General Information

Advance Communication

It is required that you properly orient your International Camp Staff counselor before camp season to help relieve any anxiety he or she may have about a camp assignment or traveling to a country with different customs and culture, and often, different language. (See Federal Register, 22CFR62.30(d), Participant Orientation.)

Be sure to email or call your staff member. Include the following information in your communication (see appendix for a sample).

  • Tell him or her about the camp and the camp assignment; general information about climate (keep in mind that most internationals will use Celsius temperature readings); and general information about housing.

  • Give information about the council—its location, major community, etc.

  • Let him or her know that any special religious or dietary needs will need to be reported to the camp before arrival.

  • Advise him or her about the best method of travel to your council (especially if you do not have an international airport).

  • Inform him or her whom to meet upon arrival, where the meeting point is located in the terminal, and how they will travel to camp.

  • Include a camp brochure, a staff manual, and related merit badge pamphlets.

  • Send a suggested equipment list specific to your camp.

As soon as your staff member is assigned and you have called or emailed, consider contacting your staff member on Facebook or through WhatsApp to introduce yourself. All of these options would be a good investment! Experienced camp directors have found that maintaining communication in different ways will help break the ice, reduce the new staff member’s anxiety, initiate a positive relationship between camp director and camp counselor, and help reduce last-minute dropouts. We especially urge you to try all the previously mentioned ways of communication if you have not heard anything from your counselor and camp is due to open within the next two weeks.

BSA Coordination

The International Camp Staff program of the Boy Scouts of America is administered and coordinated by the International Department. All communication should be directed to:

International Department, S340 Boy Scouts of America
1325 West Walnut Hill Lane
P.O. Box 152079
Irving, TX 75015-2079
Telephone: 972-580-2405
Fax: 972-580-2413

Civic Group Appearances

International counselors can help exemplify the concept of the world brotherhood of Scouting by appearing as a guest at local civic and service organizations during their stay. Local civic organizations or businesses often can be sold on underwriting the cost of having an International Camp Staff counselor. However, be sure not to schedule your international counselor’s time so it detracts from his or her camp staff responsibilities.

Counselor Camp Assignments

Every camp assigns counselors differently. The types of assignments include camp commissioner, provisional Scoutmaster, and Scoutcraft, aquatics, or field sports staff. Major assignments upon which camp standards requirements hinge should not be assigned to international counselors. Some camps give the counselor a roving assignment working with Scouts and leaders in troop sites and different program areas. All camps should include opportunities for the international counselor to highlight Scouting and life in his or her country through participation in campfires, dining hall features, or special programs. Note that qualified counselors may serve as staff in shooting sports programs, but it is not recommended that they hold the position of director of shooting sports.

The U.S. State Department prohibits the assignment of international counselors to office work, kitchen or custodial jobs, or other jobs that are basically menial labor. The department’s policy states that the intent is principally one of cultural exchange and is not intended for staffing purposes or to provide an inexpensive labor pool. (See Federal Register 22CFR62.30(a), Introduction.)

Counselor’s Role in Camp

Experience has shown that maximum satisfaction for both the camp administrator and the International Camp Staff counselor is obtained when the counselor’s activities are related to Scout and leader program development that directly assists unit leaders with troop and patrol activities.

Camp assignments should include events that are focused upon the international Scouting theme. Use your counselor in International Days, World Friendship Campfires (with World Friendship Fund collections), and in general visits to individual troops in camp.

Your counselor has been told to be prepared with a repertoire of games, stunts, songs, and campfire stories. One of his or her ongoing functions in camp will be talking with Scouts and leaders about his or her country and the world brotherhood of Scouting. In most cases, the counselor will also have special camping or Scouting skills to share with Scouts.

See the suggested International Day activities and the suggested World Friendship Campfire Program in the appendix.

Cub Scout Day Camps and Resident Camps

International counselors can be used in Cub Scout day camp and Cub Scout resident camp as well as in summer Scout camp. Some counselors have a background of Cub Scouting in their own country that they can contribute to the Cub Scout camp program in addition to providing international enrichment.

Cultural Experience

The international counselor will be eager to experience as much U.S. culture as possible. Every effort should be made to provide many varied experiences of American culture while in camp and during time off. (See Federal Register 22CFR62.8(d), Cross-cultural Activities.)

Evaluation Reports

Camp directors are asked to complete the evaluation survey of their International Camp Staff via the email that will be sent to them from the International Department.

Each International Camp Staff member should be reminded to complete their evaluation survey when it is emailed to them by the International Department.

Financial Cost to Council

The local council pays a registration fee per international counselor to participate in the International Camp Staff Program. This fee will be refunded if an international counselor does not arrive for some reason. Additional costs to the council for the international counselor consist of room and board, cross-cultural activities, and a salary commensurate to that of the American counselors with similar skills, experience, and job responsibilities. This salary should be no less than $150 per week as participating in this program can be expensive for many internationals.

The amount shown on the J-1 Visa Form DS-2019, which the counselor receives to obtain the visa, is only the value of services provided to the counselor. This should not be confused with the amount of salary paid. This is explained thoroughly in the counselor’s information guide.

Financial Investment by Counselor and Camp

Your counselor has been asked to recognize that the camp has invested a considerable sum of money on his or her behalf for participation in the International Camp Staff program. The camp should recognize that the counselor also has invested a considerable sum of money in the program, including travel costs, a physical, and personal expenses.

Flag of International Counselor’s Nation

Counselors are encouraged to bring a flag of their nation, if available, approximately 3-by-5 feet or smaller. If they do bring a flag, the following will be helpful:

U.S. Code: Title 4, Chapter 1—The Flag, section 7(g) states: “When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.”

This information will help you avoid offending Scouts from the United States as well as from other nations. If you do not have outdoor flagpole facilities to display more than one flag, display the counselor’s national flag indoors.

Health and Accident Insurance

International Camp Staff counselors must acquire health and accident insurance for their stay in the United States. The International Department obtains this insurance and will pay for it. This coverage will apply from the time of arrival at a camp in the United States to the time of departure from the camp as long as the counselor is in camp or is participating in a camp-sponsored activity. Travel will be covered only if the counselor goes immediately to camp after entering the United States and goes immediately home after camp. Travel during touring is not covered. Personal liability insurance is not included, and recurring illnesses predating arrival to the United States are not covered.

Any out-of-pocket costs, like prescriptions, must be paid by the council and submitted for reimbursement. If your counselor is injured or becomes ill and requires medical assistance, please send a description of how the counselor became injured or ill and request that the medical provider submit all charges on a standard HCFA or UB04 claim form. These items should be sent promptly by email to the International Department for claim processing. The department’s email address is

Home Hospitality

A host council must be prepared to provide hosting for the counselor during time off from camp. Many local Scouting families as well as fellow staff members will welcome an opportunity to provide home hospitality (room and board) for your international counselor, with advance arrangements, but be sure the host family is aware that they are not covered by BSA insurance.

You are responsible to provide room and board to your counselor from the program start date until the end of camp.

Letter of Employment

A letter of employment or camp staff agreement may be sent to your counselor for signature.

Order of the Arrow

While the camp staff and campers may mean well by wishing to honor their international counselors, International Camp Staff counselors are ineligible for Order of the Arrow membership as well as the “Honorary Member” designation. International Camp Staff counselors are NOT members of the Boy Scouts of America, and including them in an OA callout has, in the past, caused problems when the counselors returned home to their own Scout associations. Please find another way to honor them.


Your International Camp Staff counselor should be given orientation before his or her arrival in the United States. (See Federal Register, 22CFR62.30(d), Participant Orientation.) Review basic knowledge about the country, its people, and its customs and habits. Emphasize slang and regional language characteristics. Explain the use and denomination of U.S. currency.

Also review the background of your local council and your camp.

Inform the counselor fully about the nature of the program in which he or she is participating and general information about the camp. Provide a detailed description of their job in camp. Send instructions for taking Youth Protection Training and any other training necessary for those serving as camp staff members at your camp.

See Orientation Guidelines in the appendix.

Personal Adjustments and Understandings

Your counselor has been given the following guidelines, and you should reinforce and share local details of each.

  1. For health and safety reasons, all camps ask counselors not to smoke while working with campers, but special areas for smoking are usually designated for staff use.

  2. Alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, and liquor) are not to be used on the campsite, and possession or use of illegal drugs or controlled substances is not permitted at any time. (Council, please note: In many countries, beer or wine is a normal beverage at the dinner table.)

  3. Child abuse in any form is not tolerated by the Boy Scouts of America or its camps. Counselors are expected to actively support child abuse prevention. Counselors have taken Safe From Harm, the World Organization of the Scout Movement’s youth protection training, but should also be sent instructions for taking the BSA’s Youth Protection Training and any other training necessary for those serving as camp staff members at your camp. The camp director should verify counselor understanding of how the counselors should provide youth protection in their role at camp.

