A working holiday is a great way to immerse yourself in a different culture, build your CV and quench your thirst for knowledge of a country which is a far cry from your own. If America is your thing then a working holiday to ‘The Land of the Free’ is a very popular option. A working holiday visa is a permit which allows the holder to travel and importantly undertake legal employment, or study, in the country for which that visa was granted. Without this, if a traveller is found to be working illegally, the consequences can be very harsh indeed.
There are a number of ways in which you can organise temporary working arrangements to experience America.
For the majority, this is usually via what is termed an ‘exchange visa’ or J category visa which allows temporary provisions be put in place to combine the experiences of life, work and a holiday in this exciting country. The scope of the type of jobs the J category visa allows ranges widely from childcare to youth camp workers (such as a camp councillor) to other seasonal or domestic work including working as an au pair, gardening or being a valet.
You may also apply under this class of visa under a Cultural Exchange Program, for example when a school, university, museum or other business needs to visit America in conjunction with training or employment that has a cultural facet to it.
However, there are some other visa types which may be applicable to different circumstances. Academics, students and recent graduates may also be granted an F category visa to continue study or research within America while the H category visa is usually designated for those with a specific job offer from an American employer.
To obtain any visa, you must meet certain eligibility criteria laid down by the US Government. In the case of the J visa, you need to be sponsored by or have a job offer from either a private company or a government sponsored program. These programs are sometimes known as Exchange Visitor Programs (EVPs). These schemes are recognised by the US Government and while the exchange quota numbers for these coveted stamps in your passport can vary from year to year, it has never been easier to arrange one.
Programs such as BUNAC’s ‘Work America’ program are one of the most prolific ways to obtain a J visa as is the well known ‘Camp America’ program. Other agencies such as Cultural Homestay International, Interexchange and Work Experience USA are also available.
In addition, once obtained either the J or the F category visa makes an allowance for the holder to remain in the country for 30 days prior to and after the designated start date and expiry date to allow for additional travel. It is essential that you give yourself plenty of time to complete the visa application. It is also advisable that your passport is the current issue ‘biometric’ and chipped style passport.
Arranging a visa to allow you to plan your working holiday is not always straight forwards and specialist help and advice is available from people who know the process inside out. With help from experts in visas and applying for them, this process will be made as stress free as possible meaning you can get on with the important things in life like enjoying you stay in America.