Teams and Chapters need to be informed and aware of the different program areas where AFS-USA needs to ensure compliance. Being compliant enables AFS-USA to operate its programs responsibly in our local communities and helps to ensure the safety and welfare of our participants, families, and volunteers. All J-1 exchange organizations must follow regulations outlined by the U.S Department of State, along with the regulations and laws outlined by Federal, State, and local governments. Most J-1 secondary school exchange programs, including AFS, also follow standards set by the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET). In addition, all AFS organizations adhere to quality standards outlined by AFS International.
Here is a brief overview with links for more information about the different areas of compliance for Team and Chapter volunteer leaders to be informed and aware. The areas include:
- Regulatory Agencies
- AFS International
- Team and Chapter Bank Accounts
- AFS Insurance
- State Registrations (AR, CA, IL, MN, WA)
- Host Students
For more information about the agencies that regulate exchange organizations you can click the links below which will take you to their website.
- Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET)
As a "not-for-profit organization committed to quality international educational travel and exchange for youth at the high school level," CSIET works “to identify reputable international youth exchange programs, to provide leadership and support to the exchange and educational communities so that youth are provided with meaningful and safe international exchange experiences, and to promote the importance and educational value of international youth exchange.” CSIET has been promoting international youth exchanges since 1984.
CSIET requires exchange programs to adhere to a set of operational standards in order to be included in their Advisory List. The Advisory List is an annual publication and web listing that catalogs exchange programs that CSIET has evaluated and has deemed to meet their standards. The publication and web listing contain a profile of each listed exchange program, including contact information, the countries served, the number of participants, and programming descriptions.
U.S. high schools and families may refer to CSIET’s Advisory List when selecting with which quality exchange program they would like to participate. In fact, there are some high schools that will only accept exchange students hosted by CSIET-approved exchange programs and will only recommend CSIET-approved exchange programs to their U.S. students interested in studying abroad.
Click here to access a copy of the CSIET Certificate of Acceptance Form. You may need to bring a copy of this form to your school and/or district to indicate that AFS-USA is accredited by CSIET.
- Department of State (DoS)
AFS-USA is designated by the U.S. Department of State to operate an Exchange Visitor Program for Secondary School Students in the United States. This designation allows AFS-USA to supply incoming participants with the appropriate documentation needed in order to obtain their visas to come to the U.S. AFS-USA participants enter the U.S. with a J-1 visa. This is the only visa that permits international students to attend U.S. public high schools tuition free. Being a designated sponsor requires AFS-USA to adhere strictly to the federal regulations governing the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program for secondary school students.
The DoS maintains a toll-free number (1-866-283-9090) and email address (email@example.com) for secondary school students. The toll-free number can be used by both participants and host families to report circumstances impacting the participants’ health, safety, and well-being during the exchange program. All participants and their host families receive the telephone number and email address from AFS in the materials and orientations provided to them. The telephone number also appears on the identification card provided to all participants.
For a copy of the Department of State (DoS) re-designation letter, click here.
For a copy of the regulations governing J-1 secondary school sponsors, click here.
AFS Intercultural Programs is an international membership organization comprised of national volunteer organizations sharing a commitment to the common goals laid out in the AFS Mission Statement. Commitment to volunteerism is an important aspect of our mission, and many of the services referred to in these standards will be delivered by AFS volunteers who are supported by a small nucleus of professional staff.
AFS International has 14 quality standards for all AFS organizations to follow. They can be found here.
Team and Chapter Bank Accounts
AFS-USA, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation and as such is exempt from income tax pursuant to Section 501(c) 3 of the Internal Revenue Code. AFS-USA must demonstrate to the Internal Revenue Service that the organization maintains proper control over the use of all funds raised and held in its name. Furthermore, we must keep accurate and complete records in order to establish that our funds are used only for the purpose of achieving the tax-exempt purposes of AFS-USA, Inc.
AFS-USA must adhere to regulations as promulgated within U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). The organization is audited each year by an independent accounting firm to ensure that the financial statements are in compliance with GAAP. It is critically important that AFS-USA receive a clean audit opinion, which certifies that there are no material errors or misstatements in our financial statements.
For more details on Team and Chapter Bank Accounts (Field Finances), click here.
Here are key areas regarding AFS insurance for Teams and Chapters:
- Coverage for special events
Many venues that are used to host training, orientation, and other local team events require proof of insurance. Click here to get more information on how to request and receive a certificate of insurance for these events.
- Liability Insurance
Click here to get more information on our liability insurance coverage.
State Registrations (AR, CA, IL, MN, & WA)
The states of Arkansas, California, Illinois, Minnesota, and Washington require all exchange organizations to register annually. State registrations enable AFS-USA to operate its programs in those states, and in Illinois and California allows our host students to participate in sports and extracurricular activities sponsored by the school.
Click here to get more information.
Volunteers need to be aware of the regulations and requirements specific to AFS host students here on the J-1 visa program.
- Host Family Recruitment
There are specific guidelines all J-1 exchange organizations must follow as it relates to the recruitment of our host families and the promotion of our programs.
- Host Family Interviews
All host families must undergo an in-home host family interview as well as background and reference checks.
- Contacts and Visits
All hosted students need to have a trained student/family liaison who is available to the student, family and school as the first line of support during the program cycle. Liaisons are required to meet regularly with students, families and schools and document those meetings.
Providing orientations at certain key points during the program is one of the ways AFS supports students and families during their intercultural learning journey.
- Managing Serious Support Situations
Although rare, there are instances when our hosted students are involved in serious support situations. It is important for Teams and Chapters to understand the policies and procedures to follow when a serious support situation occurs.
All AFS volunteers are required to go through an annual registration process. This includes an annual criminal background check. In addition certain volunteer roles have training requirements that can be completed online.
Although not required for all volunteer roles and tasks, volunteer roles that involve the screening, selection and support of our host families and the orientation and support of our hosted students require the following online training requirements. We encourage all volunteers to take these online training courses:
For any questions you have regarding these areas of compliance, please contact your RFS (Regional Field Specialist).