Tips & FAQs

As you may be aware, health care is not free in the USA. You must have medical insurance. But don’t worry- we have that covered for you. Remember you get 4 months (123 days coverage in the USA with your program). If you are unfamiliar with US Healthcare, please see some important terms and procedures below:

  • Co-payment: This is like your car insurance excess. It’s an amount you always have to pay when you have treatment. For non-Emergency Room Visits, the Co-pay is $50. Before visiting any doctor, you should always call the 800 number (free call) on the back of your insurance card to discuss your symptoms and find a doctor that is “in-network.” The insurance company can best advise you whether to visit a doctor and if so, where the closest clinic is.
  • In-Network: This is an important one! In the US, not all doctors accept all forms of insurance. Before visiting any doctor, you must call the insurance company to find a local doctor that is in-network. In-Network means that the doctor accepts your insurance plan. If you go to a doctor that is NOT in-network (or out of network) you should expect to recieve a significant invoice for your doctor’s visit. Please note, even an in-network doctor will have a co-pay, so you will be paying a fee regardless, but it will be much smaller if the doctor is in-network.
  • Worker’s Compensation: Whilst you are at work and carrying out your duties at work, you are covered by this insurance. Worker’s compensation is the insurance policy an employer has to protect their staff while on duty. This means if you have an injury/illness caused by or related to your work, you are covered by this insurance which is held by your employer. Our insurance is for non-work related cases, or injuries/illnesses that occur while on days off and while you are traveling.
  • Emergency Room: It’s the same thing as the A & E and is for serious injury or illness that requires immediate attention. There is no co-pay or deductible for this if the injury/illness is deemed life threatening or requires an overnight stay. In all other cases, there will be a $350 Copay if you go to the ER and are NOT admitted, so if your condition is not life-threatening,  you should go to a walk-in clinic whenever possible.
  • Pre-Existing Conditions: If you have a condition that has been treated, or you take regular medication for, in the past 36 months, it will NOT be covered by this insurance.

More details on your insurance policy can be found here.

Do I get paid the same as American Staff?

Your salary must be commensurate with American staff members with similar experience doing the same job.  Remember, your salary includes fees paid to IENA for your placement and medical insurance by your camp, on your behalf.  This, combined with the minimum suggested salaries usually means that it costs MORE to have you at camp than an American staff member

How does social media work at camp?

When it comes to social media, summer camp and American culture, there are a few things you need to be aware of. Camps have withdrawn job offers to participants before they have even arrived in the USA due to posts on a staff members social media. Please be aware of how you portray yourself. You are going to America to be professional providers of child care and your public presence should reflect that. We highly recommend you make all your social media private. Remember, even something someone else tags you in or photos someone else posts of you can have an impact on someone’s impression of you. As a general rule of thumb, think “Would I want my parents or grandparents to see this?”

Each camp will have their own set of rules with regard to social media once you arrive at camp. American Summers highly recommends you NOT accept friend requests from campers.

Can I leave early?

IENA recognizes there are several reasons why you may leave camp early.

Getting Fired by the Camp

Break the camp rules and you may be fired. This is a job working with kids. The most common reason people are fired at camp is returning to camp drunk after time off. When you are in camp you are expected to be in a condition to take care of children. As with any job you take, there are rules that need to be followed. In most cases you will be asked to leave camp immediately. There will be no chance to say goodbye to the children or co-workers. You will be escorted to pack your belongings and taken out of camp as soon as possible. This may seem drastic, but your camp director will want to avoid any disruption to camp or the campers.

If you have been fired, the first thing you must do is call IENA, your visa sponsor. We have a 24hr emergency line (888) 724 4292 ext 4. Camps are also instructed to call us before taking you out of camp. Our goal is:

  • For you to understand why you have been fired
  • Get your version of events
  • Ensure you are paid up to date
  • To make a plan with you as to where you will go and how you will get home
  • Just because you have been terminated from employment does not mean you are not part of our program. We want to make sure you are safe and have arranged flights home. This does not mean that American Summers will pay for flights or hotels. There are consequences to being fired from camp. One of those is going to be costs of transport, hotels and flight changes. That is your responsibility. If you do not have accessible funds to cover these costs, we will suggest you call home and get help.

You Decide to Leave

We understand there are a few reasons why you may decide to leave. All we ask is that you give camp an adequate try. Please try to remain at camp at least for one week, after campers have arrived. Camp is a very different environment during staff training, before the children arrive; this is when most participants tend to feel homesick. Trust us, once the campers arrive, it will be a very different, and fun environment!

