The USA’s Working Holiday Program for Australians

The USA’s Working Holiday Program for Australians
Brooklyn Bridge in New York, USA. Photo by Matt Graham.

The United States offers welcomes citizens of other countries to participate in its exchange visitor program in a variety of categories. For example, it issues exchange visitor (J) visas to exchange students, physicians, au pairs, scholars, teachers, interns, specialists and camp counsellors.

One of the exchange visitor program categories is “Summer Work Travel”. Citizens from most countries can travel and work in the USA for up to 4 months with this type of visa, however Australian and New Zealand citizens who are full-time students can stay for up to 12 months.

During the year, you’ll get to experience US culture while having an opportunity to work in seasonal or unskilled temporary jobs. This makes the Summer Work Travel Pilot Program ideal for Australian (and New Zealander) students looking to undertake a working holiday in the United States.

However, this program works a bit differently to most regular working holiday programs as you’ll need to find (and pay for) a sponsor. There is also no age limit, but you would need to be a current full-time university or TAFE student (or have graduated in the past year).

This page contains information about the USA’s Summer Work Travel Pilot Program for Australian citizens. It was last updated on 7 May 2021.

(See the BridgeUSA website for more general information about the J-1 Visa and various program categories.)

Please note that COVID-19 may impact your ability to travel to the USA at this time. (See US Department of State website for more information.)

Key facts about the United States of America (USA)

  • Population: Approx. 330 million
  • Official language: While the USA does not have an official language, English is the de-facto language
  • Capital city: Washington DC
  • Largest cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia
  • Currency: United States Dollar (USD)
Fishermans wharf
San Francisco, USA. Photo by Matt Graham.

USA Summer Work Travel Pilot Program requirements

To participate in the USA Summer Work Travel Pilot Program as an Australian citizen, you must meet the following requirements:

You cannot apply for this visa if you:

  • Will be accompanied by dependent children
  • Have already taken part in the Summer Work Travel program (however, you may take part if you’ve previously held another J-1 visa category)

The US Department of State website has more information about this visa. You’ll also find detailed information about the documents required when applying for a US visa on this page of the US Department of State website.

people on beach
Honolulu, USA. Photo by Jess Vide on Pexels.com.

How to apply for the Summer Work Travel Pilot Program

The USA’s exchange visitor program is different to the working holiday programs offered by most other countries. To participate in the Australian Summer Work Travel Pilot Program category of the exchange visitor program, you’ll first need to find a sponsor.

You can find a list of designated sponsors on the BridgeUSA website. You can also search by home country. The sponsor will provide you with specific program and application requirements. Program sponsors are responsible for selecting participants and will also help you during your stay in the United States. Fees are payable to sponsors.

If you are accepted into the program, your sponsor will issue you with the necessary form (DS-2019). You’ll then need to pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee, fill out an Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form (DS-160) and pay the USD160 (approx. AUD220) visa application fee.

Once this has been completed, you can schedule an interview at your nearest US consulate (Sydney, Melbourne or Perth). You may need to book an appointment well in advance. On the day of your interview, bring:

  • The completed Form DS-2019
  • Form DS-160 confirmation page
  • Valid Australian passport
  • Passport-sized photo
  • Visa application fee receipt

For more information, see the US Department of State website. This website has also published a helpful step-by-step guide to applying for a J-1 visa.


While best efforts are made to keep this information updated, we do not guarantee its accuracy. If you spot an error, would like to suggest new information to be added or simply have a question, please let us know in the comments and we’ll endeavour to respond or update the article as quickly as possible!

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