The safety of our US exchange visitors (EVs) is paramount at IENA. The US State Department, which oversees our US programs, is also heavily involved in monitoring exchange visitor wellness and safety. While we expect our participants will be self-reliant during their American experience, they are never truly on their own.
US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Welcome Letters
All participants are given an orientation before traveling to the US, which includes safety information. Prior to placing any exchange visitor at a camp or employer site, we communicate directly with the host to set expectations and ensure they understand the nature of the program. Many of our employers and camps also run a local orientation for our exchange visitors when they arrive on site, introducing them to local resources and their new community.
In the US
IENA’s staff prides itself on our personal touch. During office hours a staff member will always answer the phone. Outside of office hours IENA is reachable 24/7 via our emergency hotline, 888-724-4292 extension 4.
Emergency services are available across the US by calling 911. All US wireless phones, even those that are not subscribed to a specific carrier, can be used to call 911.
Any EVs who become the victim of a crime should report the crime to the police and IENA.
We send monthly surveys to our participants to check in and assess their program and to address any issues promptly. We can be contacted at any time via email or our office phone.
US Health and Wellness Information
While in the US, participants are covered by mandatory health insurance for the duration of their program. Their employers must also carry valid worker’s compensation insurance for any on-the-job injuries.
Emergency room (ER) visits in the US are expensive and should only be used for genuine emergencies. Participants should contact their health insurance provider to confirm local “in network” medical professionals or urgent care centers when they settle into their host location.
Understanding key health insurance terms
Participants should report the injury/illness to IENA if it resulted in . . .
- Overnight hospitalization.
- Adjustment of work duties to accommodate the injury.
- Changing to different position to accommodate the injury.
- Missing working in a 24-hour period or longer.
- Ending program early.
Information about common mental health issues, including warning signs and resources, is available on the US Department of Health and Human Services website.
If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 1 800 273 8255. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
US health and safety information is always available for reference in participant IENA accounts, where they can also download a copy of their insurance information.
IENA retains the services of a mental health professional to assist and guide our staff with Exchange Visitor support
Camp and employer site visits
Throughout the year IENA staff travel to many camp and employer sites. During our visits we meet with as many of our EVs as we can to confirm their wellbeing and whether the program is meeting their expectations. We also connect with employers and supervisors to ensure we are meeting program requirements.
IENA on social media
Participants and others can contact IENA on Facebook. Our Facebook page is also a source of information for local activities and safety alerts in the communities where we have exchange visitors living.
Water safety isn’t just for kids. Even strong swimmers can overestimate their ability and succumb to fatigue, currents or rip tides. The majority of IENA’s participants are in the US during the warm summer months and should be aware of water safety precautions.
Many of IENA’s participants use bikes as their primary form of transportation while in the US. It’s essential to become familiar with US road rules. One of the most important things our participants can do to improve their safety is to wear a helmet!
Driving in the US
People who drive in the US must have a valid driver’s license. Some states require an international driving permit (IDP) from foreign nationals, in addition to a valid license from your own country.
For more information on IDPs, renting a car, and car share services click here.
Bookmark local weather conditions and sign up for alerts here.
Office of Private Sector Exchange Program Administration
Office of Private Sector Exchange Program Administration (OPA) safety video.
OPA administers the J-1 program for the US State Department. Learn about the J-1 visa exchange visitor program, the Office of Private Sector Exchange Administration, and how program sponsors, exchange visitors, and interested parties can identify and report incidents
Other information and resources
- Exchange Visitor Emergency Hotline: 1-866-283-9090
- National Human Trafficking Resource Center: 1-888-373-7888
- Exchange Visitor Program Email Address: Jvisas@state.gov
- Exchange Visitor Program Website: www.J1Visa.state.gov
- Pamphlet on the Rights and Protections for Temporary Workers
Summer Work Travel Community Support Group
Community Support Groups (CSG) provide support to Summer Work Travel (SWT) exchange visitors and assist in providing a safe and successful experience for those exchange visitors who temporary live and work in their local community, building a sense of comfort and belonging. To find a local SWT CSG click here.