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J1 Travel Advice Guide

Minister for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan TD recently launched a new J1 Guide‌ for those visiting the USA on a J1 visa this Summer.

The guide was produced by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and was supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Speaking at the launch Minister Deenihan said: “The J1 visa specifically is a wonderful opportunity for you to participate in a cultural exchange in which you can experience all that the United States has to offer, while acting in an ambassadorial role yourself to show the best of Ireland to your hosts.”

“Should you have need of their services or their assistance, the Irish Embassy in the USA, as well as our six consulates across the country, stand ready to assist. The embassy is in Washington DC; our consulates are located in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.”

The guide contains advice on insurance, legal issues, money, accommodation, ID and personal safety, below is an example of some of the advice contained in the guide:

Legal issues

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.


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 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.

Anti-social behaviour

There have been issues of students on J1 visas being accused of anti-social behaviour in recent years. This has caused damage to our reputation, as well as making things more difficult for those coming out on J1 visas now to get jobs and accommodation. The best idea is to avoid behaving in a way that causes hassle to your neighbours or the people around you, creates damage or trouble, etc.

Somewhere to live

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.

  • Don’t sign a lease unless you’ve read and understood all of it. Get a receipt. Don’t pay by cash if possible.
  • Double check the amount of the deposit, rent in advance and monthly rent.
  • Check the locks on doors and windows. Make sure you know who else has a key.
  • Be a good tenant: clean up your mess and be conscious of others living with or around you.

Take enough money

It could take several weeks before you get a job, or your Social Security Number, so bring enough money to cover yourself until then. This includes enough to cover a deposit for accommodation, and possibly rent in advance. Don't keep all your money in one place. Make sure any ATM cards you take have the Visa or Mastercard logos, and remember withdrawal limits apply in the USA.

Carrying ID

Some states may insist you carry ID at all times. A police officer may stop and ask you to identify yourself if she believes you are engaged in criminal activity. Passports are seriously valuable documents for criminals, and a big headache for J1 students every year. Keep them safe.

If your passport is stolen, report it to the police straight away and apply for replacement travel documentation at the nearest Irish Embassy or Consulate. Depending on where you are located this process may take time – time that you may not have if you want to fly somewhere else... It is much easier just to keep the passport safe.

Keep a photocopy of the ID page of your passport in a secure place in case you have to apply for a replacement passport. Store a photo of the page on your phone too.

Staying out of bother and personal safety

You won’t know the lay of the land in a new city, but you can compensate for lack of local knowledge by not taking unnecessary chances.

  1. When at all possible at night walk in a group, and stick to busy streets with lots of lighting and traffic. Do not take dodgy shortcuts.
  2. Try to avoid talking on your mobile or listening to an IPod, as either will make you less aware of your surroundings and also advertise that you have something worth stealing.
  3. Always make sure someone knows when you’re going out, if and when you’re coming back, and with whom you’ll be. When you’re on your way home, let someone know when to expect you.

Social Security

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

When you are Leaving

Don’t forget to file for your US tax refund. As a J1 Visa holder, you obligated by law to file a US tax return. The average US tax refund is $850 so it’s well worth applying. But close your US bank accounts in case fees might attach to accounts left open.

Find out more:

Read the new J1 Guide.

Minister Deenihan’s speech