Camp USA International Cooperator Resources
Review these resources whenever you need instructions or answers to questions about the program. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.
InterExchange is a nonprofit organization with more than 50 years of experience dedicated to promoting cultural awareness through a wide range of affordable and exciting work & travel, professional training, internship, au pair, camp, language learning, and volunteer programs within the U.S. and abroad. InterExchange is designated by the U.S. Department of State to sponsor the J-1 Visa for people from around the world who would like to engage in cultural exchange by visiting the U.S. for a defined period of time. We also connect U.S. citizens with work and volunteer opportunities that enable them to learn about life in other countries.
We encourage all our participants and professional colleagues to learn about The Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, also known as the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. This important act enables the Government of the United States to:
- increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange;
- strengthen the ties which unite us with other nations by demonstrating the educational and cultural interests, developments, and achievements of the people of the United States and other nations, and the contributions being made toward a peaceful and more fruitful life for people throughout the world;
- promote international cooperation for educational and cultural advancement; and thus assist in the development of friendly, sympathetic, and peaceful relations between the United States and the other countries of the world.
Our J-1 Visa participants and their hosts must follow all regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of State and maintain contact with InterExchange throughout their selected programs. We guide international visitors to best take advantage of the cultural opportunities offered by their local host communities in the U.S. Similarly, we encourage U.S. host families and employers to promote cultural learning by introducing international visitors to uniquely American values, customs, history and activities while simultaneously learning about the countries and cultures of visiting participants. Strengthening these relationships makes achieving the goals of mutual cultural exchange possible and allows us to build a global community—one person at a time.
InterExchange Camp USA places international participants, ages 18-28, in U.S. summer camps in counselor positions. InterExchange also sponsors visas for returning staff or for participants who have found their own camp counselor jobs. The Camp Counselor J-1 Visa is valid for up to four months. The program runs between May 15 and September 15.
Other InterExchange Programs
Au Pair USA is a 12-month program that gives young people, ages 18-26, the opportunity to experience the U.S. by living with an American host family and providing child care. In return for their services, au pairs receive room, board, a weekly stipend, accident and sickness insurance, airfare, and an educational allowance to use toward college-level courses. This program can be extended for an additional six, nine, or 12 months after successfully completing the original 12-month program.
Career Training USA assists international students and young professionals, ages 18-38, with J-1 Visa sponsorship for internships and practical training programs in the U.S. Candidates may apply for the J-1 Intern or Trainee Visa if they have already secured an appropriate position in the U.S. International students and recent graduates may apply as Interns and pursue an internship for up to 12 months in a field related to their academic field of study. International working professionals may apply as Trainees and pursue training programs for up to 18 months in a field related to their occupational background. To be eligible, participants’ education and work experience must have been earned outside the U.S.
Work & Travel USA offers international university students ages 18-28 the opportunity to live and work in the U.S. for up to four months during their breaks from university classes. Students work in seasonal and temporary positions in hotels, inns, amusement parks, national parks, retail stores and ski resorts, among other types of businesses. They receive a wage, assistance with housing, accident and sickness insurance, program support and an optional month for travel to explore the United States. Work & Travel USA also offers a 12-month program for citizens of Australia and New Zealand.
Working Abroad enables U.S. citizens, generally ages 18-30, to build diverse work experiences overseas. Opportunities include au pair, English language instruction, work and travel, and volunteer abroad placements. We offer programs in Australia, Africa, Asia, South America and numerous European countries.
The InterExchange Foundation was established in 2007 to provide grant funding to motivated young Americans who contribute to worthy work or volunteer projects abroad. The Working Abroad Grant supports participants of select InterExchange Working Abroad programs, and the Christianson Fellowship supports individuals who have sought out and arranged their own long-term work abroad programs. Many students study abroad every year, but far fewer take advantage of the opportunity to work, intern, or volunteer overseas. By providing financial assistance to talented candidates, we hope to encourage young Americans to discover the world and benefit from the unique and enriching insights one can only gain from living and working abroad.
International Cooperator (IC)
InterExchange is proud to work with International Cooperator (IC) companies and organizations in more than 60 countries. Our IC network represents a cross-section of the most exceptional and trusted companies involved in promoting and recruiting for cultural exchange programs.
Our ICs introduce InterExchange programs to prospective participants in their home countries and emphasize the benefits of spending time in the U.S. to expand their professional and personal experiences. ICs collaborate with us to fulfill the goals of cultural exchange, helping our international participants enjoy learning opportunities in the U.S. while also making it possible for host employers and families to meet and learn about people from all over the world. One of the key responsibilities ICs fulfill is to recruit, pre-screen and select applicants who meet visa eligibility requirements and are prepared to make the most of the cultural exchange experience when working with host employers, families and host communities.
In addition to providing ICs with detailed information and guidance for marketing our programs in their home countries, we also provide content for orientations to teach participants about life in the U.S. and prepare them for adapting to a new culture and country. Each in-bound international participant is interviewed by either InterExchange staff or an IC to evaluate the candidate’s ability to be successful on the program. Every IC is an important part of the process for making sure that all participants are equipped for the benefits as well as the challenges of joining one of our cultural exchange programs.
The Goal of the InterExchange Camp USA Program
The InterExchange Camp USA program allows selected university students, teachers, bona fide youth workers and individuals with specialized skills to gain a greater understanding of the United States via an 8-15 week program at an American summer camp. The program allows participants to serve as a counselor, get paid a stipend, develop lifelong friendships, experience the culture of the United States while sharing their own, and improve their English language abilities. It also provides them with the opportunity to work alongside American peers and travel to other parts of the country after completing their camp placements. After their assignment in the United States, participants return to their home countries with greater maturity, cultural intelligence and improved English language skills as well as enhanced knowledge and appreciation of the U.S.
How to Use This Manual
All of the information in this handbook is divided chronologically. Before you begin recruiting, please read the entire manual. Every section contains valuable information, policies, and procedures that you will need to understand when creating a plan for the coming year. Please call or email us if you have questions. As the season progresses, you will need to re-read each section to ensure that you are keeping up with all of your responsibilities and giving your applicants accurate information.
Thank you for helping InterExchange Camp USA provide a positive cultural exchange experience for international participants from your country!
Camp Counselors are part of a team that help create a fun, safe and rewarding experience for the campers. Their main duty is to coordinate, conduct, and lead all activities for children and young teenagers during their stay at the camp. Camp counselors also have responsibilities within the cabin. A camp counselor typically shares a cabin with a group of campers. They must ensure their safety and act as a role model during this time.
From the U.S. Department of State CFR 62.30: In order to promote diverse opportunities for participation in educational and cultural exchange programs, the Department of State designates exchange sponsors to facilitate the entry of foreign nationals to serve as counselors in U.S. summer camps. These programs promote international understanding by improving American knowledge of foreign cultures while enabling foreign participants to increase their knowledge of American culture. The foreign participants are best able to carry out this objective by serving as counselors per se, that is, having direct responsibility for supervision of groups of American youth and of activities that bring them into interaction with their charges. While it is recognized that some non-counseling chores are an essential part of camp life for all counselors, this program is not intended to assist American camps in bringing in foreign nationals to serve as administrative personnel, cooks, or menial laborers, such as dishwashers or janitors.
Participant eligibility. Participation in camp counselor exchange programs is limited to foreign nationals who:
- Are at least 18 years of age; and generally not more than 28 years of age
- Are bona fide youth workers, students, teachers, or individuals with specialized skills
Someone who has independently secured a position with a camp in the U.S. and needs assistance in obtaining the necessary paperwork to apply for a J-1 Visa. A Self-Placement participant must NOT have applied through the Camp Placement program. All Self-Placement participants are responsible for the cost of international travel and any domestic transportation to their employer. All of the information about Self-Placement participants is in Chapter 9 of this handbook. Please consult chapter 9 if you have questions about the Self-Placement program and eligibility requirements; the other policies in this manual do not necessarily apply to Self-Placement participants.
Returning Placement Participant
If a participant wishes to return to the same camp in a subsequent year, he or she should do so as a Returning Placement applicant and make arrangements with the original camp . Returning Placement participants follow the same procedures and policies as Self-Placement participants.
The Role of a Counselor
Supervising another person’s child is an enormous responsibility. Therefore, working as a summer camp counselor is an extremely important job. Counselors must be patient, mature and responsible individuals.
The ability to speak English proficiently is another critical skill for a prospective counselor. Strong English skills are a must when teaching an activity and in communication for all other aspects of camp. If a counselor does not understand or speak English well, he or she will be difficult to place and will likely be denied a visa.
Camp is an ever-changing environment, so the counselor needs to be open-minded, flexible and have a positive attitude. The ability to handle stressful situations in a constructive manner is essential for a counselor. He or she must be prepared to spend all day with the campers and always act in a mature and responsible manner when around them and their fellow teammates.
Most importantly, an individual who wishes to be a camp counselor in the United States should genuinely care about the welfare of children and be interested in learning about life in the U.S. They should not view this experience as an inexpensive option for visiting the U.S.
Who to Recruit
InterExchange Camp USA only recruits applicants who are eager and excited to work with children. Applicants who possess specialized skills are much easier to place than those who are only qualified to work as general counselors. However, all applicants should be prepared to assume some general counselor responsibilities and be willing to do a variety of jobs. Applicants who are interested in working in a religious or special needs camp are also very valuable to the program.
Activity counselors must possess relevant certification or training in the specified activity and/or show strong teaching experience. Camps look for certified activity counselors because many states require these instructors to hold certifications. However, camps are often willing to train candidates who lack actual certification to develop their skills and gain experience.
Different camps will have different requirements for their activity counselors. At some camps, an activity counselor will do nothing but teach soccer all day. At other camps, an activity counselor will teach soccer part-time but will also teach another activity. There are camps where the activity counselors will live with campers in the cabin, and others where they will live separately from the campers.The same variation of duties holds true for general counselors. Both activity and general counselors must be flexible, patient and willing to explore the different responsibilities that these positions entail. Camps classify whether a participant is an activity or general counselor.
Special needs counselors work with campers who face a wide variety of challenges including physical, mental, behavioral and learning disabilities. The position requires patience, lots of energy and most importantly, respect for the campers. Responsibilities may include bathing, lifting and assisting with the overall care of campers. The types and degrees of disabilities vary greatly between camps. A special needs counselor should have a general interest in or prior experience working with this population. Many special needs camps will take counselors with no previous experience as long as they are open-minded and motivated to learn.
InterExchange Camp USA welcomes returning participants. These applicants usually have a solid understanding of the meaning of camp. They integrate quickly and easily into the camp environment, and in some cases they can become effective leadership staff. Returning participants have much to offer their camp communities. Returning participants must understand that the commitment is as important as it was their first year. InterExchange Camp USA would like to ensure that their experience is as great as, if not better than, the participants’ first summer! If a participant wishes to return to the same camp exclusively, he or she should do so as a Returning Placement applicant and make arrangements with the original camp. If they would like to participate in the program a second time but would like to go to a new camp they should do so through the Camp Placement program.
In accordance with U.S. Department of State regulations and InterExchange policy:
- All counselors may repeat a second time.
- There are restrictions on the number of returners we can accept for a third year or more.
Important for Returning Participants
There are two important reasons that you should make arrangements for your returning participants in the fall & winter prior to your summer season, even before addressing other applicants.
Our program is first come, first serve, so if your applicants submit their paperwork too late, InterExchange may not be able to sponsor their visa due to the limits put in place on returning participants. Returning participants who apply early can be processed more quickly and this allows you to focus on recruiting more first time participants.
Secondly, you will have a more efficient process if you manage all of your returning participants before starting the application process with new participants. You can send out a quick postcard or email to all of last year’s participants, reminding them that they need to apply immediately if they would like to return to camp. Help them decide if they should come as a second-year Camp Placement or as a Returning Placement, then invite them to apply with the appropriate online application type. Once you have received a completed application from a returning participant, please submit their application to InterExchange so that we can begin the sponsorship or placement process.
Registration and Contract
(September 15 to October 31)
At the beginning of each season, we ask our cooperators to return a signed copy of the IC Agreement and the required supplemental documentation prior to acting on behalf of InterExchange to recruit prospective exchange visitors. As you compile your documents and sign the IC agreement, please consider the changes you would like to make for the year ahead. Remember, all of the decisions you make will constitute a commitment for the entire season.
Completing Your Registration Form and Contract
General requirements – There are several general requirements for ICs and their businesses:
- Make sure to obtain all appropriate business licensing.
- Conduct background checks on all your company’s staff members who will be involved in recruiting, screening, selecting, and orienting program participants, as well as owners and officers of the organization.
- Have validation studies and data about your business available for InterExchange if requested. This may include: * Notarized statement from bank ensuring credit-worthiness of business or financial solvency * Admission of any previous bankruptcy and all legal actions pending * Three references from current business associates or partner organizations * Outline of all previous experience conducting J-1 program activity including names of previous and/or current sponsors * Outline of recruiting methods
Contact information – Please ensure that the contact information in your online account is accurate and up to date. If you need to change your contact information or mailing address please contact InterExchange at [email protected].
Country – Please note that if you recruit candidates from more than one country, you must complete multiple contracts and submit separate documents. You must also: 1) obtain a business license, 2) maintain a physical presence in the country, and 3) conduct background checks on all staff in each location. Make sure you consider elements such as flights and numbers for each country on an individual basis.
Flight arrangements – Think very carefully about flights before you make decisions. You, InterExchange, the camp, and the participant must all understand who is paying for a participant’s flight. If you choose to purchase the round-trip flights for your participants, InterExchange will reimburse you a set amount per participant. Flights should be purchased to the preferred airport of the participant’s host camp. If a participant needs to fly somewhere other than New York City, they should fly to that airport. InterExchange’s flight reimbursement amount does not change, regardless of the destination or total flight cost. If this results in additional International Cooperator fees paid for by the participant, this must be clearly outlined in your promotional literature.
The Self-Travel option exists for those participants who buy their own flights. These participants will have a higher stipend to account for the cost of their flights. If your participants are Self-Travel, please ensure they have a flight home arranged in advance. They should not rely on their stipends to purchase their return flights.
Recruitment projections – Our focus is on placing a higher percentage of accepted applicants and providing a better quality of support to those applicants.We ask that you concentrate on recruiting candidates with very specialized skills, a high level of English, and availability to arrive by June 15th or before. If you do not feel that you are going to have as many potential applicants as we have allotted to you, please let us know early so we can plan accordingly.
Promotional materials – Please utilize social media, referrals and other low-cost promotional outlets. Feel free to use photos, videos and other materials from our IC Resources. (Sample Host Camps, Camp USA Program Overview for Participants). See How to Promote the Program in the IC Handbook for more ideas.
Applicant fees – InterExchange is a nonprofit organization, and we keep our program fees low to reach the widest audience possible. We expect our cooperators to join us in keeping the program affordable and require that you inform us in writing about any and all fees that you are charging participants. Once you have submitted your fees with the IC Agreement, you have agreed that you will not charge participants more than that amount. Please think carefully about your financial needs for the season before confirming your fees.
How to Market to Potential Applicants
Network with some of the following places or groups to find qualified staff:
- Courses for teachers, physical education staff, social workers and special needs programs
- Universities where youth work and/or child development is the primary focus
- University or college career centers
- Churches, synagogues and temples
- Organizations, associations and university clubs
- Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
Past participants can also be a great resource to assist you with leading information sessions about the program at their local university. We often receive inquiries from interested applicants through our website, and we will pass along your contact information to them by email. We will forward you a copy of the email we are sending to these applicants so you can follow up on the inquiry. Don’t expect them to get in touch with you without encouragement; email them immediately and let them know that you are their contact person in your country! Make sure you provide accurate program information and materials that clearly explain the program activities and terms and conditions.
How to Promote the Program
You are responsible for all costs of promoting the program and recruiting applicants in the countries where you operate. However, InterExchange Camp USA will assist you by providing information sheets and images. Consider using some or all of the following marketing channels:
Advertising – Place advertisements in key local newspapers or on general radio programs to reach a diverse population. Also look into advertising in student newspapers, classrooms, career centers, or dormitories. You may also want to try advertising on the internet by having a promotional banner or link on student, youth, or community web sites to promote the program.
Social media – Create an Instagram page dedicated to the camp counselor program. Maintain an active blog where you post information about programs and allow past participants to comment and share positive stories about their experiences. Create a Facebook page or the equivalent on relevant sites in your country, where participants can post information and photos about their experiences. Create a group on LinkedIn or similar career sites where participants can create professional networks as they move forward in their careers.
Human interest stories – Did your participants from previous years have a great time? Interview them about their experiences and compose a press release or news article. Distribute it to a local paper or website to publish it.
Video – InterExchange provides our International Cooperators with promotional videos that include interviews with camp participants as well as camp directors who have hired them. Please ask our staff for copies of these videos as well as guidelines for how you may use them on your website and social media as well as at your in-person events.
InterExchange Camp USA brochure and information sheets – Our team provides materials that outline the program and the stipends that participants earn. You may share this information with participants, but no alterations may be made from the original documents.
Information sessions/talks – Informational sessions are a good way to reach a large number of people rather inexpensively. These talks can address the general public or target a particular club or university. Invite past participants to speak during these presentations or see if they can present a quick overview of the program in their schools via clubs, study abroad offices, or career centers. Contact professors or university officials to arrange these presentations; they can be great allies in promoting the program.
