A J1 is usually the first time you’ll spend a long time away from Ireland and it can be stressful trying to get organised for your big adventure. Luckily, we’re here to help! Having taken feedback from thousands of past J-1 Visa students we’ve provided you with this Definitive Guide to the Vital Essentials that will maximise your fun and minimise your stress.
There are some vital documents you will need to get into the country. Your passport, your DS-2019 and your J-1 Visa. Your DS-2019 is the certificate of eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status. The DS-2019 is the official document that allows participants to work legally while on the J-1 Summer Work and Travel Programme.
Your J1 Visa goes inside your passport so make sure you don’t lose your passport before your J1 as your new one won’t have your visa inside!
It’s never any harm to keep a hard and soft copy of all your documents so email them to a trustworthy friend or family member back home.
Get an An Post Currency Card! It’s a Master Card you can top up online or by using the app and it can be a real lifesaver. You can track your spending and it will help you budget effectively. Using this card you can avoid bank transfer charges that you would get with your Irish bank account. And, they charge 0% Commission every time you top up.
The best thing about this card is that it acts as your safety net. Losing your wallet or purse abroad can be a stressful experience. Keeping your An Post Currency Card in a safe place means that if you happen to lose your debit card, you have a backup plan and won’t be stuck for funds. You can also use it when going through Immigration to show proof of available funds, all you have to do is show them proof of how much you loaded the An Post card with.
You will also find in America that some purchases require a credit card, for example, booking a hotel room or renting a car. This is where your An Post currency card comes in handy as it is classed as a ‘credit card’ in America. If you’re planning a road trip on your J1, your An Post currency card can make it happen!
How to get it
- Visit your local participating Post Office outlet
- Bring a Valid ID (passport, EU driving licence etc) & proof of address (bank statement or a household bill in your name)
- Load & Reload your desired amount
- Top Up whenever you need on the website
- Safer than cash
- Good to have as a backup card
- Can use to show proof of money at Immigration
- Cheaper than credit card
- Flexible payments
- No point of sale fees overseas
- Download the app on your phone and keep track of your balance and spending
Organising your Finances
You must have proof of your available funds when entering the country. Make sure you have printed bank statements and access to your online banking app, to prove you have at least $800 (approx €700) in your account or in cash. You can also load your An Post card with money and show them proof at Immigration. It might not be a good idea to have all your money in cash but maybe bring a small amount with you for taxis, food and the likes before you get set up in your new abode.
What to pack
Bring your own plug adapters, it’s hard to get Irish to American plug converters in America and they can be expensive. Check out what the weather will be like for your Summer stateside, not all states get Californian weather, so pack wisely. The last thing you want is having to waste money on jeans and jumpers that you had at home. Pack your swimming gear, if you think that getting cheap bikinis or trunks when over there is going to happen then forget it, Penny’s is a mythical store in America, so make sure to do a shop for the essentials there before you go. And, don’t forget the teabags!
Tip: Bring a few outfits and essentials in your carry on bag in case your suitcase gets delayed between your connecting flights.
Tips before you leave
- Make sure you let your bank know you’re going abroad, sometimes, if banks see unusual activity they will block your card.
- Another top tip is to make sure your phone is unlocked for any network, you might need to contact your provider to get it unlocked (contact them at least 2 weeks in advance of you leaving), this way you can use an American sim card.
- Get your family on Whatsapp (if they aren’t already on it), this way it’s free for you to contact each other.
- Share your location with a close friend or family member on “Snapchat” or “Find Friends”. This way if you lose your phone, you’ll have a chance of finding it. Just make sure you have enough data to enable location services.
Fancy winning an An Post currency card with a balance of $130? Keep an eye on USIT’s social media channels where we’ll be running competitions in the run up to summer!