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Work & Travel: What's the deal?

The United States is one of the biggest countries in the world and the opportunities it can present to you are unparalleled. You are spoilt for choice in a continent that offers stunning coastlines, rolling countryside and cities that never sleep!

Every year thousands of students go to the United States in order to take part in the international Work & Travel programme.

The programme has been designed to offer you the chance to experience daily American life through temporary employment opportunities during the summer holidays. You can work for up to 4 months between May and October with 1 month after your work permit ends to travel throughout the United States.

Most students choose to work in the hospitality, retail and leisure industries although this year we have placed students as far afield as a surf shop in Florida to a fish farm in Alaska! Through a dynamic combination of work and travel, you'll learn about the country, its people and the culture whilst truly immersing yourself in a different way of life.

Who can apply for Work & Travel?

The Work & Travel programme is open to:

  • Anyone aged over 18 by 1st June 2012
  • You must be a full-time student at an accredited UK university. The course must run for the full academic year from 2011 - 2012.
  • If you have participated in a J-1 previously either through WorkPlayUSA or another organisation then you are eligible to repeat the programme. Please contact us for more information on this.

What kind of jobs are available?

The jobs that will be available are almost always unskilled, unqualified and include the following possibilities:

  • amusement park attendant
  • banquet server
  • busser
  • clerical
  • cook
  • dishwasher
  • fast food server
  • front desk clerk
  • game/ride attendant
  • host/hostess
  • housekeeper
  • laundry
  • lifeguard
  • park services
  • parking attendant
  • porter
  • recreation instructor
  • retail assistant
  • sales
  • security guard
  • tour guide
  • waiter/waitress

Can I organise my own placement?

Absolutely! Not only does this put you in control, there is also a considerable discount for locating your own employer and applying on our ‘Self Placed' programme.

Can I use my summer break to intern at a US company or gain work experience in my field?

Yes - many students use this time as an opportunity to gain invaluable experience that will help them in their careers.

What are the fees?

The fee for the Self Placed programme is £500

Included in the programme price is:

  • the Self Placed jobs guide
  • the cost of all documentation processing including the DS-2019 visa form
  • assistance completing the required documents
  • assistance in sourcing accommodation
  • comprehensive health, accident and liability insurance
  • application, screening and pre-departure orientation
  • assistance in obtaining the Social Security Card
  • ongoing support from US office staff
  • the SEVIS fee of $35

Can WorkPlayUSA find me a placement?

Yes we can find you a suitable position. The ‘Pre-Placed' programme is for candidates who would like WorkPlayUSA to search for and organise a position for them.

The fee for Work and Travel ‘Pre Placed is £675

In addition to the services listed for the Self-Placed Program you will also receive:

  • Host Company Search
  • Salary negotiation
  • Interview Preparation
  • Placement

What is the SEVIS fee?

SEVIS stands for ‘Student and Exchange Visitor Information System'.

It is a US Dept of Homeland Security tracking system for all participants on a J-1 visa. Once you have entered the United States you must ‘validate' your SEVIS record via the ‘check in' system on our sponsor partners ASPIRE's website.

Full details on SEVIS and ‘check in' on arrival will be provided once you are accepted on the programme.

Are there any other application costs I need to be aware of?

The only other fee you have to allow for is the $131 charged by the US Embassy when you book your interview appointment. Please have a credit or debit card to hand as well as the reference number printed on your DS 2019 form provided.

Am I required to purchase WorkPlayUsa's flights and accommodation?

No. WorkPlayUSA can assist you with purchasing flights upon which a booking fee will be applied. We are also happy to provide you with a free list of reputable travel agents if you would like to do it yourself.

Some host companies may include accommodation with their job offer or at least offer you assistance, however many candidates choose to make their own arrangements. WorkPlayUSA will provide a guide to sourcing accommodation for all candidates once you have signed up to the programme.

How do I apply and what does the application process entail?

The first step is to fill in the enquiry form on this site. We will then email you with all the relevant information and application documents as well as your personal login details for the program web database. All candidates will be required to enter their details on the database as well as uploading the completed forms.