If you do decide to leave early, you MUST call IENA, the visa sponsor, before you leave on (888) 724 4292 ext 4. We will want to help you make a plan to get home.

After being fired or deciding to leave early, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to take advantage of your 30 day travel period at the end of your program. Typically you have 5 days to leave the USA. If you fail to complete your contract it is likely you will owe IENA money if you are a first time placement. This is because IENA, as your sponsor, has spent a great deal of money to get you to camp. Please look at your program agreement for further information.

What sort of paperwork do I need to complete?

You are going to hear several terms for different forms etc. during the process. Here is our IENAipedia to those forms:

  • The J-1 Visa: The J-1 Visa is a government program that allows post-secondary students, youth workers and teachers to share their cultures and ideas with the people of the United States. Your J-1 Visa runs from the start of your contract to the end of your contract. It also allows for 30 days pre camp travel and 30 days post camp travel around the United States in a tourist capacity, to experience its culture and seeing all that it has to offer. The actual Visa is attached inside your passport and is given to you after a successful interview at your local US Embassy. You are only permitted to work as a Counselor or Support Staff at the camp outlined on your original DS2019 Form (we will get to that in a minute). You are not permitted to get the visa and then go and work where you please. You must arrive at camp on the designated day on your camp contract or your program may be cancelled.
  • DS-2019 Form: This form can only be issued by a US Department of State designated visa sponsor. On this program, IENA is your designated J-1 Visa Sponsor. The DS-2019 certifies that you are eligible to take part in the cultural exchange program and is a vital part of the application process. In essence, it is evidence that you have a bona-fide job offer in the USA. You will need it for your embassy appointment AND you will need it when you enter into the USA. Guard it as you would guard your passport.
  • SEVIS Receipt (or SEVIS I-901 Receipt): SEVIS stands for “Student Exchange Visitor Information System”. It is a system used by the US Department of State to track exchange visitors on the program, such as work dates, employer location, and job title. You will need this form when you visit the embassy for your interview

What paperwork will the camp require?

  • Social Security: The US Government requires all employees to apply for a Social Security Number. Camp will help you do this during your first few weeks at camp. You will need to visit the local Social Security office to apply for your Social Security Number (SSN) in person. During the summer, you must obtain a Social Security Card. Please note, if you already have a US SSN, you can continue to use this same number. Once you have a SSN, it is yours for life.
  • Form I-9: All employees, foreign and domestic, are required to complete this form for each employer. It is a straightforward form and you will need your passport (including J-1 Visa) and your DS-2019. Camp will help you complete this.
  • Form I-94: This is your Arrival and Departure Record to the US. It is a good idea to print this when you get to camp and keep it with you. You cannot print it until after you have arrived in the USA. You will need your I-94 Arrival Record when you apply for your SSN. It can be printed here.
  • W-4: This form is for tax purposes. Your camp may withhold a small amount of taxes from your salary. You may be entitled to claim this back. IENA partners with to make claiming back the taxes as simple as possible

Speaking of taxes!

You are living and working in the USA.  You are using the countries infrastructure.  Since the tax reform of 2018, you are required to pay taxes on your earnings.  Taxes are a reality of adulthood.  There is no escaping them and there is no magic wand IENA or your employer can wave to make them go away.

Around February, your employer (not IENA) will send you a W2 wage and tax statement.  You are then requires to file a tax return.  In many cases, our program participants obtain refunds from the IRS so do it!  it is also a legal requirement.  You have the option of handling this yourself or using our partners at Sprintax.  IENA pay a portion of fees to Sprintax to keep the costs low for you.

Further information can be found here:

What should I pack?

This might be your first time at camp, or even traveling abroad. You’ve thought about starting to pack about fifty times, but keep putting it off- and you leave tomorrow. Here is a quick list of what we consider essentials.  Take a carry-on backpack (like your backpack when you were in school). Keep the essentials in this carry-on:

  • A phone Charger
  • An American plug adapter
  • Important paperwork/ documents: passport, DS-2019, contact information for your camp
  • One or two pens for immigration forms on the plane

In your suitcase:

  • A pair of jeans
  • A pair of trainers
  • A pair of walking/hiking shoes
  • A couple of bathing suits
  • 7 t-shirts
  • A rain jacket (lightweight)
  • 7 pairs of underwear and socks
  • A warm hoodie or sweater
  • Flip Flops
  • Photocopies of all documents (Visa, Passport, DS-2019, Insurance, Flights, Camp Contract)
  • Toiletries
  • A toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant

That’s all we suggest. You can also check with your camp if they suggest any additional items. If there are any last-minute items, remember you can buy basics once you arrive in America and save space in your suitcase!

