work and travel in the us

Work & Travel in the USA

As a Spirit participant, you will practice your English skills and learn about American customs while living and working side by side with Americans and other J-1 Work and Travel participants from around the world. Placements can include seasonal positions at resorts, hotels, restaurants, retail stores, theme parks, and national parks across the United States.

Program Details

work-and-travel-in-the-us-with-spiritWhen you participate in Spirit’s J-1 Work and Travel program, you will receive:

  • One job offer lasting 3 – 4 months at one of Spirit’s cooperating Host Employers
  • At least one safe and affordable housing option
  • Suggestions on local cultural activities to enjoy during your program
  • DS 2019 form issued by Spirit to support your application for a J-1 Work and Travel visa
  • Online orientation session to prepare you for your program in the United States
  • Accident and medical insurance provided during your program dates
  • Free tax preparation service after your program ends to ensure you receive any tax refund due
  • Access to Spirit’s online support center and 24-hour emergency support from Spirit’s staff

Program Requirements

IMG_7585.JPGTo participate in Spirit’s J-1 Work and Travel Program, you must meet the following qualifications:

  • Be 18–29 years old.
  • Be interested in learning about the culture and people of the United States.
  • Enrolled as a full-time student in a post-secondary, classroom-based academic institution in your home country
  • Possess the ability to speak, read and understand English at an intermediate level.
  • Pass an in-person or web-based interview conducted by a Spirit staff member.
  • Be able to participate during your university’s “main” break between terms. Participation during other secondary breaks from school is not allowed.
  • Be willing to work in an entry-level job for the full program period, such as in food and beverage or housekeeping at a hotel or lifeguarding at a water park.

work & travel in US cultural activitiesAs a Spirit Work & Travel participant, you will interact daily with Americans at your Host Employer making new friends from the USA and around the world.  It is also important that you participate in a variety of cultural activities during your free time, so you are able to fully experience all that the USA has to offer.

Cultural activities include the things you do that expose you to the diverse life and culture of the United States. Examples of cultural activities include: 

  • Visiting a museum or historic site 
  • Gathering with American friends for meals, games, or movies etc. 
  • Volunteering in the local community 
  • Touring a US city or visiting a tourist site in your host community 
  • Visiting a national park 
  • Attending an American sporting event or rodeo! 

Don’t forget that your J-1 visa also provides up to 30 days of grace period travel time after your program end date. Plan ahead to make the most of your grace period by considering the convenience and savings of a travel package from TrekAmerica, a group travel provider that offers Spirit participants an exclusive 10% discount off direct bookings for their travel tours of the USA! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where will I work in the United States?

You can expect to be placed in a small to medium sized American community that experiences seasonal tourism.  Whether you are placed in a small town in Colorado or the water park capital of the world in Wisconsin, you will likely be placed in an entry level hospitality job unless you have special skills that qualify you for a more skilled placement, such as lifeguarding or a front desk position.

How many hours will I work per week?

Participants can expect to work an average of 30 hours per week over the course of their program.

Can I work more than one job?

Yes, however J-1 Work and Travel participants who wish to work a second job must submit required paperwork and receive approval from Spirit before starting any new employment. Second jobs should not interfere with the work schedule at your primary employer.

How much will housing cost in the US?

Housing cost depends on the area and availability. Most housing for J-1 Work and Travel participants ranges from $250 -$500 per month for shared housing.

What should I do before I arrive in the US?

Once you are accepted to the program, be sure to do the following:

  • Log in to the Participant Support Center to view your online orientation, access your monthly check-in form and view information on insurance, recommended cultural activities and much more.
  • Review your job offer. Your job offer has very important information on your position, housing, cultural activity suggestions and arrival transportation information. All participants are required to read and review their job offers in order to prepare for their Work and Travel Program. Follow all instructions on your job offer.
  • Reserve your housing. In many cases, you must reserve housing before arrival to ensure the best rate and availability! We recommend reserving your housing as soon as you accept your job offer. Participants who wait too long risk losing their affordable housing options.
  • Reserve transportation.  International flights can become more expensive if not purchased early enough. Contact your home sending agency about their recommendations for purchasing your transportation to the USA. Make sure to upload your flight information and arrival plans to the Participant Support Center, so Spirit and your Host Employer know when to expect your arrival.
  • Prepare a Budget.  Prepare your financial plan to make sure that you arrive in the USA with enough money to cover food, housing and settling in expenses until you receive your first paycheck. Most participants do not receive their first paycheck until 2 – 3 weeks after they begin working, so make sure you have at least $1,000 available to you after arrival in the USA.

What should I do after I arrive in the US?

After arrival in the USA, be sure to take the following steps:

  • Stay in contact. Upon arrival in the USA, email your Host Employer to let them know that you are in the US and when you can be expected to arrive to their location. You can also keep Spirit and your Host Employer up to date on your arrival plans by updating your travel plans in the Participant Support Center.  Don’t forget to contact your relatives back home to let them know that you safely arrived in the USA.
  • Submit a SEVIS Update. SEVIS is a United States government system that tracks your program status and where you live and work during your program.  It is important that you follow federal regulatory requirements and submit a SEVIS Update to Spirit via the Participant Support Center within 7 days of your arrival in the United States and within 7 days of changing your housing or job address.  Any work address changes must be approved by Spirit in advance.
  • Submit a Monthly Check-In every 30 days.  It is important that you check in with Spirit at least every 30 days to confirm that everything is going well with your program. It’s also a great time to let us know if you need assistance. You can do this by submitting a Monthly Check-In via the Participant Support Center.
  • Make time for cultural activities.  Cultural activities are the cornerstone of all Spirit programs.  Participating in cultural gatherings and events during your program is a wonderful way to enhance your knowledge of the life and culture of the USA. Sample cultural activities include:- Volunteering in the local community
    – Visiting a museum or historic site
    – Gathering with American friends for meals, games, or movies, etc.
    – Touring a US city
    – Visiting a national park
    – Attending an American sporting event

The opportunities are endless! It’s important that you enjoy at least two cultural activities per month to meet the terms of your program. Consult your job offer for cultural activity suggestions in your local area of the USA.

  • Contact Spirit with any questions. Spirit staff are available to answer any questions you may have by emailing support@spiritexchange.com or by calling 1 (800) 390-0978 during office hours, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Central Time, Monday – Friday. We can also be reached in an emergency 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1 800-390-0978 and selecting extension 399 to reach our emergency answering service.

Get Started on Your Work & Travel Adventure

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What our past participants say…

Summer Work Travel is a great opportunity to make friends and travel and get to know new cultures and beautiful places. The most important thing I have learned is that no matter how different we are in terms of culture, there will always be that wonderful way to make friends.- Fraudy P. from Dominican Republic, Work & Travel Participant
Spirit was awesome! Comparing other sponsors with Spirit, I came to the conclusion that I am so lucky. I love Spirit!- Aigyerim L. from Mongolia, Work & Travel Participant, Minnesota
All the prejudices you may have will be knocked down when you have the opportunity to meet this beautiful country and amazing people. I love this country and these people. I can't just choose one favorite activity or experience. It has been a summer I will never forget.- Marta J. from Spain, Work & Travel Participant, North Carolina