Summer Work and Travel Program

The U.S. Embassy in Sofia encourages all Bulgarian students attending university-level studies to consider participation in the Summer Work Travel program (SWT).  In previous years, approximately seven thousand Bulgarian students have travelled each summer to different cities across the United States where they experience our people and culture firsthand.  They, in turn, share their culture and language with their host communities and provide a mutually beneficial cross-cultural exchange experience.

In addition to gaining valuable English language practice, participants have the chance to acquire work experience in a variety of fields.   Upon completion of a work assignment in the United States, students are afforded thirty days to travel within the United States before returning home.

Profile of a Successful SWT Applicant

  • Applicants must have a good command of the English language, a strong academic record, and be outgoing and flexible.
  • Only full-time students at accredited universities/colleges are eligible to participate in SWT.
  • Repeat participants are welcomed.  Previous participation in the program, however, does not guarantee that future applications will be successful.
  • Each applicant needs to be able to show to the interviewing consul that he/she will return to Bulgaria at the conclusion of the program.  First and final-year students may apply, though they may have more difficulty proving sufficient ties to Bulgaria. Less than one year of university may not be deemed a sufficiently significant investment in one’s education to establish ties to Bulgaria.  Similarly, students having only their “State” exam, which may be postponed for several years, may also have difficulties persuading the consular officer that they are bona-fide students with sufficient ties to Bulgaria.
  • Correspondent students – as well as those attending vocational/distance learning schools and secondary schools for adults – do not qualify for the Summer Work & Travel program.
  • Although there are no formal age restrictions for participants, applicants who are not of normal student age will receive greater scrutiny.

How to Apply for SWT

Students participating in SWT will travel to the U.S. under the auspices of an accredited U.S. – based sponsor.  The U.S. sponsor is directly responsible for finding students appropriate job placements as well as for ensuring the overall success of the program.  In order to make the process more accessible to students, there are many local Bulgarian recruiting agencies that serve as a liaison between the U.S. sponsors and the students. The U.S. Embassy in Sofia does not endorse the use of any particular agency.  We strongly suggest that applicants research how much each agency charges applicants for their services.

Applying for Your Visa

Each applicant must pay the non-refundable visa application fee of USD 160. Cash payment can be done at any branch of UniCredit Bulbank in Bulgaria, after printing the applicable Deposit slip from:  http://www.ustraveldocs.com/bg/bg-niv-paymentinfo.asp Applicants will be issued an original payment receipt at the bank. They will need the receipt number in order to schedule a visa interview appointment at: http://www.ustraveldocs.com/bg.

Also available is an online payment option through Trustly service (Direct Bank Transfer) for applicants who have online banking account at one of the participating banks.

At their visa interview, applicants must also submit proof that they have paid the non-refundable SEVIS fee (USD 35).  For more information please visit http://www.fmjfee.com/

  • Applicants must appear for their interview on the scheduled date at the appointed hour; applicants who submit incomplete packages or miss their appointments will be denied pursuant to 221(g) and must schedule a new interview, which may result in the loss of the opportunity to participate in the SWT program.
  • Students failing to qualify for J-1 visas will receive their passports and supplemental application materials immediately following the interview.
  • Qualifying applicants’ passports will be delivered to the TNT office chosen when making the interview appointment. Applicants, or their duly authorized representatives can receive their passports from TNT offices within 2-4 business days after the interview. Applicants should not expect to travel sooner than five working days after their interview.
  • If an applicant will not be able to arrive in the U.S. in time for the beginning date of the program, as reflected in the DS-2019, the application must be suspended until the beginning date is amended in the SEVIS system.
  • Applicants should NEVER purchase tickets prior to receipt of their passport with visa.  We are unable to expedite the issuance of visas on the basis of pre-purchased tickets.
  • SWT applicants refused visas pursuant to section 214(b) may reapply after May 7.

Application Package Contents:

  • Valid passport
  • Completed DS-160 Application form; The section “Briefly Describe your Duties” must contain SWT position description, wage, major at the University, year of study, date of enrollment and expected graduation date. Also, under “US Contact information” you must include the name of your U.S. employer and the place where you will be working in the U.S. (NOTE: Applicants must present the  bar-coded DS-160 confirmation sheet)
  • DS-2019 form (acceptance to a designated exchange visitor program)
  • SEVIS fee payment receipt
  • Payment receipt for visa fee (USD 160)
  • Student book
  • “Uverenie” issued by the university
  • An additional photo
  • Any other documents the applicant feels are necessary to illustrate strong ties to Bulgaria

When You Arrive in the U.S.

  • Upon arrival, all U.S. – based sponsors are required to provide students with a copy of the U.S. Department of State’s SWT brochure and participant letter, and an email address of a dedicated contact in the Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
  • In the rare case that you encounter any difficulties during your stay, the U.S. Department of State has established a toll-free, 24-hour a day phone line to assist you with complaints or issues that have arisen: 1-866-283-9090.
  • If you would like to change your job while in the U.S., you must inform your U.S. sponsor of your desire to do so in order to ensure proper vetting of the proposed employer.
  • Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy yourself!  In addition to SWT being an extremely valuable educational and work experience for all students who participate, at the end of the day this program is simply a lot of fun.

If you have any additional questions about SWT please contact us at niv_sofia@state.gov or visit the U.S. Department of State web site at: http://j1visa.state.gov/