Here is the first in our series of blogs posts about how members of the consular team have spent time in the United States.
After graduating with an American Studies degree I wanted to work in the U.S. but I knew there wasn’t a general working-holiday visa. Luckily I found out that the J-1 visa isn’t just for working at a summer camp or studying in America, it can allow for professional work and training too.
Sometimes an employer can provide the necessary sponsorship directly, but I went through a work exchange program. That opened up an opportunity that I’d never have found on my own – a placement in New York with one of the world’s biggest companies! I was never treated like an ‘intern’ – I was given real responsibility straight away. It was hard work and sometimes long hours but the experience was invaluable for my career – and the view wasn’t bad either!
As it was an internship, I can’t say I made my fortune but the fees I paid to the program sponsor included the cost of my accommodation and a postgraduate qualification, plus a stipend for my living costs. It was enough to pay for over 30 concert tickets and lots of weekend travel – including a music festival in Chicago.
One great thing about the J-1 visa is the ‘grace period’ which gives you 30 days to travel in and around the United States at the end of the program. I knew someone who got caught out as they went to Canada in that time and didn’t realize they couldn’t come back in using their J-1 visa – they almost missed their flight home! Seemed a shame not to take the opportunity to travel in America anyway – there’s more than enough to see in 30 days. I went to Alaska and it was stunning.
So, that was my year. It’s nice to be back, of course, but I’ll never forget the time when this was the view from my bedroom window!
Interested in having your own US summer or year? There’s lots of great information about the J-1 visa program, including a list of program sponsors, at http://j1visa.state.gov/participants/ You can then check our website at http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/niv_visa_categories.html for information about the visa application process in London or Belfast. There’s also a list of other visa categories there, in case you have something else in mind for your time in the U.S. If you just want to go for a holiday, first check if you’re eligible to travel visa-free: http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/vwp.html
Do you have photos to share? You may be interested in the competition being run by our friends at @USAinUK #MyUSATravel. Check out the details athttp://london.usembassy.gov/events/2014/2014_003.html
(Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia)