2 dependent is defined as any unmarried child under 21 years of age, or the spouse of a J-1 visa holder. Please disclose any interest in applying for a J-2 dependent visa as early in the application process as possible. If J-2 dependents wish to apply, please review the following:
- Who may be eligible: Legally married spouse or unmarried children under 21 years of age.
- Who may not be eligible: Parents, siblings, fiancés, boyfriends/girlfriends.
Requesting J-2 Dependent Sponsorship
To request a DS-2019 form for your J-2 dependent, please complete the “Dependent” section in your Application To-Do List and contact your Program Administrator.
The following documents are required for the J-2 application:
- Passport and Marriage Certificate (for a spouse): the document must be translated into English.
- Passport and Birth Certificate (for a child): the document must be translated into English.
- Proof of Funds: you must provide confirmation of sufficient funds of at least $1000 a month, apart from your own proof of funds requirement.
Applying for the J-2 Visa
Once CETUSA receives the required documents and payment, we will email your J-2 dependent’s signed Form DS-2019 and provide you with their SEVIS ID number. At that time, CETUSA will provide you with detailed instructions for scheduling the visa interview appointment.
The J-2 dependent(s) must bring hard copies the following to their visa interview:
- Passport: valid for travel to the United States. It must be valid for at least six months beyond their period of stay in the U.S. (unless exempt by country-specific agreements).
- Appointment Confirmation page: showing the date and time of their appointment.
- Application fee payment receipt
- J-1’s I-901 SEVIS fee receipt: they use the same receipt as the J-1; no additional payment is required.
- Marriage Certificate: for spouse.
- Birth Certificate: for child.
- Form DS 2019 for each J-2 dependent: this form is used to obtain the visa required for the spouse/child to enter the U.S. with you as the principal holder of an exchange visitor visa, or to join you in the U.S. later.
- Any supporting materials or information required by your local U.S. Embassy / Consulate: it is important to check with your local U.S. Embassy / Consulate to confirm which documents are needed when applying for a J-2 visa as additional documents may be required and country-specific.
- Photo: they will upload their photo while completing the online Form DS-160. They should bring a copy of the same photo just in case.
- Sickness and Accident Insurance Confirmation Letter: copy sent with the Form DS-2019.
Please update CETUSA with your J-2 dependent’s visa interview date and outcome. Once the visa is granted, it typically takes 3-7 business days to have their passport returned with a visa stamp.
Once your J-2 dependent(s) flight is booked, please update CETUSA with the date and time of arrival by providing a copy of the flight information.
Maintaining Legal Status for J-2 Dependent(s)
- Program Dates: The J-2 dependent(s) cannot enter the U.S. before the J-1 visa holder, but can arrive after them. The J-2 dependent(s) status in the U.S. ends at the same time as the J-1 status ends. A J-2 visa holder may not remain in the U.S. without the J-1 for any extended period of time. If the J-1 visa holder is subject to the two- year home residence requirement, the J-2 will also have to comply with that requirement.
- Cancellation/Withdrawal from Program: If your J-2 dependent(s) decide not to come to the U.S., or if they decide to leave the U.S. early and will not return, CETUSA must be notified immediately.
- J-2 Minor Children: J-2 children must be unmarried and under 21 years of age. It is your responsibility to notify CETUSA if you have an accompanying minor who will turn 21 during your proposed J-1 program.
- Employment: J-2 visa employment in the U.S. is optional. It is not guaranteed and requires an additional filing and fee payment to the United States Immigration and Naturalization Services (USCIS) to obtain an Employment Authorization Card (EAD). The process is explained here.
Your form DS-2019 must be signed by CETUSA staff before departing the U.S and to re-enter the U.S. after visiting a different country. To obtain a travel validation signature from CETUSA, you must complete and submit an online request using this form at least three weeks before you intend to travel.
Once your request is approved, CETUSA will email you your form DS-2019 with the travel validation signature. The travel validation signature is valid for one year from the date it was signed and can be used for multiple trips. Your return date to the U.S. must be on or before your visa stamp expiration date.
When you receive your updated form DS-2019, you will print it, and sign and date the Exchange Visitor Certification section (located on the bottom of the first page). You will sign your name, the location where you signed it (current city) and add the current date.
If your form DS-2019 travel validation is not signed when you re-enter the U.S., you may be denied entry. Please be sure to have your passport and DS-2019 readily available upon the request of the immigration officer. You may be asked about your original form DS-2019 with the consulate’s signature, so be sure to also travel with any previous copies of your form DS-2019.
If your form DS-2019 is lost, stolen, or damaged, please contact CEUTSA staff immediately. The form DS-2019 is a sensitive document and you must request that CETUSA provide you with a replacement copy. You may not reprint any copy that was previously sent to you.
If you leave and plan to re-enter the U.S. during your grace period, you will not be admitted on your J-1 visa because it will be expired by the end of your program. You must have a valid U.S. visa to re-enter the U.S.
If you apply for a program extension, be reminded that the program extension would allow you to remain in the U.S. longer. However, if you travel outside the U.S. during the extension period, you would be required to reapply for a J-1 visa in your home country to continue your program.
For questions about traveling outside of the U.S. during your program, please contact your CETUSA Program Monitor.
Types of Housing
- Apartments/Condominiums: Apartments and condominiums (or condos) are part of buildings or complexes that have multiple floors and units. Each unit will include a bedroom/living area, kitchen, and a bathroom. Property managers typically rent and manage apartments. There will be similar amenities in each unit, such as a refrigerator, oven/stove, and heating. Most apartments/condos are rented unfurnished, but some may have the option to be rented furnished. Apartments and condos may have laundry facilities on site (within the building) or inside each apartment. Some more expensive complexes may also have security features like locked outside entrances, gates and cameras, or facilities like a pool, sauna, and fitness center.
- Houses: houses can be leased from property managers or real estate agencies, or from private homeowners directly. Houses may or may not include appliances and furnishings. Houses may include a yard, garage, or pool. There may be additional utilities that the tenant is required to pay for, such as water, garbage, landscaping, or pool maintenance. The cost of utilities tends to be higher for houses than apartments.
- Renting/Subletting a Room: renting a room can be more cost effective and convenient if you are on a budget. Many people find themselves in situations where they need to find a roommate and will rent out a room in their house or apartment. Most of the time you will be signing an already established lease or subleasing from the main lease holder. In these cases, it is smart to see when the current lease ends before signing it. The cost of utilities is divided up among the tenants and amenities like Internet and TV subscriptions may have already been established. A room may come furnished or unfurnished.
- Dormitory: depending on the kind of program you are doing, you may be able to stay in a dormitory, which are student apartment buildings that are often called dorms. Some options of dorms include men or women only, international students, or academic-focused housing. Rooms are usually shared by at least one other person. The restrooms are typically larger and include showers. Furniture is usually provided, such as a desk, chair, and bed.
Know Your Tenant Rights
Every state has its own unique housing laws which guide relationships between tenants (people who rent) and landlords (apartment owners/managers). For references to each state and tenant landlord laws please visit this link.
Here are some useful tips on how to avoid and handle landlord/rental disputes:
- Research. Spend an hour or two researching the housing laws of the state you will be living in.
- Document everything. Records of all paperwork signed, rent receipts, and bills are important to keep.
- Communication. If a problem or issue occurs with a landlord or rental agency, try to keep open communication, and work together to resolve the issue. Misunderstandings do happen and being clear about whatever the issue is can help to resolve it.
- Seek outside help. If you can’t work out a solution with your landlord or rental agency, seek mediation.
Advice for Your Housing Search
Be prepared to provide official documents about your identification and finances, such as:
- Your passport with your J-1 visa.
- Proof of employment. Your Form DS-2019 can attest to your training/internship.
- A recent bank statement.
- Social Security Number. If you do not have one, explain to the landlord that you will apply for one once your program begins.
You may have to complete a rental application. Some rental agencies require a general application to be completed. If you have no U.S. rental history, please include rental history from your home country or a different country where you have lived. Be prepared to pay a non-refundable application fee (typically $20-$40). Be prepared to pay the first month of rent upfront and a security deposit.
Have at least 3-4 options when looking into housing. Rooms and apartments are very competitive, especially in larger cities.
Here are some topics to consider as you are searching for housing:
- How close do I want to be to my host company?
- What kind of transportation will I use: bus, car, bike, or walk?
- How much do I want to pay for: Rent? Utilities? Amenities?
- Do I want to live by myself or with others?
- Is the apartment furnished or unfurnished?
- Is there assigned or street parking?
- Is laundry on-site or in my unit? Is it coin-operated?
- Depending on the climate, are there heating and/or cooling systems included?
- Is this a safe neighborhood?
Your housing location and availability of transportation is crucial to your program success. You must arrive on time to start your training. Unfortunately, public transportation is not always punctual so you must take that into account when choosing your housing location. We strongly encourage you to look for housing within a 4-mile radius to your host company and with accessibility to public transportation. You can verify availability of public transportation of your housing options by using Google Maps.
Suggested Search Timeline
- Four weeks before U.S. arrival – start considering housing options. If your host company does not offer housing or assistance in finding housing, it is a good idea to start researching different housing options to see what is better for your budget and living preferences. This includes types of housing, location, proximity to your host company, accessibility of housing by public transit, and whether you want a roommate(s) or not.
- Two weeks before U.S. arrival – start checking available rentals and contacting landlords. Once you have an idea of the location and type of housing you prefer, it is a good idea to start looking at available rentals and contacting the landlords. Make sure to ask them questions about the lease term: if it is furnished, how safe the neighborhood is, and if any utilities are included in the rent. You can also ask them to estimate the cost of utilities per month to help plan your budget.