Website – Students around the world rely on the internet as their primary source of information. Is your website informative and accurate regarding InterExchange services? Can someone easily find your contact information on the main page? Is it easy to apply or register to the program? Do you have a direct link to email? You should also consider promoting your website through search engines such as Google and Yahoo to increase traffic on your website. While you are not permitted to post the InterExchange Camp USA application on your website, you may consider building your own abbreviated online registration form, so you can gather information about interested applicants.
Word of mouth – Word of mouth advertising is vital to this program. Utilize past participants in your recruitment efforts. They have a very clear understanding of the camp program. Their stories and experiences can be a very powerful marketing tool to represent different types of camps at orientation sessions.
How do I follow up with potential applicants to ensure their commitments?
Once you have received and responded to an inquiry, you should be prepared to do some follow-up work. Invite leads to start an application in the online system. You can use their responses to the questions to help you pre-screen the applicants. When applicants first start an application, they are not required to upload any supplemental documents. Consider calling and emailing the applicant a week or so later and keep an eye on the application statuses. If they have been in the status “Not Submitted” for a couple weeks, get in touch to see if they are still interested or have questions. If they have submitted the written portion of their application, their status will be “Cooperator Review” which means it’s time for you to take action! Make sure to contact the applicant for an interview if you think they will be a good candidate and explain which documents they need to upload to their application to complete it.If you have too large an inquiry pool for personal phone calls, you may want to send a group email reminding applicants about deadlines. Or, try doing something creative! Perhaps you could send out a newsletter with program information and updates or you might try posting messages and links to your website and on your Facebook fan page.
Pre-Screening Prospective Applicants
(October 1 – December 20)
Pre-screening is a crucial first step for both you and the applicant. First, you can avoid investing large amounts of time and money in the application process if an applicant is inappropriate for the program. Second, the applicant can assess your agency’s professionalism and decide whether or not to trust your organization. You should explain the goals and requirements for the program to an interested candidate before sending out an application invitation to the person. You should also explain to them that InterExchange is their J-1 Visa sponsor and they will need to communicate with us frequently throughout the summer.
Be sure to determine the candidate’s:
- English level
- Experience with children
- Motivation for participating in the program
- Skill level
- Dates of availability
You should be able to get general answers to the above questions and determine if the person is a suitable candidate for the program. It is also a good idea to find out whether or not the applicant has ever participated in a cultural exchange program or lived away from home before. Listen carefully for certain warning signs. Ask questions such as: Is the applicant only looking for a cheap way to see America? Is he or she trying to get away from a certain situation at home? Has this applicant ever received a visa rejection?
Candidates who answer “yes” to these questions are often not a good fit for our program.
If you have a website where potential applicants can request information, you may want to consider adding a form where participants can (briefly) respond to the same questions you would ask during a phone conversation. Or, you can simply ask for the applicant’s telephone number and contact him or her before sending out information.
Eligibility for Camp Counselors
- Students, teachers, bona fide youth workers, or individuals with specialized skills
- At least 18 years of age by June 1st of the year of participation; preferably not older than 28
- Strong English speakers
- Highly dedicated individuals who are committed to participating in the program for at least 9 weeks
- Available to work starting from as early as May 15th and ending as late as September 15th. We can not accept participants who can not arrive by June 15th. Genuinely interested in working with children in an outdoor setting
- Genuinely interested in working with children in an outdoor setting
Why English Is Important
Applicant Who Are Over 28 Years Old
Cooperator Guidelines for Pre-Interview Skill Evaluation
InterExchange Camp USA accepts applicants with a wide variety of skills. When you are conducting preliminary interviews, it is important to keep in mind that there are some applicants whose skills make them very easy to place. Without necessary skills an applicant can be very hard to place, unless the person compensates with exemplary skills in a specialized field. When participants are indicating their skills, please try to stay away from general skills (e.g. Camping, group games…). The more specific their skill-set, the easier they will be to place.
We have provided some guidelines for pre-screening applicants. Skills and experience with children are very important. You should only accept applicants who:
A) Possess a strong ability to teach a skill to children and have significant training in teaching this skill.
B) Possess a strong ability to assist with a skill, have a lot of childcare experience, and are willing to go to a special needs or religious camp.
C) Possess outstanding ability in a secondary skill, have significant training and experience teaching children this skill, and speak English fluently.
In addition, ALL applicants should be available to fly to the U.S. on June 15th or earlier. Applicants must also be available to stay until August 15th or after. After June 15th, the number of camps that will accept applicants diminishes significantly. The same limitation applies to participants who need to leave before August 15th.
Some other guidelines to keep in mind:
- Camp directors really pay attention to the top three skills listed on the application.
- Screening for true skill levels will improve the quality of your applicants and, in turn, make placement much easier. If you are uncertain about an applicant’s true skill levels, you may ask them to give you portfolios, video, or other media showcasing their skills. While these are not necessary parts of the application, they can help you determine your applicants’ skills, abilities, and character. We trust and value your opinion. If an applicant provides a video clip or other samples showcasing their capabilities, please forward them to us.
- Introductory videos are not required to submit an application, but they are strongly encouraged. Most camps expect them and won’t look at applications without videos. This is an opportunity for the applicant to show their personality and English level.
Requirements for skill levels in certain areas are indicated in details next to each description below. Please see the interview activities questionnaire for detailed language and questions regarding specific skills.
- Archery (preferably certified to teach, but not required)
- Gymnastics: This can be a primary skill if applicant has experience in all elements of gymnastics, not just floor work. Otherwise, it should be considered a secondary skill.
- Horse riding
- Martial arts
- Metal work
- Motorboat Driving
- Mountain biking
- Rock climbing
- Ropes course
- Yoga (if certified to teach)
- Animal care: Applicants should have experience working with farm animals. Care of household pets, such as dogs, cats, turtles, hamsters, etc., does not qualify.
- Aerobics: Aerobics is an extremely common skill and will not improve an applicant’s chances of placement. Applicants can mention this skill on the application but don’t need to emphasize it unless they are certified trainers and know special techniques.
