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If you are not a US citizen or permanent resident, there’s a lot of red tape involved in getting a work permit and rather severe penalties (a heavy fine for your employer, deportation for yourself) if you’re caught working illegally. To work in the USA legally, you’ll need to apply for a work visa with an American embassy before leaving home.

The type of visa you require depends on the length of your stay and the type of work. A J1 visa, for exchange students, is issued to young people (age limits vary) for student vacation employment, work in summer camps and short-term traineeships with a specific employer. Organizations that can help with obtaining such a visa include the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS; 800-727-2437; www.aifs.com) and the Council on International Education and Exchange (CIEE; 800-407-8839; www.ciee.org).

For nonstudent jobs, temporary or permanent, you need to be sponsored by a US employer who will have to arrange one of the various H-category visas. These are not easy to obtain, since the employer has to prove that no US citizen or permanent resident is available to do the job. Seasonal work is possible in national parks and other tourist sites, especially ski areas.

Business hours

Standard business hours, including for most government offices, are 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Bank hours are usually from 9am to 5pm weekdays and many branches are also open on Saturday, usually from 9am to 2pm. Post offices do business from 8am to 4pm or 5:30pm weekdays, and many are open from 8am to 2pm on Saturday.

Restaurants typically serve lunch from 11:30am to 2:30pm and dinner from 5:30pm to 10pm daily. Pubs and bars welcome patrons from around 5pm until 2am nightly, while music and dance clubs open doors at 8pm or 9pm, though many on Friday and Saturday only. Most close at 2am, but if business is buzzing they may keep going until 3am or 4am.

Most shops open their doors around 10am, although noon is quite common for boutiques and art galleries. Closing time is anywhere from 5pm or 6pm to 9pm in shopping malls. Typical Sunday hours are noon to 5pm (until 6pm in malls). Convenience stores and supermarkets often don’t close until 10pm or midnight and may even stay open around the clock, especially in the cities.

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