- One week before U.S. arrival – start scheduling appointments. Once you have spoken with a few landlords and found some places you are interested in, it is a good idea to schedule appointments to view the rentals in person. If you already know your arrival date, you can start booking appointments for a day or two after your arrival. Signing a lease before seeing an apartment can legally bind you into a possibly undesirable environment. We do not suggest sending money or signing a lease before seeing the rental in person first.
**CETUSA does not endorse any of the above websites or the apartments listed**
Be careful when looking at listings on websites. For example, a suspiciously low rental ad is likely a scam. If someone asks you for a credit card number or to do an online credit check from the very start, it is most likely a scam too. Some landlords and property managers may request a credit or background check, a SSN, or request a co-signer, but that is once you apply for an apartment.
When you find an available house or room from a website and you contact the landlord or property manager, you should let them know that you are coming from a different country and probably do not have some of that information yet, such as an SSN. Hopefully they will understand and work with you to come to a mutual agreement. If not, you should look for another rental option. For that reason, it is a good idea to contact people at multiple housing locations so that you can have more options to choose from if one place does not work out as planned.
Contacting Landlords and Viewing Rentals
You should expect to send out a lot of rental inquiries and get only a few responses back. The rental market is fast paced. Attractive rentals come and go quickly. Therefore, having several options to choose from is a safe approach to finding and securing housing. See an example of a generic email inquiry which you can modify based on your personal information and needs below.
Example Housing Email Template
My name is Derek Moore, and I am a young professional from Germany. I am 24 years old, and I have been offered a J-1 internship with The Four Seasons Hotel. I am planning to arrive in the U.S. on Feb. 21, 2024, and I will start my internship shortly after. I will be in the U.S. for 12 months. I am looking for a furnished room and I am flexible with the rental term (or specify the rental term as needed). [Insert a few sentences describing yourself and living habits]
Your room for rent has many qualities I am looking for and I am interested in seeing your room in person. [Insert questions about the rental offer if needed]. Looking for a place to live from overseas is a challenge, and I would like to offer to speak on Skype if you have time so we can bridge the distance gap. You can also add me on Facebook at Derrick Moore. My supervisor at The Four Seasons Hotel can verify my arrival as well.
My goal is to find a place to rent as quickly as possible upon my arrival so I can focus on my internship and spend fewer days in a hotel. I hope you will respond to my email so that we can arrange a meeting and speak about leasing terms.
Thank you for your consideration,
Leases, Security Deposits, and Other Fees
Leases or rental agreements are legally binding contracts that explain the terms of your tenancy. They describe what you, the tenant, are responsible for, and what the landlord/property manager is responsible for. They define the duration of your rental agreement and the rental price you will pay each month in exchange for your living accommodation. A lease can be lengthy and full of legal terms, but you should always read the entire lease. Be aware of what can cause a lease to be terminated (or broken) as there are penalties for breaking leases, such as not paying your rent or moving out before the lease ends. Only written information on a rental agreement signed by both tenant and landlord makes an official legal contract.
Most leases require a security deposit. A security deposit is a sum of money given to and held by the landlord at the signing of the lease. The security deposit is often due along with the first rental payment. Security deposits are refunded to you after you move out, at the end of your lease. However, the amount you receive back, if any, depends on the condition of your apartment/room. To be eligible for your security deposit refund at the time you move out, you will need to leave the apartment/room in the same condition when you moved in. It needs to be extremely clean. If anything is damaged, like appliances or flooring, that could affect how much money you receive back. Sometimes your lease will have required move-out fees. These fees usually come from your security deposit. For example, many landlords charge a non-refundable $150 fee for carpet cleaning. Your deposit will be refunded to you typically within a month after moving out. You will need to plan for that with the leasing office to coordinate the refund.
Leases explain what utilities are or are not included. Water/Sewage/Garbage (W/S/G) are usually included in rent. Electricity and gas heat are typically paid by the tenant. Most leases do not include Internet or TV services (such as cable or satellite). Whichever lease/rental option you choose, always sign a rental agreement before providing money and request a copy of the receipt for your records. Avoid any verbal rental agreement because if a rental dispute arises, an absence of signed written terms may cause complications.
A 6- or 12-month lease means that you have agreed to pay rent for that specified duration. You should inquire about the lease term options and choose a contract term that is best for you. If you want to move out before the lease is over, the penalty is typically loss of your security deposit and a possible lease-breaking fee. You may also be liable for continued rent until it is leased to new tenants. Please inquire with your landlord or property management company about the consequences of breaking your lease before you sign a new lease.
A month-to-month rental agreement is more flexible than a 6- or 12-month lease. With month-to-month it is easier to relocate elsewhere because you are only responsible for paying rent one month at a time. You will typically be required to provide a 30-day notice to your landlord before your move out date, so the landlord has time to find a new tenant. Both you and the landlord have the right to terminate your rental agreement, which has its advantages and disadvantages.
Moving In- Tips and Advice
Have a list of questions ready to ask and consider when signing a lease, such as:
- When can I move in and what is the process? (Condition checklist, receive keys, etc)
- The conditions checklist involves walking through each room and making notes if anything is broken or damaged (light switches, appliances, outlets, smoke detectors, faucets, etc.). Take note of health hazards, such as mold, insects, water damage, etc. WARNING: Do not tolerate unhealthy conditions. Unlivable conditions can be legal grounds for you to break a lease.
- Complete this checklist carefully because a rental owner will review this checklist when you move out to note any new damage that may have been made during your stay. If you do not record something (such as holes in the wall due to nails or a stain on the carpet) at the time you complete your checklist, you may be held accountable for it when you move out and that could affect how much you receive back from your security deposit.
- Is the building/house secure? Are there locks on the doors and/or windows?
- Who do I call in case of regular or urgent repairs after hours?
- How much is the security deposit?
- When is the rent due? (eg: The 1st of the month or no later than the 5th of each month?
- What are the late rental fee penalties?
- What is the best way to pay rent? Check, card, cash? If you pay cash, get a receipt.
- *Note: Many places do not accept cash. If that is the case, you can use money orders or cashier’s check.
- Where do I put my trash and recycling?
- Do you recommend I purchase Renter’s Insurance to cover my belongings?
- What utilities am I responsible for and what companies are used so that I can set up an account with them?
- How much notice do I need to provide if I decide to move out?
- When can I move in and what is the process? (Condition checklist, receive keys, etc)
Tips for Sharing Spaces with Roommates
- Define private and common spaces. Create boundaries for your privacy, like knocking before entering a bedroom, not entering a bedroom if no one is there, and asking for permission before entering.
- Regular cleaning and maintenance. It’s important to clean your apartment regularly, at least once a week. Put things away and organize your belongings. Divide the workload to maintain cleanliness of your shared spaces. Tasks such as vacuuming, taking out the trash, and cleaning the bathroom can be scheduled per week or by person. Contact your landlord if things are broken that you are not able to fix on your own.
- Sharing food and belongings. It is wise to discuss whether borrowing or using each other’s property (such as clothing, toiletries, food, etc.) is appropriate. Setting boundaries from the start will help to prevent issues surrounding personal items.
- Living with pets. If a roommate has a pet, make sure to ask them how they would like you to treat their pet. People can be specific about behavior towards their pets and may not wish that you to feed or walk them. If you are allergic to certain animals, ask about pets before moving in.
- Agree on rules of conduct. Creating some rules can be helpful to prevent problems from happening in the future. Sometimes talking about concerns or issues can clear the air and make interactions more comfortable for all involved. Possible rules to discuss can be about listening to loud music, having parties, and inviting friends over. For you to feel respected by your roommate(s), it is good to respect and be aware of your roommate’s comfort level as well.
- You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate. However, it’s a good idea to get to know your fellow roommate. A roommate can introduce you to an unfamiliar area and help you feel independent in a new environment, so take advantage of their knowledge and interests.
- Paying bills. Paying rent and utilities bills in full and on time is a must. It is very important to understand how much and when each bill is due and how to make the payment. Discuss together as a group when to collect the money and who should be the main person to make the payment. Put all the due dates on a calendar as a reminder so that everybody is aware. Perhaps consider making a roommate agreement outlining rent and other payment responsibilities.
After you arrive in the U.S. and have moved into your accommodation, you can start thinking about opening a bank account. Having a bank account allows you to safely deposit money in a secure environment, rather than carrying or storing large amounts of cash that could possibly be stolen or lost.
When choosing a bank, ask the following questions:
- Is there a minimum balance requirement?
- Are there monthly service fees?
- Does it offer an online ‘bill payment’ feature so you can manage your bills online?
- Do they have ATMs in your city? Are there fees for using the ATM?
- What are the fees/penalties for an overdraft?
- Can you deposit checks via smartphone?
To get a U.S. bank account, you need to bring two forms of government-issued photo identification.
The most important document is your passport. Your U.S. J-1 visa can also be used as a valid form of identification. If you have any credit cards and proof of where you are living, bring those documents as well. Each bank is different and may require additional documentation than what has been listed. Check your chosen bank’s requirements online or by phone before going in person to open your account.
When you open a savings or checking account, you will receive a card from your bank. There are different kinds of cards that can be attached to a bank account:
- Credit cards: issued by various banking and financial institutions and retailers. You must apply for a credit card and have credit history in the U.S. If you do not have sufficient credit history in the U.S. to qualify for a credit card, you will be required to apply for a secured line of credit in Be careful about overspending credit because you will have to pay those debts with interest.