- Computers: Applicants should be knowledgeable about networking, programming, and graphic design.
- Dance: Applicants must have more than one year of training in jazz dance, ballet, hip-hop, or tap. Training in more than one form is preferable. Must be competent to choreograph. Applicant should know proper terminology in English. Should feel comfortable choreographing dances for musical theatre performances. Knowledge of or training in ballroom or ethnic dancing is unimportant to camps.
- Nature crafts
- Piano: Applicant must be able to read music expertly and be able to accompany singers with minimal practice time. Training in singing is helpful.
- Religious studies
- Special needs
- Swimming: Should be in conjunction with lifeguarding skills; should have experience teaching children to swim and be very confident to do so in English.
Following these guidelines will help improve the quality of our program and enhance the camp experience for the children and staff members who will be learning from and working with our InterExchange Camp USA participants. Please document the entire interview and screening process.
What Applicants Should Know
Before filling out the InterExchange application, prospective applicants must understand the commitment they are making. Please ensure the applicant understands the expectations of the program. Camp USA is a wonderful experience, but it’s not for everyone.
The Camp Environment
- The camp environment is a unique setting where every child has the opportunity to explore the outdoors, make new friends and learn more about him or herself. In this setting, the counselor provides structure, safety and fun. Camp is for campers and they must always come first.
- Counselors must abide by all camp rules, including curfews. Camp rules and regulations are designed to provide a safe environment for all members of the community, and although they can be strict, they must be followed.
- Parents expect counselors to treat their children with dignity and respect. Taking care of someone else’s child is a huge responsibility. Counselors must be mature enough to handle stressful situations in a positive manner.
- Being a camp counselor is a 24-hour a day job. If a child is sick in the middle of the night, a counselor must take care of the child. However, camps will give counselors at least one 24-hour time off period per week. Time off will vary from camp to camp. A counselor may get up to two nights off a week. This usually means a few hours off after the campers go to sleep, and not necessarily a full night off until morning. Many camps will also provide the participant with one period off during the day (approximately 45 minutes to one hour).
- Camp assignments can involve hard work, and shouldn’t be treated like a vacation! Participants are here as cultural exchange visitors who are supporting their host camps, and need to make sure they’re fulfilling their work obligations while gaining the full benefits of learning about and living in the U.S.
- Camps have a variety of sleeping facilities: cabins, tents, A-frames, and dorms. Facilities range in ruggedness.
- Living facilities will be more rustic than participants may be used to. For example, there are some sleeping facilities with no electricity. Participants need to keep an open mind.
- The bathroom facilities may be within the cabin or in a centralized location. Either way, the participant will not have much privacy at camp.
- Each camp will have different rules regarding dress codes. Some camps may not have a dress code at all. However, each camp has a certain image that it wants to project to parents. The participant should not be offended if he or she is asked to change his or her appearance while at camp (i.e. removing a piercing or covering up a tattoo). Participants should not drastically change their appearance once they are hired at camp by dyeing their hair an extreme color or getting tattoos or body piercings.
- Camps may have strict policies regarding alcohol and/or smoking. Participants who are not willing or not capable of following these rules should not apply. Failure to follow these policies often results in the
Types of Camps
Fees and Stipends
- $100 early bird discount for Camp Placement participants between October 1 and January 1
- $50 refer-a-friend discount
- $50 discount if applicant came through another organization last year.
What Do Participants Get for Their Money?
What the InterExchange Camp USA Program Fee Includes
Pre-selection orientation and interview — U.S. Department of State regulations dictate that all participants must attend an orientation and be interviewed before they can participate in the InterExchange Camp USA program. We have created an Online Orientation Video that we can track and record views within a participant’s account. For more information, please see the sections on orientation and interviews.
One placement offer — InterExchange Camp USA expects to find one placement for each participant accepted into the Camp Placement program. If applicants decline placements, we will try to replace them, but there is no guarantee that new positions will be found.
J-1 Visa documentation –– InterExchange Camp USA will provide you (the IC) with a DS-2019 Form and a SEVIS receipt for each applicant. Once an applicant has accepted a camp placement offer and paid all fees, that applicant may collect his or her DS-2019 Form and SEVIS receipt from you. The DS-2019 Form allows the applicant to apply for a J-1 Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and the SEVIS receipt proves that the mandatory SEVIS fee has been paid.
Round-trip transatlantic flight — You can provide flights for your participants if would like to do so. InterExchange will reimburse your office a set amount for any participant who chooses this option. All participants should fly to the airport selected by their camp. Self-Travel participants are responsible for their own travel. Self-Travel participants will receive a higher stipend than those who select to have their flights arranged by their International Cooperator. All participants should share their flight details with their employer by entering them into their online account.
Arrival assistance — InterExchange Camp USA does not provide airport pickups. We will provide participants with detailed instructions on how to get to camp from the airport they’ve been instructed to arrive. An InterExchange representative can provide travel instructions and answer the participants’ questions by calling InterExchange Camp USA at 1.800.597.1722. A participant can also visit our office at 100 Wall Street if they would like in-person assistance.
Transportation to camp — Prior to departure, the participant will receive specific travel instructions supplied by their camp. This will be available to them as soon as they are placed. These travel instructions can be found in their online account. Participants must arrive with a minimum of $250 USD to cover food, travel, and other incidentals.
Program supervision — InterExchange Camp USA will provide 24-hour support to all participants for the duration of the program, including post-camp travel time.
Travel time after camp — Every participant who successfully completes his or her camp commitment is entitled to travel within the United States for up to thirty days (also known as the grace period). The latest any participant can remain in the U.S. is October 14. If participants are students, they should arrange to be home to start classes on time.
Certificate of Completion — Upon request, InterExchange Camp USA provides confirmation of participation in and successful completion of the Camp USA program.
