How To Work In The US (Part 1): J1 Visa & Early Days

(this is a series and a real life experience from one of our readers who wanted to share his journey to work in the US in the hope it would educate and inspire others)
Part 2 – Living & Finding Work in the US
Part 3 – Job Application & Visa Process

I was 21 when I came to the US for the first time. I had family living in New York and spent nearly three months hanging out in New York City. Within a week of being here I knew I was going to move here some day, so I set my sights on finishing my university degree and getting a visa to move to the US from Melbourne, my home town.

I finished university in November of 2008 and spent the next 10 months working and saving money to move here. I knew I would be eligible for the J1 12-month work and travel visa within 12 months of graduating. I spent a few months doing research on the program and trying to find the best sponsor to come over to the US.

All in all, the J1 process is very straightforward. The main thing you need is a visa sponsor, and there are quite a few of them out there. They make it possible for you to come here and live and work for 12 months. To be perfectly honest, it absolutely does not matter who you get to sponsor you.

Finding a sponsor with built in travel insurance (a requirement of the visa) will probably cut your costs a little (as opposed to paying for sponsorship and insurance seperately.) Do a search for companies that sponsor you – GrowUSA, CIEE and the YMCA are three big organisations that sponsor the J1 visa.

The organisation I went with (not one of the above) were helpful before I got my visa, but once I got into the country they didn’t really care what I did. They didn’t check in to see how I was doing and I was the one who called them to notify them of my arrival. I was unemployed for a decent chunk of my first few months here and no one called to see how I was doing or if I needed any help. Which is fine – it’s not something I was promised – but for the $1600 I paid to be sponsored, I would’ve preferred to go with a company who at least wanted to know I was still alive.

Once the company receives your sponsorship paperwork, they send you the DS-2019 and you take that and your supporting
documentation to the consulate for your interview. The interview is really straightforward – they’re just going to want to
know that you’ve got ties back home and that you’re bringing enough money to support yourself for the first few months. I
think the minimum you need to show evidence for is $1500, but I stupidly wrote $US8000 on my form, not realising that;

a) that was $11000 AUD at the time and
b) that I had to show evidence that I had that money at the time of my appointment, which I did not.

So my visa was denied initially until I sent them evidence that I had parental support and a credit card.
Moral of the story – just put whatever you have. As long as it’s over $1500, you’ll be fine.

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One thought on “How To Work In The US (Part 1): J1 Visa & Early Days

  1. Hi,

    we are also from Melbourne and wanting to do the same as you!
    My partner has graduated from his Masters and we want to get the J1 visa with the hope of transferring to E3 whilst overseas to avoid having to apply for jobs while in australia and do VWP to go over there and do interviews.

    Do you know if companies such as GrowUSA/sponsors will allow a married spouse to go with the j-1 visa holder on a J-2 visa?

    Thanks!

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