- Debit cards: issued by a bank allowing you to electronically use your checking and savings account to purchase items. Debit cards typically require a four-digit PIN (Personal Identification Number). If your account has insufficient funds, debit card transactions may be declined.
- Automated teller machine (ATM) cards: require a PIN for every use. Some banks offer you an ATM card that allows you to withdraw money from your checking account, but only through an ATM machine. Unlike debit cards, ATM cards do not have the Visa® or MasterCard® logo and, in most cases, may not be used to make store purchases directly.
In addition to the card you receive from your bank, you can also request checks to pay for items, rent, and other bills. You may also consider using mobile payment services.
- Personal checks: your account information is attached to your personal check, and you will write the amount of the expense to be taken out of your account. Most people use checks to pay bills such as rent.
- Cashier’s checks: a check guaranteed by a bank, drawn from your own funds, and signed by a cashier or It’s a safe way to make a large payment on a purchase. The most important difference from a personal check is that the bank guarantees its payment, not the purchaser. This can be used instead of cash, personal checks, credit cards, or money orders.
- Money orders: a secure payment method. They are convenient, affordable, and widely accepted in the U.S. Money orders can be purchased at any S. Post Office or some convenience store locations. There is a small fee for each money order issued.
- PayPal: this online payment system is in most countries that support online money It also serves as an electronic alternative to traditional paper methods such as checks or money orders. Learn more about PayPal here.
- Venmo: a mobile payment service, owned by PayPal. Venmo account holders can transfer funds to others through a mobile phone app; both the sender and receiver must live in the S. Learn more about Venmo here.
If you do not plan to continue banking with a U.S. bank after your program end date, we recommend that you close the account before your departure.
International Money Transfer Services
- Wire Transfers: You can transfer money from a bank in your home country to a bank in the S. using a wire transfer. This can take a week or longer. The charge fee varies and there may be a fee to both you and the sender. Not all banks offer this service; please check in advance.
- International Bank Account Transfer: an account in one of the worldwide banks, such as Citibank, allows you to make direct transfers. With a worldwide account you can give your account number to a family member or friend, and they can make a deposit straight into your bank account. Ask your bank to verify their deposit procedure before your departure. With a worldwide bank account, you can use your bank’s ATMs in the U.S. However, beware of the cash withdrawal limits because most ATMs have a withdrawal limit per day of a few hundred dollars. Check if your bank has branches and ATMs in the U.S. before depending on this feature.
- Western Union (and other money transfer services such as MoneyGram, PayPal, and Google Wallet): you can make money transfers from your home country to anywhere in the S. within minutes to an hour, any day of the week. There is a handling fee which varies according to the amount of money sent and which service you use.
There are a variety of money transfer services available. For more options, we suggest asking colleagues, friends, your local or U.S. bank, or doing an Internet search. Please take caution before providing any bank account information to a money transfer website that may not be well-known.
- Mobile Phone Banking: this is a service provided by a bank or other financial institution that allows its customers to conduct financial transactions remotely using a mobile device, such as a phone or tablet. It uses software, typically an app, provided by the financial institution for the purpose of banking. Ask your local bank or U.S. bank if they have a mobile phone banking app.
During your program, you will have to budget your money carefully and make sure your bills are paid on time. If you do not pay bills on time, you may be penalized with additional fees or interest. If you do not have enough money to pay your bills, it is your responsibility to ask your family or friends from your home country for assistance. Under no circumstances are you allowed to borrow money from your host company colleagues or accept work outside of your host company.
For budgeting to be effective, first identify all your expenses so that you have an accurate view of how you’re spending your money. Below are some links that can help you prepare for the cost of living in the U.S. and tools to manage your money effectively.
There may be a difference between your stipend and what you receive in a paycheck due to tax withholdings. We advise you to speak with human resources, your host company supervisor, and review your first paycheck to understand how much that amount can vary.
You should plan on a minimum budget of at least $2,000 a month to cover rent, food, transportation, and personal expenses. Your estimated living expenses in the U.S. will depend on many different factors. It is advised to keep at least 10% of your monthly net income as savings or for emergency situations. Make sure to keep the following in mind as you create your budget:
- Federal, state, and city income taxes: your host company must follow a certain procedure for calculating the amount of federal income tax to withhold from your stipend. State and city income taxes vary depending on which state and city your host company is in. For more information about these tax withholdings, please contact your host company after receiving your first paycheck.
- Sales tax: sales tax percentages vary from state to state (also between cities) and are applied at the time of purchase, on top of the original price. When filing your taxes at the beginning of each year, you cannot claim sales tax for your tax refund.
- Tipping: tipping is an unspoken rule in the U.S., and it is common to tip your server 15-20% percent on top of your bill. This practice applies to bartenders, waiters/waitresses, taxi drivers, hair stylists and other service industry workers. If you dine out in big groups, you may notice tips or gratuity included in your bill already.
On the following page is a sample of a monthly budget that you can use to calculate your own budget. It is crucial that you have extra money available in your savings while you are in the U.S. There may be times when you spend more money than you meant to, which means that you may need to use money from your savings to pay necessary bills or make other purchases. If you do not have enough money to pay your bills, CETUSA recommends reaching out to family or friends for assistance. If you continue to experience financial difficulties while on your program, please contact CETUSA Staff.
Moving to the U.S. will require changes in your lifestyle preferences and habits; you may be going from a small town to a big city where life may feel more fast-paced, and you don’t see the same people every day. Mature behavior and exercising sound judgement will enhance your personal security while in the U.S. It is crucial to be aware of your new environment, adopt a safe lifestyle, and exercise thoughtful caution to reduce your exposure to risky situations. CETUSA is here to help, support, and provide insight to minimize safety risks, but risks cannot be eliminated completely. Many of the same challenges you face at home exist in the state/city where you will be living. Some possible risks you may encounter, especially in a larger city, include (but are not limited to):
- Pickpockets, scam artists, overly friendly strangers, panhandlers, loiterers (unwanted attention)
- Gun Violence
- Natural Disasters
- Political Unrest
- Transportation accidents
- Sexual assault
- Cultural behaviors you may find offensive, uncomfortable, or even threatening.
CETUSA’s Safety First policy means that you will prioritize your safety over finance and convenience. For example, by choosing to live in a safer neighborhood where rent is more expensive, you are reducing your chances of finding yourself in an unwanted situation. Instead of riding a bus where you may feel unsafe, consider buying a car. Here are some tips that can help you to increase safety and minimize security risks in the U.S.:
- Familiarize yourself with your neighborhood and Host Company environment.
- Establish a support network among your colleagues, community members, and CETUSA.
- Guard your belongings. Keep all valuables inside your front pockets, keep your bags zipped up and difficult to access.
- Do not carry large amounts of cash. Do not expose cash in crowded places and divide it among several places.
- Travel with a friend or a colleague as often as often as possible.
- Walk down main streets and emit confidence in where you are going.
- Do not use an ATM machine in the dark.
- Don’t write your ATM/Debit card pin code down or share it with anyone.
- Take copies (or images stored on your phone) of important IDs with you. Keep the originals in a safe place.
- Say no to strangers. Do not feel obligated to let someone borrow your phone or give someone directions. If you feel your safety is in danger, it is okay to leave the situation.
- Vary your travel routes and times. Once you are used to your new community, it is easy to fall into a routine and not pay attention to what is going on around you. Theft can be common in certain areas in many cities, so make sure you vary how you get to/from your host company and keep your belongings close (with valuable items out of sight), especially at night.
- Follow your instincts. If a situation is uncomfortable, remove yourself from that situation.
- Always lock your doors and windows (home or vehicle).
- Remove all your valuables from an unattended vehicle.
- Sit or stand near the front of the bus or train (as close to the driver as possible) when using public transportation. Sitting in an aisle seat makes it easier to change seats if someone makes you uncomfortable.
- Be alert. Make sure you can still hear what is going on around you if you listen to music while walking or travelling.
- Don’t drink and drive. Don’t text while driving and always wear a seat belt.
When it comes to choosing your method of transportation, please keep CETUSA’s Safety First policy as your priority. For example, your main form of transportation may be walking to/from your host company. If you leave your host company late at night, take Uber home or ask a colleague for a ride. When at a bus or train station, do not leave your bag(s) unattended or ask someone to watch them. Always keep your belongings with you.
Please remember your own conduct is the single most important factor in promoting your own safety and well-being. We hope that CETUSA’s Safety First policy will help you maintain your personal safety during your program.
An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police, fire department, or ambulance. Examples include, but are not limited to a fire, crime, car crash, or medical emergency. If you are unsure whether the situation is a true emergency, officials recommend calling 911 and letting the call-taker determine whether you need emergency assistance.
If you are in an emergency and need immediate help, call 911. If you call 911, be prepared to answer the call- taker’s questions, which may include:
- The location of the emergency, including the street address.
- The phone number you are calling from.
- The nature of the emergency.
- Details about the emergency, such as a physical description of a person who may have committed a crime, a description of any fire that may be burning, or a description of injuries or symptoms being experienced by a person having a medical emergency.
Be prepared to follow any instructions the call-taker gives you. Many 911 centers can tell you exactly what to do until help arrives, such as providing step-by-step instructions to help someone who is choking or needs first aid. Do not hang up until the call-taker tells you to.
If you dial 911 by mistake, do not hang up. That could make the 911 officials think that an emergency exists, and possibly send responders to your location. Instead, simply explain to the call-taker what happened.
You must notify CETUSA staff of any emergency. We have a 24-hour emergency answering service for calls requiring assistance.