(October 1 to January 31)
Once you have determined which applicants are appropriate for the program, you can invite them to apply at app.interexchange.org. They need to complete their application independently. Set a deadline for applicants to submit their applications well in advance of InterExchange application deadlines so that you can review all applications and confirm that they are satisfactory. It’s a good idea to double check their references and make sure there are signatures on all documents requiring them.
- Application form — This form will be completed online and needs to be reviewed by your office. In order for an applicant to submit their application to you, they just need to complete the written portion of the application first. Then you can review their skills and answers to the questions and contact them for an interview if you think they are a good candidate. After they submit the written portion of the application, they will be prompted to start gathering the supplemental documents which includes the following:
- Two references — One skill reference form and one letter of recommendation written by an employer/teacher. InterExchange Camp USA will not accept references that are submitted by family or friends. If the referrer does not speak English, he or she should fill out the reference in his or her native language. The applicant should include a translation of the reference and include both the original and translated versions with the application. Your office must verify the translation is accurate.
- Police background check — Please consult your local police station to find out the easiest way for your applicants to obtain a background check. They should be aware that this could be a lengthy process and should request a background check as soon as possible. We will accept applications while the background check is pending but please ensure that it gets uploaded before arrival. Applicants should keep the original report to take with them to the embassy.If the police background check is not in English, please make sure there is an exact translation (verified by your office) in the application as well. Police background checks must be issued no more than 12 months before participation in the program.
- If a student, proof of student status (not required) — We will accept a copy of the student ID, either a form or a letter from the participant’s university or the Camp USA Proof of Student Status form (which you can download from the International Cooperator Resource Center). These must be signed and dated by a university official.
- Photo — Keep in mind that this is the first thing a camp director sees, so the applicant should smile! It’s preferred to have a photo that’s a close-up so the applicant is recognizable.
- Passport — Only upload the first page with photo and information.
- Copies of all certifications — Should be current and relevant to the applicant’s intended position at camp. In addition, all applicants should indicate any life-saving or CPR certifications.
Self-Placement and Returning Applicants
Most Self and Returning applicants will apply directly with InterExchange but occasionally these applicants will choose to apply with an International Cooperator. Please familiarize yourself with the following policies regarding the Self-Placement program so you can share them with your applicants. You are entitled to keep the difference between your fees to the participant and the fee charged to you by InterExchange Camp USA. Please refer to the Fee and Expenses schedule included with your individual IC Agreement.
- Find their own placements, without the help of any organization. You may not assist participants in finding a camp or contact camps yourself. Participants returning to a camp they worked for previously must apply under the Returning Placement program.
- Must meet all U.S. Department of State regulations for pursuing appropriate camps and staff positions.
- Must be interviewed by his or her camp and have a signed contract on camp letterhead from the camp director, which outlines his or her stipend, dates of employment, and position at camp. Please make sure you read over the contract to confirm that the participant does in fact have a job offer and not just a conditional agreement.
- Pay for their own flights. Self-Placement participants negotiate their stipends directly with their camps. When doing so, they should consider how much they are paying for costs such as the program fee, insurance fee, embassy fees, the flight and travel to camp within the U.S.
- Must complete online pre-departure orientation before arriving and be interviewed by you or an official representative of your organization.
- Check in with InterExchange every 30 days while in the United States.
Self-Placement Application Requirements
InterExchange Camp USA requires the following:
- One completed Self-Placement or Returner application and all materials requested therein.
- One reference from a former or current teacher or employer. The reference can not be from the same camp they are getting sponsorship to work at again.
- One copy of the confirmed placement offer on camp letterhead signed and dated by the camp director. The contract must outline the participant’s stipend, dates of employment and position at camp.
- One police background check.
- Copy of passport.
U.S. Embassy Contact
If possible, maintain communication with embassy officials via personal meetings, phone, email or fax. At the very least, stay updated on the embassy website. If an InterExchange Camp USA representative visits your country, we may attempt to set up an appointment with the embassy while we’re there. Ideally, you should ask the embassy for the following information:
- Documents and paperwork necessary for embassy interviews.
- All fees associated with J-1 Visa processing.
- Timeline for submitting applications and DS-2019 Forms.
- Specific requirements for J-1 Visa acceptance. For example, if an applicant shows documentation of good financial standing or reasons for returning home (strong family ties, university dates, job), his or her visa approval chances are often greatly improved. In some countries, first and last year students will not be granted a visa, even if they are applying as counselors.
- Does the embassy prefer group appointments or individual appointments?
- Is there a cut-off date that applicants must send their applications in by? Is there a set date that applicants must apply for their visas by?
- Does the embassy permit you to submit applicants’ paperwork as a group or only one at a time?
- Provide this information to the applicants in a standard checklist form before they schedule their embassy appointments. Good preparation will help the participants avoid visa denials or repeat visits due to missing paperwork.
Reviewing Applications and Deadlines
(October 1 – March 20)
- Age: Candidates between the ages of 21 and 25 generally have the best chance of receiving an offer.
- Dates: An applicant’s dates of availability are crucial. A well-qualified applicant who can arrive in May has a greater number of potential employers than someone who can’t arrive until June 15 or later. Applicants should be available to stay through (at least) the end of August.
- Experience: We need to know, as specifically as possible, how much experience the applicant has. If it’s a counselor application, has he or she ever taught a skill to children? If so, to how big a group of children? How old were the children? How long did he or she teach? How long ago?
- Skills: Please see this section for information on skills.
- Types of camps: Applicants who are more flexible and willing to work at special needs or religious camps and who have filled out the corresponding supplements are the easiest to place.
Camp PlacementAll Camp Placement applications must be submitted to InterExchange by March 1st. InterExchange Camp USA reserves the right to reject any application submitted after the deadline. We have set the deadline early in order to allow us to process all applications in time for peak hiring season. The earlier we receive the applications, the greater the chance of placement. Don’t wait until the deadline to send us your applications. Most camps are making decisions even earlier than usual, making it more competitive to recruit the most qualified candidates. We make placements as early as October. Incomplete applications cannot be submitted through app.interexchange.org. If applicants do not complete their applications on time, please email us and ask how to proceed.
