When planning your J1, the whole process can seem quite stressful but the important thing to remember is to relax.
Tour companies genuinely make the process incredibly easy and it is simply a step by step process. For those of you who book through Sayit as I did last year, you will be required to complete one step before you can even view the next one.
To begin the process, an online application form and a deposit, usually just under €100, is required. Within two weeks of registering online, a copy of your passport, a stamped eligibility form, an online questionnaire, and a €150 deposit must be completed and paid. The eligibility form proves you are in college and meet the requirements for the J1 and it is stamped by your college.
Once you have completed the first step with Sayit, you will be given access to the InterExchange system. InterExchange are your programme sponsor and they will help you find a job. They have a job fair taking place at the end of January for which you can book a place and attend job interviews. They also have an online job database for jobs based at all of the major J1 destinations. If you are successful at the job fair or have had a successful skype interview with one of the companies listed on the InterExchange job system, then you are sent a job offer for you to accept. Once accepted, the DS2019 work form is issued.
Without a doubt, the DS2019 form is the most important form after your actual J1 Visa and Passport. Guard this form with your life! Without it you will not be able to enter the US on J1 visa status and will not be able to work. If you plan on taking a trip outside of the US, you must first get your DS2019 form signed by an InterExchange representative in their office in New York, and when you go on your trip you will need it with you.
Payment of €450 is due at this stage and you will then have access to Sayit’s flight booking engine. Never book your flights for the J1 outside of the flight booking engine as this will lead to cancelation of your programme.
To have gotten to this stage, there is just one final big step - your embassy interview. You will complete a DS160 embassy form online and an appointment based on your availability will be made. You will receive an information pack before the interview explaining the process.
Expect to be met with a long line at the embassy. If you are in line and it has gone past your interview time, don’t fret, they won’t persecute you for long lines out of your control.
The embassy interview was definitely intimidating. It is an extremely secure area, so expect airport level security when entering and do exactly what they say. You are not allowed any electronic devices inside the embassy and there will be a locker for you to store your belongings.
There are two stages to the interview. The first stage, you will have your documents checked and your passport taken. You will answer some basic questions and then wait in line for the second stage - your interview. The interview takes place at a window with everyone else in line behind you.
Be confident and relaxed. You will be asked questions about your course, duration, and about yourself. In your pack you will have received previous to this, there will be plenty of information about your working rights in the US. Recite a few of your rights to the interviewer and you will prove to them you know your stuff.
The final steps before your J1 is to attend an orientation day and pay the remainder of the fee. After completing all of these steps, it will finally feel like you are going on a J1.
While all of the official documents are being processed, make sure you have a definite income over the next few months. In the orientation meetings, you’ll be told to have at least $1000 dollars in your bank account but try your best to have as close to $1500 as you can, because you won’t know how much landlords will want up front.
Understand where you will be looking to stay on your J1, with how many people and what level of rent you can afford as a group. Do not pay for anything until you are in the US and have viewed your apartment.
When it comes to managing your money, cash is king, but risky to carry it out with you or leave it in your temporary accommodation so I would recommend investing in the An Post currency cards. You can withdraw $800 per 24hrs with one of these cards, and when you need cash fast, they are extremely handy. The best thing is you can top them up online from an Irish account, so if you run into trouble, you have an easy way for someone from home to get money into your hands, quickly, cheaply, and easily.
Another alternative is a cash advance service offered by Chase Bank in the US. Go into any Chase Bank and ask for a cash advance of up to $1,000. The charge is minimal and you can use your own debit card to do this. It is instantaneous and you can get access to your own money straight away.
Last but finally not least, tell your bank you are travelling to the US. It will avoid any problems you may encounter while on your J1 and it isn’t worth the stress! Finally, enjoy your J1, if you haven’t started planning yet - get going. The summer of your life awaits.