If your passport is lost or stolen, file a police report in the jurisdiction where you believe the passport was lost or stolen, then notify your home country’s Embassy or Consulate in the U.S. as soon as possible to avoid identify theft. Contact CETUSA staff if your passport is stolen.
If you are in a situation that isn’t an emergency, but you still need to contact law enforcement, you can call the local, 10-digit number to contact police. A non-emergency situation could include, but is not limited to noise complaints, trespassing, or reports of crime that occurred in the past.
For a directory of non-emergency police numbers across major U.S. cities, please visit here.
If you need to travel a long distance in a short amount of time, consider flying. Flying might be more expensive than taking a bus or train, but sometimes it is more affordable. November, December, and January are typically expensive months to fly due to the high volume of holiday travel.
As you are searching for plane tickets, you may notice that cheaper tickets have long layovers or multiple transfers. A cheaper flight may also have a late arrival time (such as past midnight). Please keep your safety in mind as you purchase a plane ticket. By buying a cheaper ticket, you may be putting yourself in a risky situation. By paying a bit extra for a plane ticket, you could arrive at a reasonable hour where it is easier to use rideshare services or public transportation to get to your accommodation.
Buses (local and national)
Bus travel is a popular and inexpensive way to get across the U.S. Cities have multiple local bus routes that give you access to city centers, neighborhoods, and commercial shopping areas. You can purchase a monthly bus pass that gives you unlimited access, or you can pay per trip. When riding a bus, exercise caution with your personal belongings. Commonly, luggage is placed below the bus. With this in mind, we suggest keeping your valuables with you on the bus. Below are some popular bus companies in the U.S.:
- Greyhound: this company is one of the least expensive methods of travel in the U.S. It has stations across the country.
- FlixBus: this company offers service in the Northeastern and Western Coast area of the U.S.
- Peter Pan Bus Lines: this company services the Northeast area of the U.S. only.
- Megabus: this company mostly has routes in the Northeast, Midwest, and Southern areas of the U.S. They also operate out of a few select cities in California and Nevada.
If you want to drive a car, you will be required to purchase automobile insurance, have your country’s driver’s license (in English), and in many cases, an international driving permit. To obtain an international driving permit, you should inquire with your home country’s motor licensing organization prior to coming to the U.S. Be aware of the rules of the road and make sure you always carry proof of automobile insurance. For individual state driving regulations visit AAA’s website.
You can apply for a driver’s license depending on the state or territorial law. You will be required to submit documents in order to apply for a driver’s license. For specific requirements for the state you are living in, please refer to the Department of Motor Vehicles website of your state or contact a local DMV office. Generally, you will need to provide a valid passport with your J-1 visa, Form I-94, and Form DS-2019.
If you need to rent a car, some rental car companies require you to be at least 25 years old and have a credit card, but other rental car companies may only require you to have a credit card and be at least 21 years old. Each rental car company will have different policies. Be sure you understand the policy of the company before you rent from it.
Your safety is the top priority when driving:
- Do not drink and drive or get in a vehicle with someone who is intoxicated.
- Always wear a seat belt.
- Holidays, weekends, and rush hour traffic are times when it can be riskier to drive.
- If possible, do not drive at night, especially if you are tired or there are poor road conditions due to the weather.
- Always lock your doors and keep valuables out of sight.
Here are some resources that offer great tips and advice to consider when driving in the U.S.:
If you are the driver and at fault for an auto accident, you will not be covered by your Accident and Sickness Insurance. You must purchase separate auto insurance from the rental car company or an auto insurance company.
Taxis & Rideshares
In large metropolitan areas, using a taxi is common, but expensive for a longer trip. Typically, the starting cost is $3.00-$7.00 plus $2.50-$3.50 per mile. It is a common practice to tip a taxi driver 15% or 20% in addition to the fare price.
Uber and Lyft are popular and affordable rideshare options when you need a quick ride within a city. You can download the app or sign up to ride online.
Hitchhiking is illegal in most places – It is always dangerous; do not hitchhike. Do not pick up hitchhikers either.
Expect in large U.S. cities, such as New York, Chicago, or Washington D.C., to use the subway system. Costs will vary, but if you use it often, daily or monthly passes are available. Other cities usually have a one-or two-line rail system that mainly serves downtown areas.
Traveling by train is another option to consider. This option can be more expensive than traveling by bus, but usually it is quicker. Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, offers rail passes, regional rail tours, and multi-ride tickets. Just like when riding a bus, please keep your valuable belongings close to you. While you can check baggage, there is an area above seats where smaller suitcases or items can be stored. If you decide to place your items above, please be attentive to it and do not forget about them.
Riding a bicycle is a relatively inexpensive and fun way to travel within a city, but it does have its risks. If you bike on the road, there are rules you must follow. Those rules can vary from state to state.
Below are some safety tips to be mindful of when you ride a bicycle:
- Watch out for cars. Not all drivers pay attention, always be alert and aware of your surroundings.
- Minimize or abstain from biking at night. Accidents are more likely to happen at night. Instead of riding your bike home at night, ask a friend or colleague to drive you home.
- Be visible at night. Use front and rear bike lights, including a white headlight on the front of your bike, and a red taillight and reflector on the back of your bike. In addition, wear reflective and brightly colored clothing, or flashing lights.
- Wear a helmet. Helmets reduce potential serious and life-threatening injury from a fall or collision.
- Seek alternative routes. When you have alternate choices of going from place to place, always choose the safest way.
- Use bike paths or sidewalks. Many cities have bike paths that allow cyclists to ride their bike in a safe environment.
- Cross the road with care. When you dismount and walk alongside your bicycle, you are considered a pedestrian. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. Whenever possible, cross the street at a designated crosswalk or intersection. Avoid walking along highways or other roadways where pedestrians are prohibited.
- Hand signals are required by law to communicate your intentions on the road.
About American Culture
The United States is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Nearly every region of the world has influenced American culture, most notably the English who colonized the country beginning in the early 1600-s, according to the Library of Congress. U.S. culture has also been shaped by the cultures of Indigenous Americans, Latin Americans, Africans, and Asians.
The United States is sometimes described as a “melting pot”, in which different cultures have contributed their own distinct “flavors” to American culture. Just as cultures from around the world have influenced American culture, today American culture influences the world. The term Western culture often refers broadly to the cultures of the United States and Europe.
The Northeast, South, Midwest, Southeast and Western regions of the United States all have distinct traditions and customs. Here is a brief overview of the culture of the United States.
In adjusting to any new culture, it is helpful to have some knowledge of the culture. Even though the U.S. population is made up of many different ethnic groups, and that fact is one of the defining characteristics of the United States, it is still possible to talk about some shared “mainstream” values. The following explanation of these values may help you to know who Americans are. It may help you to tell whether puzzling American behavior is due to a cultural conflict or individual differences. A discussion of cultural values is not about being right or wrong; it is about different ways of doing things. Remember that these are generalizations; sometimes they will be relevant, sometimes they will not.
The fact that Americans typically see each person as a self-sufficient individual is crucial to comprehending the American value system. Everyone exists as an individual, not as a representative of their family, neighborhood, or any other group. You might see this as being a bit arrogant and selfish, or you might see it as a welcome release from the constraints of family, community, social status, etc. The individual, not the group, is given priority in American culture, despite this self- centered mindset. Similarly, Americans in the United States dislike the idea of being dependent on anyone, including themselves. This may have an impact on the restrictions put on intimate connections, which begin with friendships.
There is no official language of the United States. While almost every language in the world is spoken in the United States, the most frequently spoken non-English languages are Spanish, Chinese, French and German. 90% of the U.S. population speaks and understands at least some English, and most official business is conducted in English. The Census Bureau estimates that more than 350 languages are spoken in the United States. The bureau divides those languages into four categories: Spanish; other Indo-European languages, which includes German, Yiddish, Swedish, French, Italian, Russian, Polish, Hindi, Punjabi, Greek and several others. Asian and Pacific Island languages, including Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Tamil, and more are also included. There is also a category for “all other languages,” which is for languages that didn’t fit into the first three categories, such as Hungarian, Arabic, Hebrew, languages of Africa and languages of native people of North, Central and South America.
Religion and Politics
The United States was founded on the idea of tolerance and mutual respect between groups; you should not feel insecure about seeking out opportunities to practice your religious beliefs. All types of organized religious groups can be found across the country. Americans are enthusiastic about their opinions. Religious and political arguments can be uncomfortable topics, so many people avoid them. On the other hand, some people may openly discuss their religion and beliefs with you, which may make you feel uncomfortable. If you feel like someone is trying to influence you with their opinions or beliefs, it is acceptable to politely, yet firmly, explain that you are not interested in the conversation and wish to change the conversation.
American cuisine was influenced by Europeans and Native Americans in its early history. Today, there are several foods that are commonly identified as American, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, potato chips, macaroni and cheese, and meat loaf. “As American as apple pie”, despite the dishes non-American origins, has come to mean something that is authentically American.
There are also styles of cooking and types of foods that are specific to a region. Southern-style cooking is often called “American comfort food” and includes dishes such as fried chicken, collard greens, black-eyed peas and cornbread, according to Southern Living. Tex-Mex, popular in Texas and the Southwest, is a blend of Spanish and Mexican cooking styles and includes items such as chili and burritos and relies heavily on shredded cheese and beans.
Arts and Entertainment
The development of the arts and entertainment in the United States—music, movies, dance, architecture, literature, poetry, and the visual arts—has been marked by a tension between two strong sources of inspiration: European sophistication and domestic originality. Frequently, the best American artists have managed to harness both sources.
