Your health and safety is always our top priority. We encourage you to review the following resources which help you to stay healthy, happy, and safe throughout your program. If you ever have any questions or concerns while in the U.S., please reach out and let us know how we can help!
- InterExchange Accident & Sickness Insurance Information
- Protecting Yourself From Fraud, Scams and Theft
- Participant Safety: Know the Signs of Trafficking
- Rights and Protection as a Visitor
- What If There Is a Problem?
- Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs: Health & Safety
You are in the U.S. to have an incredible experience! You will work hard and it may be challenging, but you will also have a lot of fun with new friends, travel and adventure. However,being in a new environment with a busy schedule, it is essential that you take care of your health and well-being so that you don’t get sick. . Here are a few tips on staying healthy:
- Exercise three times a week, 20 to 30 minutes per day.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Sleep at least six to eight hours each night.
- Don't skip breakfast.
- Limit consumption of unhealthy snacks, soda, and alcohol.
- Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
- Do not abuse drugs of any kind (Remember, all drug use is prohibited by federal law in the U.S.).
- Remember to bring and take any prescribed medications, as the cost for prescriptions in the U.S. can be very expensive.
- Visit the doctor if you are feeling sick. However, go to the Emergency Room at the local hospital ONLY if you are seriously sick or injured. If you go to the Emergency Room and you are not admitted to the hospital, you will be responsible for a large co-pay.
For even more health tips:
InterExchange wants you to stay healthy while on your program, both physically and mentally. Being emotionally well means being aware of your feelings, accepting your feelings and maintaining a positive outlook even if things don’t go to plan. It is normal to feel overwhelmed as you adjust to a new place and new challenges, but if those feelings persist, the resources below can help you.
- Mental Health for International Students Video
- Common Signs of Mental Health Issues
- Culture Shock & Mental Health
- Tips for Managing Your Mental Health
- Tips for Seeking Mental Health Treatment
- Search for Nearby Counseling Services
If you, or someone you know, needs to speak to someone urgently, please contact one of these 24-hour services:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- The Trevor Lifeline (LGBTQA): 1-866-488-7386
- Treatment Referral Hotline (Substance Abuse): 1-800-662-4357
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 or https://online.rainn.org
- Crisis Text Line: Text Free in the US 741741
In general, the United States is a very safe place. You should feel comfortable in your host community. However, it is always a good idea to keep security and safety in mind, especially when traveling after your program has ended. Overall, you will find this country full of warm, friendly people who will enjoy meeting you, sharing their culture with you, and learning about your culture. If you use common sense, you will be able to avoid most difficulties and have a wonderful, safe time in the United States.
Here are some tips for maintaining your well-being and staying safe:
- Do not hitchhike or accept rides from strangers.
- Do not jaywalk or walk across or along highways.
- Always wear a bike helmet and obey all traffic laws when riding a bike. Use lights and reflective clothing at night.
- Remember that cars drive on the right side of the road in the USA.
- Do not carry more money than you will need for the day.
- Be aware of your surroundings when using an ATM. Take extra caution at night.
- Do not accept any form of money from strangers.
- Do not carry your passport with you if you don't need it. Carry a different form of identification, such as your driver's license or a photocopy of your passport.
- Protect your personal ID and confidential information: your Social Security number is yours alone. Do not share this number or allow others to use your number. Record your number in a safe place in case your card is lost or stolen. Protect both your card and your number to prevent misuse.
- Don't respond to emails from strangers or provide personal information over the Internet unless on a trusted website with appropriate security.
- Obey alcohol consumption laws. The legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21. Underage drinking is illegal. Be careful if drinking in a bar or restaurant. Watch your drink at all times, stay sober, and do not leave with anyone you don't already know.
- Do not drive a car if you’ve been drinking, and do not get into a car with any driver who has been drinking.
- Do not jog or walk alone at night.
- Avoid parks, woods, and remote areas when you are alone, especially at night.
- Always let someone know where you are going and when you will return. Contact someone if your plans change.
- If you feel you are being followed, cross the street and observe what the other person does. Put space between yourself and the person following you. Pretend to see a friend, even if it is a person you do not know and call out or wave to that person. You should try to attract attention and scare away the person following you. If a store, restaurant or business nearby is open, go inside and ask for help.
- If you think you are being followed while driving, drive to the nearest police or fire station.
