Work Exchange and Professional Exchange Programs
Work Exchange and Professional Exchange Programs

Work exchange programs encourage international understanding through short-term work experience in the United States. These programs vary widely in nature; for example, some programs allow you to accept any type of work that is offered, while others restrict you to working in a job related to your chosen career, or even to doing a specific job, such as being an au pair. Each program has different eligibility requirements, and you should check to see which programs best suit your particular situation and needs.

Work exchange programs do not operate between the United States and every country. Contact an EducationUSA center to find out if any programs are available to citizens of your country. Also use the Internet to search for information on work exchange programs.

These programs can be administered only by organizations that have been authorized by the U.S. Department of State to issue the Certificate of Eligibility (Form IAP-66/DS-2019). This form allows work exchange program participants to apply for a J-1 exchange visitor visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The J-1 visa allows the participant to work legally in the United States for a specified period of time. This type of J-1 visa should not be confused with another category of J-1 visa that is issued to students enrolled in degree or exchange programs at U.S. universities (see Booklets One and Two of this series for further information on degree-level study in the United States); you will not be able to study full-time while you are on a work exchange program. Further information on the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program and the Au Pair Program is available on the website

You should plan your participation in a work exchange program as far in advance as possible. Some work exchange programs require that you obtain an offer of employment in the United States before you apply to the program. Programs may have application deadlines, or they may require that you apply a certain number of weeks or months before you intend to leave for the United States. Ask the individual work exchange organization how long the whole process will take. Allow time to apply for and obtain your visa, and, if possible, do not purchase a plane ticket before you are informed that your visa application has been successful.

If you are interested in learning more about your particular profession in the United States, you might want to consider taking part in a professional exchange program. A number of programs operate between the United States and other countries that allow members of certain professions, most commonly teachers, to experience living and working at that profession in the other country. An example of such programs is the Fulbright Teacher and Administrator Exchange Program, which operates between the United States and more than 30 countries. Further information on this program is available on the World Wide Web at Contact an EducationUSA information and advising center for information on this and other professional exchange programs available between your country and the United States.