What Visa Do I Need to Volunteer at Summer Camp?


Hello and welcome to There’s No Place Like Summer Camp. I’m your host, Andrew Waterhouse. And in today’s episode, we’re taking a look at what visa do you need to apply for summer camp? So, come into our tent and I’ll spill those juicy beans.

Q U E S T he’s on a quest, he’s on a quest. He’s on the, no, I’m not. I’m just answering questions.


Hello, everyone. Welcome to There’s No Place Like Summer Camp. I don’t know why I said juicy beans at the start of that intro, because this one’s probably the least juicy of the all. In this episode, we’re taking a look at the visa requirement for volunteering over with summer camps through any sort of program. Now, I did some homework on this one because I was always under the impression that I took a certain visa over when I volunteered at summer camp and everyone else was telling me otherwise so I don’t know if I’ve had some sort of Mandela effect where the effect where when he passed away Nelson Mandela, everyone was like, “I thought it was already dead.” And then there was like half of the world that was like, “I’m sure I’ve seen this news before.”


And there was like this whole trippy thing about parallel dimensions and stuff. I think I might have tripped into a parallel dimension here because I’m 100% sure I had this certain type of visa, but we’ll get onto that. First as with every podcast episode nowadays, we need to do a coronavirus update, and fortunately for you guys, there’s no real update from Tuesday’s episode where we discussed opening up the country and how that affects summer camps and that sort of thing. Again, I’m still very pessimistic on this one.


If you are volunteering for summer camp this year and you’ve had any updates yourselves, feel free to get in touch but yeah, if you go on any of the summer camp websites at the moment, they’re all saying the same thing. That they’re pretty much going ahead as if they are going to be open but this is the prime sort of time that people do get flown over there so it’ll be very interesting to hear how much of a percentage of the normal capacity are flying over at the moment, because I, for one, know that the skies are very clear at the moment. There’re hardly any planes compared to normal and I doubt that people are flying over there in their thousands. So, only the register of this episode, then I did tease it at the start that I thought I was under a certain visa. Now, this visa that I always thought I was under, and I’m sure when I was volunteering through camp America, I’m sure I was told that this was a J -2 visa. Now, for those that don’t know about visa types, some certain different numbers and letters get associated with different types of visas which give you different kind of rights and access to countries when you go and volunteer.


The American, I think there’s J and I think there’s F from looking into it. The J1s are the ones that you want to be concerned about. They’re the ones that you’re going to be applying for go over to the exchange thing in the middle of London. Let me just talk about the J-2 visa though, because that’s the one I thought I was on and I’ve my passport right here. And I’ve had to dig this out because I was like I’m sure I had the J-2 visa. So let me just explain what it is direct from the US government website. The J2 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by a counselor official at the US embassy or consulate for spouses and independent and dependence which are unmarried children under the age of 21 of the J1 exchange visitors who accompany or later joined the J1 holder in the United States.


So that wasn’t what I was. I wasn’t a dependent, I don’t think I was under 21 when I volunteered at camp America and I wasn’t a spouse. So I was like, I’m a hundred percent sure that this was the visa that I got. I’ve got my passport here, both summers that I went, I got a J1 visa. So I don’t know where down the line like caught wind that this was a J2, but a bit strange. I was probably embarrassing myself on quite a few occasions where I was introducing myself and saying, “Oh, the process to get is I write pain in the bulls and all this sort of shit”, and my camper probably like, “Oh, he’s this weirdo, he’s fucking got a J1 visa like, who’s he married to sort of thing”, but no the visa says I’ve got two J1 visas.

What happens to passport?

You get like an imprint into your passport, and they, yeah, show that you can go over to the US to volunteer for a summer. So I’ve learned something this episode I had a J1 Visa. Let me get onto the J1 visa now for that is what the episode is all about. So when you first volunteer for summer camp, you hear a lot of lingo, a lot of official terms for paperwork, which can be a bit daunting. I know for one that all the numbers and the letters are kind of like camp America just deal with it and that’s probably the best way of dealing with things. And we’ll touch upon that later after this little segment here.

Rules of the J1 Visa

To work in the USA, you need to have the right visa for the amount of time that you are in the United States and for the type of work that you’re performing and every type of work, and every visit type is categorized with certain letters and numbers, and the visa for camp counselors or specialists is the J1 visa. There you go. That’s pretty much the long and short of it if you want to just know the certain number for this visa, it’s the J1, but what is it? The J1 visa is a cultural exchange visa that supports, visitors or volunteers who are promoting and participating in cultural exchange, and in our case, this is summer camp.


