What is a American Working Holiday Visa?

‘What is an American working holiday visa and how do I get one?’ is a common question we get asked here at the IEP office, so we thought we would try and shed some light on this subject. Taking a Gap Year to America is on a lot of Aussie’s bucket lists, but unfortunately it’s not as easy or flexible as the working holiday visas for countries like Canada or the UK.

Our commonwealth mates; Canada & the UK have made it relatively easy. They set simple guidelines for you to meet; hold a New Zealand or Australian passport, meet an age restriction (18 to 30 or 35 yrs), plus have no criminal convictions and you should be good to go! Simple enough to understand! The Americans though, have a few more guidelines as well as categories surrounding their visas… and also, you don’t apply to get a visa – you apply to be sponsored for a visa.

J1 Visa

First off, it’s not an American Working Holiday Visa, it’s called a J1 Visa. The J1 Visa is a multifaceted visitor exchange program that allows foreigners to enter the United States to work, teach, study, train, intern, au pair, camp counselor… there’s up to fifteen different categories! The J1 visa that the US State Department offers and is closest to the flexible Canadian or UK working holiday visa is the ‘Work & Travel’ visa.

Work & Travel J1 Visa

For the Work USA program we are able to sponsor a 12-month J1 Visa that allows you to live and work anywhere in America. This is one of the most flexible J1 visas you can get. You do not need a pre-arranged job (that’s very unusual) and you choose where you live and work (once again, unusual). Also, you can switch jobs or move to a different State. Sounds amazing right…what’s the catch; it’s the eligibility.

J1 Visa Eligibility

To be eligible for this amazing J1 visa you need to hold a New Zealand or Australian passport, be +18 yrs old, be a current full time / tertiary level student (minimum level 5) or recent graduate from full time /campus based tertiary level study (minimum level 5).

  • If you choose to travel as a current full time student (take a gap year between semesters) you need to travel before the following semester starts. For example, you complete your last exam Nov 30 you will have to be in the US by the start of semester 1 the following year.
  • If you choose to travel as a recent graduate from full time study, you have 12 months from your final hand in to obtain and enter the US. You will then have 12 months from when you enter the US to work and travel the US. For example, if you completed your last exam in Nov but graduated in May the following year, you will have until November the following year to enter the US.

Are you confused on whether you are eligible or what date you need to use? … Probably! Best thing to do is contact us and let us figure it out for you. Maybe you studied part-time in your last semester or one course was only offered online… we understand that not every case is the same. If you aren’t sure – contact us.

Applying for a J1 Visa

So, you want to take advantage of this visa – good on ya! First step is to apply here. Just fill out the contact details and pay the application fee. Once that is complete we will contact you and double check your eligibility (if you’re not eligible you get a full refund) and proceed to book a skype interview. You tell us your plans and we explain the process – simple. You will then need to complete the required documentation which will be sent to the US for processing. Once the documentation is returned to us from the US you will complete your online visa application and then attend a US Consulate interview. The final step is to attend a pre departure orientation that covers everything you need to know about living and working in the US.  After that, you’re off on your American working holiday.

For a detailed step by step guide on applying for the J1 visa with IEP please visit here.

Where will I work & live?

The glory of this visa is that you choose where you live and work! If you wanted to work at PR firm in NYC, or as a bartender in LA… you can!  That is what makes this visa/program so amazing, YOU choose your adventure. We provide support and guidance for finding work and accommodation, but ultimately you get what you want from the experience. If you need some tips on how to look for a job in America just contact us.

Maybe you like the security of having a pre-arranged job before you leave home.. if so take a look at the Work USA Winter Jobs program. You will travel on the same 12 month J1 visa but we will organise a job at a ski resort for you before you even leave home. After the winter season you can stay in the same area or head somewhere else – it’s your adventure.

Want more J1 Visa Info?

If you want more information you can register your interest in our Work USA 12 Month program – once we have your details we will reach out by email and phone to answer any questions you have. If you are ready to sign up – hit the button below and get started on making your dream year in the USA a reality!