Work & Travel

The U.S. Department of State Summer Work Travel, Cultural Exchange program began more than 45 years ago. This successful diplomatic initiative allows university students to enter the United States, work for up to four months, and travel while they learn about America. The program promotes cultural exchange and goodwill, enriching the students as well as the businesses and communities that welcome them.

AHA is proud to be a part of this initiative and has been a U.S. Department of State-designated sponsor of the J-1 Summer Work Travel program since 1997. We serve as visa sponsor, international recruiting and hiring service, cultural exchange guide, and facilitator. When you choose AHA’s Work & Travel program, you’ll meet your business needs, benefit your community, and promote international understanding, all at the same time. And, we do it all in a way that makes your job easier, with outstanding support. The work and travel program is good for your business, good for the world!

Our Cultural Exchange participants represent a wide range of skills, personalities and cultural backgrounds. Each participant is excited for the opportunity to live and work in the United States, bringing their skills to your company and improving their understanding of America.

All Work Travel participants are:

  • Between the ages of 18 and 28
  • Full time students actively pursuing a degree and have completed at least one semester.
  • Proficient in spoken and written English
  • Excited to learn about American culture while sharing their culture.
In addition to adhering to the rules and regulations of the visa, AHA and the host, we would like to highlight the following. Please help us to make sure all participants are in compliance:
  • Work and Travel Participants must register with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). This means they must inform AHA when they arrive so their visa can be validated. Additionally they must inform AHA anytime their address changes or any part of their program changes.
  • Participants must complete the monthly check-ins – this is a visa requirement.
  • Participants are NOT permitted to begin 2nd employment until such employment is fully vetted and approved by AHA Violation can result in the termination of the J-1 visa

Work Travel participants can spend a total of four months in the United States spending their summer breaks from university working and traveling around the country.

The U.S. Department of State regularly updates its Official Country Eligibility Dates, but participants' actual availability dates depend significantly on their university academic calendars.

AHA connects international students with life-changing cultural exchange opportunities. We are passionate about the making the world a better place through hospitality and cultural understanding. Hospitality is our passion! We understand the service industry, the challenges you face on a day-to-day basis, the dedication and commitment required to exceed your guests expectations. Incorporating the work and travel program is an ideal solution to your seasonal staffing needs, a way to promote cross-cultural exchange, a chance for international students to experience the U.S. firsthand. Here are a few of the positions AHA work and travel participants have enjoyed working in the past, plus many more!

  • Front Desk Clerk
  • Housekeeping/Room Attendant
  • Guest Services
  • Reservations
  • Public Areas Attendant
  • Bell Staff
  • Parking Lot Attendant
  • Concierge
  • Maintenance (Grounds and General)
  • PBX Operator
  • F&B Waitstaff/Host/Cashier/Banquet Server
  • Laundry Attendant
  • Bartender
  • Security
  • Dishwasher/Busser/Utility
  • Pool Lifeguard
  • Food Runner/Line Server
  • Line/Prep/Banquet Cook
  • Retail Sales Associates/Cashier
  • Gift Shop Clerk/Stocker

Prohibited Positions

AHA must vet all initial, replacement and additional jobs based on U.S. Department of State regulations and guidance to verify that participants will be pursuing the purpose of the J-1 Visa program. The following positions are not allowed on the AHA Work & Travel program:

  1. In positions that could bring notoriety or disrepute to the Exchange Visitor Program;
  2. In sales positions that require participants to purchase inventory that they must sell in order to support themselves;
  3. In domestic help positions in private homes (e.g., child care, elder care, gardener, chauffeur);
  4. As pedicab or rolling chair drivers or operators;
  5. As operators or drivers of vehicles or vessels for which drivers' licenses are required regardless of whether they carry passengers or not;
  6. In positions related to clinical care that involve patient contact;
  7. In any position in the adult entertainment industry (including, but not limited to jobs with escort services, adult book/video stores, and strip clubs);
  8. In positions requiring work hours that fall predominantly between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.;
  9. In positions declared hazardous to youth by the Secretary of Labor at Subpart E of 29 CFR part 570;
  10. 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 (including henna), massage, manicure, hair braiding);
  11. In positions that are substantially commission-based and thus do not guarantee that participants will be paid minimum wage in accordance with federal and state standards;
  12. In positions involved in gaming and gambling that include direct participation in wagering and/or betting;
  13. In positions in chemical pest control, warehousing, catalogue/online order distribution centers;
  14. In positions with travelling fairs or itinerant concessionaires;
  15. 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, including, but not limited to: construction (includes specialty trade contractors), mining (includes oil and gas extraction, support activities for mining), manufacturing (food manufacturing, textile mills, apparel manufacturing, wood product manufacturing, printing), natural resources (crop production, animal production, fishing, support activities for agriculture and forestry);
  16. Positions through employment or staffing agencies;
  17. Positions in kiosks or cart stands at malls;
  18. Positions in home based businesses;
  19. Positions in warehouses or factories;
  20. Administrative positions handling sensitive/personal information;
  21. Positions as an independent contractor (1099 Form employee);
  22. Positions in fisheries;
  23. Positions in door-to-door sales or canvassing;
  24. Positions in industrial style/scale service sector (jobs that involve assembly lines, repetitive movement using heavy machinery, use of industrial size steamers/pressers and dryers, use of industrial chemicals, factory-like atmosphere);
  25. Positions that involve the use of deli slicers;
  26. Positions that are not compensated hourly e.g. piece wages, stipends, etc.

The U.S. Department of State J-1 visa program is very successful at the root of this success are regulations designed to protect students and ensure that they have a worthwhile cultural exchange experience in the United States.

As with many regulations, the rules set a minimum baseline for compliance. AHA believes that going above and beyond the minimum adds value for students, employers and communities, and enhances U.S. public diplomacy. Each student must have a confirmed, AHA-approved job that is compatible with the rules, regulations, and intent of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, which focuses on cultural exchange. When considering hosting cultural exchange participants for the work and travel program, ask yourself the following:

  • Do I have a seasonal need that can provide participants with an average of 32 hours or more per week? I understand I cannot schedule participants in positions requiring work hours that predominately fall between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. (frequently referred to as graveyard shift in the hospitality industry)
  • Is it possible to pay participants during their wait period of getting their Social Security numbers? Please note, it is legal for the employer to assign participants a "dummy number" and add to payroll as soon as they arrive and begin the programs - it may take up to 8 weeks for participants to receive their Social Security numbers.
  • Can I provide a positive work and cultural exchange experience that complies with all Federal, State and Local laws regarding employment and occupational health and safety to include wage and hour law?
  • Can I provide or assist in identifying suitable, affordable housing for participants?
  • Will I be able to facilitate transportation or direct participants on how to use local transportation?
  • Can I provide opportunities for participants to engage in cultural activities and interact with Americans in the workplace and in the community?
  • Will I be available to communicate frequently with AHA via email or phone calls? Open communication is key to our partnership! Host properties must notify AHA promptly when participants arrive at the work site and begin their programs; when there are any changes or deviations in the job placements during the participants' programs; when participants are not meeting the requirements of the job placements; or when participants leave their position ahead of their planned departure.

Hiring for your peak seasonal needs is a simple, straight-forward process when you hire with AHA as your Work and Travel sponsor. A passionate and dedicated AHA manager works directly with you to:

  • Determine and understand your seasonal hiring needs
  • Recruit qualified candidates
  • Arrange interview via telephone or Skype for you to hire
  • Assist you in completing all necessary paperwork
  • Prepare your participants for their arrival, provide arrival updates
  • Provides ongoing support throughout the program to you and your participants!

As the premier provider of international training and work programs specifically designed for the hospitality industry, we are committed to providing you with the highest level customer service, support and assistance in the industry:

  • AHA recruits on your behalf, presents candidates meeting your specific needs and helps you prepare for the arrival of your international participants.
  • AHA works with you to educate your management and supervisory team on Cultural Exchange programs, requirements and what to expect from your international participants. Your team will have full access to AHA's Employers Portal full of information and resources.
  • We thoroughly prepare your international participants for their experience in the United States. We focus on open communication, setting clear expectations and understanding life in the U.S. After they arrive, we provide ongoing support and outreach.
  • Your participants will benefit from an advanced level of structured learning and cultural exchange through their enrollment into World Campus, AHA's online global community. In World Campus, participants have access to professional development seminars, training tools and resources, discussion forums and more.
  • AHA participants are eligible to earn AHA's Hospitality Professional Certificate - additionally we invite ALL of your employees to earn the Hospitality Professional Certificate - at no additional cost to you or your employees!
  • AHA is designated as a program sponsor by the U.S. Department of State.

