Visa sponsorship and length of stay
How will I be sponsored to teach in the US?
Participate Learning is designated by the US Department of State as an Exchange Program Sponsor. As such, Participate Learning is authorized to sponsor cultural exchange teachers in the US.
Approved teachers are eligible to apply for J-1 cultural exchange visas at their home country Embassy or Consulate. These visas are available only to non-US citizens and those who are not permanent residents of the US.
Learn more about the J visa here.
How long can I stay in the US?
The initial J-1 Exchange Visitor visa used by our ambassadors is valid for up to three years. During the third year, ambassadors who remain in good standing may be eligible to apply for a two-year extension, for a total of five years. At the end of the program, ambassadors are expected to return to their home countries to fulfill the cultural exchange.
Teachers and schools renew contracts with mutual consent at the end of each year of employment for a maximum of five years. Schools have the expectation that teachers will remain for the maximum length of time allowed under the J-1 visa.
How long must I be available to live in the US to participate?
Applicants should plan to live in the US for at least two school years. Prospective applicants who can’t make this commitment should not apply to teach with Participate Learning.
Why does Participate Learning require a minimum commitment of two school years for participation?
Ambassadors work in full-time teaching positions where they serve as teachers of record at US public or private schools. This is unlike other programs where teachers “swap” positions with US counterparts. Ambassadors with Participate Learning take on the responsibilities for students like any newly hired teachers.
Settling into life in the US and new school positions requires significant commitment. The length of adjustment periods vary depending on the similarities and differences teachers encounter. It requires time to learn, adapt and, most importantly, build trust with new students and colleagues.
Both teachers and school districts report greatest satisfaction during and after a teacher’s second year.
Schools in the Participate Learning Partnership are aware of the adjustment period for teachers in their first year. They recognize that frequent turnover in teaching staff can hamper student progress. Therefore, they are unwilling to host teachers for only one year. They expect teachers to remain in their positions, if possible, for the full extent of the J-1 visa program. That is why Participate Learning has set two school years as a minimum commitment for program participation.
Will I be guaranteed employment for at least two years?
We cannot guarantee employment for a specific period. We will work hard to provide you support and the opportunity to adjust quickly to your new community and succeed in the classroom.
Your continued employment as an exchange teacher is largely your responsibility. It depends on your ability to teach successfully under the requirements of your teaching position. Participate Learning personnel may also assess your performance.
The terms of program participation, including departures before full completion of program participation due to resignations, terminations, contract non-renewals or other extenuating circumstances, are addressed in more detail in the Participate Learning Educator Agreement. This is provided to all participants before beginning the program.
How long does it take to adjust to life as a teacher in the US?
Most of our ambassadors refer to their first year as “challenging,” due to the number of changes they face. This includes a new country and culture, a new school system, new colleagues, a new home, new food, new friends and more.
Cultural adaptation requires a significant adjustment period as one moves through the various phases. Typically, it takes at least six months to arrive at the final phase where one begins to adapt to the new culture and fit in.
The first year is primarily one of learning, adjustment and personal challenge. The second year begins to offer true program benefits as teachers settle in and begin to make significant contributions. This is also the year in which personal growth truly starts to occur. Ambassadors begin to feel they have accomplished something of significance. They gain more confidence and new perspectives on the nature of teaching itself.
Participate Learning staff provide support throughout the experience. Ambassadors also have access to professional events with other ambassadors and staff.
Learn more about culture shock.
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