Where do I start?

The key word is contacts! Gather names and contact information from every available source. All are bound to have some practical advice and suggestions for further detective work.

Talk to other students who have been on the J1 USA Work & Travel programme in the last couple of years for names and addresses of employers and accommodation sources. They'll also have the best tips on where to live, what the summer jobs are really like and where to go for the best weekend fun.

Applying for a summer job

For the best results, you should send potential employers:

  • A one page resume (CV) emphasizing your experience See this blog post for more information
  • A cover letter explaining that you will have a valid work permit, a US Social Security number and insurance
  • Letters of reference from previous employers or academic contacts (optional but useful). When applying for a summer job, do not send the same cover letter to each prospective employer. Remember to personalise each letter as much as possible, since you are competing with other students who will be applying for the same jobs. Explain why your experiences make you the best candidate for this particular job

What kind of jobs can I do?

Any summer job, whether or not it is included in the list below, must be generally compatible with the rules, regulations, and intent of the program. Participants must be able to balance their work responsibilities with time spent exploring their local community, learning about the U.S. and getting to know Americans. In addition to the above, any job that could bring notoriety or disrepute to the Exchange Visitor Program is expressly prohibited by the program regulations.

It is also important to note that you need to ensure that all Work & Travel USA jobs are "seasonal" and not taking work from American Citizens. The typical Summer Work Travel job is in seasonal/resort areas in a seasonal business. There are seasonal needs outside resort areas and there may be suitable jobs in these areas. If a summer job is in an office environment, it should be seasonal and NOT an internship i.e. if there is intent for professional development or some sort of career experience, then it likely belongs on the Intern side. In addition, you need to be careful that you are not working in isolated/remote areas.

The following job types are currently prohibited by the US Department of State

  • Any job that is unpaid or does not pay at least the minimum wage for that state
  • Sales jobs requiring the participant to invest his/her own monies to pre-purchase inventory
  • Domestic help positions in private U.S. households - e.g. au pair, servant, gardener or chauffeur
  • Jobs with domestic cleaning companies
  • Housekeepers, Dishwashers, Laundry; restricted to approved job placements:
    Placements will be carefully reviewed for their level of interaction with Americans, opportunites to practice English, level of supervision, and risk of isolation in the workplace.
  • Vacation home cleaning crew:
    These are defined as cleaning companies that take their staff on the road to clean rental properties (so, not the same as housekeepers) or the cleaning of private homes not owned by the employer.
  • Jobs in the adult entertainment industry or modeling
  • Jobs on the Department of Labor's "hazardous jobs list"
  • Jobs in warehouses
  • Jobs with moving companies (exluding Gentle Giant Moving Co.)
  • Jobs in factories
  • Jobs in manufacturing
  • Jobs in construction or located on construction sites
  • Jobs in catalog / online distribution centers
  • Jobs in the fisheries industry
  • Jobs that are substantially commission-based and thus do not guarantee minimum wage
  • Jobs at mall kiosks/carts
  • Employment that involves driving as a primary job duty
  • Farm or ranch jobs
  • Jobs with exposure to dangerous chemicals (e.g. pesticides)
  • Jobs on the gaming floor of casinos
  • Jobs with travelling carnivals / concessions
  • Jobs where the participant is hired as an independent contractor / hired on a 1099 form
  • Operators of pedicabs, rolling chairs, other passenger carrying vehicles for hire, and/or vehicles requiring a commercial driver's license -Jobs providing clinical care, medical services or involving patient contact, hands on therapy, counseling, administering treatment or making diagnoses of medical, psychiatric or psychological patients, or veterinary work involving hands-on care.
  • As ship or aircraft crew members, or as pilots, except as crew members on ships that travel only within domestic U.S. waters
  • Teacher, teaching assistant or coach
  • Camp counselor
  • Jobs through staffing/employment agencies
  • Jobs entailing sustained physical contact with customers (e.g., body piercing, tattoo parlor, massage)
  • Overnight/graveyard shift jobs
  • Lifeguard with a pool management company (CIEE)
  • Apartment building doormen

There are some areas of work which are not covered by the J1 Visa, please visit the Prohibited Jobpage for more information.

Summer Job Hunting Tips

Always make it clear that you will have legal status to work in the US when communicating with potential employers. i.e.: I will be participating on the Work and Travel USA Program sponsored by a US Department of State recognized Sponsoring Agency. My US Sponsor is authorized by the US government to issue the necessary documentation for me to obtain a J1 visa, allowing me to work legally within the US for up to four months.

When applying for an advertised vacancy make sure to carefully follow their instructions as to how to apply for the position. Most employers will require you to post, fax or email a copy of your information.

Be persistent. Don't be afraid to make follow up calls on your job applications after a few days. That way you'll stand out from the many applications that employers receive

Prohibited Regions & Restricted Job Locations

Locations where students plan to live and work must provide opportunities for regular communication and interaction with U.S. citizens and allow participants to experience U.S. culture. You cannot work in remote/isolated areas and/or locations that may cause safety concerns. Seasonal accomodation must also be readily available. You must be able to keep in contact via phone, email, etc. with your US Sponsor at all times. US Sponsors hold the right to refuse locations that may be deemed a concern for J1 Summer Work and Travel participants.

