How to Host: Pre-Arrival
How to Host: Pre-Arrival

How to Host: Pre-Arrival

Now that you understand the purpose of the program and how InterExchange selects and approves participants, it is time to discuss your role as a host of Camp USA participants. 

Registration and Program Eligibility

In order to host Camp USA participants, each camp will fill out an online Host Application. This application collects information about your camp and your specific hiring needs for the upcoming season. This information should be adjusted annually to ensure participants are receiving the most accurate information. You will also need to agree to the InterExchange Terms and Conditions in the Host Agreement. Before enrolling your camp for the current program year, an InterExchange representative will review your application to ensure camp is eligible to be a host on the program per the State Department regulations. All Camp Host Employers must be either:

  • Accredited;
  • A member in good standing of the American Camping Association;
  • Officially affiliated with a nationally recognized non-profit organization; or
  • Have been inspected, evaluated, and approved by InterExchange

Once you are enrolled for the season, an InterExchange representative will contact you to discuss your hiring needs and our matching system.

Camp Host Agreement

The InterExchange fee scale is outlined in our Camp Director Program Agreement and can be found on our website (program fees subject to change). When a camp hires a participant, it agrees to pay all related fees. InterExchange will send an invoice on July 1st of each program year. Payment is due by September 15th and monthly interest will begin to accumulate at 1.5% for any balance unpaid 30 days after this date.

The fees that camps pay to InterExchange cover participant related costs such as:

  • Recruitment, screening, interviewing and placement.
  • Pre-departure orientation.
  • DS-2019 + visa paperwork.
  • Government reporting and administrative expenses.
  • 24-hour program support for the duration of the summer.

Late Payment Charges

Any outstanding balance as of September 15th will be subject to interest at a rate of 1.5% per month.

Tax Status

InterExchange is recognized as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization by the Internal Revenue Service.

Tips for Setting Up Your Camp Account

While setting up your camp account or re-enrolling for the new hiring season, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Information from the Camp Description, Staffing Criteria, and Staffing Needs sections will be included on your Camp Profile, which is a page that participants will view frequently.
  • Make sure your Travel Information is accurate! This is the information your counselors will use to plan their flights to and from the U.S.
  • More than one person can have a log in for your camp. Please contact your InterExchange representative in order to set up additional logins. If multiple people will be using your account, it is recommended that they each have their own login rather than sharing one.
  • Keeping all of the camp’s information up to date and accurate is of the utmost importance. Please be sure to make updates regularly.
  • You have the ability to be visible in matching, meaning participants can view your camp profile and apply, or if you are not actively hiring, you can disable your profile visibility. You can enable and disable this feature as often as needed throughout the hiring process.

The Matching Process

Once your camp has been enrolled for the current hiring season, you will have access to the InterExchange Matching System. You will also have a dedicated InterExchange representative for your camp. If you are unsure who this is, please contact us at [email protected] and they will reach out to you directly. 

There are three primary ways that matching takes place. 

  1. Browse our available participants yourself – There is a search page available to you once you have enrolled. All available Camp Placement participants will be shown on this page for you to review. If there are any you are interested in speaking with, you can put them On Review with your camp. 
  2. Participants browse active camps – As part of your application, a Host Profile is created. Accepted Camp Placement participants are able to browse through the list of camps who have made their profile visible. You are able to enable or disable your profile visibility at any point during the matching season. We recommend leaving your profile visible so that the most motivated participants are able to find your camp!
  3. Share your hiring needs with your InterExchange representative – Your InterExchange representative can keep an eye on the incoming participants and send them to your review list as they become available. Your representative will also notify you as any Self or Returning Placements become available for you to review and confirm.

Review Periods

The On Review list will show the participants that you have on review. This will include both Camp Placement and your Self or Returning Placements. Any Camp Placement participants that you, InterExchange, or the participants themselves put on review with you will be there for a period of seven days. During this time, you will be the only camp who can access and view the application. 

We recommend contacting them for an interview as soon as possible. If anyone is on this list you know you will not be moving forward with, please decline them and include a reason for doing so. InterExchange representatives will be able to see the reason, and we can use it to assist the participant in finding a better fit – and to ensure we know precisely what you’re looking for! 

You also have the ability to extend review periods if needed. Please use this sparingly, as we want to be sure participants and other camps have plenty of time to match if needed.

Once your Self and Returning Placements are on your review list, they will remain there until you create an offer.

Confirmation and Job Offers

Once you have decided to hire a participant, you will be able to send them a Job Offer from the On Review list. You will enter the proposed position title, arrival date, contract start date, contract end date, and total compensation amount. Please note that this amount (and benefits) should be commensurate with a similarly situated American counterpart. The amount entered on this line is the amount paid to the participant. It should not include any additional benefits or deductions (i.e fee from InterExchange). The amount you enter here is what the counselor will expect to be paid, pre-tax, during their time at camp.

There is a minimum required stipend for Camp Placement participants. If the contract is for  longer than 63 days of work, the participant will need to earn additional pay on top of the minimum stipend. This information is up to date on our costs page. You can calculate that amount or any additional amount the camp will be paying the counselor and include it in the Total Compensation line. 

You’ll see a basic camp counselor description on the job offer, and you may also include an additional description for anything specific about the role you would like to note in the offer. An example of helpful additional information: “the role of lifeguard also includes evening duties and responsibilities of a general counselor”. There is also a Typical Camp Counselor Work Hours section that you may edit as needed. The more information you put in the job offer, the more prepared your staff member will be, and the easier it is for InterExchange to help mediate any discrepancies.

