Participants in our Exchange Visitor Programs will be traveling to the United States with a J-1 Visa. If you are a first-time visitor to the US, you may have some questions about documents, travel, US laws, etc. We have provided the following information to you for your convenience. If you have any further questions, contact your program sponsor or contact the Director at your camp.
Make two copies of all your documents before you leave your home country: Passport, Visa, DS 2019, I-901 SEVIS receipt, employment contract. Keep one set of copies at home and pack the other set in your luggage.
Carry the original travel documents with you. You may not have access to your luggage until after you clear immigration.
Always keep your property close to you, especially in crowded places like airports, bus terminals, and train stations. Keep all valuables - camera, wallet, passport, documents, and money with you at all times.
Be aware of your surroundings and avoid uncomfortable situations. Most American's are friendly and helpful, however, there are some people who will recognize you as a visitor and try to exploit you.
Entering the USA
You will be entering the United States of America as a "J-1 Exchange Visitor." You may be participating in the Camp Counselor or the Summer Work and Travel program which permits you to work legally in the U.S. under the terms of the program. However, in order to activate your visa you must be processed into the country correctly. Please take note of documents you will need to obtain and present at the port of entry.
Be sure to show the following documents to the Immigration Officer as you go through immigration at the airport or other port of entry:
Please note that your visa alone does not guarantee your entry to the United States. Your entry into the United States and the length of your stay is determined by the Immigration Officer at the port of entry. It is important that you cooperate fully with the official in a polite, respectful manner. You will need to show the officer all of the documents listed above. He/She may ask you for some general details about your visit. Answer any and all questions clearly.
Gather your luggage and proceed to the Customs desk. You will need to show your passport, answer a few questions, and hand in your declaration form as you leave.
Your visa allows you to travel freely throughout the United States. You may travel outside of the United States during your work term as a chaperone on an overnight camp trip or during time off. You MUST however, have your DS 2019 form signed by a designated Alternate Responsible Officer. There is an officer designated at each camp. This signature tells the immigration officer that your employer and your visa sponsor know that you are traveling outside of the United States and that you are expected to return to continue your visa term. Be sure to check the work dates indicated on your DS 2019 form. You will not be permitted to re-enter the US after your work program has expired.
Please note, depending on your home country, a visa may be required to enter Canada or Mexico.
As a participant in the Exchange Visitor Program, you are permitted to travel for up to 30 days after your employment end date indicated on the DS 2019 form. If you travel out of the continental U.S. during this period, however, you will not be able to re-enter under the same visa, and you will forfeit your insurance coverage.
Violations of immigration regulations can jeopardize the possibility of obtaining any type of US visa in the future. Participants who remain in the US after the authorized travel period risk being arrested and deported.
As a guest in the Unites States you are expected to follow all of the laws and regulations and you are subjected to all consequences for violations. Below you will find some highlighted offenses that you will want to avoid:
The U.S. police can be very strict and you are expected to take responsibility for any crimes or violations which you commit.
You must be 21 years old to drink alcohol legally in the United States. If you are found with alcohol and you are under 21, you may be arrested and expected to pay a fine. If you are over 21 but provide alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, you can also be arrested and expected to pay a fine.
Drinking alcohol in public such as on public beaches or on a public street is prohibited in many places. You could be expected to pay a fine if you are found guilty.
DWI/DUI laws are very strict. If you are found guilty you will be arrested, spend the night in jail and you could be fined up to $5,000. When going out as a group be sure to either appoint a "designated driver" who will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages and who will drive the rest of the group to and from their destination or plan on alternative transportation options such as a taxi.
Illegal use or possession of controlled substances (drugs) in the USA is subject to prosecution by law. The penalties for drug possession vary from state to state and region to region. If you are found guilty of use, possession or association with people who have drugs themselves, you could be fined in addition to spending time in jail.
Smoking is not permitted in many office buildings, restaurants and when using public transportation. If you smoke, be sure to note any "no smoking" signs.
Tips for Staying Safe