The STEP PrograM
Our participants spend 4, 8, or 12 weeks exploring and learning about American life. By living in a home-stay, they get to experience a typical American household. And during the day, participants volunteer and observe local non-profit organizations where they will experience the American spirit of donating their time to help a community in need. A B1/B2 or ESTA visa is required for this program, allowing students the chance to travel around America and visit our beautiful and historic sites, and to participate in events hosted by non-profit service organizations.
How the Program Works
CHI Main Office
The difference between STEP, Work & Travel, and Internship & Training Programs
|STEP||Work & Travel||Internship & Training|
|Visa||B1/B2 visitor visa or ESTA for visa waiver countries||J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa|
|What does this visa mean?||Unlimited quota for partners; |
More flexible eligibility of participation;
|Limited DS form quota each year; |
Restricted by all the regulations of Department of State
|Is it easy to get a visa?||Simple documents and application process; |
Average visa interview time: 0-5 minutes
|Complicated documents and application process; |
Average visa interview time: 5-15 minutes
|Program Length||1, 2 or 3 months||3 or 4 months||Intern: Up to 12 months; |
Trainee: Up to 18 months
|Program Time||All-year round||Spring, summer and winter||All-year round|
|Fields of Placement||General administration and social service; Education; Arts and culture||Entry level, seasonal positions in the service industry||Related to the participant’s occupational field|
|Type of Host Business||Not for profit organizations: Senior center; Early education center; Museum; Library; Community Center||Fast food restaurants; Hotel and resorts; Amusement parks; Retail stores||Regular Businesses|
|Weekday Activities||Traditional volunteer work; Shadowing local employees; Observing and learning; Sharing culture and knowledge; Contributing to the local community||Working at seasonal or temporary jobs such as lifeguards, amusement park workers, housekeepers, waiters or waitresses, dishwashers, hotel or resorts staff||Internship or Traineeship in the participant’s occupational field|
|Salary||No||Yes; Minimum wage||Usually yes for Interns; Yes for all Trainees|
|Work / Volunteer Hours||Mostly 25-35 hours per week||Mostly 30-50 hours per week||Mostly 30-40 hours per week|
|Accommodation||Host families' home||Mostly shared rental apartments|
|Degree and Work Experience Requirement||No degree or professional experience required||The participant needs to be enrolled in a post-secondary institute||Certain degree or job experience in the requested Training or Internship field is required.|
|English Requirements||Lower intermediate or above||Low intermediate or above||Advanced or above|
Become a Host Family
Being a host family is an enriching experience. Your participant depends on you to be patient and caring. It is so much fun to meet a person from another culture, and it is particularly enjoyable to share your home and country with them.
Your participant is encouraged to participate in family activities like cooking, sharing a movie, going on errands, and chatting about American life. Given the opportunity, an exchange participant will bring new life and culture to any home.
We are here to help!
Become a Host Organization
Send us a message and we will contact you promptly.
Become a STEP Participant
Do you think that focusing on your career is the only way to make yourself stand out of the crowd as a candidate? There are many “life skills” that will make you attractive to a future employer. Most companies are looking for someone who is flexible, organized, creative thinking, able to multitask and be a great team member.
The best way to gain these skills is to get away from your computer and challenge yourself. You have to get out of the classroom and leave your comfortable surroundings. Be ready to experience something new, something different, and something that could make you stand out in a crowd! STEP will give you the opportunity to have those experiences and gain these skills. You will meet friendly people, see innovative companies and share the lives of an American family. When you return home you will not only have the skills for a great career but to be a true leader.
Signing up for a yearlong Internship or school program could be a bit intimidating. STEP is a great program for any young person who is trying to decide if they want to spend time in America. Especially for participants who have never been to America before, or for those who have never been out of their home country. This program is safe, organized, quick, and inexpensive. It is perfect to give you a taste of life in the U.S. with little commitment.
Do you have questions about the STEP Program?
Frequently Asked Questions
STEP welcomes any international youth who are interested in
and cross-cultural experience, as long as they:
- Have a functional command of English language;
- Are between the age of 18-30 (due to B1/B2 visa restriction);
- Agree to abide by the STEP terms and regulations.
- They want an enriching, memorable experience in their youth;
- They want to experience real American adult life, travelling is just not enough;
- They’ve been studying English in school for years and now it’s time to practice it in everyday life and work environment!
- They’ve never been away from their family or lived alone; they want to be more independent and confident;
- They are having hesitations about studying in the U.S.; this seems like a perfect chance to see if they will like it;
- They are facing graduation and a competitive job market; this experience will look nice on their resume;
- They love volunteering and helping others; STEP offers the opportunity and gives back so much more;
- They want an internship or a job in the U.S.; but they do not have the degree, experience or sufficient English skills for that yet; as a beginner level social experience, STEP is more accessible;
- Informing and educating the participants of the STEP terms and regulations;
- Collecting application documents, including a signed STEP participant agreement, two photos, an application form, a CV, a letter to host family and a letter of intent;
- Arranging Skype or phone interviews if it’s requested by the host organizations;
- Assisting participants with obtaining a B1/B2 or ESTA visa;
- Collecting other documents that may be required before arrival, such as flight itinerary, proof of no criminal record etc.;
- Assisting CHI in dealing with emergencies and problems that may arise.
