Work & Travel USA






This is a unique opportunity to gain international work experience (whether that’s career related or casual), meet and work alongside people from all over the world as well as travel and experience the good ‘ole US of A!

The J1 visa is timed to fit exactly with a student’s summer vacation period (typically mid November to mid February).  Chilli work with a range of J-1 Sponsors to offer some great work placements.  Employers differ each season, but all look for hard working, dynamic and customer service oriented staff.  Past employers have included the likes of Vail and Aspen Ski Resorts in Colorado; The five star Mariott Hotels and Convention Centers in Washington DC and Texas, and The Grand Canyon lodges, in Arizona to name a few.

This incredible work opportunity will allow you to add invaluable work experience to your CV, but just as importantly, provide you with a real chance to experience LIFE whilst living and working in the USA.  During your trip you will have the opportunity to branch out, become independent, perhaps learn to budget, network and meet people from around the world, gain some great work and life experience and have an adventure we are sure that you will never forget!


Applicants for Winter Work Travel USA must:

  • Be a full-time tertiary student at an accredited college or university.  Graduating students studying for the full year prior to application also qualify for the program.  Part time or short course students unfortunately do not qualify.
  • Be aged between 18-28 years.
  • Have no criminal record.
  • Be a valid South African Passport holder or Non-South African with a study permit for South Africa.
  • Have sufficient funds to pay for program fees, flights and all additional costs.
  • Be independent and self-motivated. You will be required to engage pro-actively in the application process, as well as research your travels and job position fully.  It is vital to understand that living and working in a new country will be challenging at times and is a learning and life experience, not simply a holiday.

Season & Duration

The J1 visa is valid only for the period of your summer vacation break from varsity (irrespective on whether you plan to return to studies or are graduating).  The US government has confirmed that for South Africa the work period allowed can run from 30th October to 15th February. **

Graduating students will then be allowed to take up additional travel for up to 30 days.

** Please be aware that this date limitation is a new regulation passed by the US Department of State and will impact the employers who wish to hire South Africans (Ski Resort positions will be limited since many  only hire staff available through April).

Why Do Work & Travel USA?

Students’ head over to the USA on a work travel adventure for lots of different reasons. Everyone has a different motivation.There are more than 200,000* unemployed graduates in South Africa and an increasingly competitive job market globally. Maybe you want to work hard and gain valuable international work experience and check out options for US Internships after graduation. Or maybe your aim is simply to kick back a little, have fun, travel and see as much of this amazing country as possible. Whatever your goal, you will certainly gain valuable work and life experience as well as having the adventure of your life!  Now is the time to stop dreaming and to start doing!

The Chilli Adventures’ Team has been successfully running the Work & Travel Program to the USA for more than 13 years.  In this time we have sent thousands of South African students to the US to have a summer vacation that they will never forget!  Chilli Adventures is still the largest and most clued up company for Work Travel to the USA.

Job Placement

The US Department of State oversees the sponsorship of the J1 visa and regulations around this.  Currently, it is a requirement for all participants coming from African countries to have an approved job secured prior to visa sponsorship being issued.  If you are the holder of an European passport you have the option to apply for your visa without a job placement secured and seek employment upon arrival in the USA.

Whilst you have the option to find employment yourself, doing so is pretty tough for most people in this current economic environment.  A job secured through Chilli Adventures is a convenient and hassle free way to go.

Each year, through various J1 visa sponsors, Chilli Adventures seeks to secure a range of quality seasonal positions that match the typical date range consistent with SA Universities and Colleges.  All positions are compliant with the US Department of State regulations and most come with housing and transportation options secured.  Most are casual and require little or no experience, just hard work and good customer service skills.

Current Positions Available

Various employers will come on board to hire through Chilli Adventures between April and October each year so this list is currently changing as we progress through the season.

The GREAT news for the 2013/14 season is that we have a good number of early ski placements available!  Yes, and in case you’re wondering – this includes ASPEN and VAIL, Colorado.  Spots are limited so if you’re dead set on a ski placement get in quickly on these.  If you are already registered with Chilli you’ll be able to access the full outline of  placements from your participant portal.

Please be aware that for any placement you MUST be available for the date range outlined and qualify in terms of the specific skills required.  Positions are limited and allocation for interview slots is on a ‘first come first served’ basis.  To avoid disappointment be sure to complete your application and pay your deposit prior to qualify for an interview.



