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International Visitor Program

HOW TO APPLY

Click on the link below or on the right for information:

Information for Prospective International Visitors
Information for Host Units
Information for Participants (J-1 Exchange Visitor

Information for Prospective International Visitors

Thank you for your interest in visiting the US Forest Service or participating in programs sponsored by the US Forest Service (USFS), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and our official partners.  The International Visitor Program (IVP) staff provides services to USDA units who wish to host international visitors.  After host units select participants for their programs, the IVP team provides guidance and assistance with visas and other services.  Visitors receiving official invitations will be advised to apply for either a B-1 or J-1 visa depending on the nature of their particular visit or program. International students holding F-1 visas should contact IVP staff directly to discuss training options. 

Representatives of international governments or non-governmental organizations interested in initiating collaborative programs or projects are encouraged to contact the appropriate International Programs staff in the Technical Cooperation, Disaster Assistance Support Program, Migratory Bird Program and Policy units.  If you are interested in cooperating with another USDA agency, please contact those offices or laboratories directly.  In your letters of inquiry, please provide a brief description of your organization and an outline of your objectives, proposed programs or activities, budget and timeframe for implementation.

Individuals interested in participating in a J-1 Exchange Program for research, observation or technical visits should explore the US Forest Service and the Agricultural Research Service websites to identify areas and offices of interest. Contact them directly to discuss individual project and program proposals.  Remember to send your resume, and a summary of your interests, objectives, proposed activities and dates.  If a unit wishes to invite you to participate in a program, it will contact an IVP Specialist to discuss the program, determine the appropriate visa classification, and complete the application process.

Information for Host Units
Host units wishing to invite international visitors should work with International Visitor Program (IVP) staff to determine the most suitable visa type for the specific activity.  The purpose of the visit, profile of the visitor, length of stay, sources of funds, and other logistical concerns are all considerations in determining which visa is appropriate.  As B-1 visas are only appropriate for specific types of activities, it is best to begin by assuming your visitor will require a J-1 visa and initiate the application process for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program outlined below. An IVP Specialist will review the documents and advise you if another visa type might be appropriate. For example, international students in the US on F-1 visas may be eligible to engage in Optional or Curricular Practical Training.

If you wish to invite an international guest as a J-1 Exchange Visitor or provide other support (insurance or maintenance allowances via debit cards), you should begin the application process at least 12 weeks in advance of the visit or program.  It is important to allow sufficient time for the visa application process as it can take as long as 2-3 months.  We encourage future hosts of international visitors to contact IVP as early as possible to discuss proposed programs. 


If a J-1 visa is required, the following documents are required:


Completed by the Host:

  • Host Application Form
  • Copy of invitation letter (Ask your IVP Specialist to review the letter before sending it to the visitor.)

Provided by the Visitor:

  • International Visitor Application
  • Form ARS230 (Non-Citizen Data Sheet) – Required for program stays of over 6 months and for visitors requiring USDA computer access
  • Resume/CV
  • Copies of Degrees or Transcripts (Students, Research Scholars, Short-Term Scholars) or proof of employment
  • Copies of Biodata page of Passport
  • Proof of outside or personal funding, if any, that will be used to support the visitor’s program
  • Copies of all documents for any dependents who will accompany the official visitor
  • Copy of any prior J-1Visas in Passport, if applicable)
  • Proof of Health Insurance (can be provided later)

Note:  The IVP team facilitates the process of inviting international visitors.  It also works to see that USDA and the USFS are complying with a number of complex regulations.  Units and staff hosting visitors through the International Visitor Program also assume responsibility for adhering to the various regulations and for carrying out the obligations as hosts of J-1 Exchange Visitors.

The Process for Hosts

Please review the information provided on this website then complete the following steps:

1. PLAN YOUR PROGRAM OR EVENT – IDENTIFY PARTICIPANTS

  • Define program goals, activities, budget, and levels of support or assistance required for international participants
  • Understand prospective visitors, their backgrounds and levels of English language proficiency*
  • Clarify the prospective visitors’ expectations and objectives
  • Discuss visa classifications and the J-1 Exchange Program with an International Visitor Program Specialist. Your program design, the profile of your participants, and the funding sources can help determine if it is appropriate for the participants to apply for B-1 visas, J-1 visas or if they are eligible to participate in another visa status, such as the F-1 student visa.
  • Determine the IVP services you need to support your international visitors (insurance, debit   cards to cover maintenance allowances or local travel costs, etc).
  • Determine whether or not you will need to establish the visitor as an ‘invitational traveler’ for domestic or international airline tickets or other required travel.

*While there is no English language requirement for holders of B-1 visas, sufficient English language skills are required for participation in any J-1 Exchange Visitor Program. Host units must share their knowledge of the participants’ English language skills in the application and verify that they are capable of benefiting fully from the program.  Thus, it is important to have extensive conversations or communication with prospective visitors prior to issuing an official invitation or requesting participation in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program. This requirement might be waived if program sponsors provide full-time interpreters/translators.  If you have questions about English language requirements, please contact the International Visitor Program Coordinator.

