Work and Travel – Trips outside the US

It is already the middle of August 2020. Many of you are getting ready for the travel piece of the Work and Travel – Trips outside the US. That includes trips outside of the US. So you might wonder if leaving the country for a short period is possible or not.
When can you leave the US – plan ahead 

During Work and Travel – trips outside the US should fit between the program dates. If you pass your end date from the DS2019, the border staff will not let you re-enter the country. In other words, crossing the border needs to happen when your program is still active.

For how long can you go

Honestly, it is up to you, but keep in mind that you have to return before your program end date. Otherwise, you will not be able to re-enter the US on this particular visa.

What requirements you need to meet

There are two most important requirements – being in a “good status” and having your paperwork in order. It is up to your Sponsor to confirm that you are in a “good status” and allow you to cross the US border on the round trip.


The most important one is your DS2019 with the approval from your Sponsor. The Sponsor will admit that you are in a “good status” and that they allow you to travel outside the country.

It varies from Sponsor to Sponsor, but the most popular procedure is to send by snail mail your DS2019 to the Sponsors’ HQ and wait for the letter. Instructions should be provided even before your departure, as this is quite an important issue.


Before you go, check if:

  • the comeback will take place before the end of the program
  • you have your DS2019 with the Sponsors’ stamp. 
Have a great trip and an unforgettable summer!

Work and Travel – Top sending countries.

Work and Travel Program – where do participants come from, and where do they work? Some numbers for you!

Have you ever wondered how many fellow nationals are taking part in the program with you? And where the heck are all of them working? Let’s start from the beginning.

Number of participants in 2019 and 2018

In 2019 the total number of Work and Travel participants landed on 108,303 participants. 

Wow! It’s more than the population of Boulder, CO. Comparing to 2018 it was a growth of 3.63% from 104,512 students. Unfortunately, 2020 will be much lower than both 2018 and 2019. 

Top receiving states 

Top three states hosting students on the Work and Travel program are:

  • New York – 7,004 
  • Massachusets – 6,985
  • Colorado – 6,855
Crucial part of the Work and Travel is to chill in perfect spots.
Work and Travel – chill and enjoy
Top sending countries:

Every year the numbers tend to fluctuate. Some countries strengthen their position while others are decreasing the number of participants. 

Now, do you have a feeling which country sends the most students? Let’s check the top five:

  • Turkey – 7,548
  • Jamaica – 7,349
  • Romania – 6,840
  • The Dominican Republic – 6,817
  • Peru – 6,613 

You can check the full report here.

Work and Travel in Casinos – fine or not?

When browsing through the program offers, you will find very interesting offers of Work and Travel in casinos. Is it possible? Is it legal? What does it look like? 

Let’s jump into this topic.

The Gambling

What is prohibited in the Work and Travel program is working in positions that involve participants in gambling! Period. In other words, you can’t be table games dealer, slot machines attendant or cashier on the casino floor. 

Read more about the prohibited jobs here

Casinos or resorts?

Having in mind that you can’t work in gambling-related positions, remember that casinos have more to offer to their customers. Casino-Resorts that usually hire Work and Travel participants are large enterprises that have hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, conventions, pools, and much more. You can be involved in, for example, concerts that casinos have to attract customers. Despite gambling being a business core for casinos, they have a lot of amenities, events, and attractions to attract customers. And this is where you can work during the program.

Locations on Work and Travel in Casinos

There are a few famous casino locations in the US, with the most famous Las Vegas and Reno in Nevada and Atlantic City in New Jersey. Other locations are usually outside the cities. What is interesting, most casinos are located in Natives Reservations and are called Indian Casinos. Because of that, they are located outside the cities and it might take 1-2 hours to get there from some bigger city. 

Notable locations, next to the mentioned above, are Mississippi, Florida, California, Louisiana, Iowa, and few others. Some of them are Indian, and some are commercial. The full list can be found here.


Now you know, what positions are prohibited. So what exactly can you do in the casino? Or rather say Casino Resort. You can join such departments as:

  • Food and Beverage Dep 
  • Housekeeping Dep
  • Maintenance Dep
  • Conventions Dep

The list is open but should give you the idea of departments that Casino Resorts have to offer to the Work and Travel participants. Most common positions are:

  • Server
  • Cook
  • Housekeeper
  • Maintenance 
  • Lifeguard/Pool Attendant

Benefits of Work and Travel in Casinos

Casinos are keen to provide you with benefits such as discounted/free meals, discounted tickets for the events, overtime in other departments, and others.

Cons of Work and Travel in Casinos

There are two cons, that are worth mentioning. Firstly, you might be exposed to cigarette or cigar smoke. More and more casinos have smoking-free zones, but you still might get exposed to smoke. 