JOB TITLE – Housekeeper (12 Positions)
WORK DATES – Start date: 20th November & End date: 1st – 15th February
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS – Flexible schedule, must be able to work on weekends & holidays
BRECKENRIDGE FACTS – Breckenridge is an all-season recreation and vacation destination. The mountains come alive in the winter with world-class skiing. Winter activities also include snowshoeing, ice-skating, sleigh rides & snowmobiling. Winter carnivals, festivals & events are plentiful.
HOURLY PAY RATE – $10/hour. OT $15/hour (40 hours & over) HOUSING – Apartments for 2, 3 or 4 people
COST OF HOUSING – $450-$395



JOB TITLE – Ski/Snowbound instructor (5 Positions)
WORK DATES – Start date: 15th December & End date: 15th February AVERAGE WORKING HOURS – 32 – 40 hours per week
ASPEN FACTS – With a vertical drop of 4,406 feet (boasting the most vertical in the USA) and 3,132 acres of terrain, the sheer volume of Snowmass demands repeat visits.
HOURLY PAY RATE – $9/hour HOUSING – Dormitory style
COST OF HOUSING: $525-$800 Monthly / Deposit $625 – $900



JOB TITLE – Bakery clerk, cake decorator, deli clerk, cashier, front Service clerk, grocery clerk, produce clerk & seafood clerk (50+ Positions)
WORK DATES – Mandatory orientation: Nov 20th – Nov 25th. Earliest End Date Feb 1st & Latest End Date Feb 15th 2014
PUBLIX FACTS – Publix operates 1,050 supermarkets in the Southeast U.S. and is employee owned.For more info visit
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS – Depends on the economic conditions in the U.S. during employment, hours (shifts) worked will vary from day to day
HOURLY PAY RATE – $10.00/hour, OT $15.00 (40 hours and over) HOUSING – Safe, affordable motel options provided upon arrival. You also have permission to seek own housing with Chilli & J1 approval. COST OF HOUSING – Motel rates vary from as low as $13.13/day (+ tax) per person – up to $21.00/day (+ tax) per person. Depends on number of persons per room and location of the room.



JOB TITLE – Food Service Worker, Housekeeper (6 positions)
WORK DATES – Earliest Start Date: Nov 20th.Latest Start Date: Dec 15th & Earliest End Date:Feb 15th
AVERAGE # OF HOURS – 35-40 average hours/week (after orientation & training)
ESTES PARK FACTS – Its the most popular tourist destination in Colorado and is renowend for its downhill skiing. For additional info
HOURLY PAY RATE – $4.50/hour OT rate $11.67/hour



JOB TITLE – Food Service Worker, Housekeeper (6 Positions)
WORK DATES – Earliest Start Date: Nov 20th. Latest Start Date: Dec 15th & Earliest End Date: Feb 15th
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS – 35-40 hours/week (After orientation & training)
SNOW MOUNTAIN RANCH FACTS – Located 8800 feet above sea level for a great skiing experience. There is also a number of hot springs to relax in after a hard days work. For additional info
HOURLY PAY RATE – $4.50/hour OT $11.67/hour


new orleasn

JOB TITLE – Wait Staff (5 positions available)
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS – 35-40 hours/week. Might work some late hours (such as 4:00pm – 12:00am), depending on business.
HOURLY PAY RATE – $3.70/hour plus tips
REQUIREMENTS – MUST have excellent English. Previous food service experience is preferred but not required
NEW ORLEANS FACTS – New Orleans is one of the top ten most visited cities in the United States and is the site of celebrations such as Mardi Gras and the Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Hiring Events

For the past 5 years, Chilli Advenetures has held incredibly successful Job Fairs in Cape Town & Johannesburg, hosting top employers from the USA.  Apply early to secure your interview spot, impress employers in a short face-to-face interview and secure your job on the spot!

Top US Companies will attend the Chilli Job Fairs in September with a view to hiring over 150 South African students for Summer vacation work in the USA.  Check out details of the positions available but don’t delay, positions are limited.  These are terrific options for employment and all come with good wages, housing and excellent perks.  Positions will be offered on a first come, first served basis to those eligible (based on dates of availability) and appropriateness for the positions.  Your Job Placement fee is only payable to Chilli Adventures once you are offered and accept a position on the day of the fair.  Remember – having a job lined up means less stress and less money required for start up costs

To secure an interview slot, complete your application today.

Independent Job Search

Be aware that securing your own employment takes time, effort and persistence.  It’s often only possible for those who have contacts in the USA or who have friends who worked in the USA previously and their employer may be willing to take you on for that season.  Remember that if you plan to look for and secure your own position you need to have this confirmed prior to being issued with visa sponsorship through Chilli Adventures and getting your visa granted.  You should aim to have this confirmed by the end of September at the latest to avoid a last minute panic.

  1. Put together a concise appropriate CV (1 page) and cover letter confirming that you have sponsorship for a J1 visa, and the dates you are available to work.
  2. Send this out to the various employers you hope to secure a job with.  Be sure to use the name of a Human Resource Director if possible, and tailor the cover letter to be specific to the employer.  Do NOT send out bulk mails to hundreds of different employers with your CV attached!  Most employers get dozens of emails every day. So, don’t get offended if you don’t get a reply straight away. Save a draft of your original email and resend it a week or two later.  Recognize that many employers wont start hiring casual staff until September – October, so if you are unlikely to get responses back earlier.  Get your CVs sorted and ready to go when you have time earlier in the year.  That way as exam approach all you’ll need to do it send out your emails.
  3. Check out the following links* for some popular online job directories.  There are plenty more if you search on Google.