- Application Form
- Signed Participant Agreement
- Two Photographs
- Curriculum Vitae/Resume
- Letter of Introduction to the Host Family
- Letter of Intent
- Volunteer Service Profile
- Orientation Form
A non-profit organization is formed for the purpose of serving a
public or mutual benefit other than the pursuit or accumulation
of profits for owners or investors.
Non-profit organizations are not prohibited from making a
However they are under the restriction of the IRS that all
must go back into the operation of the organization, dedicated
to its purpose or mission. Profits cannot be distributed among
owners or investors.
Non-profits receive certain tax exempt and legal privileges
to different state laws. They have received this status because
they relieve the government of its burden and benefit society.
An estimated ten percent of the U.S. population are employed in
Non-profit organization covers a very broad range, which include
the following major groups: Arts, culture, humanities;
Environment and animals; Public societal benefit; Health; Human
and social services; International affairs.
the complete list of categories
Generally, the volunteer’s work time will be distributed
in an office and partially out in the field.
There will be simple assignments to assist with the daily
of the organization. The participant may also be asked to
and assist in an event or exhibition. Some organizations have
small projects or tasks designed for the participant, such as
translating documents from English to their first language,
up a culture / language class for children, or design a feature
wall in the community. The volunteers will share their culture
and their distinct views and ideas, make use of what they are
good at and contribute as much as they could.
Here are three examples of possible volunteer responsibilities
possible tasks vary in different organizations):
A. An early education center
Volunteer will shadow the department’s supervisor; observe the
offer his/her skills, interests & talents to assist with any
simple tasks and that is important to the volunteer & host
- Help organize functions & activities for the children and
with activities at preschool, shadowing counselors who work
with children from 2.9 – 5 years of age.
- Contribute or share any knowledge garnered from past
experience in your home country that can benefit the local
- Bring special or basic skills & resources that you have to
a difference and in a volunteer project.
- During this experience you will find a lot of ideas on
you could base your assignment.
- Improve English.
- Learn American culture.
B. A senior place
- Volunteers will spend time with our senior participants and
them in various activities such as bingo and arts and
The goal is to provide a stimulating and social environment
for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other age
- Volunteers will always have staff supervision and will be
to follow staff rules and regulations to ensure the safety
of our senior participants.
- Volunteers will assist office staff, coordinators and
- Volunteers help with the classes, exercising, delivering
from the kitchen, talking one-on-one with residents and
being of help where needed.
- Duties will revolve around helping the residents with
arts and activities, conversation, sharing cultures helping
with mealtime trays, etc.
C. A community dance center
- Volunteer will provide general assistance in many aspects
the organization’s business, including assisting in
the box office sales, ticket taking and accounting during
performances, assisting with ongoing class registration,
assisting instructors or choreographers with the set-up of
their classes, making sure class spaces are broken down and
set up for the next class as well as assisting with general
office functions such as answering phones, accounting
- Much of what the volunteer participant will do depends on
command of the English language.
The STEP placing process starts with participants completing the
CHI receives the application via CHI STEP database from
and the application will be assigned to coordinators all around
America. The coordinators will then introduce the participant’s
profiles to suitable host organizations and host families.
Some organizations can decide right away from the profiles, some
might request a follow up Skype interview, or email the
directly to find out more about their English level. About 10
– 15% of participants may be required for an interview or
with the host organization.
CHI does not conduct individual interviews with participants.
agencies are responsible for interviewing the applicants before
they sign up, to make sure they have good enough English for
Participants may be placed in any safe, nice neighborhood in the
contiguous United States.
Participants are not able to request locations.
We find that for most international participants, they’ve only
about the very few world famous big cities before they come to
the United States. But big cities are the same all over the
participants who get to experience the real American life in
a smaller community usually have the best time.
STEP is a cultural exchange program, not a professional
or training. The volunteer work is only a part of the cultural
and enriching experience. Any kind of volunteer work will be
equally rewarding and appreciated. If a participant is matched
with a placement, the decision is made based on his/her
language, knowledge, skills, experience, interest and the host
organization’s demand, it cannot be changed.
If a participant has any health limitations that may prevent
from performing certain volunteer tasks, they should be listed
in the application.
The host family provides the following:
- A bedroom, private or shared with another participant with
- Access to food, the equivalent of 3 meals every day;
- Support and friendship.
The participant is welcome to join the family in daily
share each other’s culture.
The participant is responsible to pay for all personal expense,
contribute some money towards family activities such as trips.
The distance from host family to host organization is within 1
commute. Most participant travel by public transportation; some
families are able to give their host student a ride, in these
cases participants will share the gas cost.
Yes it’s possible. For such requests, please communicate with
Operations team, and provide the detailed address of where the
participant would like to stay. CHI will research if we have
a suitable organization nearby.
- Contact the Coordinator, host family and the host organization after acquiring a visa;
- Print and read these documents: volunteer service profile; orientation form; insurance card.
- Prepare all items requested by the host organization, it’s usually listed on the volunteer service profile, and informed by the agency. For example, health proof documents, non-criminal background record, volunteer agreement, appropriate cloth for volunteer work.
- Attend the pre-departure orientation hosted by the home country agency.
- Study the placement community and host organization. Research the weather, community facilities, activities, and customs.
- Think about what you want to do and how you can benefit the host organization. Prepare a presentation, videos, songs, pictures, or other interesting ways to share your home country.
- Practice English.