The US J-1 visa Summer Work/Travel programme

The US J-1 visa Summer Work/Travel programme

Ask the US Embassy

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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A: The Summer Work Travel programme provides foreign students with an opportunity to live and work in the United States during their summer vacations, and to experience the people and way of life in the United States. The programme affords full-time university students the opportunity to accept a summer job in the US and participate in cultural exchange.


Q: Some of my friends said they loved it, but some others said the experience wasn’t what they thought it would be.

A: Thousands of programme participants from Jamaica travel to the US each year, so it’s no surprise that there are mixed accounts of the J-1 experience. We see many repeat participants from Jamaica, with some students going for three summers in a row!

We’ve found that the applicants who have the best experiences in this programme are those students who are well informed. Here are a few observations that all applicants should keep in mind.

• The J-1 programme does not require a local agency in Jamaica, and interested students do not have to pay local agency fees. There are designated J-1 sponsors in the US that help students fulfil programme requirements prior to departure, such as finding a job, arranging visa paperwork, and enrolling in insurance. Students must have a US sponsor organisation before they can apply for the visa, and a list of approved sponsors can be found here: Any company that is not on this list is not an official sponsor, including Jamaican companies who say they can get you a J-1 visa – these companies may charge increased fees to do the legwork that students can do themselves.


• The jobs are typical American university student summer employment jobs. Most participants work in non-skilled service positions at resorts, hotels, restaurants and amusement parks. Some J-1 sponsors offer positions as an au pair or camp counsellor. While you won’t be expected to dress in a suit and tie, these jobs provide valuable professional experience with fair wages – and it is exactly the type of employment that many American students have. This is the American summer experience – learning about another culture is part of what makes exchange great!


• J-1 students have the same rights US workers enjoy. This means a J-1 participant has the right to be paid fairly, to report abuse without retaliation, to request help from unions and labour rights groups as well as to seek justice in US courts. The interviewing consular officer at the embassy will review these rights, among others, with you, and provide you with a pamphlet when you come in for your visa interview. In addition to these basic rights, the US Department of State places further regulations on the type and nature of work that students can be asked to undertake to help protect them further. The US Government wants to know if any programme abuses or mistreats J-1 participants, and maintains a special “hotline” number – 1-866-283-9090 – for reports of abuse. If you are interested in this unique opportunity to live and work in the US we encourage you to talk to as many former J-1 students as you can about their experience – J-1 veterans are among the best information sources for new J-1 participants. Please review the Department of State’s information regarding rights and protections for temporary workers at


Q: How long is the programme? Can I arrive early? Can I stay after my job is finished?

A: You may enter the United States up to 30 days in advance of your programme begin date, but may not begin working until the programme begin date is reached. Please remember that participation in the programmer cannot prevent you from attending any scheduled classes or taking exams at your university. If you miss any classes due to participation in the programme, you will greatly jeopardise your chances of participating in the programme in the future.

Do not stay longer than the J-1 Summer Work and Travel programme allows. You have 30 days following the end date of your programme to travel and/or to arrange for your return home. Please keep in mind that if your programme end date is adjusted to an earlier day once you are in the United States then you must depart within 30 days following the adjusted earlier end date. You are not permitted to work during these 30 days, and if you leave the United States during this grace period, you will not be permitted to re-enter the United States on your J-1 visa. Please keep in mind that it is your responsibility to return home in time for the start of your scheduled classes, no matter what your programme end date is.

As soon as you have a sponsor, line up your job, and obtain a completed DS-2019 form from your sponsor. You should then apply for your J-1 visa. Applying early will ensure that there are no undue delays in your application due to missing paperwork or processing times, that you have more choices of available appointment times, and that, if you are issued a visa, you can start work in the United States when your employer needs you to.

For further information, visit the US Department of State’s J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Programme website at

You can find more information about how to travel to the US on our website,

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