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A Quick Comparison Between the J1 Visas : Should You Work as a Camp Counselor or Travel on the J1 Summer Work Travel Visa?

Every year around 10,000 Irish students travel to the USA on a J1 visa. Choosing to go and live the American dream on the J1 summer work and travel visa makes a lot of sense, which is why we want to give you all the information about this visa. Know where you stand when you go too.

Author: Rhiannon
13 Dec 15:33
So what is the J1 Visa?

The J1 work and travel program allows young people to go and work in America, with this visa you can secure yourself an international summer job and also experience American culture.

There are 18 types of J1 Visa - but here are the top 15 categories

  • Au Pair
  • Camp Counselor
  • College and University Student
  • Government Visitor
  • Intern
  • International Visitor
  • Physician
  • Professor
  • Research Scholar
  • Secondary School Student
  • Short-Term Scholar
  • Specialist
  • Summer Work Travel
  • Teacher
  • Trainee

The most popular for student summer jobs, and people looking to explore, are the J1 Summer Work Travel and the Camp Counselor (cultural exchange visa).

The camp counselor visa can also be referred to as the J1 cultural exchange visa. The cultural exchange visa supports visitors (you) who are promoting and participating in cultural exchange (Summer Camp).

'Cultural exchange' sounds an official term, but broken down it is the exchange of two countries - sharing ideas, creating friendships and forming a mutual understanding.

You’re bringing the best of your home culture to the States - exposing them to our thoughts and habits, lingo and a different way of seeing the world… all whilst experiencing the best of America. We give them our quirks and, in turn, get to experience theirs. Cultural exchange is just a fancy way of saying it.

The J1 summer work and travel visa is there for those enrolled in College and University students enrolled full time and pursuing studies at approved locations outside the USA. The visa again promotes the sharing of culture but through temporary work.

Who can apply for the J1 visa?

The J1 visa is open to anyone who’s over 18, who’s applying from a qualifying country and who has already secured themselves an approved seasonal job in America.

There is an approved list for roles on the J1 summer work and travel program. Make sure the the job is definitely on the list. You don’t want to organise your summer job in America and then find it’s not on the approved list!

There is also a list of locations that the summer work and travel visa is accepted.

If there’s one really good reason to be a camp counsellor in America rather than finding your own work, it’s that there are camps in locations which are restricted from the J1 summer work and travel program. If you want to work in Hawaii, you can as a camp counselor. Aloha!

How to apply for a J1 Visa

Remember: You must have an approved seasonal job before your J1-Visa is issued and you travel to the USA.

Once you have your placement and your SEVIS number, you’ll be able to begin your J1 Visa application. The form is online and you can book your appointment slot from your US Embassy account portal. We’ll be taking you through this step by step with our handy guides.

You’ll be asked to pay for your appointment before you can choose a time, so make sure you’re prepared to make the payment before you begin as although your DS2019 form and sponsorship costs are all taken care of by us, the appointment itself is third party.

The price for the J1 Visa appointment is $160 USD.*

Once granted, the J1 Visa will be displayed in your passport. After your interview at the Embassy, the officer will keep your passport to print your Visa in. Make sure you have a double-page free!

It usually takes 2 weeks to be returned to your selected collection point, or if you choose, the courier service to deliver it straight to your door. The embassy advises that it can take up to 4-6 weeks, so make sure you book your appointment well in advance of your travel date.

When you receive your passport back, it will be wrapped in the DS2019, keep it together, guard it with your life. Promise us. That little piece of paper is the other half of your Visa and you’re going to have a tough time at customs in the US if you arrive without one.

Alongside the J1 visa you need to also tick the following;

  • To have had an interview with a sponsor
  • To have insurance
  • To have an orientation
  • To have your forms
  • To have check ups and monitoring
What’s different about applying to be a camp counselor on the J1 program to the J1 summer work and travel visa?

The camp counselor visa (J1 cultural exchange) is a category all on its own. The purpose of this visa is to encourage cultural exchange and to create connection. You will be placed at a summer camp, we work with over 500 summer camps, one in every state.

The J1 summer work and travel program is a working holiday visa for America. You can work in a variety of roles, excluding the camp counselor, and are able to work and travel.

People choose either route depending on what suits them best.

If you’re looking for the traditional summer camp experience, then apply to be a camp counselor. It’s an amazing way to spend your summer, you’ll make international friends for life, work in some incredible locations and

If you’re looking to work in an office or a bar for the summer in America, you’ll need to work on the summer work and travel program. You can earn more but you’ll be limited to the places you can work and you need to be a student.

The big difference really depends on what you want to get out of the experience.

But either way you’ll be having an amazing time!

Rhi is our company wordsmith. Having been to summer camp for 6 years, there's nothing this veteran doesn't know.

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