Visas for International Staff and Campers

Annually, nearly 30,000 international students provide cultural exchange as staff at camps in the United States.  International campers also provide an important aspect of cultural exchange as they live side-by-side in US camps with American campers.  

BridgeUSA Cultural Exchange Program Update

Before COVID-19, summer camps were hosting an average of 25,000 cultural exchange visitors through the BridgeUSA Camp Counselor program each year, filling critical leadership and specialty instructor roles and promoting a positive world view among campers and US-based staff. However, the pandemic resulted in a White House Executive Order in 2020 pausing this cultural exchange program and widespread camp closures last summer.

Update for the J-1 Visitor Exchange Program

On March 11, 2020, a 60-day travel ban was placed on international exchange programs, including the J-1 program, by the Department of State. United States embassies around the world were also closed. The travel ban is set to expire on May 11. There is no official information at this time whether the ban will be lifted or extended or when US embassies will reopen to process new visas. The Department of State and your visa sponsors are still moving forward to facilitate the J-1 programs. 


It's ironic that I've spent this fall encouraging Americans to advocate for the White House not to drastically reduce or eliminate J-1 visas for camp cultural exchange programs while also keynoting at the 3rd China Camp Education Conference (CCEC) and representing ACA at the 11th International Camping Congress (ICC).

International Staff - Best Practices

Get information about J-1 Visa Camp Counselor and Summer Work Travel Programs, as well best practices and resources for international camp staff and camp cultural exchange.

Testimonials on the Value of Camp Cultural Exchange Programs

Camp has always been a unique developmental environment that weaves global citizenship with other outcomes such as critical thinking skills, leadership, and character development.

Social Security for International Staff

American Camp Association urges camps to abide by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruling and obtain Social Security numbers for all international staff.

Immigration Reform - Impact on Camps Utilizing Cultural Exchange Visitors

The most recent changes to Immigration Law in the US were enacted in 2013.  It is anticipated that the US Department of State will again consider J-1 Visa Cultural Exchange regulations in 2016.  Until then, consider the 2013 changes: