Rules & Policies

To ensure every CIEE High School USA student enjoys the benefits of studying abroad, we have established a set of rules and policies that every participant must follow. Choose a category below for more information.

For J-1 Visa Students

General Rules

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  1. Obey the regulations of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa program and the U.S. Department of State.
  2. Abide by the federal, state, and local laws of the United States and host town. Under these laws, consumption of alcoholic beverages by anyone under age 21, and the use or possession of illegal drugs are prohibited. These laws may also include local curfews. Be aware of these laws, and be mindful that they may be different from laws in your home country and that violations may lead to serious punishment.
  3. Attend the arrival orientation.
  4. Accept placement with a family of any race, creed, or color. Live as a member of your host family, respect your host family and its rules and customs, and accept the responsibilities given to you. CIEE, in its sole discretion, is responsible for choosing a student’s host family placement.
  5. Consider your personal health and safety needs when applying for or accepting a place in the program. If you suffer from any health or other condition that would create a risk for you while abroad, you should not apply.
  6. Read and carefully consider all materials made available that relate to safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in your host town. Be aware of local conditions that may present health or safety risks when making daily choices and decisions.
  7. Respect the host high school’s guidelines and policies, including those related to conduct, delinquency, grade levels, participation in graduation ceremonies, and issuance of a high school diploma.
  8. Maintain a C+ average or higher in all courses at the host high school. Courses must include English (excluding English as a second language), an American history course, and two other academic courses. Attend school every day that it is in session and follow school policies with regard to absences.
  9. Travel only with adult members of the host family, the Local Coordinator, official school, or group organized trips. Students must obtain written permission from CIEE’s national office if traveling by air, traveling internationally, and/or if travel results in school absences. Travel with or visits from the student’s natural family members is not permitted before January of the 10-month program and not at all during the 5-month program. Any visit from the student’s natural family must be approved by CIEE before the family members travel to the United States. Visits by friends from your home country are not permitted at any time during the program. Travel to your home country is not permitted during the program, unless approved by CIEE.
  10. Do not drive or purchase a motorized vehicle (car, motorcycle, boat, all-terrain vehicle, or any other vehicle requiring a driver’s license). Driving is permitted with the instructor of an official driver’s education course and only during class hours. This is solely for the purpose of obtaining a driving license and does not allow the student to drive after a license is obtained.
  11. Have access to a minimum of $150 to $250 U.S. dollars per month to cover personal expenses. Do not borrow money from your host family. Do not lend money to your host family.
  12. Follow any and all guidelines your host family and community have about smoking. Students who indicate that they do not smoke on their application may not smoke during the program year. In some states, communities, and schools, it is against the law for students under a certain age to smoke or possess tobacco or tobacco-related items.
  13. Make arrangements to return home within two weeks after the last day of school, which is when the program terminates.
  14. Students should not have previously participated in an academic year or semester high school program in the United States. This applies to both the J-1 and F-1 category.
  15. Participation in extracurricular activities or athletics is not guaranteed. Employment is not allowed on either a full or part-time basis while on the J-I visa high school program. However, students may accept sporadic or intermittent employment such as babysitting or yard work.
  16. A student’s primary intention for participation in the program, and primary focus during the program, should be the cultural-exchange experience and not graduation from an American high school or enrollment in an American college or university.
  17. Students may not initiate any life-changing decisions or actions while on the program, including changing religions (though a student is free to explore the tenets of any religion), pregnancy, or marriage. Students may not alter their body in any way while on the program (for example, with tattoos or body piercings).
  18. Students may be dismissed from the program if they suffer from a life-threatening medical condition or debilitating psychological condition.
  19. Refrain from obscene, indecent, violent, or disorderly conduct while on the program. Students shall also refrain from perpetrating any form of sexual harassment, or engaging in any self-endangering behaviors. In addition, students shall refrain from any other conduct likely to bring the U.S. Department of State or CIEE notoriety or disrepute.
  20. Any material that a student publishes on the Internet (such as on social networking sites or blogs) that violates program rules will be grounds for student dismissal.
  21. CIEE reserves the right to dismiss any student who fails to uphold any and all of the above rules. In the event that a student is dismissed from the program, the parent or natural guardians are responsible for all additional expenses incurred above those of the regular program costs. In the case of early dismissal, program fees will not be reimbursed.
  22. CIEE is not acting in the capacity of in loco parentis (i.e. in the place of a parent) with respect to you. Your natural parents retain their rights and obligations and are expected to maintain regular (once or twice per month) contact with you by telephone, email, or in person (if possible, after five months of your program start date).

Academic performance

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CIEE High School USA is a wonderful cultural exchange opportunity. At the same time, you’re a full-time student and should do everything you can to achieve good grades.

All program participants are expected to:

  • Maintain a C+ average or higher in all courses
  • Take English, an American history course, and two other academic courses
  • Attend school every day
  • Follow all school policies

Community service information

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All CIEE High School USA students are required to complete at least eight hours of community service per semester. (It’s a terrific way to grow, build character, get involved with your community, make friends, and have a good time.) The forms below can help you find a service project that aligns with your interests and goals:


Drinking and Drugs

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CIEE High School USA students must abide by federal, state, and local laws, which make illegal the consumption of alcoholic beverages by anyone under the age of 21 and the use or possession of illicit drugs. Students found to violate these laws may be dismissed from the program and have to return to their home country.


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Even if you meet the legal age requirements to drive in America and/or have a driver’s license issues by your home country, you’re expected to follow our program guidelines:

CIEE High School USA students are forbidden to buy or drive anything with a motor. This includes cars, motorcycles, mopeds, and all-terrain vehicles.

Driving is only permitted with the instructor of an official driver's-education course and only during class hours. This is solely for the purpose of obtaining a driver's license and does not allow you to drive after the license is obtained.

Family visits

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To encourage you to engage with your host family, school, and community, CIEE has strict guidelines about visits from your own family and friends:

  • Travel with or visits from family members are not permitted before January of the 10-month program and not at all during the 5-month program
  • Friends from your home country are not allowed to visit at any time during either the 10-month or the 5-month program

Receiving credit

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Some students must go through a process of “convalidating” their U.S. grades to receive credit for schoolwork done during this program. This requires an official, sealed transcript from your school, along with additional documentation as required. This process is the student’s responsibility. For more information, please contact the embassy or regional consulate of your home country.

Please note: CIEE offers a convalidation service for a fee. Please refer to the information below to get started. If you have questions, please contact

  1. Apostille instructions
  2. Declaration of Value (for Italian students)
  3. Convalidation handbook (for Spanish students)
  4. Convalidation information sheet (for Brazilian students)


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Trips organized by your host school or CIEE Local Coordinator (LC) have no special rules. Other kinds of travel require advance approval by CIEE. These include:

Any trip outside the United States
Air travel
A trip that causes you to miss school
Independent travel without an adult member of your host family, or any trip not organized by your host school or LC

Independent travel can be almost any kind of journey. If you’re not sure, ask your Local Coordinator if your trip is considered independent travel. Examples include:

  • Church youth group volunteer trips
  • Traveling to visit a relative of your own family or your host family
  • Traveling with visiting members of your own family
  • Traveling with a friend’s or neighbor’s family

All independent travel requests must be reviewed and approved by CIEE. The following requirements must be fulfilled:

  • You must complete a travel form and submit it to CIEE at least 28 days before scheduled travel
  • Your host family and Local Coordinator must agree to your proposed travel request
  • You must be in good standing at school (prior warning or probation letters may result in denial of your travel request)
  • You must stay with an adult during your trip
  • CIEE must receive a release from your own family