American culture has a large influence on the rest of the world, especially the Western world. American music is heard all over the world, and American movies and television shows can be seen almost anywhere. This is in stark contrast to the early days of the American republic when the country was generally seen as an agricultural backwater with little to offer the culturally advanced world centers of Asia and Europe. Nearing the end of its third century, nearly every major American city offers classical and popular music; historical, scientific and art research centers and museums; dance performances, musicals, and plays; outdoor art projects and internationally significant architecture. This development is a result of both contributions by private philanthropists and government funding.
The United States offers limitless opportunities to engage in sports – either as a participant or as a spectator. Team sports were a part of life in colonial North America. Native American peoples played a variety of ball games including some that may be viewed as earlier forms of lacrosse. The typical American sports of baseball, basketball, and football, however, arose from games that were brought to America by the first settlers that arrived from Europe in the 17th century. These games were re-fashioned and elaborated during the 19th century and are now the most popular sports in the United States. Various social rituals have grown up around athletic contests. The local high school football or basketball game represents the biggest event of the week for residents in many communities across the United States. Fans of major university and professional football teams often gather in parking lots outside stadiums to eat a “tailgate” picnic lunch before kickoff, and for parties in front of television sets in each other’s homes during the professional championship game, the Super Bowl. Thousands of baseball fans flee the snow and ice of the North for a week or two each winter by making a pilgrimage to training camps in the South and Southwest to watch up close their favorite players prepare for the spring opening of the professional baseball season.
Individual competitions accompanied the growth of team sports. Shooting and fishing contests were part of the colonial experience, as were running, boxing, and horse racing. Golf and tennis emerged in the 1800s. Recent decades have given birth to a wide variety of challenging activities and contests such as sail boarding, mountain biking, and sport climbing, collectively referred to as “extreme sports”.
Americans are typically very friendly people. The idea of equality leads Americans to be informal in their behavior and in their relationships with others. You will see such informality in dress, language (particularly in use of first names and slang), and posture. Due to this, Americans are quick to address people by their first name, making those who are used to a more formal social environment uncomfortable. Keep in mind that being addressed by your first name is normal in American culture and is a sign of friendship. You should use formal titles (Sir, Ma’am, Mister, Missus) when speaking with the elderly or someone in a position of authority. In these cases, you should ask to use their first name.
Time and Punctuality
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Time is money.” As strange as it may sound, Americans see time as a scarce resource that should be saved or used for productive causes. If the cashier or bank teller is taking the time to converse with a customer, Americans may become impatient with lines that move slowly in supermarkets, banks, and other establishments. This translates into the fact that Americans typically arrive on time for meetings and other commitments, maintain a schedule of their activities, and expect others to do the same. For meals and appointments with professors, doctors, and other professionals, you should be on time. For informal gatherings and celebrations, you are welcome to arrive at any moment within the times listed.
If you can’t make it to an appointment, call the individual to let them know you’ll be running late or won’t be able to make it. Being organized is highly regarded in meetings and other professional settings, whereas “spending time” in idle discussion is not.
In American workplaces and social life, punctuality is very significant and highly respected. If you’re going to be more than 10 minutes late, it’s courteous to let the host or group know.
Achievement, Action, Work, and Materialism
Achievers whose lives are mainly concerned with accomplishments that can be measured, are admired by Americans. Even with leisure activities, getting things done is incredibly important. Americans are quite active compared to other people who prefer to sit and converse. Action and achievement are valued highly. Because of this, Americans frequently identify themselves through their work. Instead of inquiries about your family or past, the first question you may be asked while making new friends is likely to be, “What do you do?”
Directness and Assertiveness
Americans generally consider themselves to be very frank and direct in their dealings with others. When talking to someone about something they don’t like about a person’s behavior, they may call it “constructive” criticism. Most Americans do not think it is necessary to disguise their feelings; even if their words are not open, facial expressions may be revealing. Being honest is often seen to be more important than preserving harmony in interpersonal relationships. Being assertive in expressing opinions or making requests is considered acceptable, and even necessary (remember the importance of individualism) but being too “pushy” or aggressive is not. Distinguishing the fine line between the two is difficult even for Americans.
While Americans can be very friendly, they like to keep a certain amount of space (about 18 in or 46 cm) between each other while in conversation. Without it, they may get uncomfortable and choose to leave the conversation.
Typically, Americans exchange handshakes or nods when greeting each other instead of hugging or kissing. Brief touches on the arm or shoulder can be used to indicate sympathy or concern, but any further physical contact may be taken as an intrusion of personal space. People may refer to this personal space as a ‘bubble.’
In the United States, maintaining good hygiene is crucial. Some cultures view body odors as natural, but some people might find it offensive. In the US, good hygiene includes maintaining personal hygiene, keeping your house tidy, and respecting public areas like businesses and communities.
Maintaining personalized care for the body and clothing is known as personal hygiene. This entails regular showering or bathing, daily deodorant use, regular hair cleaning and grooming, and frequent laundry of clothing. It’s crucial to observe local customs regarding personal cleanliness while you’re here: Every day, take a shower or a bath. Use antiperspirant or underarm deodorant each day. Brush your teeth two times each day to maintain optimum dental hygiene.
Americans do not tolerate smoking very well. All public spaces, including workplaces, are smoke-free zones. In several states and even some towns, smoking is also prohibited in pubs and restaurants. It’s crucial to only smoke in areas that have been designated for that purpose. When among coworkers, friends, clients, or other people, let them know if you smoke. Smoking is not permitted inside of a rental property or community of apartments.
Privacy and Borrowing
Before borrowing anything from someone, it is crucial to find out that person’s feelings on sharing their space and possessions. Americans go to work so they can sustain their families and themselves. Personal belongings are things that a person has earned and feels a connection to.
Setting boundaries for private and public areas is a good idea if you live with others in a shared residence. In general, Americans don’t like it when strangers enter their personal space without first knocking. It is likewise not a good idea to trespass into other people’s private areas when they are not there. This could make it challenging to win people over because many view it as questionable behavior.
The level of formality while dining in the United States greatly varies. The safest thing to do is to ask the host of the event or gathering what the dress code is. Here are general etiquette guidelines that some Americans follow:
- Waiting until everybody is seated at the table before eating.
- Eating quietly with mouths closed.
- Eating food in small bites.
- Eating common American foods (burgers, fries, pizza) with their hands.
Although not required in the United States, tipping is commonplace in many situations for service, particularly at practically all sit-down restaurants that offer table service. Many food servers rely on tips as a significant portion of their income. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, however certain jurisdictions let a “tip credit” count as part of that amount. As a result, tipped employees may get paid as low as $2.00 per hour plus tips. The customary range for tips in taxi cabs, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, and for other personal services is 15% to 20% of the entire cost of the meal (e.g., hair stylist, nail salon, massage therapy).
There are many holidays celebrated in the United States. Every host company has a different policy about the days that they will be closed. We advise you to communicate with your host company supervisor or Human Resources contact as early as possible to request time off if you want to participate in a specific holiday celebration. The earlier you ask for a day or two off to celebrate a holiday, the more likely it is that your time off request will be approved. In the United States, it is typical for employees to take time off during the holidays. Visit this page for more details about American customary holidays.
Please note the Federal Government officially observes holidays such as Martin Luther King Day (January), President’s Day (February), Juneteenth Independence Day (June), Indigenous Peoples Day (October), and Veterans Day (November). For a complete list of Federal holidays, visit here.
Most countries use the Metric system of measurement, but the U.S. is one of the few countries globally that still uses the Imperial system of measurement. With this system, things are measured in feet, inches, pounds, ounces, etc. The Imperia System is also called The British Imperial because it came from the British Empire that ruled many parts of the world from the 16th to the 19th century. After the U.S. gained independence from Britain, the new American government decided to keep this type of measurement, even though the metric system was gaining in popularity at the time. Switching to the metric system now would be both time-consuming and expensive for American businesses and citizens.
- 1 mile = 6 kilometers
- 1 pound = 45 kilograms
- 1 yard (3 feet) = 4 centimeters
- 1 ounce = 35 grams
- 1 foot (12 inches) = 48 centimeters
- 1 gallon = 79 liters
- 1 inch = 54 centimeters
- 1 quart = 95 liters
- For a conversion calculator, visit here.
While most nations that utilize the metric system record temperatures using the Celsius scale, temperatures are often measured using the Fahrenheit scale in the United States. The United States, Liberia, and the Cayman Islands are the only nations that formally use Fahrenheit to measure temperature. Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and boils at 212 degrees. Forecast Fahrenheit temperatures rarely fall below -20° or rise above 120° in the United States. (For example, a prediction for a freezing winter day in Michigan would call for a temperature of -10°, while one a hot summer day in New Mexico might call for a temperature of 100°.)
- 32-degrees Fahrenheit = 0 degrees Celsius
- 68 degrees Fahrenheit = 20 degrees Celsius
- 95 degrees Fahrenheit = 35 degrees Celsius
- For temperature in your area, visit here.
Remember that 110 volts are the standard for electrical appliances in the US. Using electrical gadgets that require a different voltage could harm the device. When you are not home, turn off the furnace and the lights to save energy.
The continental U.S. is divided into four time zones: Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific. There are five additional time zones used in Alaska, Hawaii, and other U.S. territories. For time conversion, visit here.
Your finest resource for information on anything is the local library. You can go there to attend any orientations or tours the library offers or just to get acquainted with the environment. Please approach a librarian for assistance if you need help locating or using any of the library’s resources. Most libraries contain collections of consumer information, guides to saving money, and free consumer journals and booklets. Libraries often provide free internet connection.
