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Apply for a J-1 Visa: The Holiday Work Program

Apply for a J-1 Visa: The Holiday Work Program
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Questions About the Holiday Work Program

What is the Holiday Work Program?

Holiday Work Program

The Holiday Work Program, officially called the Summer Work and Travel Program, allows foreign college or university students to travel and work in the U.S. during their summer holiday.

This is a great way to spend your summer seeing another country working a fun job. Holiday Work Program jobs are typically seasonal and can be anything from working at a ski resort in the Rockies to a theme park in Chicago to a beachside hotel in southern California. You'll be working alongside Americans in an environment that welcomes the sharing of cross-cultural ideas, customs and languages.

Travel, improve your English, make lasting relationships with U.S. citizens, and make some money during your summer holiday!

The Holiday Work Program is a part of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa. Through 14 diverse programs, the J-1 visa provides unique cultural exchanges between foreign countries and the U.S. Currently, there are 170,000 monthly participants in the U.S., working, studying and teaching through J-1 programs1. Some of the most popular programs are:

  • The Au Pair Program, which allows young people to experience U.S. culture by living with a host family, babysitting the family's children, and studying in the U.S.
  • The Internship Program, which allows college and university students to intern with a U.S. company.
  • The Student Exchange Program, which allows college and university students to study at a U.S. college or university.

Learn more about the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa here!

How do I qualify for the Holiday Work Program?

Holiday Work Program

You may qualify for the Holiday Work Program, if:

  • You can communicate in and read basic English.
  • You are currently enrolled in a full-time course of study at an institution of higher education outside the U.S. Universities, colleges, academies and other tertiary institutions may all qualify as higher education institutions.
  • You have completed at least one semester, or its equivalent, of post-secondary academic study.
  • You have a job offer (or are pre-placed in a job) prior to your trip to the U.S., unless from a Visa Waiver Program country.

If you are a citizen of one of the countries below, you may be eligible for as special work travel program:

New Zealand and Australia: The 12-month work and travel program, which operates under the J-1 Holiday Work Program, is available for Australian and New Zealand citizens who are bona fide post-secondary students and recent graduates. To be considered a bona fide post-secondary student, you must have completed his/her freshman (first) year. To be considered a recent graduate, you must have graduated within the last twelve months. Program participants can travel to the U.S. at any time and are not required to return home in time for the school year to begin. Also, tertiary students in vocational studies are eligible to participate.

Visa Waiver Countries: If you were born in one of the countries that belong to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) you do not need to have a job offer before coming to the U.S. There are 37 countries in the VWP: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom.

Steps to follow when applying for the J-1 Visa, Holiday Work Program

Step 1: Apply for and be accepted into the Holiday Work Program.

You will need to apply for and be accepted into the Holiday Work Program before you can apply for a J-1 visa. You must find a program sponsor and apply through them. Holiday Work Program sponsors assist program participants in finding a job in the U.S. and ensuring the employer meets all the standards of the program. The program sponsor issues participants a Certificate of Eligibility which they need in the visa application process.

Step 2: Receive a Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status and pay the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee.

You will need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee of $35 USD upon receiving the Certificate of Eligibility.6 Be sure to print the receipt after paying this fee; you will need it at the visa interview.

Step 3: Complete Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application and submit to the U.S. Department of State.

You will need to upload a digital passport-sized photograph with this application. If you have trouble uploading the photograph, you can bring one to the visa interview.

Be sure to print the confirmation page after completing the application; you will need it at the visa interview.

Step 4: Pay the visa application fee.

The fee is $160.00 USD.

Step 5: Schedule an interview with a U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live.

Step 6: Collect required documents for your visa interview.

You will be required to bring the following documents to your visa interview:

  • The interview appointment notice
  • A passport that is valid for at least six months past your planned date of departure
  • The confirmation page from your Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  • Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before the interview (MRV fee)
  • Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (issued by your program sponsor)

The U.S. embassy or consulate where your interview will take place may request you provide additional documentation, such as evidence of:

  • The purpose of your trip
  • Your intent to leave the U.S. after your trip
  • Your ability to pay all the costs of your trip
  • Your medical coverage while in the U.S.

Step 7: Attend the visa interview.

The visa interview will take place at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live. You will be interviewed by a consular officer who will determine if you are qualified to receive a visa. He or she will review your documentation and visa application, ask you questions about your personal history and the reason for your trip to the U.S.

If the consular officer approves you for a visa, he or she will take your passport and have a visa placed in it. When your passport with visa is ready, you will be notified to pick it up or it will be sent to you.

The consular officer should return Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility to you. You will need this to enter the U.S.

In most cases, you will also have biometrics (fingerprint, photograph and signature) taken during, before or after your interview.

Step 8: Pay the visa reciprocity fee.

Depending on your nationality, you may have to pay a visa issuance fee if your visa is approved.

Do I qualify for the Holiday Work Program if I am enrolled in an on-line university?

No, students who are registered in distance learning or distance education (online universities) are not eligible to participate in this program.

Do I qualify for the Holiday Work Program if I am transferring from one university to another one?

Yes, students who are moving from one college or university to another one are eligible to participate in this program.

Do I qualify for the Holiday Work Program if I completed my university degree but I am going to continue studying at a post-secondary or graduate institution?

Yes, students who are enrolled to continue studying in post-secondary or post-graduate institutions, such as a double-degree or master's program, qualify for the Holiday Work Visa Program.

Do I need to find a job placement before leaving my country?

Holiday Work Program

Unless you are from a Visa Waiver Program country, you need to find a job before leaving your country. The VWP countries are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom.

How long before my Holiday Work Program starts can I arrive in the U.S.?

With a J-1 visa, you can arrive in the U.S. up to 30 days before the start of your program. If you wish to travel in the U.S. more than 30 days before the start of your program, you must obtain a visitor visa. However, this is discouraged as you will have to adjust your status and if there is a delay, you may miss the start of your program.

What is the Holiday Work Program's length?

The program is available for a maximum of four months.

Can I extend my Holiday Work Program?

Extensions of this program are not permitted, as it is only meant to last the duration of your summer holiday so you can return home in time for the next semester to begin. However, after your program is finished and you return home, you are eligible to apply for the next year.

What are my employer's responsibilities?

Employers who hire Holiday Work Program participants must:

  • Provide participants with the number of hours of paid work per week as agreed upon.
  • Pay the participants the appropriate wages for overtime work, as mandated by state or federal law.
  • Keep the program sponsor updated with relevant information about the participants including when they arrive at the work site and begin their program or if any changes are made to the job.
  • Contact the sponsor immediately in any emergency situation involving the participants.

What happens if I quit my job or am terminated before my program ends?

If you quit your job or are terminated before your program ends, your J-1 status will become invalid and you will be required to leave the country immediately.

Can I bring my family with me to the U.S.?

Although there is a visa for family members of J-1 visa holders, called the J-2 visa, it is not available for Holiday Work Program participants. Typically Holiday Work Program participants are university or college students who do not yet have families of their own.

What are the other J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Programs?

The other J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa programs are:

1 retrieved Oct. 14, 2013, http://j1visa.state.gov/basics/facts-and-figures/

Pass the U.S. Citizenship Test

When applying for U.S. Citizenship through naturalization, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) does require a Citizenship test to be taken by all applicants. The Citizenship test will be based on the ability of reading, writing and speaking English, knowledge of American history and the government of the United States.

Pass the U.S. Citizenship Test and Interview

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