RESOURCES

  • ARS GUIDELINES ON HOSTING VISITING SCIENTISTS (DRAFT)

2. IVP REVIEW & PROCESSING

The IVP Specialist will review the proposed activities, budget, services to be provided and the prospective visitor’s profile and immigration history to see that the visa type requested or recommended is appropriate.  

If a B-1 visa is appropriate we advise the host unit to issue an official letter of invitation directly to the visitor.  International Programs files copies of the official invitation letter and records the visit in the International Visitors database. The collection of this information enhances the Agency’s ability to respond or assist in an emergency. If special services were requested, such as insurance or a debit card, IVP will send appropriate documents to the host unit.
If a J-1 visa is appropriate, the IVP Specialist will proceed with the application review and processing.  All proposed activities, services and visitor’s profile must fit the approved program categories and criteria for participation in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program as established by the Forest Service and US State Department. The program activity must be clearly linked to the goals and approved activities of the Forest Service which promote international exchange and the proposed funding must be adequate.
If an F-1 visa holder is requesting a period of practical training, the IVP Specialist will request additional documentation from the student’s Academic Advisor and the Designated School Official.

3. SECURITY CHECK

Prospective international visitors are subject to a mandatory security check processed by the USDA Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Coordination. Visitors who will require computer access and visitors with programs lasting more than 6 months must complete and submit Form ARS-230.

4. ISSUANCE OF DS-2019

Once the program activities are approved, an IVP Specialist, who serves as an Alternate Responsible Officer for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, issues a Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status - Form DS-2019.  The DS-2019 and other pre-arrival instructions are sent directly to the Visitor via express international delivery services.  The visitor needs the signed original of the DS-2019 to apply for a visa.

5. SEND OFFICIAL INVITATION LETTER & PRE-ARRIVAL INFORMATION TO THE VISITOR

The Host Unit must forward the following documents to the exchange visitor.  While this is usually done by email, if there are other original documents that must be sent, please use express mail services that require signatures upon receipt to ensure the safe delivery of the package.

  • Official Invitation Letter
  • Pre-Arrival Information Sheet/Community Resource Information

 6. SERVICES

International Programs will communicate directly with Host Units about the provision of insurance, debit cards, airline tickets and other services.  In general, International Programs waits to process these until program dates are reconfirmed and it is certain that the visitor has obtained the necessary visa to enter the United States.  In this way, we are able to save our Host Units from incurring additional costs related to date changes or cancellations.

In some cases, round-trip paper airline tickets are required by the consular officer reviewing a visa application. If the visitor finds the consulate requires hard-copy tickets, notify us immediately.

7. PREPARE FOR ARRIVAL

Communicate with the visitor to confirm travel and arrival plans. Make sure the visitor has emergency telephone numbers. You may want to refer to the Welcome Kit Ideas sheet and the Checklist for Hosting an Exchange Visitor to help you plan.

 8. MANDATORY CHECK IN – PROGRAM VALIDATION

  • Within 48 hours of arrival send the following items to the IVP Specialist by email:
    • Copy of Stamped DS-2019
    • Copy of visa and entry stamps
    • Copy of I-94 form printed from www.cbp.gov\i94
    • Residential Address
    • Verification of Insurance meeting the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program requirements

9. IVP & LOCAL ORIENTATIONS

  • Sign up to attend the monthly IVP Orientation Webinar held the first Thursday of each month.  Email invitations are sent out 1-2 weeks in advance. You can also request a one-on-one orientation.  Contact the IVP Specialist for more information.
  • Provide the visitor with an on-site orientation to the office and community.  Explain workplace expectations and community resources. The Community Resource Information Sheet and the On-Site Orientation Checklist for Hosting an Exchange Visitor may be useful.
  • Instruct the visitor to view the online orientation materials during their first week. 

 10. PROGRAM PROGRESS/COMPLETION

The host unit is responsible for collecting progress or program completion reports and notifying International Programs of the visitor’s departure. If you wish to change or extend a program, please contact your International Visitor Specialist directly.

