For more than 50 years, the Summer Work Travel program has supported the success of American diplomacy and of American seasonal businesses.

The seasonal communities that host Summer Work Travel participants criss-cross our country. These international students are able to explore the vast and diverse beauty of the United States, interacting with Americans from all walks of life. When they return home, the students have a clear and personal understanding of American values and people, paving the way for positive diplomatic and economic interactions in the future.



The Summer Work Travel program was created by the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, Senator J. William Fulbright’s legislation to increase mutual understanding between Americans and the people of other countries.

This legislation created such important academic exchanges as the Fulbright Program, among many others.

In that legislation, Senator Fulbright also saw the need for work-based exchange programs like Summer Work Travel. 

Over 50+ years, Summer Work Travel has become the U.S.’ largest student exchange program. It is privately funded and costs nothing to the U.S. taxpayer. In addition to its diplomatic and foreign policy benefits, the program has evolved to provide important economic benefits to U.S. host businesses and seasonal communities. 

“Work can indeed be an important educational and cross cultural experience. It may be more influential in forming attitudes and impressions of American life than a purely academic experience.

“I see nothing to be gained by restricting the Summer Work Travel program and I think that doing so would be contrary to our foreign policy interest and our national interest.”
— Senator J. William Fulbright


SWT participants are international university students who live, work, and travel in America during their summer breaks. Their J-1 visa allows them to be in the U.S. for no more than four months, after which they return home to continue their studies.

These students come from 90+ countries, including those important to U.S. national security and American economic expansion, such as Brazil, China, Turkey, and Russia.

Meet and get to know some of the impressive SWT alumni.

SWT placements are your typical summer jobs. They are seasonal, entry-level, and in tourist areas. Students sell t-shirts on the boardwalk, man the front desk at hotels and resorts, take tickets at amusement parks, lifeguard at beaches and pools, scoop ice cream, work at National Parks, and operate the lifts at ski resorts, among many other job placements.



True to Senator Fulbright’s vision for American exchange programs, Summer Work Travel operates as a public-private partnership. The Department of State partners with (and regulates) U.S.-based cultural exchange organizations, known as sponsors, to facilitate the program.

Sponsors work closely with host employers to create positive, memorable experiences for SWT students. Sponsors support the students throughout their stay in the U.S.


The Summer Work Travel program is governed by Department of State regulations that protect the health, safety, and welfare of international students. These regulations have been improved three times since 2010, with a fourth update pending.

The regulations require that:

  • SWT participants must be currently enrolled college students.
  • SWT placements must not displace American workers.
  • SWT students must be paid the exact same as their American co-workers.
  • All job placements must be vetted and approved before students arrive.
  • SWT students are not tied to their host employers and can change job placements without obstacle, with the assistance of their sponsor.
  • Placements must provide students contact with Americans, facilitate language learning, and offer cultural opportunities.

SWT sponsors must be in monthly contact with each student, and provide a 24/7 toll-free help line.