Some examples of locations where jobs may not be approved can be seen in the below prohibited and restricted areas lists.

  • Tijuana metropolitan area in Mexico (includes Rosarito)
  • Alabama (AL) – Gulf Shores/Orange Beach
  • California (CA) – Santa Barbara, Isla Vista, Goleta
  • Florida (FL) – “Panhandle” including the following cities; Apalachicola, DeFuniak Springs, Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Marianna, Panama City, Panama City Beach, Pensacola, Tallahassee.
  • Kansas (KS)
  • Louisiana (LA) - New Orleans
  • Maryland (MD) – Please visit the following link for a full listing of restricted locations - Chester/Easton region:
    Annapolis Curtis Bay Glen Burnie Mcdaniel Rosedale
    Annapolis Junction Davidsonville Glenn Dale Millersville Royal Oak
    Arnold Deale Grasonville Neavitt Saint Michaels
    Baltimore Denton Greenbelt Newcomb Secretary
    Bethlehem Dundalk Gwynn Oak North Beach Severn
    Bowie Dunkirk Halethorpe Nottingham Severna Park
    Bozman East New Market Hanover Odenton Shady Side
    Brooklandville Easton Harmans Oxford Sherwood
    Brooklyn Edgewater Harwood Parkville Sparrows Point
    Catonsville Elkridge Hillsboro Pasadena Stevensville
    Centreville Essex Hurlock Pikesville Tilghman
    Chester Federalsburg Lanham Preston Towson
    Chestertown Fort George G Laurel Queen Anne Tracys Landing
    Churchton Fort Howard Linkwood Queenstown Trappe
    Claiborne Friendship Linthicum Heights Riderwood Upper Marlboro
    Cordova Galesville Lothian Ridgely West River
    Crofton Gambrills Lutherville Timonium Riva Wittman
    Crownsville Gibson Island Mayo Rock Hall Wye Mills
  • North Dakota (ND)
  • New Jersey (NJ) – Atlantic City
  • New Mexico (NM)
  • Nevada (NV) - Las Vegas
  • Pennsylvania (PA) – Please visit the following link for a full listing of restricted locations - Harrisburg/Hershey region:
    Annville Elm Jonestown Mount Gretna Rossville
    Bainbridge Emigsville Landisville Mount Joy Schaefferstown
    Boiling Springs Enola Lawn Mount Wolf Shermans Dale
    Camp Hill Etters Lebanon Myerstown Silver Spring
    Campbelltown Franklintown Lemoyne New Bloomfield Summerdale
    Carlisle Fredericksburg Lewisberry New Buffalo Tower City
    Columbia Grantham Manchester New Cumberland Wellsville
    Cornwall Grantville Manheim New Kingstown Williamstown
    Dauphin Halifax Marietta Ono York
    Dillsburg Harrisburg Marysville Palmyra York Haven
    Dover Hershey Maytown Quentin  
    Duncannon Highspire Mechanicsburg Rexmont  
    Elizabethtown Hummelstown Middletown Rheems  
  • West Virginia (WV)

Restricted Job Locations Requiring Pre-Arranged Housing

In certain geographical areas, housing has become an area of concern as affordable, suitable housing options that offer safe transportation options to job sites are limited. In order to ensure student safety and support program success, we will be limiting students’ job placements in certain locations in regard to housing.

The following communities and/or U.S. states have become areas of concern as suitable housing options for participants are limited. Employer placements in these locations are restricted to employers who provide housing.

East Hampton, NY
Jackson Hole, WY
Kittery, ME
Montauk, NY
South Hampton, NY
Bridgehampton, NY

The following communities and/or U.S. states have become areas of concern as suitable housing options for participants are limited. Participants must secure housing at least two weeks in advance of their arrivals. If housing is not provided with the job offer, participants must be advised to start early in seeking housing in these areas and work with their employer to secure housing.

Cape Cod, MA
Myrtle Beach, SC
Ocean City, MD
Rehoboth Beach, DE
Virginia Beach, VA

Second Jobs

As a reminder, all second jobs must be vetted by your US Sponsor before participants start work. If you are in Ireland, you must contact your USIT in order to get approval. If you secure a secondary job while in the US, you must contact your US Sponsor directly, they will need to approve this job before you can begin working.

If you locate a potential summer job in America and are unsure if it is suitable for the Summer J1 USA Work & Travel programme please contact USIT at programmes@usit.ie with your job description, etc.

Second jobs are subject to the same rules that apply to primary jobs, with the exception of rules regarding housing.

Rules for Change of Employer in a Restricted Area

If a participant is placed with a US sponsor sourced employer in a restricted region and a Change of Employer (COE) is granted in-country, the participant will be required to relocate.

If your US sponsor deems, or if it is advised by the State Department, that a participant’s housing and/or work placement is unsafe or unsuitable, we may request the participant to relocate to new housing and/or a work placement without delay. Failure to cooperate may result in termination of a participant’s program and requiring the participant to return home immediately.