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Finding a Job on a J1 Visa

Updated on October 27, 2016

Looking for a taste of the American Dream? A Summer Work and Travel Programme is the perfect way to live a little and enjoy an awesome adventure for up to 4 months!

Students from visa waiver countries must have a job secured before entering the US on a J1.

Here are some tips to help you find that job:

To qualify you must:

  1. Be sufficiently proficient in English to communicate successfully in an English speaking environment
  2. Be pursuing a degree or other full-time course of study at an accredited classroom-based educational institution outside the US
  3. Have completed at least one semester
  4. Have a job organised. Students from visa waiver countries must have acquired a seasonal job prior to entry (you’ll find a full list of visa waiver countries here).

Start your search early!

After you apply for your visa, you should start searching for your job placement as soon as possible. Before you start looking, you should be aware that there are a number of jobs you can't do and also some areas where you’re not permitted to work.

The general rule is that your job should be seasonal and therefore not taking work from a US citizen. Work like this includes summer camps, hotels, in retail, hospitality, and resort jobs.

Summer camp

If you like working with children and you think you have good leadership qualities, then camp leader may be the perfect position! You’ll get housed for free, play games and get fed three times a day. You will also get a set number of days to enjoy some free time for day trips. This is a great job for anyone who likes the outdoors.

Theme parks

Theme parks like Ocean City in Maryland hire seasonal workers to help with games, in the ticket booths, as security, and in the day-to-day running in peak times during the summer. You’ll meet people from all over the world and you may even get free accommodation.

Retail and hospitality

Many of the big retailers hire temporary seasonal workers, including Walmart, Target and Macy’s so you should check their sites for seasonal jobs. Bar and restaurant work can be easy to get in places like Ocean City in New Jersey that get a high footfall in the summer.

Choose your location carefully

If you pick a location with a high volume of tourists in the summer, like New Jersey or Boston for example, there should be plenty of season jobs to pick from. Especially if you start your search as early as possible.

If you leave it too late, then it may be hard to fend off the competition at some of the more popular J1 ‘’hotspot’’ locations like New York and San Francisco.

Think about the kind of lifestyle you want; surfing on a beach in Hawaii or fast-paced go-getting in New York? Think hard about what you want to do on your days off.

Forbidden jobs

  • Jobs that could bring notoriety or disrepute to the Exchange Visitor Program
  • In sales positions requiring you to purchase inventory to sell
  • Domestic help positions in private homes
  • Pedicab, rolling chair drivers or operators
  • Drivers of vehicles or vessels for which drivers’ licenses are required
  • Clinical care that involves patient contact
  • Positions in the adult entertainment industry
  • Positions requiring work hours that fall predominantly between 10:00pm and 6:00am
  • Positions declared hazardous to youth by the Secretary of Labor at Subpart E of 29 CFR part 570
  • Positions that require sustained physical contact with other people and/or adherence to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Universal Blood and Body Fluid Precautions guidelines (e.g., body piercing, tattooing (including henna), massage, manicure, hair braiding);
  • Substantially commission-based positions
  • Positions that include direct participation in wagering and/or betting
  • Positions in chemical pest control, warehousing, catalogue/online order distribution centers
  • With travelling fairs or itinerant concessionaires;
  • Positions for which there is another specific J visa category (e.g., camp counselor, intern, trainee)

  • In positions in the North American Industry Classification System's (NAICS) Goods-Producing Industries occupational categories industry sectors 11, 21, 23, 31-33 numbers including, but not limited to: construction (includes specialty trade contractors), mining (includes oil and gas extraction, support activities for mining), manufacturing (food manufacturing, textile mills, apparel manufacturing, wood product manufacturing, printing), natural resources (crop production, animal production, fishing, support activities for agriculture and forestry);
  • Positions through employment or staffing agencies
  • In kiosks or cart stands at malls
  • In home based businesses
  • In warehouses or factories
  • As an independent contractor (1099 Form employee);
  • In fisheries
  • Door-to-door sales or canvassing
  • Positions in industrial style/scale service sector (jobs that involve assembly lines, repetitive movement using heavy machinery, use of industrial size steamers/pressers and dryers, use of industrial chemicals, factory-like atmosphere);
  • At single-guard pools
  • Positions that involve the use of deli slicers
  • Positions not compensated hourly e.g. piece wages, stipends, etc
  • Positions as an independent contractor/hired on a 1099 form
  • ​With employers who hire j-1 students for 3 seasons (spring, summer, winter)​

Prohibited locations

  • Alabama Gulf Shores Region
  • Florida “Panhandle” (Apalachicola, DeFuniak Springs, Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Marianna, Panama City, Panama City Beach, Pensacola, and Tallahassee)
  • Southern Florida
  • North Dakota
  • Inland Maryland
  • Mason, Ohio
  • Nebraska
  • Iowa
  • Pennsylvania

So where to start?

See if your visa provider can help you with a job placement first as this can be much easier than finding something yourself! Otherwise you’ll have to do the search independently through the internet, by word of mouth or by applying directly.

1. Search online

There are plenty of sites you could check out for a job in the US such as:


2. Placement by visa provider

Your visa provider may have partners who can help you secure a position before you go. For example, an organisation like USIT can organise a number of interview slots for you with job providers and this may be the easiest way to find work. Some visa providers and organisations like to hold job fairs before the beginning of the summer so you should enquire about fair dates in your area.

3. Talk to past students

Do you know someone who completed a J1 programme? One of the best ways to land a job is by word of mouth. Ask former J1 participants where they worked and how they landed their jobs! Ask about their experiences and what they liked or disliked about the role.

A piece of advice-take the first job you’re offered! It may not be your first pick but you don’t want to get stuck without a job!

If you don’t like it you can keep searching with the peace of mind that you have something to fall back on.

If you get an interview, remember these tips:

  • Arrive at least 5 minutes before
  • Research the company in-depth
  • Practice your answers
  • Ask some questions about the role
  • Look professional (business casual!)

Your Resume

When you’re applying for a job in the US you need to make sure you send them an American style resume. This may be quite different to the format in your home country.

An American style resume is typically limited to one page with educational and work experience. If it’s relevant, you can also include volunteer work.

Your details should be in this order:

  • Personal details
  • Education (university and sometimes high school)
  • Work experience with a few lines explaining what you did at the companies you were working for
  • Volunteer experience – sometimes

See example:

Sample Resume
Sample Resume

Where to work?

The best places to work in the US really depends on what your needs are. So for example if you’re looking at the cost of living, here are the cheapest and most expensive places to work based on the cost of living index as of the first quarter of 2014:

Most expensive US states

Most expensive states
Most expensive states

Cheapest US states

Popular places for J1 students include Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, and Boston. Research where you want to go carefully; is it easy to get a job? How about transport, housing and nightlife?

For more information on where to go and the best jobs, check out the complete guide to your J1!


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