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Debit Cards

International visitors sponsored by the US Forest Service and its official partners are eligible to participate in activities authorized in the letter of invitation, the program description and the information stated on the DS-2019 if they are J-1 visa holders.  The activities of international visitors and maintenance allowances to cover living expenses may be funded in full or part by the US Government, foreign governments or partner organizations.  Funds may be transferred to the exchange visitor through a debit card.  Research scholars here for significant lengths of time may open bank accounts and thus transfer debit card funds to these accounts.  Short-term visitors coming for study tours, seminars or other programs of less than 6 months will benefit most from easy and immediate access to funds made possible through the debit card program.

The US Forest Service debit card program allows for a safe and immediate transfer of funds. The process is as follows:

1. The Host Unit submits all application materials including program budget, fiscal coding, agreement or funds reservation serving as a certification of funds to the International Programs office.  The budget must provide for the overhead charges associated with this service.

2. As the program start date approaches, International Programs will send via express mail the MetaBank debit card, instructions and receipt form to the host advisor of the international visitor.  The host advisor or the visitor will need to activate the card and notify International Programs of receipt.  Once International Programs receives confirmation, the first stipend will be loaded onto the card.

3. The host advisor is required to explain the terms and conditions of using the debit card and provide assistance in understanding directions for use.

4. The exchange visitor will have the opportunity to access any funds authorized and available in the account.  To access funds through an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM), the visitor should choose to withdraw funds from a “Checking Account.”  

5. Monthly maintenance allowance funds are disbursed at or around the 15th of every month.

6. If, for any reason, the visitor’s program is terminated early or if the visitor fails to comply with program guidelines, the debit card can be suspended and access to funds can be terminated immediately. Cards can be cancelled completely within 10 calendar days.  Host advisors and International Programs staff will coordinate assistance to exchange visitors and resolve any issues related to departures from the intended program activities.

For more information, please contact:

Ashlee Jackson, International Programs Debit Card Program, Tel: 202-644-4644

Useful Information:

  • The MetaBank debit cards carry the Visa logo and can be used to make purchases or withdraw cash from automatic teller machines.
  • The cards do have a daily limit, which is indicated on the instruction sheet provided.
  • Card holders should not rely on the card for online purchases or reservations as not all online vendors accept debit card payments. Also, rental car companies generally do not accept debit cards.
  • International visitors receiving funds from the US government may need to file tax returns and must comply with all federal tax regulations.
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