What makes you so great?

At American Summers, our staff have been in the summer camp industry for over 50 years. We have been campers, cabin counselors, worked in kitchens, hired staff, and have also worked up to become directors. We aim to create a stream-lined process which provides you with a friendly atmosphere, accessible staff, and an easy application process. We know this process can be stressful, and will do what we can do make it as easy as possible.

Am I too late to apply?

We normally close our application process in April. As long as you are on the program before March/April, we will be happy to work with you. We do ask that you get your documents in on a timely manner so we can prepare your application for camp directors to view.

How old do I need to be?

We ask that you are at least 18 years old by June 1st in order to be eligible work in America.

Are there requirements?

There are certain requirements in order to be eligible for the J-1 Visa and working at camp. Please see these requirements below:

  • You must be at least 18 years old by June 1st of the summer of your program. This is a Department of State requirement.
  • Enjoy working and being around children
  • Produce a clean police background check
  • Be available to head out to America before June 18th
  • Be available to stay out in America for a minimum of 9 weeks
  • Complete a medical form to ensure that you are fit and healthy to work abroad
  • Able to be a big brother or sister to campers 24/7
  • Be outgoing, adventurous, patient, full of energy, and ready to commit to your job
  • Excited about traveling to a new country with different cultures
  • For support staff applicants only, you must be enrolled as a full-time student in a college or university program

Time in the USA

We ask that you are available for a minimum of 9 weeks during the summer, and that you are able to travel to the US on or before June 18th. This is because camps normally open during this time of year and run for a 9 week period. If you would like to travel during your time in the US, you will be granted a 30 day grace period to travel as a tourist around the US post-camp, upon completion of your camp contract.

Visa process

Applying for your J-1 Visa at the US Embassy can be one of the more stressful aspects of this process, but there is no need to worry. In the springtime we will provide you with easy to follow guidelines on what you will need to be successful in your visa application. You will need to travel to the US Embassy in your home country to get your visa, even if you have been to camp before.

Do I have to be interviewed?

At American Summers we do have an interview process before any money is put down to ensure that you will be a great addition to camp and the program. Your other interviews will take place over Skype to get you ready for your chat with camp directors. Remember, we are people too so don’t be too nervous, and always be yourself.

Where will I work?

We work with over 700 camps across the USA and in most states. Our placement program allows you to search through the camps we work with and sort them by state. You can then reach out to those camps to see if they would like to interview you. The camps can also see your application and reach out to you for an interview as well. We do recommend you keep an open mind in relation to locations for camps. If you close yourself off to certain states, you could be missing the perfect camp placement that matches your skills, experience, background, and personality.

Hiring process

There is no hard or fast rule of when you will be hired by a summer camp. The process depends on how fast you are at providing us with your documents and how your experience and availability matches up with the available positions at camps. Additionally, summer camp directors all hire depending on their needs at that specific time. A camp director might not look for someone of your skills until the springtime.

Am I going to a fun camp?

Yes! We have been to all of the summer camps that we work with and have spoken to counselors about their experiences at these camps. Everyone at American Summers has been to summer camp and wouldn’t recommend you to a summer camp that we ourselves wouldn’t want to go to for the summer.

What if I don't get hired?

In that unlikely event, you will receive a full refund of your fees that you have paid to American Summers. Unfortunately, we cannot refund any of the 3rd party costs such as your police check, as it was not paid directly to us.


Your references can be completed by anyone who has known you in a professional environment. You can have your teachers, parents of the children you babysat for, employers, or coaches fill out the form. We will not be able to accept any form completed by a friend or family member.

Can I go to camp with my friend?

We place staff at camps based on their skills, personality, availability and experience. We cannot by any means guarantee that you will be placed at the same camp as your friend. This is because a camp director may only be looking to fill one spot or has already hired someone with similar skills as your friend. Additionally, some camp directors do not like friends going to the same camp as you may be less likely to branch out to enjoy new experiences. However, our unique placement program does allow you and your friend to request an interview with the same camp, which we recommend is the best way to do this.

Renewing my passport

If your passport is about to expire, either before or after camp, yes, you will need to get it renewed ASAP! Go go go!! We ask that your passport is valid for at least six months after your return back home. If your passport is expiring before or after the summer, please renew your passport before you begin the application process.

Medical conditions

If you have ever had a medical condition, we ask that you provide us with all past and present information about your health. Since every experience and condition is different, we ask that you contact American Summers with information on any present or pre-existing medical conditions. Please note, the insurance provided with your IENA program does NOT cover pre-existing conditions, or any applicants 65 or older.