Frequently Asked Questions 

For Schools That Want to Work with Exchange Programs:

How can a school determine if an exchange program is trustworthy?

What are the CSIET Standards?

How does CSIET evaluate youth exchange organizations?

What are the differences between Full, Provisional, and Conditional Listing?

What's the difference between "CSIET-listed" and CSIET-member exchange programs?

What if an exchange program is not in the Advisory List or on CSIET's website?

How can a school file a complaint against an exchange program?

What guidelines does CSIET provide with regard to:

  • How many exchange students a school should accept
  • What a school can expect from an exchange program
  • What a school can expect from exchange student

Does the school have to register the exchange student in SEVIS?

What is the difference between the J-1 visa and the F-1 visa?

Can a U.S. family bring a relative to the United States for an exchange?


For Schools That Want to Send American Students Abroad:

Can a school send American students abroad?


For Schools Arranging School-to-school Exchanges:

How can a school organize a group exchange with a school in another country?

How can a school determine if an exchange program is trustworthy?

CSIET sets standards for and evaluates U.S.-based youth exchange programs. CSIET publishes the results of the evaluation process in the Advisory List as a service to students, educators, and families, so that they may identify reputable exchange organizations.

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What are the CSIET Standards?

CSIET sets standards for U.S.-based youth exchange programs to follow. CSIET Standards deal mostly with student safety and well-being. Click here to view the CSIET Standards.

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How does CSIET evaluate youth exchange organizations?

CSIET's evaluation of exchange organizations is an extremely thorough process. Application for listing in the Advisory List is voluntary. Organizations must reapply for listing annually. The CSIET Evaluation Committee consists of fourteen members, four or which represent exchange organizations. The remaining ten are from the education community, such as high school principals, guidance counselors, and school superintendents. The Committee meets over several long weekends between November and March to review program performance. The evaluation consists of:

  • Review of Written Documentation. Organizations complete a written application and provide required materials to document compliance with each of the nine CSIET Standards.
  • Review of Questionnaires. Questionnaires are issued to a random sample of each applying organization's schools, students, and host families and serve as a means of assessing their experiences with the organization. The Evaluation and Accreditation Committees review every questionnaire that is returned to CSIET.
  • Review of Complaints. CSIET accepts written complaints about exchange organizations throughout the year. When CSIET receives a complaint, it is placed in the file of the youth exchange organization to be examined by the CSIET Evaluation Committee, and a copy is sent to the organization so that it can investigate the matter and provide a written report to CSIET. The Committees read every complaint that is filed with CSIET during the previous year. CSIET forwards each complaint to the relevant organization and expects the organization to provide a written response. The CSIET Evaluation Committee examines both the complaint and the organization's response to the complaint.
  • Tracking. When the CSIET Evaluation Committee finds that materials submitted with an organization's application are not sufficient evidence of compliance with CSIET Standards, the committee may opt to "track" the exchange of one of the organization's students. The organization is required to submit documentation related to some or all phases of the designated student's exchange. The tracking process enables the committee to evaluate the organization's handling of various aspects of an individual student's exchange, including the student admissions process, host family screening, school enrollment, and the monitoring of the student for the duration of his or her stay.

The CSIET Board of Directors created the following three types of listing to indicate each organization's level of compliance with the CSIET Standards.

  • Provisional Listing: The Provisional Listing status is granted to an organization applying for its first or second year of listing that is found to be in full compliance with CSIET Standards.
  • Full Listing: After two years of Provisional Listing an organization found to be in full compliance with CSIET Standards is granted Full Listing status.
  • Conditional Listing: The Conditional Listing status is granted to an organization in need of improvement in one or more areas but deemed substantially in compliance with CSIET Standards. This status may be granted to an organization that had previously achieved either a second-year Provisional, Full, or Conditional Listing.

At the Evaluation Committee's final meeting, it grants organizations that it finds to be in full compliance with CSIET Standards Provisional or Full listing. It recommends that the rest of the organizations be granted Conditional Listing or be denied listing status altogether.

