In April 2017, the White House signed the Presidential Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American. In that document were references to some U. S. Department of State cultural exchange programs that the White House viewed to be taking jobs from Americans – namely the H Visa and the J Visa, specifically the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program. In the summer of 2017, the J-1 Camp Counselor program was added to the discussion. Information around the possible implementation of this executive order describes what could be devastating impacts on these programs used by many camps including drastic cuts in the number of visas allowed or elimination of the programs completely.

ACA mounted a vigorous campaign to defend the Camp Counselor and camp Summer Work Travel programs in the fall of 2017. ACA members generated more than 100,000 emails, notes, and calls to Capitol Hill offices about the importance of J-1 Visa participants for America’s camps. ACA members also generated more than 25,000 notes, emails, and calls directly to the White House in defense of the J-1 Visa participants. ACA leadership and staff held many important personal meetings with Members of Congress and White House officials. ACA continues to highlight the quality cultural exchange experiences that J-1 Visa participants receive and deliver for America’s camps and the children who attend camps.

Those meetings and discussions in Congress and within the Trump Administration have increased and continued throughout 2018. ACA believes that we have generated a great deal of support in Washington for J-1 Visa participants at America’s camps. That important work continues as we defend the Camp Counselor and Summer Work Travel programs from any proposed changes.




On Sunday August 27, The Wall Street Journal published an article describing this situation and hinting that five categories of J-1 Visas were being recommended for elimination. Those categories included Summer Work Travel and Camp Counselor. The Summer Work Travel program is used by camps.

Presidential Executive Orders can be given to federal agencies for implementation but do not include discussion with the legislative or judicial branches of government. It is important for this to become a full public debate before implementation with input from congress, visa sponsor agencies who help implement the programs nationwide, our camps as host employers and the public including our campers and families who interact with participants in these programs. The loss or reduction in these programs could have tremendous negative business economic impact on camps forcing some to close or dramatically cut back the number of campers served and on communities who rely on the camps to support the local economy. It has been said that these cultural exchange programs take jobs away from Americans. We know there are not enough Americans to fill all of these camp positions. If camps are forced to reduce services, many American jobs may be lost also. Youth camps provide critical educational and development opportunities for America’s youth and we need to encourage more of these programs not less. We are asking you to contact the White House and your elected representatives in congress.

Frequently Ask Questions - J-1 Camp Counselor and Summer Work Travel Programs

In April, the White House signed the “Presidential Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American.” In that document were references to some cultural exchange programs that the White House viewed to be taking jobs from Americans – namely the H visa and the J visa, specifically Summer Work Travel (SWT).

The implementation of this executive order was assigned to a White House committee chaired by Stephen Miller that has been meeting regularly discussing the issues. There is a group of governmental agencies working with this committee that includes the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor, Commerce Department, and Office of Management and Budget. Recent developments suggest that implementation of the executive order could cause considerable impact on the SWT program by drastically reducing visa numbers or eliminating the program. A small percentage of SWT participants are placed in camp, but we know that these placements are critical to the camps involved. This week, information was received that specifies conversations were held in the White House to discuss the inclusion of other J-1 programs in the executive order, such as the J-1 Camp Counselor (CC) program, though this information has not been confirmed by ACA. 

What is the difference between Camp Counselor and SWT

Camp Counselors are participants placed in positions giving direct supervision to campers. Those positions could be group/unit staff positions or program staff positions. SWT participants are in support positions in camp, such as the kitchen. They do not supervise campers. Placement agencies may term SWT participant positions with titles such as “Support Staff,” Camp Power,” etc.

Who regulates these programs and how does my placement agency fit in?

Both Camp Counselor and Summer Work Travel are part of the J-1 visa program for cultural exchange. They are regulated and monitored by U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The State Department designates organizations to be visa sponsors who actually help implement the program.  Many of the placement agencies are visa sponsors. See for more complete program information.

How many of these international participants are placed in camp?

Almost 23,000 international participants are placed through the Camp Counselor program every year and more than 5,000 in SWT camp positions.

What is an executive order?

An executive order is a directive handed down from a president or governor without involvement from the legislative or judicial branches.  Executive orders can only be given to federal or state agencies like the Department of Homeland Security or the State Department and are subject to revocation or revision by a subsequent President.

Is my placement agency aware of these developments?

Most placement agencies are aware of these developments and are working with ACA and other groups in developing a response strategy. 

What can I do to help?

  • Stay informed by reading alerts from ACA and your placement agency.
  • Be ready to act when called upon to reach out to decision makers in government with appropriate messages, which ACA will share with you if and when this is needed. We are working on a multi-level engagement strategy right now, in conjunction with our allies in this effort. 
  • Share with our ACA Government Affairs team the contact information of people in your camp community who have personal relationships with relevant decision makers, like members of Congress, members of the Trump Administration, or others in positions to influence the policymaking of this Administration.

What if I have staff, alumni, or parents with personal contacts with decision makers?

If you have contacts who could be useful in this situation, please share them with ACA’s Government Affairs team. There are many stages to our strategy and potential contacts are very helpful.  We will provide talking points and direction as appropriate.

Can I provide stories and testimonials in support of these programs?

Yes, please do. You can send them to ACA. Email them to

How does this impact the CC and SWT I have in camp right now or who are traveling in the US after leaving my camp?

There is no impact on the current program. 

How does this impact my planning for international participants next season?

Placement agencies are moving forward with the planning and recruitment for programs for next season to meet camp needs. They can best answer your immediate concerns. They and ACA will keep camps informed of any changes.