If you’re wanting to visit the USA as an Australian, you have a few options, just kidding, you actually don’t.
If you’re going as a tourist (not working, and for under 90 days) apply online for a visa waiver (ESTA), it’s about $14.
If you want to do anything else (work, study, be there for 91 days etc), expect dramatics.
The J1 visa (Work and Travel)
The J1 visa is an ‘exchange visa’, that allows students, or recent graduates to travel to, and work in America for varying periods of time. I’m on a J1 Work and Travel Visa, but there are other categories for Au pairs/Nannies, Camp Counsellers, Interns, Summer Work and Travel, Teachers and Trainees.
The visa works by getting a ‘sponsor’ (paying a hefty fee to a program) so that an organization is responsible for you, whilst you’re in the States. There is plenty of fine print that you probably won’t hear about until you’re already in the country and having to deal with it, so it’s best to try and read up, and ask as many questions as you can think of.
The J1 Work and Travel Visa is only for full-time tertiary students or recent graduates. You MUST be sponsored through a program like IEP or CIEE. You must get a job within 90 days of entering the country. It’s basically work and travel for 12 months, with 5 days before and 30 days after allowed. The cheapest program sponsor I found was CIEE at $1599 (including compulsory insurance), other visa fees include $120 for issuance and $180 for application.
The actual visa is dependent on a few things;
a) showing you can support yourself for a little while (usually showing access to $1000)
b) your student/recent graduate status
c) you’re compliance in paying their ‘fee’ ($600-1500)
d) you’re compliance in accepting their insurance ($800-1000)
You’ll receive a sticker in your passport that is your actual visa, and then a DS-2019 form. This is super important. Every time you leave the country, it needs to be signed.