The cultural exchange is like an official term for this sort of thing, with visas and governments and stuff. It’s just so they have like a proper relationship and they know what tourists are coming over and what travelers are coming over for what reasons and it gives them better insight into who’s coming over basically. The cultural exchange sounds official, but broken down is pretty much a relationship between two countries, potentially sharing ideas, creating friendships, and forming a mutual understanding. So, it pretty much makes sense that the J1 visa fits perfectly into this position because those that are going over to volunteer at a summer camp are going there for these sorts of reasons. They’re going over for a bit of a cultural, deep dive into what working in camp America is all about. So, yeah, that’s pretty much just a fancy way of saying you’re coming over to volunteer for summer camp. Of course, other people could be using the J1 visa, should they come over?

J1 VISA stages

So the J1 visa has a few requirements, and if you’re going through a summer camp program, it’s very easy to pass all these. So let me give you a quick overview of what these are.


The first is to have an interview with the sponsor.

The sponsor, in this case, will be your summer camp program as in camp America, camp leaders, those sorts of companies that’s specialize in getting people over there and having the best some of their lives. So, you have an interview that’s part of the application process for pretty much of these places. It ticks off that you are who you say you are pretty much, and you are not a psycho, and you’re doing it for the right reasons that you’re over 18, that you are good at English. Someone has to check that out face to face. That interview also checks off the J1 visa requirement as well because it means that camp America or whoever you go through have checked that you are a real person and that sort of thing, and the sponsor can take full responsibility for making sure you get through the J1 visa program.

Insurances and medical checks

The next requirement for this is to have some insurance and the medical insurance comes as part of the package when you apply through this program as well, you don’t have to worry about that at all.

Orientation day

Another requirement of the J1 visa is to have an orientation day, which is a day by these companies. I keep saying companies, I don’t think that’s the right word. We’ll call them summer camp agencies. So these summer camp agencies love to have a really over the top fun, I guess, “fun” day, where you’re invited to an orientation day where there are loads of icebreakers and making sure you are in the mood for summer camp and giving you tips and answer any questions in front of a massive crowd of people, and it’s like a really fun day. I remember that I went to this orientation day in London, and it was a real, like, I was really scared to go ahead with the orientation. I guess we’re going on a different tangent here, and this probably be a different episode, but let me put it this way.


You have to go to the orientation day to be able to get this visa. There are other forms that need to come along with your visa as well. When you go and apply through the embassy. One of these forms is the DS 2019, which is the certificate of eligibility for exchange visitor J1status. It’s a really important part of the visa so don’t go losing it. One thing that I recommend is having some sort of folder or binder, or somewhere to put all your paperwork because there’s going to be quite a lot of paperwork that you’re going to have to take with you, not only to the embassy, but actually over to camp as well, and it’s better if it’s all in one place and you don’t have to worry about where all these sheets are. This DS 2019 form forms part of the visa so you don’t want to be losing it, and the better that your documents are all in one place, the better that you can just like whip out this document folder in front of someone and just give them what they ask for.

DS 2019 Form

A summer camp agency will provide the DS 2019 for you, and one of the main reasons to go with any agency rather than doing it yourself, it proves that this is a temporary state and that you’re going to be returning home. So as much as everyone wants to go over to camp and stay in the US forever, the US embassy needs proof that you’re going to be coming home. So evidence around this could be that you’re going back to uni or that you have a job sorted for when you come back.

Monitoring of VISA status

The final requirement of the J-1 visa is monitoring.

That pretty much entails that your summer camp agency is going to be checking in with your camp every month just to see how you’re getting on. They’re going to be available 24 hours a day, just in case you need them as well so you have like an emergency contact book, and in a previous episode, I discussed where camp America is in New York. In that episode, we discussed the new what the fuck it’s called? The America Branch so that’s always available as well. It forms part of the J1 visa requirement so the maximum length of any J1 visa is four months, and this pretty much lasts for the length of your summer camp contract. As long as you are employed by your camp, your visa is active, but then what happens when you actually travel over to America and you don’t instantly touch down and start your job, you normally have like a week or two before camp starts.

That’s fine. The J1 visa was designed to give you the best taste of America because travel is a huge part of what this whole visa entails. It lets you see the sites, taste the food, and get to know the cultures, and there’s a whole grace period around this as well. Your visa only starts when your contract at camp starts so probably more than likely around the first day of camp. Once that visa is over, which could be up to four months, you have 30 days grace period to take up after your camp comes to an end. You don’t have to request this grace period. You just have 30 days by default, and it means that you can travel around America for 30 days totally like scotch-free. You just need to leave the US within 30 days and you mustn’t work once your contract has finished.