* Please note that Chilli Adventures do not have relationships with these companies and cannot be held responsible for the information given or positions outlined.

How do I apply?

To apply for the Winter Work & Travel program to the USA, simply follow these easy steps:

  • Attend an Information Session with your local Chilli Adventures program co-ordinator and get clued up on all aspects of the program
  • Apply online and agree to Program T’s & C’s and receive your Application Pack containing additional documentation that must be completed and your program fee invoice
  • Pay your application deposit R950 (use your full name as a reference).
    (Note: Application deposits are refunded in full if you are not accepted onto the program by Chilli)
  • Attend an interview with a Chilli Adventures program co-ordinator in your area, or over Skype.  Your acceptance will be confirmed at your interview
  • Submit additional documentation including CV, Student Status Form, Reference and Medical form.
  • Attend Chilli’s GAC (Get a Clue Session) for information on visa application, job placements and hiring fairs
  • Book your flight and get your visa granted
  • Attend Chilli’s Winter Work & Travel USA pre-departure meetings, co-sponsored by Cape Union Mart

Note: A great deal goes into the application process to ensure that you are accepted by the J1 sponsor and placed with an appropriate employer.  You’ll need to stay on top of submitting your paperwork and work with Chilli Adventures to secure a position.

Terms & Conditions

Please speak to your Chilli Adventures Program co-ordinator for program specific terms and conditions.

Program Costs

The full fees payable to Chilli Adventures for Work & Travel USA (includes all overseas visa sponsors and placement agents) are as follows:

  • Application Deposit – R950 - Payable prior to interview.  Fully refunded if not accepted onto the program
  • Program Fees – $695 - Payable following acceptance and prior to US Employer interviews.  Fully refundable if you are not placed
  • Chilli Job Placement – $435 - Payable following confirmation of job placement and prior to shipping of Visa sponsorship paperwork and Travel insurance.

* See PACKAGE for whats included in your program fees.

*  Chilli Internship Rate – A Chilli Intern is someone who works closely with Chilli through the season on a range of projects.  These could include any aspect of the business (accounts to systems, marketing to promotions, HR to general management and administration).   If selected as a Chilli intern you will not only gain great work experience with the company but will also receive a preferential rate on your program fees.  If you’re interested, send your CV to and let us know why you’d benefit from being an intern with Chilli and what you could bring to Chilli Adventures. 


The full fees payable to Chilli Adventures for Work & Travel USA (inc. all overseas visa sponsors and placement agents) are as follows

  • Application Assistance – Eligibility screening,  full application and job interview support and guidance through the program process
  • Visa Sponsorship –  DS-2019 visa sponsorship allowing you to apply for a J-1 work visa
  • Job Placement – and employment package inc. accommodation and other perks.  Full package will be outlined ahead of job confirmation.  Speak to Chilli about the options available right now!
  • US SEVIS Fee – (Student and Exchange Volunteer Information System) $35 fee and SEVIS Validation service in the USA
  • US Visa Application  - inc paperwork review and interview assistance
  • Medical Insurance – comprehensive travel insurance for the period of your stay in the USA
  • Pre-Departure Support – inc guidance on job interviews, visas, CV formulation, job placements and hiring fairs as well as travel, housing and life in the USA
  • Pre-Departure Orientation Meeting – covering all essentials vital to a successful trip including SEVIS validation, immigration processes, social security application, packing, insurance and US Overseas support
  • Partner Discounts –  flights, SIM cards, merchandise and more)
  • 24 Hour Emergency Help & Support – In South Africa & the USA
  • Welcome Back Bash – Black tie reunion party!
  • Internship – options upon return to South Africa
  • Program reference

Additional *Costs

In addition to the program fees that you pay to Chilli Adventures, you must also factor in the following additional costs:

  • Return flight to the USA (approx. R9,000-12,000)
  • US Consulate visa processing Fee ($160)
  • Additional insurance if required (approx. $40)
  • Spending money for use upon arrival (approx. $700-$1200)

* Prices subject to change in line with third party. Please read General Terms & Conditions   for full details.

Expected Earnings

Your J1 working visa will allow you to work during your trip and depending on how many hours you put in, look at covering the costs of your travels or even make some extra cash for travel.  Most people cover their program and travel related costs but this will depend on how many hours you work, the exchange rate at the time and of course, your living (and entertainment!) expenses amongst other things.  If you work at a second job, which many people do and especially if you earn tips, it’s possible to make some very decent money.  The amount you bring back to South Africa will of course be affected by how much you party, shop, travel or work when you’re over in the US!

