J1 Essentials

Are you going on a J1 this summer? There is some information that is vital that no one tells you before you leave to go stateside this summer.

The importance stuff first, you obviously need your passport, your DS-2019 and your J1-visa which should be stuck inside your passport by your agency. The DS-2019 is the certificate of eligibility for J1 status in the US so it’s kind of a big deal.

Things you need to know before going to the airport in order to get through immigration on the other end. You need to know your house address down to the street and number. The officers can be particularly strict about this. Make sure to have this written down in case your phone decides to die right at that moment. Another essential thing to have proof of is funds in your Irish bank account going over you need at least €650 to go through immigration without hassle.

Work out a realistic budget before you go and take in consideration the security deposit for where you might live. Be so careful when wiring money for rent before you leave for the US. Also a lot of apartments are rented unfurnished and this is something you should really try to avoid when looking for somewhere to live for only three months. Please do not sign a lease before you’ve understood the T & C’s. Always get a receipt for paying rent and try avoid cash because you may be exploited.

Get a post office card, top it up, and have them with you at all times. Taking money out of your Irish bank account isn’t ideal over there and sometimes the Irish banks lock your account due to a fear of fraudulent behaviour and then you are stuck in the US with no access to cash for a few days. Don’t keep all your money in one place.

Make copies of all your documentation, and leave a copy with your family this includes Visas. Honestly, it’s essential to cover yourself in all areas.  Insurance is something that isn’t emphasised when going across the pond, however health care is outrageously expensive in the US so it’s invaluable to have insurance when you leave to cover yourself. Otherwise, you could be left with extreme medical expenses.

After my J1 in San Francisco there was a few things that I learned that nobody told me before I left. Firstly, you may not be paid for over a month, so you need to have enough coming over to cover rent and food for minimum one full month. You need to make sure your US employer puts you in as a J1 student on the payroll so you don’t get majorly taxed.

It is extremely difficult to get some of the tax back if they wrongly put you down as an American citizen. Also it’s important to note to keep copies of all the documentation associated with your pay given to you by your employer. It is really helpful to keep track of the hours you are working and log what you should be getting paid. Sometimes it can be an issue that American employers won’t pay full hours so cover yourself from the start.

As soon as you land over there it’s so important to get your social security number sorted very quickly so you can be paid as soon as possible. A delay in getting this means a delay in getting paid.

Main thing to remember is to keep your wits about you at all times. Take serious care of your passport. Save yourself from the stress, by having relevant documentation the whole time. Manage your time outside of working hours to get the best experience possible.

Lorna Lawless

Image Credit: Lorna Lawless