Supermarkets and Grocery Stores
The supermarket is the main retail food retailer in the United States. As of 2023, there are 63,348 supermarket and grocery shop companies in the US. Supermarkets stock a wide variety of brands and goods in assorted sizes. Large supermarkets with pharmacies, on-site bakeries, and even department stores where you can buy hardware and motor oil are common in suburban regions. Cities’ little supermarkets frequently have a limited selection. A trip to the grocery store might be a lengthy undertaking. Consumers who are conscious of their finances frequently plan their shopping trips and take advantage of weekly deals and discount coupons. Supermarkets sell merchandise under both national and their own labels. Typically, grocery brands are less expensive. Additionally, supermarkets sell expensive “generic” or “no-name” goods.
You might experience culture shock when first arriving in the United States. Culture shock describes the anxiety and feelings (of surprise, disorientation, confusion, etc.) felt when people must operate within an entirely different cultural or social environment, such as a foreign country. It grows out of the difficulties in assimilating to the new culture, causing difficulty in knowing what is appropriate and what is not. A pattern of cultural adjustment often occurs over a period of several weeks or months.
Ways to Diminish Feelings of Culture Shock
Recognize what is happening and realize that these reactions are quite common. Probably the best strategy for coping with the various impacts of culture shock is to make a conscious effort to adjust to the new culture. Culture shock and being homesick is normal during the first weeks and months on the program. Be patient with yourself and understand that it is a process. You will be excited and intrigued about cultural differences, but there will also be times where you are frustrated or confused.
Set goals for yourself, like learning one new “American” thing per week to share with loved ones back home or starting a new hobby that is not possible back home. You might find it easy to focus on what is “missing,” like familiar foods and customs from back home. However, comparisons will not help you settle in when encountering culture shock abroad. Instead, focus on the good things around you. Remember that discovering and learning new things is why you wanted to go abroad.
Focus on the positive: write down fun or interesting discoveries and add them to your list throughout your program. You could write your list in a notebook, a blog or journal, or even type a quick note on your phone.
Try not to compare yourself to others when learning how to deal with culture shock, especially if they are American or have spent a significant time in the U.S. already. Keep an open mind and look at things from other perspectives. If a colleague acts differently than you would expect, consider how their background and culture influence their behavior. Just as you would want your American classmates to embrace and understand your differences, do the same for them.
Please follow CETUSA’s safety tips and abide by all U.S. laws while you are on program. If you break any laws in the U.S., you are responsible for any fines owed, to attend court hearings as requested, or go to jail if warranted. You are expected to obey city, state, and federal law while in the U.S. Federal law applies to the U.S. as a country. Laws in the U.S. vary from city to city and state to state. They can change or new ones can be enacted. To keep yourself up to date about laws in the city/state where you will be living during your J-1 program, please use the resources below. Violation of U.S. laws may lead to termination of your CETUSA sponsorship, which may prevent you from visiting the U.S. in the future.
To learn more about federal and state laws and regulations, visit the following websites:
The legal smoking age is 18. However, in some states like California, the legal smoking age is 21. Just like when purchasing alcohol, you will be required to present legal identification to verify your age when buying tobacco products. There are strict federal, state, and local laws that govern smoking in public places.
Before you smoke, be sure to check your surroundings for “No Smoking” signs, as these are commonly posted around cities and on buildings. Many communities also have laws prohibiting smoking a certain distance away from a public entrance, like at a restaurant or on a university campus, so be mindful of those rules as well.
The legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21. You will be required to show legal identification to prove your age when purchasing alcohol. If you are under 21 and found with alcohol you may be arrested and fined. Purchasing alcohol for people under 21 is illegal. Drinking alcohol in public areas, like parks or bus stations, is also illegal in most places.
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
DWI/DUI laws are extremely strict in the U.S. If you have been drinking alcohol, do not drive or ride a bicycle. Do not get in the car if the driver has been drinking. If found guilty of DWI/DUI you might be fined up to $5000 or go to jail. Many times, Americans choose a designated driver when going out with a group of friends. This person agrees not to drink any alcohol and is the driver of the group. If you are in a situation where there is no designated driver, call a taxi or arrange a ride with Uber/Lyft.
Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Some examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to unwanted physical contact, gestures, jokes, verbal abuse, or written messages. Sexual harassment is illegal in the U.S., and it can have serious consequences. Some behavior may be the result of cultural differences; however, you have the right to feel comfortable and safe at your host company. If you feel uncomfortable/unsafe about how someone is acting towards you, please speak with your supervisor, human resources, or CETUSA about your concerns.
Controlled Substances (Drugs)
Illegal possession of drugs in the U.S. is subject to prosecution by law. Penalties for drug possession are different from state to state. Any kind of drug use is a serious offense. You are subject to fines and incarceration for any drug possession or association with people who have drugs.
IMPORTANT: Despite marijuana being legal in certain states it is still illegal under federal law. You are not exempt from drug testing or law enforcement even if you are in a state where marijuana is legal.
Communicating with the Police
Police officers help keep your city safe and are expected to treat everyone fairly, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, or religion. Below we provide some advice for interacting with police and understanding your rights. You can be approached by the police while in a car, at your home, or walking down a street. The most important tip to keep in mind in any of these scenarios is to try and remain calm.
If you are stopped for questioning:
- Keep your hands where the police can see them and stay calm. Do not argue, resist, or obstruct the police, even if you are innocent and you feel the police are violating your rights.
- Ask if you are free to leave. If you are arrested, you have the right to know why.
- You are not required to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings unless the police have a warrant. Police may “pat down” your clothing if they think there is a weapon. You do have the right to refuse consent for any further search.
If you are stopped in your car:
- Pull over and stop the car in a safe place as soon as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the main indoor light, roll down your window, and put your hands on the steering wheel until the officer arrives.
- Be prepared to show your driver’s license, registration, and proof of car insurance to the police officer upon their request.
- You can refuse to consent to a search if an officer asks to look inside your car. However, if an officer thinks your car contains evidence of a crime, it can be searched without your consent.
- Drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are allowed to leave. If the officer says no, you still have the right to remain silent.
If you are questioned about your immigration status:
- If an immigration agent asks for your immigration documents, you must show them if you have them with you. Carry copies of your immigration papers with you at all times. If you do not have the immigration documents with you, say you want to remain silent.
- Do not lie about your citizenship or provide fake documents.
If You Are Arrested, Know your Legal Rights
If you are arrested, you are allowed one phone call. It is important that you contact CETUSA at the emergency number. Please write down the CETUSA emergency number and keep it with you at all times or add us as a contact in your phone. We will help to notify your family, representative, and your Host Company of your situation immediately. You will need to tell CETUSA the contact information of the jail that you are being held at, the charges against you, and the date of your court hearing.
You have the same rights as a U.S. citizen if you are accused of a crime. These rights include:
- Right to know the crime you are being charged with.
- Right to remain silent and refuse to answer any question if you choose.
- Right to not be searched unless the police officer has a warrant.
- Right to be represented by a lawyer and to be provided a lawyer if you cannot afford to hire one.
- Right to be released from jail if your bail is paid while you wait for your trial.
- Right to a fair trial.
- Right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
It is essential that you treat everyone you encounter with respect, and you should also insist on being treated with respect. Harassment or discrimination of any form is never acceptable and can take many forms. It is important to know how to identify sexual harassment in United States.
What is sexual harassment and how can you keep yourself safe?
Sexual harassment is behavior of a sexual nature that is uninvited, unwanted, and unwelcomed by the recipient that makes the recipient feel offended, humiliated, fearful, threatened and/or intimidated.
As your sponsor, we want you to have a safe, fun, and successful program. Always contact CETUSA whenever you have a serious concern, even if you’ve already informed your host company.
Sexual harassment can include:
- Continuous idle chatter of a sexual nature.
- Sexual slurs, innuendos, and other comments about a person’s clothing, body and/or sexual activities.
- Continuous and unwelcome flirting.
- Lewd remarks or suggestive sounds such as whistling, wolf calls, or kissing sounds.
- Making sexually suggestive gestures.
- Threats if sexual attention is not given.
- Insults based on gender or sexuality.
- Asking colleagues for dates or sexual acts repeatedly after they say “No”.
- Jokes or comments based on sex.
- Displaying or sending sexually explicit or suggestive pictures or videos.
- Taking unwanted inappropriate pictures or videos.
- Unwelcome touching or ogling.
- Making job-related threats or promising employment rewards for sexual favors.
- Unwanted physical contact such as patting, pinching, stroking, or brushing up against the body.
- Attempted or actual kissing or fondling.
- Mentioning or threatening rape.
- Physical assault.
- Coerced sexual intercourse or rape.
What can I do?
If you feel you have been sexually harassed, below are options of steps you can take:
- If you feel you are in danger, call 911 immediately.
- If you feel unsafe, tell the harasser that you do not like the behavior and tell them to stop.
- Write down a record of all incidents; Ask witnesses to write down what they saw.
- Capture screenshots of text messages or images sent to you.
- Tell CETUSA so we can help you determine next steps.
- Report the behavior to your supervisor and/or to the harasser’s supervisor.
- Talk to someone in HR (if there is one).
- Ask a friend, colleague, or anyone else you trust for support and help.
- Try to avoid being alone with this person until you can report the incident and seek help.
- If you share housing with this person, speak to the housing provider immediately and ask for assistance to avoid living with this person.
- Please do not assume the host company is aware of the problem. Tell your host company about your concerns and/or complaints so they can help you.
