The International Student Visitor Program

As of July 19, 2007, the U.S. Department of State has adopted several changes to its Exchange Visitor Program. If you are an ACPE program with current international students or you anticipate having international students in the future please read this article carefully before you begin to consider any international student for your program and keep it for future reference. The ACPE had to demonstrate how it would implement the new rules by August 31, 2007. We have been working hard to make the necessary revisions in our process. Below is a summary of very important changes that all ACPE programs should note about the international student visitor program.

Specialty and Non-Specialty occupational designations changed to Trainee and Intern categories. ACPE has been issuing Certificates of Eligibility for J-1 Exchange Visitor Status in both the specialty and non-specialty designations. We have typically used the non-specialty designation for international students doing a single unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and the specialty designation for those engaged in a year-long CPE program. These designations have been eliminated and replaced with categories based on the international students' level of previous education and experience in the field. The new categories are “Trainee” and “Intern”. Please read the descriptions and criteria carefully for each category, as defined by the US Department of State. They are using them differently than our usual ACPE nomenclature.

Trainee Category. All international students in this category must now have either: 1) a degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution and at least one year of prior related work experience in his/her occupational field acquired outside the United States, or 2) five years work experience outside the United States in his/her occupational field, and who enters the United States to participate in a structured and guided work-based training program in his/her specific occupational field. The maximum time allowed for a trainee is still eighteen (18) months. ACPE is currently authorized to sponsor international visitors in this category.

Intern Category. An international student in this category either: 1) is currently enrolled in and pursuing studies at a degree or certificate-granting post-secondary academic institution outside the United States or 2) graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to his/her exchange visitor program begin date, and who enters the United States to participate in a structured and guided work-based internship program in his/her specific academic field. The maximum time allowed for an intern is twelve (12) months. ACPE is in the process of applying for authorization to sponsor international visitors in this category. Until approved, the ACPE will not be able to sponsor interns.

Implications for ACPE programs. 1) New and recent graduates would be considered interns and would have a maximum time of twelve (12) months for CPE, if we are approved in the future to sponsor interns. Until such approval comes, we cannot sponsor such persons in this category. 2) Students with degrees must have at least one year of experience in ministry outside of the US in order to be considered a trainee. Their CPE program will have an eighteen (18) month maximum time allowed. There are no extensions allowed beyond these maximums.

International visitors who are currently in the United States and wish to apply for our sponsorship for CPE will have to file for a change in category with the regional immigration office. You should allow 6-9 months for a response from immigration after all materials have been submitted to ACPE.

Advanced or additional training. International students can now return to the United States for advanced or additional training after they have returned to their home countries. In some cases they are not eligible to return until they have been in their home countries for at least two years. There is no maximum to the number of times a students may seek additional training as long as any advanced or additional training is significantly different from any previous training they received under ACPE's sponsorship. This will allow more international students to enroll in Supervisory CPE during a second or third training period.

Admissions Interviews. The interview summary must be written and submitted to the ACPE along with the other visa application materials. The summary should note the student's language proficiency, any special needs of the student, as well as the other criteria defined by the ACPE standards.

A NEW FORM – DS-7002 documents the Training/Internship Placement Plan. It replaces the previous training plan and must be signed by student and supervisor before submitting it to the ACPE. NOTE: This will add to the amount of time it takes to get all materials into ACPE. The ACPE is not authorized to issue any visa documentation to the student until this form is submitted. No exceptions can be made! The form will then be signed by ACPE and sent to the student who will need to present it at the visa interview. Form DS-7002 can be found in the ACPE international student visa application packet (available from the National Office).

Proof of Insurance must now be submitted to ACPE prior to issuance of the eligibility form. If the ACPE center is providing insurance, a verification of the minimum coverage is required. Minimum coverage requirements are as follows:

  • Medical benefits of at least $50,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $7,500
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation to your home country in the amount of $10,000
  • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness

If the ACPE program provides some, but not all, of the minimum coverage, then the student must purchase additional insurance . There are a variety of private vendors from whom students can purchase this insurance, but the premiums for the time period covering CPE (which can be up to $1000 per year depending on coverage selected) must be paid in advance or ACPE cannot provide the student with the documentation to take to the embassy. Some of the sources for purchasing International Student insurance at the levels required by the federal government:

American College Student Association
Visit USA Healthcare
Compass Benefits Group
Health Plan Administrators, Inc.

The need for proof of insurance in advance is likely to be an additional financial burden for many international students.

Minimum Weekly Hours for intern and training programs is now thirty-two (32) hours per week. Therefore, the ACPE will not be able to issue visa eligibility certificates for extended CPE programs or part-time programs with fewer hours per week.

Mid-point and Final Evaluations will continue to be required. In addition to the typical ACPE evaluation as required by the ACPE Standards, the ACPE national office will send the ACPE supervisor of an international student the appropriate accompanying forms for these evaluative processes with international students.

In addition to these changes, the ACPE is awaiting a ruling from the Department of State on other new rules that could impact our ability to sponsor international students. We will alert you to any other changes as soon as we have this information.

These deadlines will assure timely attention to your international student application.

Deadlines

  • January 1 - accepting international students for summer and submission of all materials to ACPE
  • January 1 - accepting international students who are currently in the United States for CPE to begin in August, September or October and submission of all materials to ACPE and regional immigration office
  • March 1 - accepting international students who are not in the United States for the August-September-October unit and submission of all materials to ACPE

Finally, many of the forms have been changed and new forms have been added, so please discard all old versions of the visa application packet. A current packet and training plan is available here:

If you have additional questions about ACPE's international student visitor program, contact Tobey Willis in the ACPE office.