Understanding the J-1 Visa
Exchange Visitors on IENA’s program work at camp through the J-1 Cultural Exchange Visitor Visa program. The maximum length of time this visa is valid for is 4 months plus a 30 day grace period to travel, before AND after the dates on their camp contract. Participants are not allowed to work during this 30- day grace period. All participants on the J-1 visa must depart the U.S. within 30 days of their visa expiration date.
IENA administers two different types of J-1 visas, depending on whether the participant has selected to apply as Support Staff or as a Camp Counselor. Please be advised that participants may only work in the position for which their visa was issued. It is a violation of J-1 visa regulations if this is not the case.
- Camp Counselors are part of the J-1 Camp Counselor program
- Support Staff are part of the J-1 Summer Work and Travel program
The major difference in these programs from an eligibility point of view is that you MUST be a full time student to be considered for the Summer Work and Travel program. J-1 Visa regulations were updated in May 2012 and we expect several further updates in the coming years. We will keep you informed here of these updates. When administering a J-1 Visa program, IENA are responsible for monitoring participants and their working environments.
We work closely with the American Camp Association, and the Department of State. The regulations are intended to take the spirit of cultural diplomacy and put it into action. The intent of the J-1 visa is to make working at a camp this summer more than a job. It should embrace cultural exchange. The J1 participants must be working alongside Americans and people from diverse cultures as well as experiencing American culture during time off from work.
IENA is required to obtain these documents from every camp prior to finalizing placements:
- A copy of your business license. Depending on the type of camp this can take a variety of forms. Normally it is from the Secretary of State and authorizes the camp to function in their state. It can be called an operating permit or even be a long letter. A copy of your county or city license will also suffice.
- A copy of your Workers’ Compensation certificate showing current coverage
- A signed copy of the IENA agreement
In Addition, in order to comply with Department of State regulations, we require the following:
- That Cultural Component is part of the placement
- That Camp Contacts IENA regularly regarding Exchange Visitors and ensures Exchange Visitors are in compliance with regulations
- That Camp Pays in accordance with applicable state and federal laws
More information on the J-1 Visa can be found on the Department of States website