The Exchange Visitor Program is carried out under the provisions of the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, officially known as the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (Pub.L. 87–256, 75 Stat. 527). The purpose of the Act is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges. The Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

In carrying out the responsibilities of the Exchange Visitor Program, the Department designates public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors. Sponsoring organizations facilitate the entry of foreign nationals into the United States as exchange visitors to complete the objectives of one of the exchange visitor program categories, which are:

  • Au Pair
  • Intern
  • Student, College/University
  • Student, Secondary
  • Government Visitor
  • International Visitor (reserved for Department of State use)
  • Physician
  • Professor and Research Scholar -
  • Short-term Scholar (maximum duration of participation in this category is six months; no program extensions are permitted)
  • Specialist (maximum duration of participation in this category is one year)
  • Summer work/travel
  • Teacher
  • Trainee (maximum duration of participation in this category is 18 months, except for agriculture programs (limited to 12 months) and hospitality training programs (limited to a maximum duration of 12 months, with any hospitality training program longer than six months required to have at least three departmental rotations).