If you're planning to take part in the J1 Student Work and Travel programme, here's some useful advice to help ensure your trip goes smoothly.
The Student Work and Travel Programme (J1 programme) allows students from the US and Ireland to work and travel for several months every summer.
It's essential to plan well before any big trip abroad, especially if you're planning to work and live in another country. The information booklet USI J1 Guide prepared by the Union of Students in Ireland in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade sets out many of the common issues arising.
The US J1 Summer Work and Travel programme has been a tremendously successful part of the Irish-US bilateral relationship for almost 50 years, with 150,000 Irish third level students having experienced the US through the programme over that time.
The great majority of Irish summer J1ers are sponsored by the independent US organisations CIEE (Council for International Education Exchange) and Interexchange, who work with the Irish travel agents USIT and SAYIT respectively. CIEE and Interexchange have introduced a requirement for citizens of Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) countries, such as Ireland, the UK, France and the Czech Republic to have a job pre-placement for the summer 2018 programme.
In light of these changes we strongly urge prospective Irish J1 students to engage with the J1 programme as early as possible, to enable them to understand and meet the application requirements, so that they can have a rewarding J1 experience in summer 2018.
You should secure accommodation before travelling to the USA. Companies offering J1 visas will give you advice on places to stay. Just like in Ireland, you have a responsibility to look after and care for the accommodation you're living in when you're in the US.
Every year, lost or stolen passports are a big problem for J1 students. Getting replacement travel documentation can take time and will add to your expenses so make sure you keep your passport safe at all times and try not to carry it in public. Bring alternative photo identification with you, such as a driving licence or a passport card, and keep photocopies of the identification page of your passport in a secure place in case you have to apply for a replacement. If you do need to replace your passport, contact the nearest Irish Embassy or Consulate. Remember that if you travel to Mexico, you won't be allowed to re-enter the US without a valid machine-readable passport.
Falsifying or altering a passport is a criminal offence and in the USA a federal offence, punishable by fine, imprisonment and/or refusal of future entry to America.
Make sure you have enough money to get yourself set up in the USA. Take a mixture of cash, travellers' cheques and credit cards and don't keep all your money in one place. Work out a realistic budget before you go. If you're renting accommodation, you'll need to pay a security deposit and some rent in advance. Many apartments and houses in the USA are rented unfurnished so you may also have the additional expense of buying furniture. Bear in mind that it may take several weeks before you get work or a Social Security Number, so bring enough money to cover yourself until then.
We've received reports about a rental scam, in which students were asked to wire money for advance payment of rent to someone posing as a landlord, before they travelled to the USA.
As an Irish citizen in the United States, you are bound by US law. If you're arrested you'll have to go through the local justice system, which could mean fines, jail and likely deportation and exclusion, and crucially could adversely affect your chances of getting back to the US down the line. It is really important for you to familiarise yourself with the laws that will directly affect you during your stay in the US.
Please be aware that public disorder offences, such as public drunkenness,a re penalised more severely in the United State than in Ireland. Drug use and supply are also considered serious offences. While our Embassies and Consulate in the USA will do what we can to help you if you're arrested, they can't get you out of jail or help you evade trial.
Make sure you take out adequate health insurance before leaving Ireland, and be sure to read your insurance policy closely. Healthcare in the USA is very expensive. If your insurance doesn't pay up, you can incur massive bills. While the Irish Embassies and Consulates in the USA will do what they can to assist you if you fall ill or are injured, they cannot cover your medical expenses. It is a good idea to check out the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Travel advice page before travelling.
All J1 students need to apply for and receive a Social Security Number by visiting their local Social Security Office. Speak to either USIT or SAYIT for advice on how and when to apply.
To avoid delays it is important to register your US address with SEVIS (the Student and exchange Visitor System) as soon as possible and do not apply for a Social Security number until two days after you register in SEVIS. See www.mysevis.com or sevis.interexchange.org
Keep your family up to date with your whereabouts and your travel plans. Bring a mobile phone that works in the USA so that you can be reached in case of emergency or crisis. If you don't have an email account already, set one up. Many web-based email accounts are free, such as Yahoo!, G-mail, and Hotmail are an easy and inexpensive way to keep in touch with your family and friends. If you don't keep in touch with your loved ones or friends, it can cause them significant worry and needless anxiety.
We strongly encourage those who can to assist potential Irish J1ers in their search for jobs.
Jobs offered to J1 students must be in keeping with the cultural exchange nature of the programme. Job placements must be seasonal or temporary and must provide opportunities for participants to interact regularly with U.S. citizens and experience U.S. culture during the work. Employers mentioned by the sponsoring agencies include restaurants and other food service outlets, hotels and resorts and amusement parks. A list of prohibited jobs is here and includes those in construction, farming and driving.
The Government is committed to maximising Irish participation in this very important programme to ensure as many students as possible have the chance to experience life in the US, further strengthening the Irish-US relationship.
Employers in a position to offer jobs to Irish J1 Summer students can contact the US sponsoring agencies, or their Irish agents, using the contact details below.
TravelWise is a free app from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It brings you user-friendly, trustworthy and in-depth travel advice straight to your phone.
You can subscribe to travel alerts for different countries so you can keep up to date with changes to our travel advice. TravelWise also gives you general advice by theme - for example advice for victims of crime abroad, LGBT travellers, what to do if you're sick or injured, and much more. You can access the app's content off-line, allowing you access abroad without roaming charges.
Those who wish to contact USIT directly can do so via Sheelagh.firstname.lastname@example.org
USIT website - https://www.j1online.ie/
Or contact email@example.com
Those who wish to contact SAYIT directly can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org
SAYIT website - http://www.j1.ie/
Another operator, TravelBug, offers J1 visas in the Irish market – http://travelbug.ie/