- The deadline for Self-Placement and Returnering participants is January 31st or when we reach our allotment. InterExchange Camp USA reserves the right to reject any application submitted after the deadline.
Important Documents: DS-2019 Forms & SEVIS Receipts
Once we have placed a participant at a camp, we will create and print the DS-2019 Form based on the information that was entered on their application Before submitting any applications to InterExchange, please review the participants’ biographical information in their applications (especially the Place of Birth!). The information on the DS-2019 form needs to match their passport. If there are errors, please notify us immediately.
You should only give the DS-2019 Form to a participant once you have received the signed placement offer. A participant should sign the DS-2019 Form before submitting it to the embassy. Encourage participants to make sure all their information is correct on the application because this determines what is printed on the DS-2019 Form.
Please take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the different sections of the DS-2019 Form.
There are two dates listed in Section 3. These dates indicate the period of time during which the participants may legally work at camp. The participants will have 30 days to travel after their contracts end. The participants must leave the U.S. on or before the conclusion of this 30-day grace period.
Along with the DS-2019 Forms, you will receive SEVIS receipts for all of your participants. They must bring these receipts with them to the embassy when applying for their visas. This receipt serves as proof that they have paid their SEVIS fee to the government and it is required to apply for a J-1 Visa. This receipt can also be found online; click “Check I-901 Status.”
For step by step instructions on how applicants can book their visa interview, please see How to Book your visa Interview at the Embassy
After placement, all Camp Counselors are required to view the InterExchange Online Orientation. They can access this orientation video through their accounts by logging in at app.interexchange.org. Upon completion, the participant will be required to check a box confirming that the orientation video has been viewed. ICs and InterExchange staff can track and monitor orientation views. Please help ensure all participants have viewed this orientation.
The orientation is broken down into different topics:
- Who We Are
- What to Expect
- Preparing for Your Program
- Traveling to and Entering the U.S.
- SEVIS and Social Security
- Reasons for Termination
- Being a Successful Counselor
- Challenges You May Encounter
- Understanding Banking, Pay, and Taxes
- Staying Safe
- Staying Healthy
- Completing the Program
Additionally, you may want to provide your own Camp USA orientation based on these topics. You will find additional materials and information in the IC Resource Center.
Counselors as Ambassadors
ICs should inform participants that they are representatives of their country and being granted a J-1 Visa to come to the U.S. on the program is an honor that they should not abuse. Their conduct during the Program should make their country and their parents or guardians proud. Any negative impression can negatively impact the reputation of their fellow countrymen and could have lasting implications for future applicants from their country wishing to participate in the program.
You should inform participants that failure to comply with the laws of the U.S. and/or Program Requirements and Regulations may result in expulsion from the Program and possible deportation from the U.S. InterExchange is not responsible for legal fees or representation if a Participant is arrested.
The Interview and General Tips
Review applications prior to the interview. Then, you will already have notes on what an applicant is missing or needs to change.
Ask relevant questions for specific skills but don’t simply repeat what they already wrote on their application. You can use the Skill Question guide to help you gather detailed responses.
Don’t feel that you need to go through the sections of the interview report as they are listed. Skip around and use whatever order feels comfortable.
Avoid yes and no questions as much as possible. Instead of feeding answers to applicants, sit back and listen to their explanations.
If possible, try pulling information from their application that is totally unrelated to camp. (“I see you are studying engineering. Would you tell me a little bit about your classes?” or “You wrote that you have two older sisters. What kind of work do they do?”)
Confirm contact information on their application. Remind the applicant to check email (including their “spam” or “junk” folders) frequently! Camp directors will be contacting them to set up interviews and ask additional questions. Responding in a timely manner is key to a successful placement.
Include notes about the applicant’s personality, intentions, mannerisms and anything else the camp director might want to know before hiring the applicant, but also keep it concise.
If English is not their first language, try to speak English throughout the entire interview. This will also serve as their Language Assessment. Be honest!
Interview Reports need to be signed and dated.
Matching and Placement
The applicant must fill in all sections of the online application honestly so that we can arrange the best possible placement. An applicant who smokes, for example, should tell the truth even if he or she fears not being placed. InterExchange Camp USA exercises great flexibility in addressing our participants’ individual situations, but applicants must present all relevant information at the beginning of the placement process and not after they are placed. Once we have reviewed and accepted an application, we start the placement process.
The Matching Process
- Each camp registers online, detailing information about the camp and their staffing needs for the coming summer. Camps may opt-in to allow their profiles to be visible online to applicants. Applicants can then browse camps, view their websites, and send their application directly to them for consideration.
- Matching can happen one of three ways.
- An InterExchange Camp USA representative will personally match an application with a camp. We review profiles of both the camps and the participants to create an appropriate match and are regularly checking in with camps to get their current staffing needs.
- The participants can log in and view the list of enrolled camps and send their application to a camp they are interested in. They are then “on review” with that camp and should give the camp the 7 day review period to see their application. Participants can not apply to more than one camp at a time. They should think carefully before putting their application “on review” with a camp.
- A camp will view the list of available participants and choose to review participants based on their skills and what they are looking for. A participant will be notified when a camp chooses to review their application. The camp has a maximum of seven days to exclusively review each application and during this time, the application will not be seen by any other camp. The camp may call or email the applicant to speak to him or her personally. Please tell your participants to check their email and junk mail folders frequently. There have been some instances when participants don’t check their email and camp directors reject them because they don’t hear back from them. If a participant does not want to be reviewed by a particular camp, they may remove themselves before the review period is over, but they should have a very good reason for doing this. We highly encourage participants to stay open minded and take interviews with camps before making a decision to reject a camp.
- If the camp would like to hire a participant, he or she will receive a placement offer that they will need to digitally sign through their online dashboard. If the participant does not accept the placement offer within five days, he or she will lose the placement. If a participant rejects a placement, please inform us immediately. Participants must have a very good reason for rejecting the offer.
