Pre-Departure Checklist

Before you leave for the U.S., you must do the following:

Get Your Visa
To apply for your J-1 Secondary School Student visa, you must make a visa appointment at your local U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate. The procedure for booking J-1 visa appointments varies by country; for assistance with this process, please contact your international CIEE representative. It is extremely important that you stay in contact with your representative throughout the visa application process.

Please note: If you don’t receive your visa, you won’t be able to travel.

Visit The Doctor And Get Any Required Immunizations
Certain immunizations are required due to increased health risks in the United States. State laws establish vaccination requirements for all children attending public and private high schools in the U.S. In order for you to enroll in a U.S. high school, you must get the required vaccinations. (CIEE will send you the vaccination requirements for your state at the time of your placement.)

We strongly recommend that you receive all immunizations prior to your departure. Why? Because immunizations, x-rays, and other medical procedures are costly in the U.S. and your CIEE insurance will not cover them. (For more information about CIEE insurance, including a summary of benefits and exclusions, please visit

Please note: Some states require additional health forms that are separate from CIEE’s health form. If your state requires additional health forms, we will notify you at the time of your placement. You may need to plan an additional doctor visit in order to complete these forms.

Review Your Placement Information
Before you travel, you will receive information about your placement. Due to the nature of the placement process, you may receive your placement information months, weeks, or days before you travel. The information you receive will include details about your host family, school, and community.

If time permits, we recommend contacting your host family or CIEE Local Coordinator prior to your arrival in the U.S. This is a great way to get to know these people before you meet them! Plus, it will give you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.

It is also recommended that you research the climate of the region in which you will live and study. You will want to pack according to the climate of your region.

Book Your Travel
Once you receive your placement information, you will need to coordinate with your CIEE international representative to arrange an open-ended international ticket that arrives in the U.S. in time for your designated orientation. Travel information must be sent to CIEE as soon as possible (so that transportation to your orientation or host family can be arranged).

Attend A CIEE Pre-Departure Orientation In Your Home Country
Before you travel to the U.S., you must complete a pre-departure orientation. This in-person session will take place in your home country and will give you the opportunity to learn about program rules and regulations. You will also get advice on how to have a successful exchange year.

The pre-departure orientation meeting will include:

  • The purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program (J-1 Visa), which is to promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through educational and cultural exchanges;
  • A summary of all operating procedures, rules, and regulations governing student participation in the exchange program
  • Information on housing
  • Contact information for the participant’s Local Coordinator and host family
  • A detailed summary of travel arrangements, including return airfare
  • Information on how to identify and report sexual abuse or exploitation
  • Information on costs likely to be incurred while living in the U.S., such as living expenses
  • Information on health care and insurance
  • Information about the orientation provided by CIEE in the U.S., including an agenda, site address, and emergency contact information. (Please note that CIEE will provide ID cards for all participants prior to arrival.)

Your pre-departure orientation also gives you the opportunity to meet other program participants, some of whom may travel with you. This is your chance to get a glimpse of what your exchange life will be like, meet others who have done the program before, and have all your questions answered before you travel.

Bring Enough Spending Money
When you enter the U.S., you will be required to show proof of funds (at least U.S. $400) at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which you will pass through at the airport. Only cash, bank statements, and traveler’s checks are accepted as proof of funds.

CIEE recommends that you travel with more money, if possible, in case of emergencies. Make sure that you have enough money to cover all travel costs such as overweight and additional luggage fees. Additionally, CIEE requires you to have access to at least $200 per month for the duration of your program. Talk to your natural parents about budgeting money during your program. You can also check out our article on money management for High School USA students.

Learn The Program Rules
CIEE’s program rules are based on the U.S. Department of State regulations. If you do not abide by the program rules, you may be dismissed from the program.

Since these policies are so important, it is vital to read and understand them before you travel to the U.S.