Once you confirm the offer, your InterExchange representative will review it and then send it out to the participant to review and sign. 

Roles that are Suitable for the Camp Counselor Program

It is important to note that the J-1 Camp Counselor Program is a cultural exchange program by nature. Per Section Section 22 CFR 62.30(a) of the regulations, these participants should be:

…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.

Your InterExchange representative will be reviewing your job offers to ensure the roles fall within these guidelines and will reach out with any clarifying questions. 

Pre-Arrival Information

The period between hiring a participant and their arrival at your camp is critical! During this time, InterExchange and our ICs will assist your counselor as they apply for and obtain the visa, plan their travel to camp, and prepare for a successful program. It’s important that camp also stays in touch with their hired participants. Building rapport and expectations during this time is vital to their success with you.

Obtaining Visas

InterExchange and our ICs will assist your participants as they apply for their visas. We will provide their DS-2019 form and instructions on how to sign up for their visa interview. We request that all participants inform us once they have booked their visa interview by adding that information to their InterExchange profile. You will have access to this information as well, via your Arrivals list. 

Once a participant has attended their visa interview, we request that they log in to inform us how the interview went. In most cases, they will simply report that their visa was issued. Again, you will be able to see this information through your Arrivals lists. 

If their visa was denied, they will have the option to say whether they were denied or are reapplying. InterExchange will work with our ICs to determine if a participant may have a chance at being approved if they reapply. We know that denials are frustrating for everyone involved, and that you are relying on the counselors you hire to make it to camp. It is impossible to foresee which counselors may get denied, and difficult to understand what their odds of approval are on a second attempt. Please keep in mind that each time a participant signs up for an interview at the embassy, they must pay an additional interview fee of $185. This may make it impossible for them to apply for a second interview. 

Your InterExchange representative will contact you immediately once we are aware of any visa denials. Additionally, participants can be sent into Administrative Processing, meaning the embassy needs more time to assess the application. Often, the embassy will inform the counselor what is needed to move their application forward, but sometimes they are held in this limbo for long enough that they may miss out on camp. We will keep you as informed as possible in these situations.

Travel Directions to Camp

Camps are responsible for providing clear directions for how and when participants should arrive at camp. The “Travel Arrangements” section of your camp application and profile should be detailed and can be updated at any time. Placed participants will see this information and book their flights based on the information you provide. Participants can fly directly into the airport that is closest to your camp. Please stay in touch with your participants regarding arrival information especially regarding pick up times and locations. 

All participants are responsible for purchasing their own flights to and from camp.

Pre-Camp Contact

Let your staff know you’re excited about working with them! Send a welcome letter and camp brochure, plus any relevant forms. InterExchange highly recommends sending international staff your standard camp contract with start and end dates and any important camp rules. You may also want to include a packet from your local Chamber of Commerce. Having contracts signed and returned and copies of certificates and medical reports on file before your staff is physically at camp reduces your paper chase once the summer begins. Remember, your international participants are just as excited as you are and they want to be prepared. This is also a great time to connect your international staff with your domestic staff, so that the first day is not too overwhelming. Social media groups, email chains, and virtual hangouts can go a long way!

Pre-Arrival Orientation

We do our best to ensure your counselors are ready for a summer in the US by the time they arrive to camp. InterExchange has a mandatory orientation that all of our participants must watch prior to travel. If you’re interested in viewing it, you can do so here. This orientation covers topics such as who InterExchange is, what they can expect on the program, information on SEVIS and Social Security, understanding pay and taxes, along with various other challenges they may face.

Because every camp is different, we do rely on you to provide any additional information that may be unique to your camp. Packing lists, detailed arrival instructions and/or staff policies are always helpful so be sure to share those with your arriving counselors.

Here are a couple other quick topics we cover with all participants prior to their arrival:

  • Participants are given their insurance information and access to their insurance documents
  • Participants are aware that they will need to apply for a Social Security number and taxes will be deducted from their paycheck.
  • We encourage all participants to review their offers and ask questions about pay/compensation prior to arrival to avoid any confusion during the summer.

Handling Last Minute Complications

As we screen participants, we do everything we can to ensure they are dedicated to the program and committed to arriving and remaining at camp for the duration of the summer. However, last minute complications can always arise – whether that is through visa denials or global situations. You know this as a camp director – but always be prepared for last minute changes! Here are some tips for preparing to handle any last minute complications that may arise.

Diversify, Diversify, Diversify.

Seek out diversity in every element of your staff. For international staff, hire from different countries and different regions of the world. That way, if one country presents a problem in terms of visas, you won’t lose half of your counselors. Hiring a diverse group not only helps you avoid visa issues but also allows your staff to improve their English as they communicate with one another.

Seek Out Staff With a Range of Skills.

Finding a horseback-riding specialist is great, but finding a horseback-riding specialist who can help out in arts and crafts is even better! Keep in mind that you may need to do some shifting of responsibilities at first, before staff become comfortable with their roles. Prepare your staff for this possibility as well!

Hire Early and Often.

Unanticipated embassy issues can delay the visa process for weeks or even months at a time. Do not wait until a month before your camp opens to start looking at the holes in your staffing. Also, if at all possible, plan for more staff than you need. We recommend that you be over prepared, as appropriate candidates may not be available if you find you’re understaffed after your season has started.