An Accreditation Committee also consisting primarily of education representatives then meets over a long weekend to consider these recommendations. It decides whether organizations should indeed receive Conditional listing or be denied listing status.

Finally, applying organizations that were not granted Full or Provisional Listing are given an opportunity to appeal to a Due Process Review Committee if they feel they were not given due process during the evaluation; that is, fair opportunities to respond to the Committees' concerns. The decisions of the Due Process Review Committee are final.

All details of an individual organization's evaluation are confidential. CSIET Standards deal mostly with student safety and well-being. Click here to view the CSIET Standards.

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What are the differences between Full, Provisional, and Conditional Listing?

To read about the different types of listing, click here.

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What's the difference between "CSIET-listed" and CSIET-member exchange programs?

CSIET Membership is separate and different from CSIET Listing. Exchange programs that are members of CSIET receive CSIET's newsletters and e-mail updates, free copies of the Advisory List, and access to the Members-Only section of CSIET's website. Membership does not denote any sort of accreditation.

U.S. Organizations that wish to apply for CSIET Listing must submit an extensive application including references, so that CSIET can mail questionnaires to their students, host families, and schools. CSIET's committees then review the applications, questionnaires, and any complaints that have arrived at the CSIET office throughout the year and decides which of those U.S. organizations comply with CSIET Standards. Those organizations that are evaluated and found to comply are then granted CSIET Listing and featured in the Advisory List and on the CSIET website.

You can find the names of all of the organizations accepted for CSIET listing by clicking here.

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What if an exchange program is not in the Advisory List or on CSIET's website?

If an organization was not granted listing status in the most current Advisory List, it was not found to be in compliance with the CSIET Standards last year. Details of the evaluation, beyond an organization's resulting listing status, are confidential.

Keep in mind that exchange programs apply for CSIET's evaluation process voluntarily. If an organization did not apply for CSIET Listing, CSIET cannot determine if it operated in compliance with CSIET Standards and therefore will not list the program in the Advisory List.

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How can a school file a complaint against an exchange program?

As a standard-setting organization, CSIET takes its monitoring and oversight role seriously. Should you have a serious problem with a youth exchange organization or if you have questions about whether its procedures are in compliance with CSIET Standards, you may submit a formal complaint to CSIET.

Complaints must be submitted in writing and include your name, address, and telephone number. CSIET does not accept anonymous complaints. You may request that your identity be withheld from the youth organization unless your identity is necessary for the resolution of the concern.

You can submit a complaint via e-mail, fax (703 739 9050), or post. CSIET's mailing address is as follows:

 

CSIET
212 S. Henry St.
Alexandria, VA 22314

 

When CSIET receives a complaint, it is placed in the file of the youth exchange organization to be examined by the CSIET Evaluation Committee, and a copy is sent to the organization so that it can investigate the matter and provide a written report to CSIET. CSIET does not report back to complainants; however, CSIET listing is very important to most exchange organizations, so they tend to be responsive. All information about the evaluation of organizations is confidential. Every complaint is taken seriously and is fully studied as a part of the CSIET evaluation process.

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What guidelines does CSIET provide with regard to:

  • How many exchange students a school should accept
  • What a school can expect from an exchange program
  • What a school can expect from exchange students

CSIET's School Relations working group created the Model School Policy on International Student Exchange to help each school design its own policy on youth exchange. Topics covered include:

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Does the school have to register the student in SEVIS?

The Student And Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's student-tracking database.

In most cases, the U.S. school is not responsible for registering exchange students in SEVIS. Most exchange programs place students in U.S. schools for a semester or year using a J-1 Visa. The U.S. government holds the exchange program responsible for registering J-1 visa students in SEVIS.

However, if the school is sponsoring the student on the F-1 visa using an I-20 form, the U.S. government does hold the school responsible for the exchange and requires the school to register the student in SEVIS.

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What is the difference between the J-1 visa and the F-1 visa?

