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If you're thinking of a J1 the new job rules shouldn't stop you (as long as you don't delay)

You need a job before you go out, so go get one.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

NOW IT’S CONFIRMED that the J1 programme has undergone a really significant change, the message for students is that last minute decisions won’t cut it anymore.

Despite intensive lobbying from the government, Irish students who want to spend their summer living and working in the US will have to organise a job before they get there.

It’s all part of an effort in the US to tighten up their temporary visa system.

Although Taoiseach Enda Kenny said there are fears that it could lead to a “60% or 80%” drop in students making the transatlantic rite of passage, those involved in administering the visas say it need not be so.

One of the travel companies offering that advice is Usit, the company points out that there are already stateside employers who are keen to take on wannabe J1 students.

Usit says it has been examining the implications of the changes for some time and that the new rules add an extra layer of paperwork but shouldn’t prevent students from going.

Applying for a J1 visa has always entailed paperwork and it’s being advised that it takes about 12 weeks to process the documents.

That means that you’re going to need a written job commitment from an employer when you apply, knowing that it could take 12 weeks before you hear back.

In practice, it’s about students understanding that a bit more effort is needed, according to Sinn Fein Senator Trevor O Clochartaigh:

You’d be more worried about the students who leave it until the last minute who haven’t taken on board that there is a change and will be hoping to apply for a J1 but haven’t realised that they have jumped through these extra hoops.

Interexchange and Council for International Educational Exchange (CIEE) are the two sponsors of the program sponsors for J1 students in Ireland.

So how do I go about contacting an employer?

It might seem a bit daunting to start sending CVs to American employers before the summer, so there are a number of different routes to guide you.

Firstly, if you have any contacts in a city you’re looking to go to, early in the new year is the time to contact them.

The US government J1 visa website also has a list of different sponsor organisations that work with US employers to place J1 students. If you want to cut out the middle man, that’s a route you can go down.

It’ll require you to do much of the paperwork yourself and the US Embassy in Dublin has some advice on that.

But if you’re keen for someone to put you in touch with an employer, some travel agencies are offering to set you up as long as you book through them.

Usit says they’re already scheduling some Skype interviews and there’s a job fair set for February.

Either way, waiting until march to make a decision will not be good enough.

“I know that over Christmas is when a lot of students will be focusing on what to do during the summer and getting cheap tickets and that,” says Ó Clochartaigh.

Really, we’re saying that it’s not an over onerous task, it can be done, you just need to be prepared and you need to know that you have to do it. Rather than coming up at the last minute saying that I planned to get a J1 but now it’s too late and I can’t get a letter.

Read: The J1 was a rite of passage for me. We’re not all party-animals >

Read: Minister to J1 students: You WILL need a job to secure a US visa next summer >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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