FAQs for Schools That Want to Work with Exchange Programs

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.

What are the CSIET Standards of Excellence?

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

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

Full Certification is the status that organizations and programs described in the CSIET Advisory List are accorded when they have demonstrated full compliance with the CSIET Standards.

Provisional Certification reflects the Evaluation Committee’s determination that an organization, during its first or second evaluation, is judged to be in compliance with CSIET standards on the basis of its application materials. Provisional Certification will be granted to a newly accepted organization for two one-year periods, provided experience with the organization during this time affirms the Committee’s assessment. After one year, Provisional Certification may be renewed for a second year. Or, if there is inadequate compliance with specific standards, the organization may be denied certification .

Conditional Certification is a status that may be granted to an organization that had previously achieved either a Full or Conditional Certification. It is issued to organizations that the Accreditation Committee determines are substantially in compliance with the standards but which need improvement in one or more areas. Conditional Certification is granted for one year, but may be renewed for subsequent one-year periods upon completion of review by the Accreditation Committee.

What's the difference between CSIET-Certified Member Exchange Program and CSIET Member Exchange Program?

CSIET-Certified Member Exchange Programs have voluntarily entered a rigorous evaluation process and have earned their “CSIET-Certification” Status. CSIET Membership does not guarantee a certification status with CSIET, but rather, an organization must be a paid CSIET member in order to apply to be evaluated for a CSIET certification status. CSIET Member Exchange Programs have paid for their Membership into the Association, which is based on an annual cycle (July 1 to June 30). In order to earn a CSIET Certification Status, Members must “Apply for Certification ” which enters the organization into CSIET’s annual evaluation process, which begins in November and ends in April of the following year. Only U.S.-based schools and organizations are eligible to seek a CSIET certification status, and they must also be members in the Voting Exchange Program or School/District Membership categories.

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 Certification, CSIET cannot determine if it operated in compliance with CSIET Standards of Excellence and therefore will not list the program in the Advisory List.

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 complaint form to CSIET. Complaint forms must include your name, the standard related to the complaint, and email. 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 form online in the Standards and Accountability section of our website. 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 certification 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.

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.

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.

See CSIET’s Guidance to U.S. International Student Visa Programs

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.

Does CSIET provide guidelines for how many exchange students a school should accept and what a school can expect from an exchange program/exchange student?

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:

  • Number of international exchange students to accept

  • Timing of the student placement process

  • Selecting Student Exchange Programs

  • School expectations for an exchange program

  • School expectations for exchange students

  • Host school responsibilities