The second one is the location. Sometimes, it takes up to three hours to get to the city, but there is usually public transportation. So it is a rather small inconvenience.

Work and Travel in Casinos - work in Las Vegas
The fabulous Las Vegas!

We believe that working in the casino has its charm, and you can work there as long as you are not involved directly in gambling. During your work, you can meet celebrities, attend parties, and have fun! Casinos are also a good place to make good money, and we are not talking about gambling 🙂 

We are keen to hear what is your experience of Work and Travel in casinos! Shoot us a message, and we will post it 🙂 

Tipped on non-tipped position – what is better?

That is a good question! As you might be aware, during the program you will face two different types of positions. On will have flat pay, and the other will allow earning tips next to the base salary. 

Usually, tipped positions are linked to direct serving the customers. Restaurants, bars, hotels are the usual places where you can have tipped positions. 

Non-tipped positions are the ones at the back of the house – cooks are a great example. Mostly you will not get tips when working in the stores or equipment rentals, operating rides, or as a lifeguard. 

Sometimes tips are being split to other team members, so even back of the house gang is getting extra money. 

Well done room can earn you tips! But it is not a rule.

An interesting fact is that occasionally, for the outstanding job, housekeepers are also tipped. Remember, it is not a regular extra income 🙂 

Lastly, with tips, you should receive around 10%-20% of the bill. But it is always the gesture of the customer. And your pay should not only rely on tips on the Work and Travel program! There has to be some base salary involved!

It is always up to you, wheater you enjoy conversations and interaction with the customers or rather work alone. There are benefits of tipped positions, but you have to fit in with your personality to use this opportunity. 

Your job – what are the requirements?

When you know what the Work and Travel program is, it makes sense to think about what kind of job in the USA you will have. Several regulations are making sure that both the work and the workplace are meeting such requirements as:

  • work safety,
  • common types of employment,
  • seasonality of employment,
  • colleagues,
  • work shifts,
  • salary,
  • the good status of the employer,
  • exclusions.

Remember that work is just one of the components of the Work and Travel program. It is a very important one, but not the only one!

Work safety:

For the Department of State and the Sponsors, the conditions of your employment are incredibly important. Let us underline it – YOUR WORK MUST BE SAFE. Meaning, your work conditions, duties, and the area where you live must be safe. Period!

Common types of employment:

Work and Travel program is known for providing low-entry level positions to the program participants. That means that usually, you work in restaurants, amusement parks, hotels/resorts, casinos, swimming pools, camps as a line cook, waitperson, bus person, restaurant attendant, lifeguard, housekeeper, front desk attendant, ride attendant, snow machine operators and so on.

Seasonality of employment:

A very important factor – Work and Travel participants should not fill in positions that are not seasonal, and thus be seen as a people that take away work from US citizens. Work and Travel participants come handy to fill in positions that are having peaks during summer/winter peaks. Participants fill the gap that would be impossible to fill in during the peak season. 


Who do you work with? For the Work and Travel participants, it is crucial to meet, learn and be influenced by the US culture and customs. It is required to work in the workplace with a significant percentage of US colleagues. That is why it is prohibited to have such situations as one US citizen and 20 participants working together. It is nearly impossible for you to experience US culture in such a work environment. Remember, Work and Travel is a cultural exchange, not the work program!

Working hours:

Participants can not work predominantly during the night (graveyard shift). Working in the night makes participants tired and they become apathetic in exploring the culture. Is it ok to work in the nighttime once every while? Yes! Is it ok to work predominantly in the night? NO!


For your work during the program, you will be compensated on the same level as your US colleagues. That means, that employers cannot pay you less than regular employees. Also, any regulations regarding overtime apply to you as well.

The good status of the employer:

Before you start your adventure in the US, Sponsors have to make sure that your future employer has a good status. That means no bankruptcies, both insurances, and taxes paid on time, etc.. Sponsors aim to eliminate shady businesses on as early stage as possible.


Work and Travel program protects participants from injuries or exploitation by excluding certain types of jobs. Sponsors will dismiss jobs in such areas as heavy industry, agriculture, adult entertainment, or any job that requires other visa categories. You can read more about the exclusions here.

Key Players in the Work and Travel program

Who will you meet on Work and Travel

When you are preparing for the program, you might wonder who are the key players that are responsible for the Work and Travel program. In other words, who am I going to meet during the process and the program? 

  1. Agencies
  2. Sponsors
  3. USA Embassies 
  4. Employers
  5. US Department of State

The list is a chronological order of when you will meet these players. Each one of them has a different role during the process of the Work and Travel program, and you will only meet with them during certain steps.