Travels After Summer Camp

So there’s no way that you could go and work at camp America and then finish your visa and then go and work somewhere else for another few months. That would be a whole other kettle fish, and that would be something for your summer camp agency to discuss if you want that. I don’t think that’s something they provide, to be honest. So applying for a J1visa is pretty tricky I guess, but the summer camp agencies are all there to help you handhold your way through and all of their online portals and profile areas allow you to just log in, go step by step through the process and figure out what you need to do to get to the next stage. The stage for the J1 visa primarily is the interview at the embassy is only in London. If you are from anywhere else in the UK, you have to travel to London specifically to have this interview on a certain day.

Interview at the Embassy

This interview typically lasts around 30 minutes in my opinion, and there are normally at least in camp America’s case, they have representatives outside who will check your paperwork, and make sure you’re all up to date. In my case, I was missing something. I can’t remember specifically what it was. I think I was missing that DS 2019 form if I’m honest and they helped point out that I was missing this form just like an hour before my interview was scheduled so you can imagine what I was like, and they pointed me in the direction of a nearby internet cafe. So I ran over there, went into this internet café, put these coins into the computer in like real, like a throwback kind of moment of old technology I guess, and logged into my camp America profile, downloaded that form, printed it off, ran back to the embassy and then queued up and got seen to.

When you’re actually in the embassy, another thing as well is it reminded me of like an old school post office. You walk in and you take a little slip like a number off the machine, and then there’re loads of people sat down on chairs, looking at screens, looking on their phones and that sort of thing- bored. And you take one of these slips and you just wait for your number to be called. Once your number gets called, you go and stand next to a counter similar to like a post office. There’s someone behind a glass window and you’d hand over all of those papers that I was telling you about earlier. Just have them all in one place and they’ll be able to pick out what they need then you’d hand over your passport and they would keep your passport to print this new visa and grant you the visa based on the interview that you have.

What Questions to expect at the embassy?

Typical questions are like: what going over there where are you going? Who are you? Where are you from? Just to make sure you are saying who you are. So it takes about two weeks for your visa to be printed and it can take up to four to six weeks. So make sure you book your appointment in the embassy well before your travel date, This was something that I was close to missing myself. I’ve discussed it before, where I was close to missing out on summer camp, and that was because of this. I think they cut it so fine that I was literally about one week before I had to shoot off when they had my visa ready. I did want it to get delivered straight to my door but because of the one-week situation, I had to go and drive into the middle of London and collect it instead just to make sure I was going to camp that summer.

So that’s pretty much it, that’s pretty much the visa that you need J1 visa which is designed for you to work at summer camp as part of a cultural exchange program. The appointment costs $160. It’s put into your passport, which is supported by other documents like the DS 2019, and it’s valid for up to four months or your contract length.

Closing of VISA Summary

I hope that’s pretty much answered all the questions around the visa situation. I know it can be very daunting but that’s part of the great thing about volunteering through a program like camp leaders or camp America. Now, should you not want to do this through camp leaders or camp America, there’s a whole load more paperwork that you need to do and a whole load more testing. It’s not worth the hassle guys looking into this.


The whole point of having a sponsor is that they can put their name to you and make sure you are easily whisked through the application process of getting these visas but if you’re doing it yourself, you’re not going to have that interview, you’re not going to have all the things in the background to make sure that you’re going to be okay out there and that you’re going to make it back. So I would highly recommend, there’s like a hundred percent recommendation that you go through an agency for this. It’s not worth the bother of trying to do it, not through an agency. Because one of the things that if you were going to go and do it directly with your camp and cut out the middle man of camp America, it’s a lot more hassle than it’s worth. The summer camp themselves have to put their name to a lot of things and support you and be in touch with the embassies and yeah, it’s a right headache so I 100% recommend going through a summer camp agency. So there we have it.


Another end of another episode of a Friday episode of There’s No Place Like Summer Camp. I hope I put that intro in the start, Jesus Christ, the number of times that I forget that the questions intro exists, but my God is it brilliant. In the next episode guys on Tuesday, we are discussing the top things to buy in the USA for cheap because I, for one, know that America is a whole land of opportunity, the American dream and those prices man, those Walmart prices, there’s something to behold. So, I hope you enjoy this episode, guys. I shall see you on Tuesday.


Make sure you go follow us on Instagram. There’s No Place Like Summer Camp and I’ll see you on Tuesday. Bye.


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