Work and travel: how to apply to this US college program

11 Apr 2022 - Category: Blog /
work travel

The J-1 Visa Summer Work Travel Program gives international students an opportunity to live and work in the United States during their summer vacation. Students from colleges and universities around the world get to experience what life, work and education is like in the United States for 1-3 months.

It is a fantastic program and a great opportunity for students who are interested in the United States. But there are a few things you need to do before you make the move to the U.S. and start enjoying the Summer Work Travel Program.

In this blog we’ll be exploring everything you need to know before applying to the Summer Work Travel program in the U.S., including:

  • Program requirements
  • How and when you should apply
  • The J1 Visa process
  • The benefits of have job experience abroad
  • Taxation
  • Sending money home

Program requirements

Before you think about starting the application process, it is worth checking whether you meet the basic requirements to become a Summer Work Travel student.

Currently, Summer Work Travel Students must be:

  • Sufficiently proficient in English to successfully interact in an English speaking environment;
  • Post-secondary school students enrolled in and actively pursuing a degree or other full-time course of study at an accredited classroom based, post-secondary educational institution outside the United States;
  • Have successfully completed at least one semester or equivalent of post-secondary academic study; and
  • Pre-placed in a job prior to entry unless from a visa waiver country.

How and when you should apply

There are hundreds of Designated Sponsor Organizations across the United states that are willing and able to sponsor you during the 1-3 months of the program. Click this link to see a full list of the currently Designated Sponsor Organizations and get an idea of the kinds of businesses that serve as sponsors today.

Once you have found and contacted a sponsor then you can begin the application process. The timing of your application, and the amount of time you can spend in the U.S., will depend on the country where you live. For the Summer Work Travel 2022 season there is a chart outlining the dates that you can use to find out when you should be applying and the months that you can come to the U.S. to participate in this program.

For example, if you are coming from Australia, the program period opened on the 15th November 2021 and will close on 8th March 2022. The approximate length of the program for Australian students is around 3-3.5 months.

The J-1 Visa process

The J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa used by research scholars, professors and exchange visitors. In 2019, over 350,000 J-1 visas were issued. To participate in this college program you need to apply for and obtain a J-1 visa.

When you have a J-1 visa you may remain in the U.S. until the end of the exchange program. When the program ends there is a grace period allowing you to stay in the country for an additional 30 days to spend as you wish as you prepare to leave the country. Moreover, J-1 visa sponsors must keep track of the progress and welfare of their participants.

The waiting period for an interview varies from country to country and will depend on your circumstances. There are a number of documents you will need to have for the interview, including:

  • The Certificate of Eligibility (Form DS-2019) issued by the sponsor of the program
  • Supporting documents which are country specific and the consulate website will have details
  • A valid passport, that does not expire within the next six months
  • The I-901 SEVIS Fee ($220)
  • Form DS-160 completed online – this is the non-immigrant visa application
  • Fee receipt confirming payment of the visa application fee of $160
  • A recent color 2×2 photograph, in the specified format

To learn more about the interview wait, the processing times, and the formalities involved in obtaining an exchange visa visit

The benefits

So, why should you go through this process and try to become a Summer Work Travel student? Well, there a number of benefits you can receive, including:

  • Expose yourself to a new way of life
  • Make some professionals contacts overseas and start networking in a relevant industry
  • Gain some experience while working abroad and learn some transferable skills
  • Return home and share your exchange experiences with people in your family, your community and your college
  • Enjoy the social elements of U.S. towns, cities, colleges and people

Overall, everyone will be able to derive a different set of benefits from participating in the Summer Work Travel program. For many it will be the first time you’ve spent an extended time away from family and friends and out of the country. So while there is plenty to enjoy, it is worth considering whether you will be able to handle being away from home for 1-3 months.


Thankfully, as a student you don’t have to worry too much about taxes. J-1 visa holders do not have to pay Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes (for Social Security and Medicare) when they are nonresident aliens for tax purposes and when they are categorized as a student, teacher or trainee.

However, you may be subject to other applicable federal, state, and local taxes. In general your sponsor will help you with these formal taxation elements and taxation will only really be an issue if you stay and return for a prolonged period of time. For example, people on J-1 filing their federal income taxes who have been in the United States for five years or fewer (for students) need to use the non-resident 1040-NR tax forms.

Small World’s Service

Applying for this program is easy and will give young people a valuable opportunity to work, travel and pursue the American dream. If you succeed in securing a place in the program you may want to send money home. If so, you need to look no further than Small World.

Small World is an international money transfer service that helps millions around the world send money to their loved ones. There are a variety of transfer services you can make use of if you are based in the United States. Small World always means you have one less thing to worry about!

Your first digital transaction is always free of transfer fees!

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