  4. Meals served in camp will be well balanced, nutritious, and plentiful. The counselor must be prepared to adjust to new types of food. (Council, please note: Any special dietary needs for religious or health reasons must be met.)

  5. Life in the United States is somewhat different than what counselors may be accustomed to. Americans are more gregarious and informal than most people around the world. Counselors are not expected to adopt the American way of life but should understand the situation and adjust as necessary for a happy experience.

  6. While in the United States, counselors will be expected to abide by the local laws, respect local customs, and conduct themselves in a manner becoming a Scout-trained individual.

Personal Finances

Counselors have been alerted that they will have personal expenses while in the United States such as toiletry articles, postage, gifts, souvenirs, clothing, admissions, and tours. They are responsible for their own spending money to cover such expenses.

The International Department recommends that counselors carry international traveler’s checks or reloadable prepaid cards rather than carry large sums of currency. If they have traveler’s checks, they may need assistance in cashing them.

The camp director, the BSA local council, and the International Department will not be responsible for loss, breakage, or theft of counselors’ personal items.

Recognition Items for Counselors

Upon the counselor’s arrival in the United States, he or she will receive two special International Camp Staff emblems to wear on his or her uniform and a certificate, suitable for framing, that can be presented to the counselor on behalf of the Boy Scouts of America.

Room and Board

The host camp must furnish full room and board to the International Camp Staff member while in camp. The staff member is expected to adjust to differences in menus from home; however, any special dietary needs for religious and/or health reasons must be met by the camp.

Social Security Number

The U.S. government requires that International Camp Staff counselors apply for a Social Security number. The International Department will provide the Social Security application for your International Camp Staff counselor. Please assist your International Camp Staff counselor in completing the application and bringing it to your local Social Security office. That office may be located by calling toll-free 800-772-1213. Once the International Camp Staff counselor has arrived, report the arrival to the International Department. Then wait at least three business days to bring the counselor to your local Social Security office to apply for a Social Security card.

The counselor must apply in person for a Social Security number and should have his or her passport, J-1 visa, U.S. Immigration document form I-94 (Arrival/ Departure Record, which can be downloaded from, the second copy of the DS-2019 provided to them in the assignment packet, and a letter of employment from the council on council letterhead.

International Camp Staff counselors DO NOT PAY Social Security or Medicare taxes, but do have Federal income tax withheld. Please review the Local Council Tax Responsibilities 2-C (included in same mailing with Social Security application) for complete information on how to pay the International Camp Staff counselor.


Telephone Calls




Time Off/Days Off

The international counselor must be able to leave camp on days off. The camp should assist the counselor with accessible, affordable transportation to and from the nearest town. Allow at least 24 hours off every two weeks.

A minimum of 12 hours should be continuous. Please arrange home hospitality with other staff members, or with other local Scouter families, in their homes during days off. An international counselor should never be left at a camp alone while the rest of the staff leaves camp on the weekends.

Travel Arrangements

The International Camp Staff counselor makes his or her own arrangements and pays for round-trip transportation to the contact city nearest camp as designated by the host council.

Traveling and Touring

Following the completion of their program, the period defined on the Form DS-2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office allows participants a 30-day travel period commonly referred to as the “grace period.” During this 30-day grace period, participants are no longer in J-1 visa status and are under the jurisdiction of the USCIS. The USCIS grants this period to allow participants to settle their affairs and to prepare to return to their home countries. Program participants may no longer continue and/or complete exchange activities, nor may they work. Although participants may travel in the United States, it is recommended that they do not travel beyond the borders of the United States as they may not be permitted reentry.

Uniforms in Camp

Counselors have been alerted that staff wear uniforms at all times and that they should wear their own association uniform. It has been suggested that they bring two sets.


Counselors enter the United States with the Exchange Visitors Visa (J–1) under special agreement with the U.S. State Department. Individual counselors are expected to leave the United States on or before the expiration date of their visa unless a different date is designated.

The International Department will not assist attempts by International Camp Staff counselors to extend their visas to a later date or to change the J–1 visa status to another. In addition, International Camp Counselors may not be released early without approval by the International Department first. Federal regulations prohibit these types of activities, except on rare occasions by the U.S. State Department, because exchange visitors are expected to return home following their visit.