To summarize their responsibilities:
  • Agencies – based in your home country, responsible for providing initial information about the program and helping you with the paperwork and visa process. The main responsibility is to advise, recruit and guide you through the process before you leave the country.
  • Sponsors – their main responsibility is to provide every eligible Participant with DS2019 form and to supervise the program when you step on the US soil and begin the Work and Travel program. 
  • US Embassies – this is where you apply for the J1 visa, crucial to enter the US and begin your Work and Travel program.
  • Employers – this is where you work! Based on the location of your workplace, it is also where predominantly you will be based before starting your great, American trip at the end of the Work and Travel program!
  • US Department of State (DoS) – is a government institution that administers and regulates the program. When there are problems during the program that your Sponsor can’t resolve then, well, DoS can 🙂  

We will elaborate on the details in separate articles. This one summarizes, who you will meet during both your application process and during your Work and Travel program. It is crucial to understand the role of each player. 

Fees, fees, fees!

Before you decide on going on the program, remember that there are certain fees to be paid. Make sure you understand what are the total costs before applying because there might be some unexpected expenses that you have to be aware of. 

Some of the fees might not apply to all the participants. 

This article will focus on the classic version of the program, excluding the programs where you have to pay back fees from your paycheck when on the program.

Types of fees:

Application Fee

Before you become a participant, you have to sign the contract and submit the Application Fee. Depending on the location, it is usually a couple of hundred bucks ($150-$350). This fee covers the Agency expenses related to the participant. It should be clearly stated what is covered by this payment to avoid any confusion and dissatisfaction.

You have to submit the payment before you start your Work and Travel application process. 

Program Fee

That is the fee paid by the Agency to the Work and Travel Sponsor. This payment covers the process and creation of the documents on the Sponsors’ end. You can always rely on the Sponsors’ support during your whole Work and Travel program either is to resolve smaller problems or real emergencies. The Sponsor will be there for you! 

To summarize, this fee covers especially:

  • DS2019 – certificate of eligibility, necessary to apply for the J-1 Visa
  • 24/7 assistance in case of emergency
  • administering the program in the USA
  • placement or vetting your placement 

It’s a 35 USD fee every Work and Travel participant has to pay, period 🙂 

SEVIS – is a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System helps the Department of State to monitor, where are the Work and Travel participants currently. It helps the Government to understand and control the program better. 

We will cover SEVIS in a separate article. 

Government information about SEVIS – 


During your program, you have to be covered by the insurance – it is not only clever but also required by the law. The law requires you to be under the insurance only during the Work and Travel program and not the whole stay in the USA. 

There are few ways of calculating the cost of the insurance by the Agencies/Sponsors:

  • fee per day – multiplied by the number of days
  • fee per month – multiplied by the number of months 
  • flat fee – there is one fee no matter what is the duration of the Work and Travel program

Rarely your flat fee will also cover your travel period. 

Insurance starts from around 4USD/day. 


Visa Interview Fee

Visa Interview Fee is submitted directly to the US Embassy or the US Consulate – this fee covers your interview but doesn’t grant the visa. The interview fee is not returnable. It is 160USD. 


Flight ticket prices rely on your location, dates, and final destination. Your Agency will advise you on the average ticket cost. Bear in mind, the later you buy the ticket, the prices might be higher. Lastly, the ticket might be your largest expense connected to the program, so try to arrange it as soon as possible. 

Most of the Work and Travel participants are selecting the round-trip ticket – we recommend this option.

Other Fees

There might be some fees connected to the:

  • licenses or training
  • drug testing 
  • documents to be obtained in your home country (Criminal Background Check, Credit Score)

Please make sure to ask your Agency about any other fees. 

PS 1 You can always try to negotiate some of the fees with your agency 🙂 

PS 2 The above are connected only to the time before the start of the Work and Travel program. Keep in mind, you have to reach your destination and take care of accommodation, etc.

Work and Travel – how to apply?

Work and Travel – how to apply? Before you set your foot in the USA, there are few steps to get you overseas! Below is the procedure in the nutshell 🙂

To apply on the Work and Travel you go trough a couple of milestones:

– selecting the Agency and pre-selecting the Employer
– signing the agreement with the Agency and submitting fee
– interview with the Employer
– executing the paperwork (sometimes tones of papers)
– visa interview
– departure to the USA YAY!

After you land, you can start the Work and Travel program and have a blast! Best summer vacation ever!

The fabulous Las Vegas, NV

Details about each step:

Pre-selecting the Agency and the Employer

This is the first and one of the most important steps. You have to decide on the Employer and the Agency. Be aware, to have an interview with the Employer, you have to sign the agreement and submit the fee to the Agency. Also, during the whole process, you will be guided by the Agency that’s why it is crucial to select the best one.

