How to become an IVIP

An international volunteer from Chile worked with sea lions at Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
A veterinarian from Chile volunteered at Golden Gate National Recreation Area and helped with sea mammal rescues.

NPS Photo.

Wondering how to become an international volunteer with the National Park Service? Follow these simple steps!

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must have the appropriate visa to volunteer for the U.S. National Park Service.

Follow these instructions to insure a successful volunteer program and avoid problems with U.S. Immigration:

A) Plan Ahead: Coordinating an international volunteer position requires advanced planning and time. You will need to allow at least 2 to 3 months to find a volunteer position, receive the proper form, and apply for a visa. (It can take 4 to 6 weeks for the U.S. consulate to issue you a visa.) The 2 to 3 months includes the time needed to receive a visa.

B) Read this important information: How to receive the proper visa. Before you can begin volunteering with national parks or monuments in the United States, you must coordinate your volunteer position through the NPS IVIP coordinator. This is essential because Immigration laws require foreign nationals to have the appropriate type of visa before volunteering with an agency of the U.S. Government. In order to obtain the proper visa you must go through the application steps below. In most cases, you will need a J1 (exchange visitor) visa in order to legally volunteer. Before agreeing to sponsor you for a J1 visa, NPS must determine if you fit into one of the J1 categories, which NPS is authorized by the State Department to use. Unfortunately, not all applicants meet the requirements of NPS's designated J1 categories. To determine if you qualify for an NPS J1 visa, follow the instructions below.

C) Complete these six easy steps: (NOTE -- These steps apply to foreign nationals currently residing outside the United States. If you are a foreign national currently in the United States, you'll have other conditions you must meet.

Step 1: Submit an IVIP application to the NPS IVIP Coordinator. You will receive a response from the NPS IVIP Coordinator, indicating whether you are eligible for an IVIP Program (and if you qualify for an NPS sponsored J1 visa program.) If you receive a positive response, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Work with IVIP Coordinator to find an NPS unit to host you. You may also search on your own for a position at a park that interests you (by searching yourself, you will more than likely be able to find a position quicker). A good way to search for positions is at the National Park Service Volunteer Website. If you see a position listed which you want to apply for, contact the IVIP Coordinator, who will forward your request to the respective NPS unit or office. (NPS volunteer positions are also listed on a US Government volunteer website. However, NPS can only assist you with openings at US National Park units.) If a park agrees to host you as a volunteer, the NPS IVIP Coordinator will contact you with an offer to volunteer in the Park. If you accept, then you must go to the next step. (NOTE -- Please remember that there is no guarantee that a park will select you for a particular volunteer position. Do not make any plans until the Park has notified you of your selection.)

Step 3: Obtain a Medical Insurance Policy. All IVIPs are required to have Medical Insurance. Read more about the specific requirements here: Required Insurance. Once you have this coverage you must send proof of your insurance coverage to the Volunteer Coordinator at the Park where you want to volunteer. When this is received, the supervisor will send you your Visa Application, proof of insurance, a position description, and a training plan (written by the supervisor) to the Office of International Affairs (OIA) and they will send the necessary documents(DS-2019) to you in your country which must be presented to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you live in order to receive your visa.

Step 4: NPS IVIP Coordinator in Washington, DC sends you the DS-2019 visa form. The DS-2019 visa documents from the Office of International Affairs (OIA) will arrive at your country 4-6 weeks after the park supervisor sends them to the OIA.

Step 5: Make an appointment with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an interview You will need to take the DS-2019 to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country where they will process it and give you your visa. Before you go to the Embassy, you should call to make an appointment. Expect at least 3 to 4 weeks before they can schedule you to come in.

Step 6: Come to the U.S. and your park and have your supervisor notify the IVIP Coordinator of your arrival!After you have received your visa, contact the supervisor at the park where you will be volunteering to get more information about your assignment, living arrangements, logistical concerns, etc. As soon as you arrive at your park, have your supervisor notify the IVIP Coordinator. The IVIP coordinator must record your official starting date in the State Department visa system, called SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.)

Last updated: August 19, 2015

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