Students struggle to get J1 Visas after paying up to €800

Complaints over slow processing of work permits after 57 students pay €799 up front

About 150 J1 students are struggling to have their J1 visa applications approved after paying up to €800 to travel to the United States.

Clients of Travel Bug Ltd, based in Castlebar, have complained their J1 work documentation has not yet been processed, meaning they cannot attend a US embassy interview which is mandatory prior to departure.

Many sponsor companies based in the US which work with the State Department to secure DS2019 work permits for applicants have changed requirements so J1 students must for the first time have a job lined up before heading to the US.

Travel Bug is working with American Work Adventures (AWA) as its recognised sponsor partner, and Travel Bug has accepted payments of €799 from 57 students looking to secure their place on the J1 programme.


On top of those who have paid the full fee, which does not include flights, about 100 students have paid deposits to Travel Bug.

Processing issue

Responding to complaints from customers, its managing director Caroline Joyce told The Irish Times there had been a processing issue with the AWA sponsor company.

She said she has had difficulty contacting AWA about the delays and had already been in touch with US embassy officials in an attempt to expedite the application process.

She added she has also been liaising with officials in the US to ensure those who applied for a J1 through Travel Bug get to work and travel as planned this summer.

Ms Joyce said she is not aware of any other J1 agent company in Ireland which has had similar difficulties, as other companies have been using different sponsor agencies. She urged affected customers not to book flights and accommodation until the issues had been resolved.

The J1 visa can be obtained by Irish students as part of a special arrangement between the two countries, and allows the holder to work in the US for up to 12 months. More than 8,000 Irish students applied for J1 visas last year.

The vast majority of J1 holders opt to depart in late May or early June and typically stay in the US until late summer.

Delays queried

On Monday, Travel Bug issued the following statement to customers who had queried delays in their J1 application process: “Due to the changes in J1 Visa regulations and increased State Department compliance requirements regarding job vetting this year, the sponsors are having tremendous difficulties processing the DS2019 forms. This is causing enormous challenges and delays, as well as increases in DS2019 denials.

“Although the sponsors have approved your job offers they are now informing us that they cannot guarantee you will receive a DS2019.”

Ms Joyce said those who have paid the full programme fee will receive refunds of at least 50 per cent if their applications are unsuccessful, but the company has not made any guarantees regarding deposits.

The issue was highlighted by prospective J1 traveller Tomás O’Donovan, who said he is worried about not receiving a DS2019 permit despite being told by his future employer they are happy to sign off on the required documentation.

AWA has not yet responded to a request for comment from The Irish Times.