- Notify the authorities and InterExchange immediately if you are threatened by your employer, colleagues, landlord, or anyone else.
- During local emergencies, obey all warnings and advice from authorities and read communications from InterExchange.
- Be aware of the [Wilberforce laws]((https://iex-website2012.s3.amazonaws.com/files/career-training-usa/pdfs/evp-brochure.pdf) that protect you and the rights you have as an exchange visitor
- Know the Signs of Trafficking: Everyone can help combat human trafficking by recognizing potential indicators and reporting suspected cases of human trafficking.
You can also read our blog post for more safety tips.
If you are ever in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. InterExchange is also available 24/7 if there is an emergency. During business hours, you can reach us at (888) 621-1202. If you experience an emergency outside of business hours, please call 917.373.0994.
Protecting Yourself From Fraud, Scams, and Theft
The InterExchange orientation and support materials provide useful advice on protecting yourself from identity theft and money fraud. Review this information, know your rights, and always be prepared to protect yourself.
If someone you don't know contacts you and requests your personal information (e.g. by phone, by email, through social media), do not share any information without verifying the person's identity. We recommend you do the following:
Tell the person "I can't share any information with you at this time, but I'd like to know some information about you…"
Ask questions about the caller. If a person asks for your information but refuses to share details about themselves, it is unlikely they are contacting you for a legitimate reason.
Request the following information: the reason they're requesting your information, first and last names, the phone number they're calling from, their email address, the company or agency they claim to represent, and their badge number or official ID number if they claim to be law enforcement or a government official.
Share details about this person with the program staff at InterExchange if you have any concerns about sharing your personal information.
If someone claiming to represent a government agency contacts you and tells you that you must pay additional fees, do not give them any money or credit card information. Call InterExchange or the local police department.
Please also review common fraud schemes on the FBI website and learn how to recognize and avoid scams.
Protect Your Documents
Make two photocopies of all your travel documents in case of an emergency or if your documents are lost or stolen. Leave one copy with a friend or relative at home. It is always a good idea to let at least one person know exactly where you will be staying and how to contact you in an emergency. Carry the other copy with you, stored separately from the originals. Documents to make copies of include:
- Passport ID page
- J-1 Visa
- Social Security Card
- Hotel confirmation
- Airline ticket
- Driver's license
- Credit cards brought on the trip
Prepare to Handle Money
- Check and understand the exchange rate before you travel.
- Before you depart from your home country, notify your bank, credit card company, or other financial institutions that you are temporarily relocating to the U.S. You should also notify them anytime you travel overseas.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and consider using major credit cards instead (but make sure they are accepted wherever you are traveling).
- Do not flash large amounts of money when paying a bill.
If You Lose Your Passport
If you lose your visa, you can remain in the U.S. for the duration of your authorized stay, as shown on your electronic I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. However, you will need a valid passport to depart the United States and to enter other countries.
If you lose your passport during your program, you will need to contact your country's embassy or consulate for a replacement. If you plan to leave and re-enter the U.S. after receiving a new passport, you will need to apply for a new J-1 visa before you can return to the U.S. If you lose your DS-2019 form, contact InterExchange.
Sexual harassment is behavior of a sexual nature that is uninvited, unwanted, and unwelcomed by the recipient. Such behavior includes physical contact, verbal abuse, gestures, or written messages.
Sexual Harassment Includes:
- Continuous idle chatter of a sexual nature
- Sexual slurs, innuendos, and other comments about a person's clothing, body and/or sexual activities
- Continuous and unwelcome flirting
- Lewd remarks or suggestive sounds such as whistling, wolf calls, or kissing sounds
- Implied or overt threats if sexual attention is not given
- Repeated unsolicited propositions for dates and/or sexual intercourse
- Jokes or comments based on sex
- The use of graphics or other materials degrading persons based on their sex
- Unwelcome touching or ogling
- Coercion, with the promise of reward
- Unwanted physical contact such as patting, pinching, stroking or brushing up against the body
- Attempted or actual kissing or fondling
- Physical assault
- Coerced sexual intercourse or rape
It is essential that you treat everyone you encounter with respect, and you should insist on being treated with respect, too! Harassment in any form is never acceptable. Being drunk or getting caught up in the moment is NEVER an excuse for behavior that is disrespectful or hurtful to others. Throughout your program, if you experience any situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, please notify InterExchange immediately.