Information for Participants (J-1 Exchange Visitors)

If you have been invited to participate in a program sponsored by the US Forest Service, USDA or an official partner organization, please review the information provided on this website then complete the following steps:

 1. COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR POGRAM HOST

  • Review program goals, activities, dates and available funding.
  • Determine if it is acceptable to bring dependents (spouse or children under age 21) -  sufficient funding, accommodations and insurance are required

2. REVIEW THE FOLLOWING

  • J-1 Exchange Visitor Program Regulations
  • International Visitor Application

3. COMPLETE AND RETURN TO THE HOST UNIT

  • International Visitor Application & Information Sheet
  • ARS230 Non-Citizen Data Sheet (required for security checks)
  • Resume
  • Copies of Degrees or Transcripts (Students, Research Scholars, Short-Term Scholars) or proof of employment
  • Copy of Biodata pages of Passport
  • Copy of any prior J-1Visas in Passport
  • Proof of outside or personal funding, if any, that will be used to support the program.
  • Copies of all documents for any dependents who will accompany you

4. IVP SPECIALIST REVIEW & PROCESSING

An IVP Specialist will review the proposed activities, budget, services to be provided and your professional and immigration history to see that the J-1 visa is appropriate.  
All proposed activities, services and visitor’s profile must fit the approved program categories and criteria for participation in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program as established by the Forest Service and US State Department. The program activity must be clearly linked to the goals and approved activities of the Forest Service which promote international exchange and the proposed funding must be adequate.

5. SECURITY CHECK

Prospective J-1 Exchange Visitors are subject to a mandatory security check. Form ARS-230  is submitted to initiate a background and security check on prospective J-1 Exchange Visitors sponsored by the Forest Service and all other agencies within the Department of Agriculture. 

6. ISSUANCE OF DS-2019

Once the program activities are approved and the security check is complete, the IVP Coordinator, who serves as the Responsible Officer (RO), or an IVP Specialist, who serves as an Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, will issue a Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status - Form DS-2019.  This form is then mailed to you via an express mail service. The original signed copy of this form is required for your visa application.

7. RECEIVE OFFICIAL INVITATION, DS-2019 & PRE-ARRIVAL INFORMATION

The Host Unit will forward the following documents to you. 

  • Official Invitation Letter
  • Community and Pre-Arrival Information (Community Resource Information Sheet/ Pre-Arrival Information Sheet - these may also be provided upon arrival)

8. APPLY FOR VISA

Follow the instructions provided by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your country. You will not be required to pay the SEVIS fee as a U.S. Goverment sponsored J-1 visa applicant. Read requirements for proof of airline tickets.  In some cases, round-trip airline tickets are required by the consular officer reviewing your visa application.

9. INSURANCE – DEBIT CARDS

All J-1 Exchange Visitors are required to have health and emergency evacuation insurance meeting the US Department of State minimum coverage requirements. If your insurance is provided by IVP, your card and policy information will be emailed to you upon arrival. If other services are to be provided to you, such as transportation or maintenance allowances, a debit card will be mailed to your host. You will be given the card and asked to sign a receipt for it when you arrive.  In general, IVP will not process insurance or debit cards until your program and travel dates are reconfirmed and it is certain that you have obtained the appropriate visa to enter the United States.  In this way, we are able to save our Host Units from incurring additional costs related to date changes or cancellations.

10. PREPARE FOR TRAVEL & ARRIVAL

Communicate with your host unit to confirm your travel plans. Make certain you have all required documents (DS-2019, passport, etc.) with you in your carry-on luggage.  Also, make sure you have emergency telephone numbers. You may want to refer to the Checklist for J-1 Exchange Visitors to help you plan.  More detailed instructions are provided in the pre-arrival handbook sent with your DS-2019 Form. Please refer to Pre-Arrival handbook sent to you with your DS-2019.

11. MANDATORY CHECK IN – PROGRAM VALIDATION - ORIENTATION

  • Within 48 hours of arrival send the following items to your Hoste and IVP Specialist by email:
    • Copy of Stamped DS-2019
    • Copy of visa and entry stamps
    • Copy of I-94 form printed from www.cbp.gov\i94
    • Residential Address
    • Verification of Insurance meeting the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program requirements
  • Your host will provide you with an office orientation to the area/office. 
  • Sign up to attend the monthly IVP Orientation Webinar held the first Thursday of each month.  Email invitations are sent out 1-2 weeks in advance. You can also request a one-on-one orientation.  Contact the IVP Specialist for more information.
  • Review the online orientation materials during your first week at your program site. 

 12. PROGRAM PROGRESS/COMPLETION

Your host unit is responsible for collecting progress or program completion reports and notifying your IVP Specialist of your departure. If you and your host wish to change or extend your program in any way, your host must contact your IVP Specialist directly.

We look forward to your visit!

 

 


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> If you have any questions, please contact:

  • Brenda Dean , International Visitor Program Coordinator, Responsible Officer, (202) 644-4640, bdean@fs.fed.us
  • Rima Eid, International Visitor Program Specialist, Alternate Responsible Officer, (202)644-4642, rimaeid@fs.fed.us
  • Kristin Corcoran, International Visitor Program Specialist, (202) 644-4643, kacorcoran@fs.fed.us
  • Misty Sidhu, International Visitor Program Specialist, (202) 644-4645, mksidhu@fs.fed.us
  • Lee Blaser, International Visitor Program Specialist, (202) 644-4631, leeablaser@fs.fed.us
> Click here and read about latest activities and news of the International Visitor Program.


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