At AHA, we believe the hospitality industry is the ultimate platform for cultural exchange experiences. Through our cultural exchange programs, your guests, employees and the local community breakdown stereotypes, see the world from another perspective; become more tolerant and respectful of differences; and appreciate similarities that bring people together. These are the goals of people-to-people exchange and are the central reasons the Exchange Visitor Program exists.

The Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961

As a proud sponsor and cultural exchange organization, we encourage our participants and professional colleagues to learn about The Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, also known as the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. This important act enables the Government of the United States to:

  • Increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange.
  • Strengthen the ties, which unite us with other nations by demonstrating the educational and cultural interests, developments, and achievements of the people of the United States and other nations, and contributions being made toward a peaceful and more fruitful life for people throughout the world.
  • Promote international cooperation for educational and cultural advancement and thus assist in the development of friendly, sympathetic, and peaceful relations between the United States and the other countries of the world.


Participants will need a copy of their I-94 (record of admission) for employment authorization (Form I-9) as well as when they apply for their social security number. The form can be printed from

I-9 Form

When the participant arrives at your company, he or she must complete an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form, which notifies the federal government that he or she is allowed to work in the United States. The participant will show you his or her passport, I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, J-1 Visa and DS-2019 Form when completing this form. The participant will complete Section 1, and you will complete Section 2. The participant should fill out Section 1 using your company address.

W-4 Form

The participant is also required to fill out a W-4 Employee Withholding Allowance Certificate as soon as he or she starts a paid internship/training program. Based on the information provided on the W-4 Form, you will need to calculate the amount of federal, state and local taxes to be withheld from the paycheck. Intern/Train participants are exchange visitors in the “non-resident alien” tax category. Please consult a tax professional for the most recent tax regulations.

How J-1 Interns/Trainees Should Complete the W-4 Form

The participant should NOT follow the instructions printed on the form, as the instructions on the W-4 Form are for U.S. residents—not exchange visitors. Please follow these instructions:

  • The Personal Allowances Worksheet does not need to be completed—this does not apply to exchange visitors
  • Home address: Indicate the participant's permanent U.S. mailing address
  • Box 2: Enter the Social Security number if known
  • Box 3: Mark or check “Single”, even if the participant is married
  • Box 4: Leave blank
  • Box 5: Write “1”
  • Box 6: Write “NRA” for “Non-Resident Alien”
  • Box 7: Leave blank

How your J-1 Participant should apply for a SSN

  1. Register for SEVIS at least 5 days before applying
  2. Apply in person at a Social Security Office
  3. Bring their passport, a printout of their I-94 card, and DS-2019 with them to apply
  4. Get a receipt/proof of their application before leaving the Social Security Office
  5. Visit the nearest Social Security Office about 2-3 weeks after they apply (even if this is not where they originally applied) with their passport, DS-2019, and a printout of their I-94 card.
  6. Contact AHA if there are problems with their application or need our assistance in navigating the process

FICA and FUTA Withholdings

Under IRS Code Section 31.21. (B)(19), all non-resident aliens on J-1 visas are exempt from paying FICA (Social Security) and FUTA (federal unemployment taxes) taxes during their first two calendar years in the U.S. Since all of our participants are only able to intern/train for 18 months or fewer, all are exempt from these withholdings. Please consult a tax professional to see if the participant is also exempt from state unemployment taxes in your state.

Tax Refunds

As an exchange visitor on a J-1 Visa, the participant is considered a “non-resident alien” for tax purposes and is required to pay some taxes. Filling out the W-4 Form properly will ensure that he or she does not owe the U.S. government any money. Depending on how long the participant interns/trains with you and how much money is earned, he or she may be eligible for a refund of some of the taxes paid.

All program participants who are paid must file a U.S. tax return for the calendar year during which they worked with your company and follow the tax-filing deadline for that year. Even if the participant is no longer in the U.S., he or she still must file a U.S. tax return for the time during which they worked. It's important to remind your intern or trainee of this tax filing requirement, particularly if the participant's program spans over more than a single year's tax period.

