An Immigration and Social Services Provider
                                                               An Immigration and Social Services Provider     

Reminder to all J1 students

State Department regulations require that you report your employment to your sponsor. All sponsors are requiring you to do this within 30 days of beginning your J1 program. Not reporting your employer information could result in your program being cut short. It could also impact future J1s, should the State Department change summer J1 regulations based on this noncompliance. If you have not yet reported your employment information to your sponsor, be sure to contact them as soon as you have found work so you are able to continue your program!

Attention J1 Students:



Firstly we hope that your J1 Summer is a very enjoyable one and that you make the most of your time here to visit all of the beautuful attractions and sights of the city and surrounding areas of Chicago. Briefly we would ask that due to disruptive behavior in previous summers by some J1 students in their residences has resulted in irrate neighbours, calls to the police and actual arrests of eight J1 students for disorderly conduct.


Please be aware that you place your self at risk of arrest if you act inappropriately in residential neigborhoods. Please respect your neighbors and act accordingly.  Rememeber that you not only do yourself a disservice but are tarnsihing the very reputation of the Irish in Chicago who live and work here year round.  Please be proud ambassadors for your country and be respectful.


The J1 summer program is a US visa initiative that allows hundreds of young Irish university students to come to Chicago and the USA every year to work for 3 months and experience life in America.  The program saw 1500 students in Chicago last year and we expect similar numbers for 2013.


The 1 year J1 program sees recent college graduates or students wishing to take a year out, have the opportunity to live and work in the US for one year, with the opportuinity for an extension, on an Intership/training programme. Here the student/graduate must find work in their field of study within 90days of their arrival in the US.

It is advisable before arriving in the US to check out accomodation and Intership websites for availablity.


Due to the time frame limit, it is important to be aware that, Depending on which company you purchase your visa programme from, their are a number of forms you will need to get signed by your host company that will then need to be approved by your visa issuing company, which may take up to a week or two, to be approved, before starting your Intership/training programme.

The program is a vital cultural exchange between Ireland and the USA and provides not just a flow of peoples between our two countries but maintains the bonds of friendship and kinship.

If you would like more information on the program read our FAQ's or contact us directly on 773 282 8445.

Frequently Asked Questions for J1 Students



Where can I look for summer accommodation in Chicago?

One of the best ways to get quality accommodation within your price range is to start planning early and look for places online before you leave for Chicago. There are a number of websites which advertise short-term sub-lets and you may use these to search for suitable units and contact prospective landlords. Some of the most useful rental accommodation websites include:


Where else do J1 students find accommodation in Chicago?

Another popular choice for J1 students seeking summer accommodation is to stay in university dorms. To access further information about the availability of on university campus accommodation you should view the websites of individual Chicago universities. The websites below also provide information on Chicago campus accommodation.

You may also wish to consider staying at a fraternity house. However, there is great demand for this type of accommodation and you may have to accept some disadvantages which come with communal living such as lack of privacy and noise pollution. An example of what these accommodations offer is found below:


What are the most popular areas for students to stay during the summer in Chicago?

Students visiting Chicago seek out areas which are known for being young, vibrant and home to bars, cafes, restaurants and places to socialize. These areas are fun to live in and offer work opportunities for those in wish to find work in the service sector. Some examples of this kind of area include Lakeview, Wrigley field, Bucktown and Rogers Park.

How much can I expect to pay for accommodation in Chicago?

Accommodation in the areas mentioned above is expensive in general. An average 3 bedroom apartment generally goes for $1600-2000 per month depending on its location, size and quality. Although J1 students are often willing to compromise on their accommodation in favor of more reasonable prices this is not always advisable. Safety and suitability should be considered before agreeing to lease any property.



What is best way to get around in Chicago?

Chicago is a very large city and as such the best way to get around is by car. However, this is not usually a viable option for J1 students. Luckily, Chicago has an excellent public transport system. There is a very comprehensive network of bus routes and a metropolitan rail system which runs above and below ground. For more details about public transport in Chicago see the Chicago Transit Authority website:


Is public transport expensive?

There is a set fee of $2.25 to use the CTA buses and trains. The necessity to transfer between bus routes and train lines in Chicago means that if you are paying with cash your transport bill can add up very rapidly. The best value option if you are planning to use public transport regularly is to purchase a CTA 30 day pass card which is available online and at selected pharmacies and supermarkets. They retail at $100 and entitle you to unlimited travel on CTA buses and urban rail.


Is cycling an option?

Yes…and no. There are many cyclists in Chicago but the infrastructure is poor in terms of cycle lanes and be prepared for a period adjustment getting used to cycling on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Also, traffic can be very bad and moves quickly. If you do decide to cycle, get a helmet. Another factor to take into account is that Chicago is very large and what might look like a short spin on the map may turn out to be a mini Tour de France.


Are taxis easily available?

Taxis are plentiful and reasonably priced but not as easy to flag down on the street as in some Irish cities. You may need to carry a phone so you can call one to your location when you need one.


Can I rent a car in Chicago?

Illinois state law dictates that only those over the age of 26 can rent car and that you must have a full driver’s license.


Entertainment and nightlife

What is there to do for fun in Chicago?

A lot! Chicago is home to some of the finest urban parks, theatres, museums, restaurants and bars in the US. The summer period is a particularly great time to be in Chicago as there are a host of festivals and outdoor events. During the summer there are a number of urban beaches on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Where’s the best place to find out about upcoming events?

There are loads of listing websites to help plan your days off and nights out. A couple of useful ones are listed below:


Are there any music festivals like Oxygen or Electric Picnic over the summer in Chicago?

