Parsing the Intricacies of the J-1 Graduate Visa

The J-1 Graduate Visa allows college graduates from abroad to work legally in the U.S. for up to 18 months, but they must secure employment within a short period of entering the country.

Back in December of 2022, with the realization that many J-1 Graduates could not afford to go home to Ireland for the holidays, the Irish Business Organization of New York, which celebrates its 50th Jubilee Gala at the Lighthouse Pier 61 on October 24th, and the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, decided to have a joint Christmas party last December at Rosie O’Grady’s celebrating the J-1s.

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It is only appropriate to send out a massive thanks to the Carty Family for making this happen in a relatively short period of time.

The event was a tremendous success with dozens of J-1s in attendance and a feeling in the room of having a family outside of Ireland for the holidays, which can be a lonely time for anyone.  Given the large number of J-1s in the New York City area, this sparked an idea among the boards of the IBO and EIIC on what else we could do to be of assistance.  

The initial result was putting together a J-1 Resources page on the IBO’s website (, including a directory where J-1s can sign up at a hugely discounted rate to become IBO members and enter their profiles for IBO members of to review and ideally reach out to them.  

It should be noted that Colleen Berry Conway, currently serving her second term as Secretary of the IBO and founder of Ogham Art, was the key person behind setting up the J-1 Resource page and is a cornerstone to this ongoing effort.

Ciara Brady.

Ciara Brady.

From this initiative developed an idea that we as a group could figure a way to put together a resource for J-1s before they left Ireland and entered the U.S. Myself, currently in my second term as 1st Vice President of the IBO, and a Managing Director at Silvercrest Asset Management, along with Tom Matteo, an IBO Member and Founder and Executive Coach at The Sequitar Group, and Ciara Brady, a J-1 Graduate Visa holder and a Marketing & Events Executive at EIIC, decided to create an online workshop where J-1s could access the key tools they would need to excel in America.  

The result was a live workshop on Wednesday, July 26th where the key elements were focused on "Get Organized, Get Connected and Get Noticed."  

This workshop was attended by close to fifty J-1s. In terms of getting organized, we encouraged J-1s to get their living situation sorted out before coming to the U.S. to allow them more time to search for a job once they get here, which can and should be a full-time job itself.  

We also urged them to professionalize their profile on their LinkedIn page, to adjust their CV to an American style format, and to order business cards and other stationary for thank you notes.  

To get connected, it is important for J-1s to start reaching out to professionals in the industry they are interested in. They can accomplish this by accessing their county associations, GAA connections or other networks.  

It is important to have informational interviews with key decision makers, which are a great way to practice for real interviews down the road.  

It is critical to keep in mind that one must be your own brand ambassador before anyone is going to lobby on your behalf. Getting noticed is also a big part of the formula for landing the job you want, not just for J-1s, but for anyone.  

This can be done by attending various events within the Irish community and the industry you are interested in and establishing relationships at those events who you can periodically check in with.

Tom Matteo.

Tom Matteo.

Here are some comments by organizers of the online workshop: First up, Tom Matteo:  “As an Executive Coach, a challenge I find with most people is their mindset.  This is true whether new to the market or a seasoned executive.  

For example, there is something to be said for creating our own luck.  But we can underestimate what it takes.  Being “lucky”, such as by being in the right place at the right time, often happens by putting ourselves out there, time and time again.  

Taking personal chances others may shy away from.  Engaging in opportunities more assuredly than others.  Such a mindset is a driving factor in finding a great internship. 

"The feedback from this workshop, which anyone can now access on the IBO’s J-1 Resources page, has been tremendous and uplifting, with many J-1s reaching out to the IBO for further advice. The reality is that the workshop itself provides J-1s with tools and skills necessary to navigate the intimidating world of NYC and the U.S. job market in general.  

Sean O'Dowd.

Sean O'Dowd.

As Paul Finnegan, President of the IBO, put it 'This work is perfectly suited to our mission at the IBO.  The J-1 Graduates are the newest members of our New York Irish business community, and we must do everything within our resources to help them get settled here with a job.'"

Ciara Brady's thoughts:  "I was delighted to be a part of this initiative with the IBO. We have received wonderful feedback from those who attended virtually, which confirms this should be the first of many to come! Emerald Isle Immigration Center looks forward to continuing to support future (Irish) generations start their careers post-graduation in NYC, like it has for over 20 years. There is so much diverse, incredible international talent that NYC needs to tap into."

And this from Colleen Berry Conway, IBO Secretary: "The IBO's commitment to our J-1 Initiative supports the next generation of Irish in New York.  It's so rewarding to be a part of this program which creates a pipeline for graduates wishing to live out their dream."