1) Preparation is Key
Save plenty of money so that you have sufficient funds to keep you going when you arrive in the US. It could take several weeks before you get a job. To get organized, gather as much information and advice as you can before you leave Ireland. Attend J1 orientations, carry out accommodation research, prepare a US style resume, reach out to potential employers and make copies of all your important information.
Read more preparation advice here.
2) Hit the Ground Running
‘The early bird catches the worm’ so when you arrive in the US it is paramount that you get yourself organized and take care of business as soon as you arrive. Register with SEVIS, check in with your US sponsor and apply for your Social Security number. If you don’t have a job and housing secured before arrival then you need to get on the job hunt and look for permanent accommodation immediately. Hold off on the sightseeing and partying until you are organized. The job market is highly competitive. Those on the ball early will get the available seasonal jobs but those who snooze will struggle to secure employment.
3) Play by the Rules
Communicate and comply with your sponsoring organization. J1 visa requirements have become much more stringent in recent years. Your sponsor agency is there to help you and in turn it is vital that you communicate with them and comply with their visa requirements. Failure to do so and failure to report suitable employment has seen large numbers of students have their visa cancelled and their American dream come to a premature end.
4) Be Aware of Accommodation Scams & Fraud
Every year J1 students have their American Dream cut short when they lose money they worked hard to save and end up going home. Accommodation fraud is one of the most common pitfalls – be aware of scam artists on accommodation rental sites such as Craigslist. DO NOT WIRE MONEY. Before you sign a lease make sure that you are dealing with a legitimate Real Estate Agent and have read and understood the lease terms. Never pay a security deposit, rent, or move-in fee for an apartment you have not viewed or to a person you have not met face-to-face unless it is from a legitimate rental agency. If you are in any doubt whether the agent/accommodation facility you are interested in is legitimate please contact your local Irish Center for advice.
Read more about accommodation warnings here
5) Be a Cultural Ambassador
Americans love the Irish so use it to your advantage. Be upbeat and pleasant and show off your Irish charm. It will help you secure work. Presentation is a key component in securing employment so dress the part for job interviews. (FYI: GAA jerseys and sports attire are not appropriate for job seeking).
You are visitors to the United States and you are representing yourself, your family and your country while you are here. Remember the importance of respecting the local communities you are staying in, local laws and law enforcement. Be nice to your neighbors and they will welcome you and look after you in return. Treat your summer accommodation as you would do your own home. Vandalism, anti-social behavior and wanton destruction i.e. showing no thought or care for the rights, feelings or safety of others will NOT be tolerated and there will be severe consequences for this kind of behavior. Read more here: Tales from the dark side: Life on a J1 visa
Connect with the local Irish centers & Irish communities – family, friends, neighbors living in the US, local GAA clubs and other Irish groups. It is the instinct of the Irish to ‘look after their own’ when abroad. The local Irish communities will be good to you if you are good to them. They have plenty of resources, connections and local on the ground information.
Find a local Irish center here
8) Be Safe
It is always a good idea to keep security and safety in mind throughout your J1 experience. Staying safe doesn’t need to kill your buzz, just be vigilant and take some basic safety precautions – Do not walk alone at night; Do not carry more money than you need for the day. Do not carry your passport with you if you don’t need it. Protect your vital documents such as passport, visa, DS 2019 and make copies of all in advance.For more info of safety, click here
9) Health Insurance
Healthcare in America works much differently than in Ireland. Your health insurance is vital, carry proof of insurance and know what do to if you or one of your friends suffers an accident or encounters a health emergency. Be aware of the important terms of your policy including the alcohol exclusion clause. Students in past years have been left with medical bills totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars when their Insurance policy has not covered them.
If you book with USIT, your insurance is Mapfre (+1 646 254 3539)
If you book with Sayit, your insurance is Blue Insurance (+1 866 518 6340)
10) Work Hard to Live the Dream
In the US hard work almost always pays off!! If you work hard at your job you will be rewarded. In customer service and hospitality roles you are likely to earn tips that will supplement your income. Earning more money will grant you the financial freedom to see and do things on your time off and travel at the end of your J1. If you work hard you might even take home some well earned dollars.
Make the most of your time in the US, America is an amazing county and has a lot to offer. On days and weekends off you can head to a nearby beach resorts or explore one of the many National Parks. Make the most of your 30 day travel period at the end of your J1. There is plenty to see and do and everything is accessible. Before you depart Ireland make a bucket list of everything you want to do and make it happen.
12) To Ensure Success, Avoid Excess!
This is the single best piece of advice you will get this summer. The Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers along with J1 companies and US sponsors realize that J1 students are out to have a good time. That being said, we have seen year after the year that almost all the major issues that have ruined students J1 experience have been caused by excess. Excessive drinking has been responsible for poor judgment and resulted in serious accidents and illness. Excessive partying has led to eviction, job losses and even criminal convictions. Please take a moment to consider just this one point in advance of your arrival.