About Work and Travel USA

You are participating in the J-1 Summer Work Travel program. The primary purpose of your J-1 program is for cultural exchange. Please note that you may not earn enough funds from working in the U.S. to recover the costs or expenses of your program. If you are only interested in making money, this is not the program for you. As part of your exchange, you are allowed to work in temporary or seasonal positions within the program start and end date on your DS-2019 Form. In addition, you are not entering the U.S. on a tourist visa (B2). You are required to work and to comply with the terms of your program and Training Plan.

The Exchange Visitor Program fosters global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges. As an exchange visitor in the U.S., you are required to return to your home/school country upon completion of your program in order to share your exchange experiences. GEC encourages you to share your cultural activity experiences with us by sending us photos and taking the time to share your experiences when you submit your monthly monitoring questionnaires.

Work & Travel USA brings so many benefits. You will;

  • Challenge yourself and gain independence and maturity
  • Explore life in the USA with maximum freedom and at minimum cost
  • Earn money to use to travel around the country at the end of your program
  • Get first hand experience of working in American business culture that will enhance your future career prospects
  • Enhance your resume and give yourself a competitive edge in the jobs marketplace
  • Make friends from all over the world
  • Have lots of fun!

Once you complete your program, you may travel in the U.S. for up to 30 days before returning to your home/school country provided you return before the official academic start date of your university. You will find more detailed information regarding employment and travel periods later in this handbook.

Setting a Budget

Below is a helpful guide of average expenses in the U.S. Exact costs will vary based on different locations throughout the U.S. This only serves as a guide to assist you with creating a budget based on your hours and the wages earned from your work agreement.
Be sure that the dollar amount of funds you are required to bring with you to the U.S. will cover your first several weeks of expenses until you are able to start earning money in the U.S.

Average costs:

RENT $600 – $1250 per month (Based on a room in an apartment or house with shared kitchen, living room, bathroom)
RENTAL DEPOSIT $100 – $500 Paid along with the first month’s rent, and may or may not be refundable
UTILITIES $100 – $300 per month May include electricity, water, phone, gas, trash pickup
UTILITY DEPOSITS $25 – $150 May be required by some rental properties
GROCERIES $150 – $500 per month Based on your personal choices
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION $4.00 – $20.00 per one-way trip
PERSONAL TRANSPORT $5.00 – $25.00 per one-way trip

Optional Living Expenses and Travel

  • Cell phone monthly fee: $35 – $100
  • Cell phone activation: $50-$150(Usually charged to activate phone at the beginning of plan)
  • Meals (dining out): $15.00 and up per meal plus tip
  • Movie Ticket: $10.00 – $15.00
  • Hotel/motels: $99 and up per night
  • Youth hostels: $20 – $75 per night (where available) 48

Average Price Guide for Basics

  • Cereal (1 package): $5.00
  • Milk (1 gallon): $4.00
  • Bread (1 loaf): $2.50
  • Fast Food Meal: $8.00
  • Large Pizza: $18.00
  • Bananas (1 pound): $5.00
  • Average Lunch: $12.00
  • Soda (6 pack): $4.00

Jobs & Working

You will make a choice among great variety of seasonal jobs in the USA. You can work at restaurants, hotels, retail stores, amusement parks, ski resorts or national parks. GEC works with a number of well-chosen U.S. seasonal employers who provide reliable jobs with competitive salaries, and many even offer affordable housing.

Seasonal jobs usually let you earn enough money to use to travel around the country at the end of your program.

Below is a sample list of common work and travel job categories.


  • Admissions
  • Parking host
  • Cashier
  • Ride operator
  • Games operator
  • Guest services

  • Cashier
  • Store clerk
  • Ice cream shop worker
  • Product stocker

  • Waiter/waitress
  • Host/hostess
  • Dishwasher
  • Busser
  • Prep cook
  • Line cook

  • Housekeeping
  • Waitstaff
  • Front desk clerk
  • Guest services
  • Concierge
  • Gift shop clerk

  • Lift operator
  • Ticket sales
  • Snow removal
  • Cashier
  • Rental shop attendant

Prohibited jobs at Work and Travel USA program.

In accordance with the program regulations, you are not allowed to work at some certain kinds of jobs as in below.

  • In positions that could bring notoriety or disrepute to the Exchange Visitor Program;
  • In sales positions that require Students to purchase inventory that they must sell in order to support themselves;
  • In domestic help positions in private homes (e.g., child care, elder care, gardener, chauffeur);
  • As pedicab or rolling chair drivers or operators;
  • As operators or drivers of vehicles or vessels for which drivers’ licenses are required regardless of whether they carry passengers or not;
  • In positions related to clinical care that involves patient contact;
  • In any position in the adult entertainment industry (including, but not limited to jobs with escort services, adult book/video stores, and strip clubs);
  • In positions requiring work hours that fall predominantly between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.;
  • In positions declared hazardous to youth by the Secretary of Labor at Subpart E of 29 CFR part 570;
  • In positions that require sustained physical contact with other people and/or adherence to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Universal Blood and Body Fluid Precautions guidelines (e.g., body piercing, tattooing, massage, manicure);
  • In positions that are substantially commission-based and thus do not guarantee that Students will be paid minimum wage in accordance with federal and state standards;
  • In positions involved in gaming and gambling that include direct participation in wagering and/or betting;
  • In positions in chemical pest control, warehousing, catalogue/online order distribution centers;
  • In positions with travelling fairs or itinerant concessionaires;
  • In positions for which there is another specific J category (e.g., camp counselor, intern, trainee);
  • After November 1, 2012, in positions in the North American Industry Classification System’s (NAICS) Goods-Producing Industries occupational categories industry sectors 11, 21, 23, 31-33 numbers (set forth at bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag_index_naics.htm).

Health Insurance

The U.S. government requires all J-1 participants to be insured for the duration of their program. Failure to maintain insurance is a violation of your program and will result in the termination of your program even if your program has ended.

  • The program fee you pay covers the cost of the J-1 compliant insurance. More specific information regarding the medical insurance (including exclusions and limitations) can be found in your Program Materials when you log into your GEC record.
  • You must validate your program upon your entry in the U.S. in order to be enrolled and covered on the policy. Please keep in mind that your insurance policy will expire on the end date listed on your DS-2019 Form. If you will be in the U.S. anytime after the end date on your DS-2019 Form, you are responsible for contacting GEC for an insurance extension. If you fail to notify GEC for additional coverage, it will result in your program termination as well as making you responsible for any medical expenses incurred.
  • If your program is shortened or terminated, your insurance coverage will also end.
  • The insurance policy is offered through an insurance company, not GEC. GEC cannot guarantee the insurance company’s payment of claims. You are ultimately responsible for paying any medical costs that exceed the limits, where conditions are excluded from payment, for excess charges due to not using a network provider, etc. You are also responsible for completing a claim form and providing any documentation requested in order for the insurance company to process your claim within the required timeframe.
  • After reviewing the GEC insurance materials, you may want additional insurance coverage benefits while you are in the U.S. It will be your responsibility to purchase an additional policy on your own.

Ready to start your USA adventure?