Getting a Visa to Work in the USA

How to get a visa to work in the USA

There are roughly three ways for an Aussie to get into the USA to work and travel. High unemployment in the USA may make any visa which allows you to work in the US in danger of being offered to less people or not at all, so be aware there may be changes to the below options:

Temporary work permits or H2B visas.

A number of US companies can sponsor you to work for a certain period of time. This visa is reliant on your position being temporary and the company being able to show that an American could not fill the position.

Temporary work permit programs include:

12 month Holiday working (J1 visa)

Since 2007 you can get a Visa which allows you to work and holiday in the states for up to a year. This J1 visa was introduced during the 2007 APEC meetings in Sydney and has since opened the door to the US for many eligible Australians, allowing them to work in practically any field and in any location in the United States. This is similar to the program option listed above, as you have to be sponsored through an accredited organisation to qualify. The difference is however, your sponsor does not have to organise employment for you. You can arrive jobless, work where you want and stay for up to 12 months. This offers more freedom than the summer camp style options above.

To be eligible, applicants must be full time tertiary or TAFE students who have completed at least one year of their course, or recent graduates who plan to enter the US within 12 months of completing their studies.

Are you eligible?

Applicants need to:

  • hold an Australian passport
  • meet health and character requirements
  • be aged between 18 and 30
  • have no dependent children
  • have a return ticket, or sufficient funds for a return or onward fare
  • have sufficient funds for the first part of the holiday.
  • be enrolled, or be enrolled and deferred, as a post-secondary student, or have graduated within the last 12 months from a post-secondary institution
  • be sponsored by a registered sponsoring organisation

Visa Processing time can be up to four months.  Fees vary depending on which organisation you choose to get sponsorship through, on top of the standard processing fees at the embassy.

What does the Visa allow you to do?

  • Australians can work in the US for any one employer for up to 12 months.
  • Single-entry visa. You cannot depart and re-enter the US on this visa.
  • Australians may undertake informal study while in the US, but not study that leads to qualifications.
  • You are not allowed to have dependents.

It is worth noting that this is a precarious agreement, which is only intended to be temporary. It may be extended or made more restrictive, but either way it is not long standing and if you are interested in doing it don’t put it off, or you may miss out.


Green Card Lottery

If none of the above options are possible for you then there is one more. Every year the USA issues a number of Green Cards which allow non-US citizens to work in the USA. You can apply to go in the Green Card Lottery. This sounds pretty magical and for the lucky few it is, but basically means that you put your name in a very large hat to be given access to work and live in the USA. To find out more: This site gives guidance on eligibility and application processes. is the official government site which tells you who and when you can apply.


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