You Could Be a Victim
Who are the victims? Anyone - male or female, young or old - can be the victim of sexual harassment from someone of the opposite, or the same sex. Bosses who promise to assist with changing visa status or offer additional pay or hours in exchange for sexual favors are breaking the law.
Taking Action Against the Sexual Harasser
If you are being harassed, take action to stop it. Some options available to you are:
- Say no. Make it loud and clear. A harasser does not expect confrontation.
- Keep records of all incidents and confrontations.
- Find witnesses or others who will back up your claim.
- Get support from a friend, employer, or anyone else you trust. Make sure you don't keep it to yourself. The more help you get, the faster the harasser will stop.
- Call InterExchange immediately. We are available 24/7 at our emergency hotline 917.373.0994.
- If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
Sexism, Racism and Homophobia
- Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on sex. It may be less direct than sexual harassment.
- Racism is the hatred, intolerance, or negative attitude towards another race or other races.
- Homophobia is the hatred or fear of homosexuals or people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT).
If you think you may be being treated unfairly because of your sex, race, or sexual orientation, get support from someone you trust and call InterExchange to discuss the issue. We are always here to assist you!
For more information visit The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at www.eeoc.gov.
If you won’t be purchasing a car while in the U.S., cycling may be a good alternative for traveling from home to your host employer. Keep in mind, though, that cycling isn’t as big a part of U.S. culture as it may be in your own country. Not all cities and states have protected bike lanes, and cycling laws will vary from city to city. Check the cycling laws and regulations for your U.S. host city to ensure you can get to and from you host company easily and safely.
If you need to bike to your host company, or if you ride in your free time, please follow these safety guidelines. Note that in some cities or states the following guidelines may actually be required by law:
- Always wear a helmet.
- If you ride at night, make sure your bike has reflectors and lights on the front and back.
- Wear white or bright colors when walking or biking at night.
- Make sure your bicycle is adjusted properly and that the tires are full.
- Scan for traffic and use hand signals when changing lanes and making turns.
- Obey all traffic laws.
- Never wear headphones while biking.
- Cars drive on the right side of the road.
- Always ride with the flow of traffic and follow all traffic signals.
- Secure your bike with a lock when not in use.
- Do not ride your bike on busy highways or freeways. In many cities, this is illegal.
- Ride in single file to ensure you are not obstructing traffic. Bicycling two abreast can be dangerous.
Driving in the U.S.
Remember that cars drive on the right side of the road in the U.S. If you plan to drive in the U.S., you must study and follow the local, state, and federal laws regarding driving. Consult the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the state where you would like to drive. Never drive after drinking alcohol and never get into the car with a driver who has been drinking. Always wear a seat belt.
Local DMV offices may be found through an Internet search, or by visiting the state's official DMV website. For more details about the DMV and driving in the U.S., please refer to the driving information section of our website.
Use extra caution and:
- Stay on marked roads.
- Be aware of special weather and road conditions (e.g., snow, fog, flooding).
- Use extra care around school buses, trucks and large vehicles.
- Follow parking rules.
- Be aware of pedestrians and cyclists.
- Don’t text or use your cellphone while driving.
- Don't drive drunk.
- Don't speed.
- Always wear your seat belt!
Your safety is our priority. In the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, flood or other extreme weather or emergency situation, it is mandatory that you comply with emergency procedures and follow instructions issued by InterExchange and your local Office of Emergency Management.
For the most current information on evacuation notices and to learn what your local area is doing to prepare for an extreme weather event or emergency, visit the website of your local Office of Emergency Management. They can also provide information about maintaining an emergency kit for such situations. Talk to your host employer to get information and guidance on how to prepare for an emergency as well.
After major emergencies in the U.S., InterExchange will reach out to confirm that you are safe and to verify whether you have evacuated. Please respond promptly so that we know you are safe. And as always, please reach out to us if you need help during an emergency.
Important Information If You Are Evacuated
It is required that you follow local evacuation instructions in emergency situations. Should you be evacuated, make sure to take important documents with you. This includes your passport, DS-2019 Form, Social Security Card, financial records, plane ticket, checks, credit cards, etc.
Take important contact numbers and email addresses, and make note of the InterExchange emergency: 917.373.0994 .
Contact your family members to let them know you are safe and how you can be reached, and let InterExchange know immediately where you have relocated.