- Call CETUSA We are available 24/7 at our emergency hotline 1 (877) 261-6576.
What are the laws?
- Sexual Harassment is Illegal. Workplace sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination and is illegal across the country. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) makes it illegal for host companies to allow anyone to be sexually harassed at work by anyone else, regardless of sex, gender, or sexual It is designed to hold host companies accountable for providing a work environment that is free from harassment and other kinds of discrimination.
- Retaliation is Illegal. It’s illegal for someone at your host company to retaliate against you for reporting or speaking out against sexual Examples of retaliation include being fired or demoted, receiving a pay cut or a reduction in your hours, being assigned a different shift, location, position, receiving new or different duties, or being asked to take time off without pay.
*Each individual state has different laws relating to sexual harassment. The state that you are training in may have additional coverage for sexual harassment in the workplace.
What are my rights?
You have the right to:
- Train in a safe environment. Your host company is required to provide a safe training environment that is not “hostile” to you based on your sex or gender identity.
- Learn and be told about your host company’s sexual harassment policies. Your host company should have a written policy on harassment that you should review.
- Speak out against sexual harassment. It is illegal for your host company to retaliate against you for talking with coworkers about harassment or discrimination. You have the right to talk about your experience at your host company with whoever you want.
- Report the harassment. It is recommended that you report harassment to your supervisor or the human resources representative at your host company. You can report the harassment in any way you choose to do so, but it is also recommended that you put it in writing so that you have tangible proof.
- Have your complaint taken seriously and investigated. Your host company must investigate any complaints about sexual harassment.
- Ask your host company what will happen and who will know if you file a complaint. You may want to keep your complaint confidential, but investigations usually involve interviewing the harasser and other potential witnesses.
- File charges with a government agency. You can file charges with your state’s fair employment practices agency. Your host company cannot retaliate against you for filing charges.
- Do nothing. It is perfectly acceptable for you to choose to do nothing about the sexual harassment or assault you experience. It is 100% your decision whether or not to come forward about your experience. If you decide you are ready to talk, CETUSA is ready to listen and support you.
The U.S. State Department requires that Exchange Visitors (J-1s and J-2 dependents) have accident and sickness insurance coverage during the J-1 program in the U.S. Coverage starts and expires on the dates on your Form DS-2019 unless you requested the additional months of pre- or post-program (grace period) insurance coverage. CETUSA’s preferred accident and sickness policy meets and exceeds the coverage requirements by the U.S. State Department for the J-1 visa program.
Health care in the U.S. is organized differently from other countries. Health care is not provided by the government; it is privatized. While the U.S. offers excellent health care services, please keep in mind that accident and sickness insurance is not health insurance. Health insurance includes regular check-ups, preventative care, and treatment of ongoing and pre-existing conditions. Accident and sickness insurance is for unexpected illnesses and accidents during your program. Pre-existing conditions and preventative care are not included in this kind of insurance. If you require more regular health care, you will need to find and purchase a health insurance plan in addition to your accident and sickness insurance.
Since there is no national health insurance, most hospitals are privately owned, and health care is usually paid for by private individuals or private insurance companies. You must show proof of having insurance by having your insurance cards with you when you receive treatment at any hospital, doctor’s office, clinic, etc.
CETUSA is not your insurance company. You are enrolled in an accident and sickness health insurance policy that is serviced by OneTeamHealth (OTH). Please contact OTH if you have questions about your medical benefits, how to file a claim, or the status of a claim you have filed. OTH partners with Aetna to help you find an in-network provider through their online provider network.
PMB 309-266 Elmwood Ave Buffalo
New York 14222
Phone: 1 (905) 907-0074
To receive maximum benefits at a hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic you should visit an in-network provider. Unless your situation is so serious and urgent that there is no time or opportunity to notify the insurance provider, you are required to contact your provider before seeking medical services. They will be helpful in confirming your enrollment and help you to find the nearest service provider to you that is in-network. If you go to an out-of-network medical provider, you will not receive full insurance benefits. More detailed information regarding your insurance is available through your online MyInsurance portal.
Accessing your MyInsurance Portal
After your insurance has been secured, you will receive a notification via email confirming your coverage. At that time you are advised to set up your MyInsurance account and access your insurance ID card by going to the following website: http://www.esecutive.com/MyInsurance/
If you experience difficulties setting up your MyInsurance account, please notify your CETUSA Program Administrator immediately or watch this video. Through MyInsurance you can:
- Download claims form and review directions of how to submit it.
- Download your insurance card (video instructions here).
- View information brochure and insurance conditions.
- Purchase additional insurance for after your program ends (if you have not done so already).
Your Aetna accident and sickness health insurance policy is serviced by OneTeamHealth (OTH). If you have any questions about your medical benefits, how to file a claim, or the status of the claim that you have filed, please contact OTH.
If you are on a program longer than 12 months, you will find that your insurance card does not have your complete insurance dates reflected. As your program end date approaches, you will receive an automated email with your updated insurance card. You can also download your updated insurance card through the MyInsurance portal. If you are unable to find a revised insurance card, contact your CETUSA Program Monitor immediately for assistance.
Finding a Provider
Your policy requires that you call OneTeamHealth prior to seeking medical care unless you are having a life-threatening medical emergency. If possible, OneTeamHealth will refer you to a provider in the Aetna Passport to Healthcare Primary PPO Network. Medical providers in this Aetna network will bill One Team Health directly. If you are in a location where an Aetna provider is not available, or you choose to use another provider outside the Aetna network, you may have to pay the bill yourself and submit a claim to One Team Health afterwards. For a complete listing of PPO doctors or hospitals, you may visit Aetna Passport.
For help finding a provider, call or email OneTeamHealth.
Phone: 1 (844) 805-9444
Your accident and sickness insurance has several exclusions:
- Pre-existing conditions
- Vision care
- Non-emergency (routine) dental care
- Treatment of injuries resulting from being a driver of any motor vehicle including a car, motorcycle, moped, ATV, etc.
- Treatment of injuries resulting from extreme sports (including but not limited to mountaineering, bungee jumping, hang gliding, water skiing, etc.). Downhill skiing is covered if it does not include injuries resulting from racing or competitions.
- Treatment of injuries that otherwise would be covered by your Host Company’s worker’s compensation/liability insurance policy.
- Preventative care (such as contraception) is not covered by this insurance. There are some organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, in the U.S. that offer affordable, and sometimes free, contraception, exams, emergency contraception services, and reproductive health information. To find a Planned Parenthood near you visit the following link https://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center
This is not a comprehensive list of the policy exclusions. To view all policy exclusions, please review your Accident and Sickness Insurance Policy.
Filing a Claim – Reimbursement for Medical Services
If you choose to use a medical provider not in the network, you may have to pay the bill in full yourself and submit a claim for reimbursement. To file a claim, go to the ’Claims’ section in your MyInsurance online portal. Download the claims form and complete it or submit it online. You can send the claim via email or regular mail to OneTeamHealth. Be sure you include all bills, receipts, and doctor’s notes with your claims submission. Always keep copies of what you send. The more details you can provide about your visit, the better OneTeamHealth can determine whether your visit would be fully, partially, or not covered.
All claims must be filed within 90 days of service.
Filing a Claim – Reimbursement for Prescription Cost
Medicine prescribed by a physician is covered by reimbursement only. For reimbursement, please send the original prescription, the receipt, and a short documentation from the doctor stating that the medicine is necessary for your treatment. Again, always keep copies of what you send to the insurer.
Prescriptions for any pre-existing condition are not covered under your accident and sickness insurance.
Health Check Before Departing Home Country
Before you arrive in the U.S. it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with a doctor, dentist, eye specialist, etc. in order to make sure you are in good health. If possible, have a dental exam because non-emergency dental work is not included in your J-1 accident and sickness insurance policy. Dental care is expensive in the United States.
If you require medicine regularly, or wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, bring a copy of your signed prescription with you to the U.S. just in case. You will need to contact the insurer to see if your prescription would be accepted in the U.S. or not. Most likely it will not as it will be considered a pre-existing condition. We highly recommend that you bring extra contact lenses or eyeglasses with you to the U.S.
- Pre-existing condition: A pre-existing condition means an injury, sickness, disease, or other condition that you had symptoms of or were seen by a doctor within the 6-month period before your coverage start date. Your condition may also be considered pre-existing if you saw a doctor or had your medication dosage adjusted for the condition during the 6-month period before your coverage start date. If you have a condition that is stable, controlled entirely by medication, and have not seen a doctor or had your dosage adjusted within the 6-month period before your coverage start date, your condition is not considered a pre-existing condition. Your sickness and accident insurance plan does not cover pre-existing conditions.
- Preventative Care: Measures taken to prevent diseases or injuries rather than curing them or treating their symptoms (such as preventative care immunizations and yearly physicals). Any screening test done in order to catch a disease early is considered preventative services and are not covered under your sickness and accident insurance plan.
- Benefits (covered benefits): Any service (such as an office visit, laboratory test, surgical procedure, etc.) or supply (such as prescription drugs) covered by your health insurance plan.
- Exclusions: medical expenses or healthcare treatments that are not covered by your insurance provider.
- Coinsurance: the amount, generally expressed as a fixed percentage, an insured must pay toward a covered claim after the deductible is satisfied.
- Co-Pay: The fixed amount specified by the insurance company paid to the healthcare provider at the time of service. The remaining amount is paid by the insurance company. There may be separate co-payments for different services.
- Deductible: A specified dollar amount during the benefit period, usually a year, that you pay out of pocket each year before your health insurance plan begins to make payments for claims.