- If the camp rejects the participant, their application returns to the general pool to be viewed by all registered camps, or we will manually send the application to another camp where we think they will be a good fit.
- Go to the “Matching” tab in your online account at app.interexchange.org to see which participants are On Review, Offered, or Placed at any given time. You will not receive email notifications for these actions so you will need to be diligent about checking these lists regularly to know what is happening with your applicants.
- Once a Placement Offer is signed, we’ll start processing the DS2019 paperwork needed for their visa!
After a participant receives a placement offer, he or she will understandably have many questions. The best answers will come directly from the camp. We encourage the participant to begin contact by sending a personal thank-you email or letter to the camp director. The participant is responsible for finding out specific details regarding camp duties, housing, rules, and other aspects of camp life.
The participant should also check the camp’s website, or contact the camp via phone or email. However, once a participant accepts the placement offer, most camps will send the participant information regarding the camp setting, policies, and other details.
Participants should not worry if they do not receive an immediate response to their inquiries. The spring season is a very hectic time for camps as they prepare for the upcoming summer. Participants should continue trying to obtain information using the various methods mentioned above, but should allow camp directors at least a few days to respond.
Logistically, flights prove to be one of the most difficult elements of the program. Be organized and track all flight-related issues. If there is any reason a participant cannot make a flight date, you must let us know in advance in order to notify the camp and make necessary adjustments. Please do not wait until the last minute to tell us a participant cannot make a flight. Please remind participants to arrive at the airport early to avoid missing or being bumped from a flight.
Please update participant flight information within app.interexchange.org. Participants should also be instructed to add their flight information to their online account. Similar to a participant’s visa information, it is important to enter the participant’s flight info so the camp director can plan accordingly. Please remember to include the correct airport code, flight number, and arrival time. Do not wait until the last minute to collect flight information. You are responsible for making sure your participants fly out on the dates they are scheduled.
All participants are responsible for the cost of transportation within the United States.
Before participants leave the country, please make sure they log into their account at app.interexchange.org. They should review their travel instructions and update their flight information and visa status. Please share the InterExchange Camp USA Participant resources with all your participants before they depart for the U.S. The handbook contains important information on insurance. Before departure, all participants should have received their insurance cards through email from the insurance provider. It is recommended that they print their insurance information and keep it with their important documents. Help every participant to understand exactly what to do when he or she gets off the plane. Point out the InterExchange office and emergency numbers. Remind them of the safety concerns. Finally, be sure that they have reviewed/printed their travel instructions and have communicated with their camp about their arrival date and time.
Participants are welcome to make an appointment during office hours Monday through Friday to stop by our Culture Desk located at the InterExchange office at 100 Wall Street, Suite 301, New York, NY 10005. They can ask questions, purchase discounted tickets and other merchandise, and also use free WiFi. InterExchange will send all participants further instructions about stopping by the Culture Desk and attending other cultural activities closer to their departure date.
Ending the Placement Season
Cancellation and Refund Policies for Counselors
- Applicants who are rejected by InterExchange Camp USA are entitled to a full refund.
- Any participant who receives a visa denial must submit proof of the denial. You may then issue the participant a refund based on your cancellation policy. An unplaced applicant who cancels from the program before June 1st may not be entitled to a full refund. An unplaced applicant who cancels for a legitimate medical reason must present documentation.
- An unplaced applicant who cancels for a legitimate medical reason must present documentation. In this case, the applicant is entitled to a full refund minus a $50 cancellation fee + $35 SEVIS fee if placed.
- If the initial assignment is unsatisfactory due to no fault of the participant, InterExchange Camp USA will try to find an alternative placement. However, there is no guarantee that a second placement will be found.
- A participant who is unable to successfully complete his or her camp assignment for any reason will forfeit any remaining stipend, have his or her visa sponsorship shortened, and may need to change their return flight.
- Please review Exhibit B within your IC agreement for the most accurate and up to date fee and cancellation information.
Travel to Camp
Check-Ins Throughout the Summer
Once everyone is safely at camp, it really feels like summer! InterExchange Camp USA keeps in touch with participants throughout the season to ensure that things are going smoothly at camp. Participants must respond to contact by InterExchange to ensure program compliance. The easiest way to do this is through the short surveys we email throughout their program.
Camp USA on Social Media
We have a Facebook group that we will invite current participants to join. It will help them keep up-to-date with the latest Camp USA news and provides a way for them to share information and connect with fellow participants prior to arrival.
The InterExchange blog includes information about important topics like flights and insurance, general camp news, and words of advice and encouragement. Please encourage participants to “like” our Facebook page and to check the blog often. Participants can also follow us on Twitter @InterExchange and Instagram.
Problems at Camp
While we arrange every placement with the best of intentions, there are inevitably a few placements that do not work out. One of the most important pieces of information that you can give to participants is that they must contact InterExchange by phone at 800.597.1722 (U.S. only) or email [email protected] if they have problems at camp. We cannot help unless we know that there is a problem. Participants must be mature enough to handle difficulties through communication with their camp directors and with InterExchange, not through their parents or you. If your participants are calling you about problems they are having at camp, please tell them to contact us directly. We will do whatever we can to ensure that our participants are enjoying camp and being treated fairly.
Our 24-hour emergency number is 1.800.597.1722 for calls within the U.S. Our emergency cell phone number is 1.917.741.5057 if you’re calling from outside the U.S. InterExchange Camp USA staff will have this cell phone with them from May 15 until September 15. During office hours, 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. EST, participants should call the office first.
Travel After Camp
After the participants have completed the required time commitment at their assigned camps, they may travel for up to 30 days after their placement ends. The participant may not accept any other form of paid employment during or after his or her camp experience.
Participants are responsible for all travel arrangements and costs at the end of their camp commitment, including travel back to New York for the flight home. The Camp USA Facebook page is a great way to network with other participants all over the country to coordinate travel and meeting plans.