W-2 Form

If the participant is still in the U.S. at tax time, please provide him or her with a W-2. If he or she will have already returned home by the time W-2s are issued, we recommend that you have the participant leave a self-addressed envelope prior to departing the U.S. so that you will be able to mail the W-2 at the appropriate time. Note: Do not send W-2 forms to AHA's office. As a host employer, you are responsible for getting this information to the participant and confirming that he or she has received it.

Filing Form 1040NR-EZ

If the participant will still be in the U.S. at tax time, you may wish to offer him or her assistance with filing a tax return. Upon receiving a W-2 Form, the participant will fill out a 1040NR-EZ (Non-Resident Aliens with No Dependents) Tax Form. This can be obtained online at

Once the form is completed, it should be mailed to the address listed in the "Where to File" section of the 1040NR-EZ. Please note that AHA staff are not tax professionals. You and your intern/trainee must contact the IRS if you have any specific questions regarding tax returns.

Please encourage your intern/trainee to visit the AHA Portal or to contact the IRS or a tax provider with specific questions.

Further Resources

Cultural Exchange gives participants the opportunity to learn about U.S. society and culture outside of their placement; to share their own culture, traditions and views with Americans; to help see the world from another perspective; to be more tolerant and respectful of differences; and to appreciate similarities that bring people together. These are the goals of people-to-people exchange and are the central reasons the Exchange Visitor Program exists.

Finding forums for participants to showcase their culture is a great way to help domestic and international staff get to know each other. Take the opportunity to educate your participants about the U.S. A few examples:

  • Put together a bulletin board in a public place. Ask staff to add photos or items from their home countries or states. Staff may find they have more in common than they first thought!
  • Start a buddy system. Pair a domestic employee with each participant who can answer questions, make introductions, and share ideas about what makes working in the U.S. different from working in the participant's home country.
  • Challenge employees to a game of U.S. and international trivia. Staff members get to showcase what makes their home communities unique and learn about new parts of the world.
  • Ask participants questions and encourage them to share stories about their culture and traditions. This will help you get to know your new employees and will help to make a lasting impression.
  • Encourage participants to play AHA's BINGO
  • Schedule informal, weekly conversation opportunities for your employees to learn from your intern/trainee.
  • Teach your intern/trainee American vocabulary words or idioms.
  • Celebrate co-workers birthdays.
  • Teach your intern how elections in the U.S. work and learn about the governing structure in your intern/trainee's home country.
  • Show your intern the U.S. flag and your state flag; learn about what the flag of your intern/trainee's home country represents.

Creating a fun, social environment outside of the workplace for your domestic and international staff is a great way to promote cultural exchange. Many employers provide different activities to engage all of their employees. Here are just a few ideas of ways to help students and staff connect.

  • Organize fun events: Throw a small party – an American-style BBQ for example – to introduce international students to your staff. Prepare an ice breaker to get people talking and make your participant feel welcome.
  • Show off your community: Arrange visits to local parks, farmers' markets, beaches, festivals, museums, restaurants, food trucks, camping, or any other sites that make your part of America unique.
  • Encourage employees to showcase their cultures: Host a cultural spotlight event or hold a casual potluck and suggest participants bring a dish that represents their home country.
  • Enjoy typical American foods, such as s'mores, BBQ, food trucks, apple pie, peanut butter and Girl Scout cookies.
  • Teach your intern about American Sports: football, the Super Bowl, college football, baseball, kickball, dodgeball, frisbee, basketball and march madness.
  • Inform your intern about exercise classes in your area, such as yoga or aerobics, and learn the common practices for staying fit in your intern/trainee's home country.
  • Celebrate American holidays by sharing food or partaking in activities relating to Thanksgiving, Halloween, and other holidays. Host a Fourth of July barbecue.
  • Explore popular musical genres in the U.S.: Country music, Jazz music.

AHA is committed to providing you with the highest level of customer service; every AHA's host employer works with a passionate and dedicated AHA manager to assist with any needs that arise. Additionally host managers and supervisors will have full access to AHA' Employer Portal, a one stop location jammed packed with all the resources and information needed to host a world class international program!

Copyright © 1986-2024 American Journey. All Rights Reserved. | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use
Designed & Maintained by CreativeNetFX