Wages vary depending on the location of the position, and what’s included in the position (for example, subsidized housing / meals etc.)  You will never be paid less than federal minimum wage at $7.75 per hour.  Typically wages are between $5-6 per hour (for tipped positions) and $8.50 – $14 per hour (for non-tipped position).  Remember to understand the full compensation package rather than simply the hourly wage.

Cost of Living

You must take over to the USA start up funds of between $700-$1200, since you will need to cover the cost of your own accommodation, housing deposits (if not paid prior to departure from SA) as well as food and travel until you receive your first pay cheque.  Some employers may supply accommodation. Most have staff canteens and offer various discounts that help significantly, particularly in this first month.  If you’ve never budgeted before, you’ll learn this skill very quickly upon arrival!  Picking up those fabulous discounted Jimmy Choo’s or iPad should only happen AFTER you get your first pay cheque!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I go if I’m not currently studying?

A: Unfortunately not!  The program is only open to full-time students who are enrolled in tertiary education (post matric)

Q: It’s quite expensive when I add everything up.  Do most participants cover their upfront costs?

A: Most do, but simply making money is not the primary objective of the program.  The opportunity to gain valuable work and life experience and see the USA is the ultimate goal.  How much money you make will ultimately depend on how many hours you work, the exchange rate at the time and of course your living (and entertainment!) expenses, amongst other things.  The majority of participants earn enough money to cover the costs they have outlaid to get to the USA and live there.  If you work a second job, which most people do and especially if you make tips, it’s possible to make some very decent money.  The amount you bring back to South Africa will of course be affected by how much you party, shop, travel or work when you’re over in the US!

Q: What will I do about somewhere to live?

A: Most employers hiring directly with Chilli Adventures offer some form of employee housing.  Your employer may subsidize the cost of housing but you are ultimately responsible for your housing costs.  If you are sourcing employment independently, you should enquire about housing in the local area once you’ve secured employment.  If employers don’t offer housing or employee housing is full, they can often point you in the right direction for the best affordable housing in the local area. The US also has a great network of hostels and cheap hotels and motels that can be affordable options.  Check out sites like (similar to Gum Tree) and local newspapers (these can be accessed online ahead of departure) for housing options.

BEWARE! Housing in some very popular areas (key ski resort locations for example) can be extremely scarce and very expensive.  Do your research prior to making a decision on where to work.

Q:  Can I take part in the program if I’ve just matriculated?

A: Unfortunately not.  You need to have at least one year of tertiary (post secondary) education behind you.  But if you’re headed to varsity next year then you can apply now for next season.  If you’re taking a gap year before varsity then the Summer Camp USA program or Teaching English in Thailand are excellent options (links to both programs).

Q: Is it possible to work at the same employer as friends?

A: Yes it is certainly possible. Let Chilli adventures know when you apply that you are part of a group and we’ll ensure that your applications are processed together.  Chilli Adventures placement employers often hire large number of students so it’s possible that they will hire a group of friends. Bear in mind however that it can be a turn off for employers to hear that you only want to go with your best friend so ensure you don’t make this a condition of accepting a position.

Q: How do I apply for my US Visa?

A: Following submission of your full application paperwork and payment of your program fees, Chilli Adventures will request your DS-2019 visa sponsorship from the relevant J1 sponsor agent in the USA.  We will guide you through the visa application process at our Get a Clue (GAC) Session and review both your visa application and supporting documentation ahead of your interview at the US Consulate.  Chilli Adventures have a 99% Visa granted record at the US Consulate so your visa is not something you need to stress about.  You’ll typically receive your Passport back 2-3 working days following your interview.  Easy!

Q: Am I covered if I have an accident whilst in the USA?

A: Yes.  Comprehensive Work and Travel insurance is provided as part of your program fees.  It is a US Department of State J1 visa requirement that your visa sponsor provides you with approved ‘A’ Graded insurance for the period of your visa.  This insurance includes medical, emergency and liability etc.   You will be provided with full insurance details at the Pre-Departure Orientation meetings held in October.  If you have a pre-existing condition (have received medical care within the last 6 months) please contact your local Chilli Adventures Program co-ordinator for advice as you may require additional coverage.  If you are traveling longer than 3 months you will need to extend your policy with Chilli Adventures ahead of departure from South Africa.

Q: Is it OK if I go alone?

A:  Yes no problem.  Many participants apply alone but then meet other participants as they go through the application process in South Africa. It’s easy to meet fellow adventurers once you’re on the program and you won’t be alone for long!  However, many people prefer to go solo as it allows them to meet more new people and have the experience that they really want.

If you’re worried about travelling alone, ask Chilli Adventures to put you in touch with others going from your University.  Chilli Adventures Facebook group is also a great place to meet new friends to travel with.