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Exchange Visitors

The Exchange Visitor Program promotes mutual understanding between the people of the United States (U.S.) and the people of other countries by educational and cultural exchanges, under the provisions of U.S. law.  Exchange visitors are foreign nationals who come to the United States to take part in Department of State-designated programs, such as: 

  • Trainees
  • Professors or Scholars
  • Students
  • Specialists
  • International visitors
  • Teachers
  • Research assistants
  • Physicians
  • Summer work travel programs
  • Au pair programs
  • Camp counselors

Form I-9 for Exchange Visitors

Exchange visitors may work legally in the United States if the work is part of the participants’ approved program (e.g., J-1 teachers, professors, summer camp counselors, summer work travel, au pairs) or when the official program sponsor approves their employment (e.g., J-1 students).  Employers may not employ a J-1 participant knowing that the exchange visitor is unauthorized to perform this type of work in the United States.  

USCIS does not issue exchange visitors Form I-766, Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to evidence employment authorization.  However, DHS issues Form I-94/I-94A indicating J-1 nonimmigrant status.  Program sponsors designated by the Department of State issue and endorse Form DS-2019, which indicates the type of work an exchange visitor is authorized to do.  For J-1 students, additional, informal documentation (a letter) from the program sponsor is prepared to evidence employment authorization.

For Form I-9 purposes, the following combination of documents is considered a List A document:

  • The exchange visitor’s unexpired foreign passport
  • Form DS-2019 -- Exchange visitors cannot work after the program end date on this form.
  • A valid Form I-94 or I-94A indicating J-1 nonimmigrant status
  • A letter or other documentation from the Responsible Officer in the case of a J-1 nonimmigrant student. 

Record the foreign passport and I-94 numbers in Section 2 under List A of Form I-9. Write the SEVIS number and the program expiration date from Form DS-2019 in the margin of Form I-9 near Section 2.  For J-1 nonimmigrant students, record information from other relevant documentation in the margin near Section 2.

We have provided additional information on some of the more popular exchange visitor programs below.  For more information on the Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program, please go to http://www.travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/study-exchange.html.

Summer work travel programs

Post-secondary students may enter the United States to work and travel during their summer vacation as participants in the summer work travel program. Participants can be admitted to the program more than once, but cannot work for more than four months.  Examples of possible summer work/travel jobs include positions at:

  • Resorts
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Amusement parks
  • Architectural firms
  • Scientific research organizations
  • Graphic art/publishing and other media communication businesses
  • Advertising agencies
  • Computer software businesses
  • Electronics firms
  • Legal offices

Some jobs are not permitted, such as

  • Domestic help (e.g., housekeepers)
  • Positions that require participants to invest their own money
  • Positions that require participants to provide patient care
  • Positions that might bring the Department of State into notoriety or disrepute

Au Pairs

Only exchange visitors placed through a Department of State-designated au pair sponsor are authorized to work as an au pair. Au pairs provide child care to a host family’s children for a year in return for room and board, a weekly stipend and up to $500 in education costs.

Because the host family provides remuneration in exchange for regular child care services, the host family is the au pair’s employer and must complete Form I-9 for him or her. 

Foreign academic students (F-1 nonimmigrants) cannot work as au pairs or nannies unless USCIS issues them an EAD based on severe economic hardship.  This EAD will have a “C33”category code.

Camp Counselors

Each summer, camp counselors interact with groups of American youth by overseeing camp activities in the United States. Participants must be at least 18 years old and may work only as counselors for up to four months.

Once in a while, participants may have to do non-counseling duties as a part of camp life, but they do not serve as staff. They may not act as

  • Office workers
  • Cooks
  • Laborers, such as dishwashers or janitors

Camp counselor positions must be at camps that are either:

  • Accredited members in good standing of the American Camp Association
  • Affiliated with a nationally recognized nonprofit organization
  • Inspected, evaluated and approved by the sponsor
Last Reviewed/Updated: 05/13/2011