Professional Career Training – what’s that? Now there’s a question we get asked on a regular basis! Most people know all about the summer J1 programme, and the various internship and graduate visas that we offer, but Professional Career Training for some reason has gone under the radar when it comes to peoples’ knowledge of it under the J1 category of visa.
So what exactly is the Professional Career Training Programme anyway? Well it’s a J1 type of visa, meaning that it’s a temporary exchange visa, but what makes it different to the other J1 visas that you’re probably familiar with is that it’s not for students., or recent graduates. This is a visa for professionals, to give them the opportunity to move to the USA for up to 18 months and further their careers.
Who Is Eligible?
Well there are two scenarios for eligibility. The first is that you need to have a Degree (or Masters or PhD) AND have at least 1 year of work experience in your qualified field. Now, by work experience we mean solid graft in your field – college internships don’t count, nor does any experience you gained in the USA in the past. This year of work experience needs to be over the course of the past 3 years, so if you have a degree in Media and you did your work experience in RTÉ during transition year, this doesn’t count I’m afraid. If you worked part time in your field for two years, that counts as one year of full time experience and so on and so forth. Your experience doesn’t have to be with just one company, but it does have to add up to a solid 12 months and be clear on your CV.
The second eligibility scenario is if you don’t have a degree. If you don’t have a degree or higher qualification, you can still apply for the programme, but you need to have at least 5 years of full time work experience in one particular career field, having built it up over the past 7 years. Same token as above. Your work experience doesn’t have to be with just one employer, but your CV does have to show a clear career path within one field or industry.
You also have to be at least 20 years of age – thankfully there is no upper age limit for the PCT Programme.
Right, so you’ve determined that you’re eligible, great! Now comes the next bit. Finding a position in the USA! You need to have a pre-arranged position in America to be able to apply for this programme. The position you find has to be a trainee position where you’ll be furthering your skills and knowledge in your chosen field and getting experience that you might not necessarily be able to get in Ireland. Your visa duration will be tailored down to the length of time that the company you find your position with want you – so if they say they can take you on for 5 months, you’ll be going on a 5 month programme. The maximum duration is 18 months and you can only work with one company in the USA as that company’s details will be printed on your work papers. Now, say you get a 5 month visa and while you’re in the USA the company decides that they have more training to give you – well then an extension is possible (up to 18 months for the total duration), but that will involve a fair bit of paperwork so we always say to try and get the longest duration possible when negotiating with your US Company at the beginning of the process in case an extension isn’t a possibility for you when you’re out there.
Requirements for the position you find:
The position you find in the USA has to –
1: Line up with your own career and not replicate any previous experience
2: Not be filling a labour need – so a regular job won’t do – it has to be a trainee position, one where you will be receiving training on an ongoing basis.
3: Be full time – at least 32 hours per week.
4: You must have a supervisor who will be keeping track of your progress
5: The company must be legit – i.e. have tax file numbers, workers compensation etc.
Does USIT help me to find a position in the USA?
We don’t place people in positions in the USA for this programme, but we can certainly point you in the right direction if you are interested. We have lots of information on where people have found traineeships before, so we can send you on company names as well as templates for Resumes and Cover Letters. Ultimately it will be up to you to secure your own position in the USA but we try to point you in the right direction as much as we can!
The great thing about this programme is that it doesn’t cost the company in the USA anything to take you on as a trainee (apart from the stipend/wage that they pay you of course!). This is a great selling point. It’s important that when you are talking to companies to get the point across that you are not looking for sponsorship, because that’s a different visa altogether!
So let’s just assume you’ve found your dream position in the USA, and you’re ready to go. What do you do next? Well it’s pretty straightforward. You just fill out an application form (which you’ll find on our website www.usavisa.ie/pct) and you’ll need to have your supervisor in the USA fill out a training plan, which is a form that indicates exactly what work you’ll be doing in the USA, what departments you’ll be working in, what your pay will be etc. Along with these you’ll need a copy of your CV, a copy of your passport and copies of any previous US visas you’ve held. Then you send them into us by post (or in person in our Dublin branch by appointment) and we’ll take it from there. We’ll book your flights and insurance and process your documents, sending them through to CIEE in the USA, your sponsoring agency. Once you are approved by CIEE and your work papers are issued, we’ll send you a pre departure pack with full instructions on how to book your appointment with the US Embassy and the Visa forms you need to fill out as well as the documents you need to bring with you on the day of your interview. You book and attend your interview, and if successful you’ll receive your passport and visa a couple of days later and you’re ready to go! The process takes 8-10 weeks from when you submit your forms to USIT to the time that you can fly.
How much does it cost?
This will vary depending on how long you’re going to the USA for and what city you’re flying into but generally speaking, an 18 month programme with a one way flight, insurance etc will cost between €2500 – €3000. You can pay this off in instalments over a period of time.
So that’s the programme in a nutshell – it may seem like a lot to take in, so how about some examples of previous participants and how they made the programme work for them to make it easier to understand…
- Degree in Law and 1 year experience in small law firm in Ireland – Secured a traineeship in a major law firm in Los Angeles specialising in Human Rights cases.
- 5 years experience working in the banking sector – Secured a traineeship in a stock-broking firm in New York training in stocks and bonds trading.
- 5 years experience working in visual merchandising – Secured a traineeship with a a styling/design fashion house in San Francisco.
- Degree in Art/Ceramics and 1 year experience in Visual Communication – Secured traineeship in Art Gallery in Colorado
- 7 years experience working as a bartender in various restaurants – Secured a trainee restaurant manager position in Washington DC.
So we hope that this has somewhat lifted the lid on this visa that very few people seem to know about! Any questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01 602 1747 for more information.