Try to get as much information about the program of the internet as possible. You can spar the info with the previous participants.

Signing the agreement and submitting the payment.

Excellent news! From this moment you are officially a candidate for the Work and Travel program! Make sure you have all the necessary information from the Agency and you did your research around the Employer! Bottom line – you will spend up to FOUR months working there 🙂 

Research is crucial! Be very selective and don’t believe in everything you hear – at the end of the day, the Agency wants to sell as many programs as possible.

Interview with the Employer

It’s good to bear in mind that on the Work and Travel program, the final word on whether you will be accepted or not has the Employer. Make sure to be prepared for the interview – read about the employer, try to get some information, show your determination and positive attitude. I can also recommend having a couple of conversations in English to practice a bit before THE DAY. 

Secondly – there are a couple of ways to have the interview:
– online 
– face to face during the Job Fair event
– based on the resume 

We recommend being cautious when there is no form of chat before the departure.

Executing the paperwork

There is some work to be done and some documents to be filled out 🙂 Depending on the Agency, the form and the number of documents to be filled out may vary. Usually, the Agency will support you during that process. You will have to fill the documents completely and without any false statements. Try not to do it at the last moment as you want to avoid stress

Late application equals a late visa appointment, and that leads to stress. Avoid it! 🙂

It is very wise to fill the paperwork just after getting the confirmation from the Employer about being selected – always try to reduce any possible delays.

Visa interview

Based on the paperwork, you will receive DS2019 – the certificate of eligibility. With DS2019 and a few supporting documents, you will apply for the J-1 Visa. Agency will support you with that and prepare you for that meeting.

Remember – be calm, be honest and get ready to have fun in the USA! 

Departure to the USA

Passport picked up, ticket in the pocket, and bags packed – looks like you are almost ready. 

Very important, before you go to the airport make sure you:
– have packed everything
– are familiar with the arrival procedure to your Employer
– have planned on how to reach from the airport to your Employer
– have enough money to sustain yourself before the first paycheck

Now you are ready to have the extraordinary vacations on the Work and Travel program. Enjoy and bring tones of great memories.

Work and Travel – Sales tax – USA way :)

Have you ever tried to buy a new pair of Jordans in the USA and despite the price on the shelf 100 USD you had to pay 110 USD? Well, that’s how sales tax works in the USA.

Everybody heard the famous sentence that “in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except “death and taxes”. One of the taxes that you will be mostly surrounded by on the Work and Travel program is the sales tax. Everytime you purchase some goods you have to pay the tax. Easy, right? Not really 🙂 Sales tax is added at the checkout – before that time you don’t know exactly how much you are going to spend.

Every state has different sales tax rate. On the average sales tax is around 8%-10% and can even vary from city to city as the tax is base on the “state tax rate” and “local tax rate”.

Four states have the sales tax rate set on the 0% – Oregon, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire.

The highest sales tax is currently in Atlantic City, NJ – 12.875%.

The procedure in short:

  • you see the price
  • you take the item
  • you go to the counter
  • clerk adds the sales tax
  • you pay you can read more on wikipedia.

Work and Travel Sponsors – who are they?

Work and Travel Sponsors – Sponsoring Organisations – are the Department of State (DoS) designated, not-for-profit organizations that are responsible for administering the Work and Travel program and participants during participants’ stay in the US. It is Sponsors duty to check such procedural issues as:

  • participant eligibility,
  • completeness of documentation,
  • detection of fraudulent documentation,
  • providing accepted contracts of work,
  • having plans in place when a natural disaster hits your area,
  • providing an alternative workplace in case of any issues,
  • ensure that the workplace and work itself are in line with regulations.

DoS designated 39 organizations and gave them the power to issue DS2019 – The Certificate of Eligibility. We will talk about DS2019 in the details in other posts.

Department of State currently paused the admission of the new Work and Travel Sponsors. That means that the number will stay for some time now. This situation only applies for the Work and Travel – you can apply for being a sponsor of other programs if you wish.

Communication with the Sponsors

During your whole work and Travel program, the sponsor maintains communication with you. Sponsors also collect data on where do you stay (physical address), how to reach you (phone number and email), and briefly what are you about (what kind of cultural activities are you a part of). This is all part of the SEVIS – Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.

Reporting to the Sponsors

Work and Travel Sponsors are also responsible for collecting reports from you, both during your stay and post-program. The goal is to improve the program, so the experience in the US is better each season.

Program termination

Important – Sponsors are also the ones that can terminate your Work and Travel program or decline the issuance of DS2019.

The Sponsors are responsible for your safety and outstanding experience in the US.

List of current Sponsors.