- Claim: A claim is a detailed invoice that your health care provider (such as your doctor, clinic, or hospital) sends to your insurance company. This invoice shows exactly what services you received.
- In-network provider: Hospitals, doctor’s offices, and clinics that have agreed to the discounted rates of OTH. If you visit an in-network provider, then your visit will most likely be covered and the provider will bill your insurance directly. Typically, you will pay less if you see an in-network provider.
- Out-of-network provider: Hospitals, doctor’s offices, and clinics that have not agreed to the discounted rates from OTH and will typically cost you more money. If you use an out-of-network provider, you may have to pay the bill yourself and submit a claim afterwards. It is not guaranteed that you will be reimbursed.
This document contains your entire Accident and Sickness Insurance policy (J-1 participants only). Download here.
This document provides a summary of the benefits and exclusions of your Accident and Sickness Insurance policy (J-1 participants only). Download here.
This document provides an overview of your Accident and Sickness Insurance policy (J-1 participants only). Download here.
This document provides a summary of the benefits and exclusions of your Accident and Sickness Insurance policy (J-2 dependents only). Download here.
Q. What is accident and sickness insurance? What does it cover?
A. Accident and sickness insurance is for unexpected illnesses and accidents during your program. Pre-existing conditions and preventative care are not included in this kind of insurance. If you require more regular health care, you will need to find and purchase a health insurance plan in addition to your accident and sickness insurance.
Q. What is the name of my insurance company?
A. Aetna. My Aetna insurance policy is administered by One Team Health (OTH), the insurance servicing company which I will be contacting to locate medical providers and for my medical claim processing.
Q. How do I find a medical services provider within my network, so I don’t have to pay out of pocket?
A. You can search for a provider at Passport to Healthcare or call One Team Health hotline within the U.S. at: 1-844-805- 9444.
Q. How do I find out if my medical treatment will be covered by the insurance?
A. You should always contact One Team Health for information regarding the insurance coverage for your specific treatment or condition.
Q. What type of services require pre-authorization from my insurance? Why is it so important to know?
A. Pre-authorization is required for certain medical services, and you must contact One Team Health for their approval before receiving the treatment or service. Failure to obtain pre-authorization will result in a 50% reduction of eligible expenses up to $1,000 maximum penalty.
Q. I would like to see a doctor for a routine check-up. Will the visit be covered by my insurance?
A. Routine doctor’s appointments such as routine physicals, visiting a specialist (dermatologist, gynecologist, optometrist, etc.) will not be covered by insurance.
Q. If I need medical treatment, what are my options for medical services providers?
A. There are primarily three different places you can choose to go to for medical care, depending on the severity of your sickness/injury, and the urgency needed for care: (1) doctor’s office, (2) urgent care/walk-in clinic, (3) emergency room.
Q. What is the difference between Urgent Care and Emergency Room Services
A. The primary distinction between an urgent care facility and an emergency room is that urgent care clinics are generally not equipped to handle life-threatening illnesses or injuries. While emergency rooms are the best choice for those in life-threatening situations, an urgent care provider can treat those needing immediate, less serious care. You will be responsible for $350 copay if you go to an Emergency Room. There is no copay if you go to an Urgent Care clinic within the network.
Q. When can I expect my insurance enrollment notification and card? Where can I find my insurance policy?
A. After your insurance has been secured, you will receive a notification via email confirming your coverage. This email will also include a copy of your card. After receiving your MyInsurance email notification, you are advised to set up your MyInsurance account, which will also allow you to access your insurance ID card.
You can find a copy of your insurance policy in the appendix of the participant handbook, and in the My Insurance portal, in the tab “Insurance Documents.” The policy number can be found on your insurance ID card.
Through MyInsurance you can also:
- Download your insurance ID card.
- View information brochure and insurance policy conditions
- Download claims form and review directions of how to submit it.
Q. When and where do I need to show my insurance card?
A. You must show your insurance card to the receptionist at the medical provider’s office before your appointment.
Q. What are my insurance policy effective dates?
A. Your accident and sickness insurance coverage starts and expires on the dates on your Form DS-2019. Change of program dates (shortening or extending your program) will change your policy effective dates accordingly.
Q. Am I required to purchase coverage for my grace period stay?
A. If you plan to arrive before your program start date, or plan to remain in the U.S. after, it is recommended that you purchase additional insurance, however, it is not required. To request additional coverage during your grace period, please make this selection in your CETUSA application portal and notify your Program Administrator.
Q. What is a pre-existing condition?
A. A pre-existing condition is an injury, sickness, disease, or other condition that you had symptoms of or were seen by a doctor within the 6-month period before your coverage start date. Your condition may also be considered pre-existing if you saw a doctor or had your medication dosage adjusted for the condition during the 6-month period before your coverage start date.
If you have a condition that is stable, controlled entirely by medication, and have not seen a doctor or had your dosage adjusted within the 6-month period before your coverage start date, your condition is not considered a pre-existing condition. Your sickness and accident insurance plan does not cover pre-existing conditions.
Q. Are mental health services covered by my insurance?
A. Yes, some mental health services are available. Please contact One Team Health hotline for additional information.
Q. Am I covered if I sustain an injury from extreme sports (including but not limited to mountaineering, bungee jumping, hang gliding, water skiing, etc.)?
A. No. Treatment for injuries sustained from an extreme sport are not covered. If you are injured while participating in an extreme sport, you will be responsible for the full price of care. You can find the full list of policy exclusions here.
Q. Will I be covered by my insurance if I sustain an injury from using an electric scooter?
A. No. If you become injured from using an electric scooter or any other motorized vehicle (i.e. four-wheeler, car, lawn mower), you will be responsible for the full price of care. You can find the full list of policy exclusions here.
Q. I need new contacts or glasses, will a visit to an eye doctor be covered by my insurance?
A. No. Vision care is not covered by your accident and sickness insurance, so you will be responsible for the full price of care. The insurance will only cover the relief of symptoms if there is a direct injury to the eye.
Q. I have a toothache, will a visit to a dentist be covered by my insurance?
A. There is limited coverage for dental care, only the relief of pain from the symptoms (up to $200 per tooth) would be an eligible expense. Dental services such as cavity repairs, root canals or extraction of wisdom teeth are not covered by insurance. You can find the full list of policy exclusions here.
Q. Is preventative care (such as immunizations and yearly physicals) covered by my insurance?
A. No. Preventative care is not covered by this insurance. You can find the full list of policy exclusions here.
Q. I need contraception, or emergency contraception services. Will this be covered by my insurance?
A. No, this is not covered by your accident and sickness insurance, so you will be responsible for the full price of care. You can find the full list of policy exclusions here.
https://www.nurx.com/ is a resource for participants who need help with the cost of birth control (not coverage under our policy), acne treatment, emergency contraception, STD testing and many other things.
Q. I found out I am pregnant, do I have coverage?
A. No, pregnancy and prenatal care is not covered by your accident and sickness insurance, so you will be responsible for the full price of care. You can find the full list of policy exclusions here.
Q. I’m taking prescription drugs in my home country. Will this be covered by my insurance in the US?
A. No, prescriptions for any pre-existing condition are not covered under your accident and sickness insurance. If you do currently take any prescriptions, make sure you bring enough with you to last the entirety of your program, or research how much they will cost in the U.S. without coverage. If you need to refill a prescription from your home country, you will need to schedule an appointment with a doctor to obtain one and pay out of pocket for the doctor’s visit and the prescription refill. You can find the full list of policy exclusions here.
Visit here for more information on bringing prescription medicine with you to the U.S.
Q. I sought medical care in the U.S. and was prescribed medication. Will I have to pay for it?
A. If you are prescribed medication by a physician in the U.S., you will first need to pay the full cost at the pharmacy, and then file a claim for reimbursement from your insurance. If your medical treatment was not covered by insurance, medication will not be reimbursed.
Q. I paid out of pocket for my medical treatment or medication. How do I file a claim?
A. For detailed information about claims handling and reimbursements please go to the “How to file a claim” section in your MyInsurance account. Please follow this link to download the claim form.
You can also call One Team Health or email them at email@example.com if you have any questions about how to file a claim, or the status of the claim you have filed.
Q: How long does it take for the insurance to process a claim?
A: On average it takes 45 days for the insurance to process a claim and, in some cases, longer.
Q. What is the liability insurance that I have? What does it cover?
A. You are covered under Third Party Liability Insurance. You can find more information about the benefits provided to you under your liability insurance here.
Q. Someone I was in close contact with got diagnosed with COVID-19. Will my PRC test be covered by insurance?
A. PCR virus detecting test for COVID-19 is covered only if prescribed by the doctor in case of confirmed symptoms. You may choose to purchase and use at-home, over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic test. You can find more information about your COVID-19 Tests & Treatment Benefit here.
Q. I provided my insurance card at the time of my doctor’s appointment, but I still received the bill. Why?
A. If you visit an in-network healthcare provider, the provider will bill One Team Health direct at the time of service. You may, however, be responsible for a deductible or copayment, which will be billed to you directly. If your medical visit resulted in additional services outsourced to other providers (i.e., a lab test, anesthesia, etc.) they may bill separately from the medical facility where you sought treatment. Sometimes the medical facility fails to transfer your insurance information to other providers, resulting in unexpected bills and delays in processing your additional claims with insurance.
Q. I received a medical bill, and I am confused about it. Who can I contact for help?
A. Please contact One Team Health for assistance. You will be asked to provide a copy of your medical bill. You can call One Team Health or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.