The legendary Lollapalooza takes place in Grant Park Chicgo, Summer 2013, on August 2nd-4th ( with dosens of acts yet to be confirmed, keep an eye out on the website.


A more dance and electro orientated festival called Spring Awakening ( ) takes place at Soldier’s Field in Chicago on June 14, 15th and 16th, Line up to be confirmed soon.


For those looking for something a little more on the free side, the Chicago Blues Festival takes place a Grant Park June 8-10 and admission is free.


Is Chicago expensive in terms of entertainment options?

Chicago, like many major cities, can be expensive. However, the great thing about the city for the J1 visitor on a budget is that you can also do a lot with a little cash. Many of the museums are free on Tuesdays and some public libraries provide free passes to museums and galleries. If you're interested in theatre, sells same day tickets at half price.

Night life in Chicago is reasonable cheap compared to Ireland with many pubs offering special rates on selected beers. However, prices can be high in the more fashionable districts so it might be helpful to read reviews of the venue you are going to in advance on the website below:


What is the legal age to purchase alcohol in Chicago?

Like elsewhere in the US, you must be 21 to purchase alcohol in Chicago. This is strictly enforced and you will not be able to enter bars, clubs or liquor stores without a valid id.



Can I use my Irish ATM card in Chicago?

Yes. However, do be aware that the American bank which operates the ATM you use may charge a fee for the withdrawal. This fee is usually approximately $3. In addition, you may find your daily withdrawal limit is substantially lower than in Ireland with many banks limiting you to withdrawing a maximum of $300 per day.

What do I need to do before I use my ATM /Credit card in Chicago?

Officially nothing, but many Irish banks prefer that you inform them of your intention to use the card abroad for security reasons.


Do I need to have a certain amount of cash in my account when entering the USA on a J1 visa?

You have to be able to show that you either have:

A prearranged job and a minimum of $475 cash


A minimum of $950


You should be able to prove that you have the funds by displaying a bank statement to US Immigration or by displaying cash or travelers cheques. If you have less than $950 you should be have a completed Employer Offer Agreement Form.


Can I open an American bank account?

Yes, all the major high street banks will willingly discuss opening a bank account which you can use during your stay. This can even be done without having a social security number in some banks.



Do I need a social security number?

Yes, casual employment which does not require a social security number is rare and usually poor in terms of pay and conditions. However, an employer can hire you before you have been issued with your social security number providing you can provide evidence that you have applied for one.


How can I get a social security number?

You need to apply to your local Social Security Office when you find somewhere to reside in Chicago. A list of local offices in Chicago is found here:


You must go to your local office bringing:

"Dear Social Security Officer" letter (download this from

"Dear Employer" sponsorship letter (download this from

DS-2019 form + SEVIS receipt

Passport with your J1 Visa and I-94 card


Can I claim back the income tax which I pay?

Yes, your employer should send you forms at the end of the year which enables you to do this. Make sure to leave your Irish address with them for this purpose.


What is the minimum wage in Chicago?

Minimum wage is $8.25 per hour. However, lower rates are allowed for employees who receive tips.


Are there any jobs which I am not allowed to do in Chicago as a J1 visitor?

Yes, the following is a list of positions not covered by the J1 visa:


Au Pair, Mother's Helper, Child Carer, Nanny, Babysitter, Maid or other jobs of a domestic nature in private homes.

Child Care of any kind.

Medical Services (medical interns or anything involving hands-on therapy, counselling, administering treatment or making diagnoses of medical, psychiatric or psychological patients).

Veterinary Science (making medical diagnoses or administering treatment to animals).

Teaching as: Language teacher or Teaching assistant or a full-fledged trained teacher

Coaching positions or as a Personal Trainer

Beauty Therapy jobs, including massage, hairdressing, manicurist positions or any jobs involving 'hands-on' therapy of any kind.

Camp Counsellor.

Crew member on ship on aeroplane or as pilots.

Certain Casino Positions.


Employment with a Staffing agency.

Commission only positions.

Adult Industry positions.

Positions involving any start up fee to the participant or with a travelling concession business.

Manufacturing (includes fishery jobs)


Factory work

Catalogue/on-line distribution centers

Hazardous jobs on Dept. of Labor list (e.g., construction, roofing, farming/ranching)


Jobs w/ exposure to dangerous chemicals (e.g., pesticides)

Gaming jobs (wait staff, maids, life guards on casino properties are ok, but not dealers/game operators)

Jobs involving driving

Jobs entailing sustained physical contact w/customers (e.g., body piercing, tattoo parlor, massage)

Graveyard shift jobs (with hours predominantly after 10 p.m./before 6 a.m.)



Is Chicago safe?

Chicago is generally a safe, friendly place but like any large city, it has areas which are dangerous and have high crime rates. Exercise caution when exploring the city when you first arrive and be aware of your surroundings.


Can I use my Irish phone in Chicago?

Yes, if it is a tri-band phone and you are registered for roaming with your provider. However, calls and texts will be very expensive to make and, in some cases you will be charged to receive calls and texts. It may be worth considering purchasing a cheap pay-as-you-go phone when you get to Chicago, which are sometimes called disposable cell phones here. T-Mobile and Cricket stock these kinds of phones at reasonable prices.


Is there any organization I can contact in the case of an emergency?

Chicago Irish Immigrant support may be able to assist you with difficulties which may arise during your stay and are contactable through the website ,by phone 773-282-8445 and also through messaging on their Facebook page: .

Contact Us


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Office Address:

4626 N. Knox Avenue,

Suite 301
Chicago, IL 60630















Call 773-282-8445 to schedule your appointment at one of our upcoming legal immigration clinics!


Please, check our Facebook page for any changes or updates to our clinic hours. Thank you!

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