These are:

- A signed University certificate or letter on headed paper, showing current status
- Signed Student Rules and Regulations
- Signed Job Offer
- Passport Photo (can be scanned with the student rules and regulations. Please place the photo on the corner of the page)
- CV*

*Only for Pre Placed students

Please note it is VERY IMPORTANT that ALL fields are completed when you are filling in the forms and the database. It is also crucial that your host company's Tax ID is stated, along with a full physical address (P.O. Box addresses will not be accepted).

Once your application is complete and full payment has been received we will work with our US sponsor partners ASPIRE to issue you your DS-2019. You will not be able to apply for your visa at the US Embassy without this document.

All in all we estimate you should allow 8 weeks to complete the process however it can take longer depending on when you book your interview at the embassy (Spring and early summer are peak processing times).

What is the DS 2019?

The DS-2019 is your certificate of eligibility for the J-1 visa. It serves as proof that a Department of State designated visa sponsor has supported your visa application. When you visit the U.S Embassy you must submit the original DS-2019 form along with your other application materials.

How long does the programme last for?

Students can work for up to 4 months during the university summer vacation from May through to September. After you have finished your placement you have a 30-day grace period to remain in the country to travel and explore. You cannot under any circumstances work during this period.

How much will I get paid?

Unless you have agreed to undertake unpaid work experience, the minimum wage we will accept from employers is $7.25 per hour. Actual earnings will depend on your role.

How many hours can I expect to work?

Most employers will expect you to work on average around 30 hours per week but this varies depending on your employer and your role.

Can I get a second job?

Yes - on the Work & Travel programme you can have more than 1 job, however you must make sure you are dedicated to both employers and that your working standards and commitments do not waiver because your over-stretching yourself!


I have a friend who is interested in Work & Travel, can we get jobs together?


Yes - you can apply either as ‘Self Placed' or ‘Pre placed'. Many of our employers want to take on a number of students and so when applying you can state if you wish to be taken on alongside a friend. We cannot guarantee that this will happen but we will try our best to place you within the same company.


Do I have to have a job before I travel?


No - however the US Embassy does limit how many students can travel without securing a job beforehand. We strongly advise you to obtain a job offer before travelling as competition is fierce especially in the coastal resorts and big cities.


How do I book my appointment at the US Embassy?


To book your appointment please call and arrange a convenient time with the operator.

Y ou can find the number for the London Embassy here:

Students from the Republic of Ireland need to visit the Embassy in Dublin: Click here

Students from Northern Ireland need to visit the Embassy in Belfast: Click here

You will be asked to pay a fee of $141 to book the appointment. Please have a credit or debit card to hand as well as the reference number printed on your DS 2019 form.


How long will I have to wait for my appointment?


The embassy gets very busy in Spring as there are many students and professionals booked in to get their J1 visa before summer. You may have to wait up to a month for your appointment. Please click here to see current wait times


What do I need to take for my interview?


Please make sure you have all the following documents with you when you attend your interview at the embassy:

  • A valid Passport in good condition
  • Your SEVIS Receipt
  • Your DS-2019 form
  • DS-160. This is a document that has to be completed online direct on the US Embassy website. Please Click Here for more details
  • Proof of funds (see "How much money will I need") below
  • Evidence of returning to study (if applicable) or proof of completed study

After your interview the Embassy will retain your passport for a period which could be anything from 5 days up to 4 weeks. Please do not plan or book any foreign travel within this period.

As soon as your visa has been issued and your passport is returned you are free to start your journey!

What do I need to know before I fly out?

Before you leave for the USA, WorkPlayUSA will provide you with all the orientation information you need regarding tax, social security numbers, sourcing accommodation and your responsibilities whilst on the programme.

Please ensure that you update your flight details on the online database prior to departure so we have all the correct information for you.

How far in advance can I come before my job starts?