A high-school-age student may participate in a semester- or year-long exchange in the United States in one of two ways. The most common way is to participate in an exchange program on a J-1 visa. To qualify, students must be between the ages of 15 and 18-1/2 at the start of the program or not have graduated from high school. Designated non-profit organizations are the sponsors and responsible parties. These organizations must comply with certain orientation and selection criteria and are regulated by the State Department as cultural/educational exchanges under the Fulbright-Hays Act.

J-1 participants themselves must:

  • have sufficient financial resources for their stay in the United States
  • have a residence to return to upon completion of the program in the United States
  • maintain lawful immigration status while in the United States by keeping a valid passport at all times, not work without authorization, and leave the United States upon expiration of the visa or securing extension of stay if necessary
  • have sufficient command of the English language to enable them to function well in an English-speaking academic and community environment.

The student applies to participate in an exchange program. If the exchange program accepts the student, the program will sponsor the student on a J-1 visa using a DS 2019 form (formerly the IAP 66 form). The exchange program is responsible for the student's stay in the United States. The student pays the program for its services, but typically does not have to pay tuition to the school. A student may study on a J-1 visa for up to one year.

Most of the organizations that CSIET evaluates sponsor students on J-1 visas.

Alternatively, a student may study in the United States using the F-1 visa. To do so, one must approach the U.S. school that the student might attend. If the school has a Designated School Official (DSO) - designated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) or Department of Homeland Security (DHS) - the school may opt to sponsor the student on an F-1 visa using an I-20 Form.

Features of the F-1 visa:

  • Regulated by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
  • School is the responsible party in the United States, accountable to the INS.
  • Students must pay tuition to the public host school

The F-1 foreign student's obligations under U.S. immigration regulations are to:

  • provide evidence that the unsubsidized cost of tuition for any academic study in the United States is paid in order to obtain their visa
  • have sufficient financial resources for the anticipated stay in the United States
  • have a residence abroad to return to upon completion of the program in the United States
  • always maintain lawful immigration status while in the United States by keeping a valid passport, not working without authorization, and leaving the United States upon expiration of the visit or securing an extension of permission to stay if needed.

The school would be responsible for the student's exchange. The student would not have to pay fees to an exchange program, but the student would be required to pay tuition to the school, unless the school is private, in which case the school may opt to waive tuition.

In the case of both J-1 and F-1 exchanges, it is up to the U.S. school to decide whether it will accept students who have already graduated from high school in their home countries.

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Can a U.S. family bring a relative to the United States for an exchange?

Most exchange programs place students in the United States using the J-1 visa. U.S. government regulations do not allow a student who is on a J-1 visa to stay with relatives as this could take away from cultural immersion.

If a school is willing to sponsor the student on an F-1 visa using an I-20 form (thereby taking responsibility for the exchange), the student may reside in the home of relatives.

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Can a school send American students abroad?

Yes. Outbound exchanges are an excellent way for American students to learn a new language and culture, help people abroad to understand the United States better, and personally grow to be more independent, confident, and mature.

American high school students can participate in a year program, a semester program, or a short-term program during the summer or during other breaks from school.

The "Gap Year" abroad is a very popular option among American students. Students spend the year after high school graduation abroad, living with a host family and attending a school in that country.

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How can a school organize a group exchange with a school in another country?

Finally, the Fulbright Center in The Netherlands is looking for American high school teachers for Educational Exchange. The Fulbright Center in The Netherlands announces a great opportunity for high school teachers in the USA who want to set up a high school educational exchange with a Dutch high school. The Fulbright Center created an online community, http://www.fulbright.nl/?menutree=5|114|200that helps you to find a Dutch partner school.

In 2006 and 2007 the Fulbright Center established more than ten partnerships between Dutch and US high schools through its extensive network. Through these contacts more than 100 students traveled to the US in 2008 and about 60 students visited Europe.

Should you have any questions, please contact Marlies Eijsink, Program Coordinator of the High School Partnership Program at m.eijsink@fulbright.nl or call: +31-2-5315934.

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