About the Exchange Visitor Program


For more than 50 years, the U.S. Department of State Exchange Visitor Program has helped bring international students and young professionals to the United States to learn about American culture and meet real Americans.

The program advances America’s diplomatic relations and bolsters national security by improving the perception of the U.S. in the eyes of future leaders from 200 countries and territories. The Exchange Visitor Program includes such successful exchanges as Summer Work Travel, Camp Counselor, Au Pair, Intern, and Trainee. These exchanges allow participants to offset the costs of their experience through a work component, and add significantly to the U.S. economy.



The Exchange Visitor Program was created by the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, Senator J. William Fulbright’s landmark legislation designed 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. Senator Fulbright also saw the need for work-based exchanges, a vision that resulted in programs such as Summer Work Travel and Camp Counselor. In the years since the legislation was passed, the Exchange Visitor Program has served as a cornerstone of U.S. public diplomacy. It is privately funded and operates at no cost to U.S. taxpayers. In addition to its diplomatic and foreign policy benefits, the program has evolved to provide important economic benefits to U.S. host businesses, host families, and seasonal communities nationwide.

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 [these programs] and I think that doing so would be contrary to our foreign policy interest and our national interest.
— Senator J. William Fulbright

What is the Exchange Visitor Program?

The Exchange Visitor Program is a cultural exchange program that allows participants the opportunity to engage broadly with Americans, share
their culture, strengthen their English language abilities, and learn new skills or build skills that will help them in future careers. The program is overseen by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) at the U.S. Department of State, and is governed by regulations that protect the health, safety, and welfare of program participants. The regulations require that:

  • Placements and hosts are appropriately vetted and approved, and provide frequent exchange with Americans, language learning, and cultural opportunities.

  • Participants are regularly monitored by their American sponsor organizations and have access to a 24/7 toll-free help line.

  • Exchange visitors are not tied to their host employer or host family, and may change placements at any time with sponsor assistance.

What is the J-1 Visa?

The J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the U.S. Department of State to educational and cultural exchange participants. Every year, approximately 300,000 international students, scholars, researchers, teachers, and young professionals from 200 countries and territories visit the United States via one of the 15 different categories of J-1 exchange programs.

Select a program to learn more:

+ Au Pair

The Au Pair program connects American families with young people from around the world for an exciting, life-changing cultural exchange experience. Au pairs provide valuable childcare services for American families and introduce American children to the wider world by sharing their culture. Au pairs gain an in-depth understanding of the American way of life by living and interacting with their host families.

PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS: Au Pair participants are adventurous young people with child care experience who want to live with an American family and provide care to the family’s children.

PROGRAM PLACEMENTS: Host families are typically middle-class American families with working parents and multiple children. For the duration of the program and beyond, au pairs become extended family members. They join their host family for meals, social events, vacations, milestones and other activities.


  • Au pairs must be between 18 and 26 when they arrive to the U.S.
  • Au pairs can provide childcare related work for a maximum of 10 hours per day, and 45 hours per week.
  • All au pairs and host families undergo a comprehensive vetting procedure that includes background checks, an in-person interview, and vetting of childcare references
  • Au pairs must complete not less than six semester hours of academic credit in formal educational settings at accredited U.S. post-secondary institutions
  • Au pairs can stay in the U.S. for up to 12 months, and can extend their program one time for an additional 12 months.

+ Camp Counselor

International camp counselors have a rich history of working at American summer camps. Camp counselors take leadership and support roles at summer camps across the country. They creatively engage with American children, adults, peers, families, and communities from different ethnic, economic, and religious backgrounds.

PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS: Camp counselor participants represent a diverse population of qualified students, teachers, and youth workers. Many have specialized skills they teach to campers. Counselors may work at U.S. camps during the summer only, and are directly responsible for the supervision of American youth.

PROGRAM PLACEMENTS: Camp counselors work at summer camps that are either accredited, members of the American Camping Association, affiliated with a nationally-recognized non-profit organization, and/or have been inspected, evaluated, and approved by an exchange sponsor organization.


  • Participants must not displace American workers and must receive pay and benefits commensurate with their American co-workers.
  • Placements are thoroughly vetted and approved before participant arrival.
  • Host camps must provide frequent cultural exchange opportunities
  • Participants may not be placed in roles such as administrative personnel, cooks, or menial laborers, such as dishwashers or janitors.
  • Participants can stay in the U.S. for no longer than 4 months.

+ Intern and Trainee

American companies increasingly see professionally-based exchange programs as integral to their operations and success in the global market. The J-1 Intern and J-1 Trainee programs were established in 2007 to meet this need while also providing hands-on exposure to American business practices to qualified international participants.

PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS: International interns are either currently enrolled in postgraduate studies or have recently completed their undergraduate degree. Internships may last up to 12 months.

Trainee participants are young professionals with a degree or certificate and often as much as five years of work experience in their fields. Training positions may last up to 18 months.

PROGRAM PLACEMENTS: Interns and trainees must intern or train in their field of study or experience. For a full list of approved industries in which participants may intern or train, please refer to the U.S. Department of State.


  • Participants may not displace American workers or serve to fill a labor need.
  • Host employers and participants must complete, and have approved by their sponsor, a training plan to ensure that exchange participants obtain professional skills and knowledge.
  • Host organizations must agree to provide interns or trainees with opportunities to supplement their work experience with classroom training, seminars, rotation through several different departments, attendance at conferences, or similar learning experiences.
  • Visa sponsors must actively facilitate cultural exchange opportunities for participants.

+ Summer Work Travel

For more than 50 years, international university students have come to the U.S. to experience American culture for up to four months, underwriting the cost of their experience with temporary and seasonal job placements, typically in hospitality and tourism industries. Seasonal communities across the U.S. not only welcome these participants, but also have come to depend on them to fill otherwise unfilled temporary positions. SWT also affords international participants the opportunity to explore the vast and diverse beauty of the U.S. for up to 30 days after their job placement ends.

PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS: 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.

PROGRAM PLACEMENTS: SWT placements are typical summer jobs. They are seasonal, temporary, entry-level, and in tourist areas such as beaches, ski resorts, and National Parks.


  • Participants must be currently enrolled college students.
  • Participants must be paid the same as their American coworkers.
  • Placements must not displace American workers.ob placements must be vetted and approved before students arrive.
  • Placements must provide contact with Americans, facilitate language learning, and offer cultural exchange opportunities.

Exchange Visitor Program Sponsors

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

Visitors in all 15 categories of the Exchange Visitor Program undergo a thorough review process when applying for an exchange program. The review process is conducted by the sponsor organization. Sponsors continue to work with the U.S. Department of State, host organizations, and host families to provide positive, memorable experiences for exchange visitors. Sponsors also support participants throughout their stay in the United States by providing resources that include comprehensive orientations, 24/7 support, and cultural engagement activities.