International government officials, researchers, specialists, professionals and students can participate in exchange programs with the US Forest Service, other USDA agencies, and our partner organizations through a variety of programs.
Key factors in determining the appropriate visa classification for the international visitor includes the nature of a visitor’s activities (research, observation, seminar or meeting participation, etc.), the visitor’s professional profile, the source of funding (foreign government, US government, grants, other), the types of reimbursements or payments to be made to the visitor and the proposed length of stay. Having the appropriate visa, security clearance, and a record of this on file in International Programs is important for both the visitor and the US Forest Service. Even minor and inadvertent violations of Immigration, Labor and US Forest Service regulations can have serious and irreversible consequences.
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program
In many cases, it is only appropriate for official visitors to enter the USA with a J-1 visa as a part of the Exchange Visitor program. The US Forest Service has been designated by the US Department of State as a program sponsor for the following J-1 exchange visitor categories:
- Government Visitor
- Research Scholar
- Short-Term Scholar
Programs in each of these categories have different requirements for participation and maximum lengths. There are also special rules about prior and future program participation and stays in the US. Please click on the following links for additional information:
In limited cases, a B-1 visa (temporary visitor for business) may be appropriate for short-term activities. A B-1 visa might be appropriate when an international visitor will attend a brief meeting. It is important to distinguish between the B-1 visa issued for business purposes and the B-2 visa issued to internationals entering the US for travel or pleasure. When in compliance with immigration and other government regulations, certain reimbursements may be made to B-1 holders, but similar reimbursements are strictly prohibited for B-2 visa holders. Additionally, the US Forest Service does not accept international volunteers with B1/B2 visas. Please click on the following chart for more information:
Students already in the United States on an F-1 Student Visa may be eligible for periods of Optional Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training with the US Forest Service or another USDA agency. Please contact an International Visitor Program Specialist to discuss these programs.
As regulations are complex, it is best to contact an International Visitor Program Specialist to discuss your proposed program activities and immigration classifications.