You are allowed to fly out up to 2 weeks before your job starts. We suggest you leave plenty of time to find somewhere to live if you haven't organised this before departure and we also suggest applying for your social security number as soon as you arrive as this can take a few weeks to come through.

What do I need to do once I arrive in the USA?

First of all you need to ‘check in' and validate your SEVIS status with ASPIRE. Click this link below for access. This needs to be done ON ARRIVAL and EVERY 30 days thereafter.


You then need to obtain your social security number. You can download the application form from

Please read all the instructions in your Work & Travel handbook BEFORE you complete the form

You then need to head to your local social security office with:

  • DS-2019 Form (copy)
  • Passport with the J-1 Visa and I-94 card (white slip attached to the passport by the Immigration officer)
  • Sponsor letter
  • If the passport is less than one year old you will need to bring with you an official government document (i.e., birth certificate, driver's license with photo) to serve as proof of age.

What is a social security number?

Your social security number is your personal ID for tax. You cannot work legally or be paid without one. This number is also needed to open a bank account or obtain a state driver's license.

Can I work whilst I wait for my social security number?

Yes - as long as you can prove that you have applied for it. If you have any problems liaising with your employer on this then contact WorkPlayUSA for assistance.

What if I lose my social security number?

If you lose it you need to report back to your local social security office NOT WorkPlayUSA. DO NOT under any circumstances apply for another social security number.

How much money will I need?

You should bring enough money to pay for food and housing for your first month in the USA. This is important, because you may not receive your first pay cheque until you've been working for two weeks.

If you have already secured a job you will need on arrival, to show the Immigration officer your completed Job Offer agreement form plus be able to prove you have a minimum of $475 available to you. If you are travelling without a pre-arranged job you must show proof of a minimum of $950.

In both cases proof can be in the form of cash, bank statements (credit or debit) or travellers cheques. Some students have even been asked to login to their bank account in front of immigration officers to prove they have sufficient funds. Please be aware of all these lines of questioning. Travellers cheques and cash are the only guaranteed proof of funds.

What about medical insurance?

The Department of State insist that all students must be insured in line with American legislation. To ensure every student is covered against every eventuality we have implemented a blanket coverage scheme. The insurance costs are included in your fee.

To find out more about your insurance coverage click here:

Who can I contact in case of an emergency?

The freephone emergency number in the USA is 911 and should be used in all emergency situations as you would use 999 in the UK. All emergencies should also be reported to the programme office in the USA on 1-949-497-3310.

What do I do if I am having problems with my employer or I am unhappy in my job?

Our team are here to help you with any difficulties you may have and we are more than happy to speak to your employer on your behalf. If for whatever reason you decide to leave your placement it is your responsibility to secure another unless we decide that there has been an oversight in the initial placement.

Can I extend my stay in the United States?

The maximum duration of the Work and Travel program is 4 months (plus an additional 30 days travel period). You cannot extend past this 5 month duration.

Can I travel to other countries during my program?

Due to the short duration of the Work & Travel programme we do not recommend leaving the USA during this time. We will only permit students to leave and re-enter the USA if there is an urgent situation or emergency at home which requires travel.

If permission is granted, you may leave and re-enter the USA without obtaining
a new visa providing your visa and DS-2019 form have not expired, you hold a
multiple-entry visa, the passport is still valid, and you have the copy of the DS-2019.

How long after the expiration of my visa must I leave the USA?

You have a 30 day grace period once your work placement has ended to spend as a tourist before returning home.

Can I come back again?

Yes as long as you still fulfill the eligibility requirements you can come back as many times as you wish. WorkPlayUSA offers a discounted price for repeat J1 students (contact us)

How good does my English have to be?

You need to be a proficient in both speaking and written English to an intermediate level. The better your English is, the better your job opportunities will be.

Can I apply if I am not a student?

Unfortunately you have to be a student to participate in Work and Travel however you may be eligible for our Trainee Programme

Remember you can only take part in this programme whilst you are a student so don't miss your chance to get out there and explore a new country!

WorkPlayUSA Limited administers its range of programmes on behalf of US Sponsor, ASSE International