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Exchange Visitor Program — Teacher

The Exchange Visitor program implements the federal Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (the "Act"). The Exchange Visitor program — Teacher category promotes the interchange of U.S. and foreign teachers.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is one of many approved sponsors participating in this program and, like many sponsors, only sponsors exchange visitors from countries with which it has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

The Department currently has MOUs with the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sport and the Camões, Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua, I.P. Through these partnerships, licensed teachers from Spain and Portugal who meet the eligibility criteria can come to the United States on a J visa and teach as a full-time teacher of record in a Massachusetts accredited public or private primary or secondary school (pre-K–12) for up to three years, with a onetime option of extending the program for the maximum of an additional 1–2 years.

If you are an educator from another country seeking to take part in this Exchange Visitor program, you may be able to find another approved sponsor for the Teacher category who may be able to sponsor you within their program. A list of approved sponsors can be found at: Teacher Program at BridgeUSA.

Estimates of Fees and Costs Related to Being an Exchange Teacher in Massachusetts

  • Sponsor fee, foreign or domestic third-party fee, or partner fees: None
  • Visa fee: $185
  • Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) I-901 SEVIS Fee; currently $220.
  • Health insurance costs: Educators may contact their host school for list of health insurance plans offered and related costs.
  • Food, Housing, and Transportation:
    • Estimates for food: On average Boston-area households spend $6,938 of their food dollars on food at home and $3,923 on food away from home, annually.
    • Housing: the cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment can range from $1200 to $3500 a month depending on location and amenities. Obtaining permanent housing typically requires an exchange visitor to have a Social Security Number, bank account, and often a credit score review. It can take a few weeks for an exchange teacher to obtain these items once they are in the US and so having money to cover the cost of temporary housing (often a long-term hotel stay/Air B&B), is often necessary. A long-term 2–3 week stay in a hotel or Air B&B can cost up to and potentially beyond $3000 depending upon the area of the state that an exchange teacher is looking to stay. There is a significant increase in tourism in the Boston area during the summer months and hotel rents tend to be the highest during this time of the year.
    • Local transportation costs:
      • averaged $5520 annually for a leased private vehicle
      • Busses ranged from $4.25 daily to $136 monthly for a pass that includes local and express busses, the subway, Silver line, commuter rail, and Charlestown ferry.

Mandatory Insurance Requirement

Exchange visitors are typically offered insurance via payroll deduction at their host school, the exchange visitor must voluntarily authorize this action in writing and also be given the opportunity to make other arrangements to obtain insurance. These authorizations must be kept on file by the sponsor.

Minimum coverage must provide:

  1. (1) Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness;
  2. (2) Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000;
  3. (3) Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of exchange visitors to his or her home country in the amount of $50,000; and
  4. (4) Deductibles not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.

Accompanying spouses and dependents are required to be covered by insurance in the amounts set forth above. Exchange visitors will be notified of this requirement, in writing, in advance of the exchange visitor's arrival in the United States.

Exchange visitors who willfully fail to maintain the insurance coverage set forth above while a participant in an exchange visitor program or who make material misrepresentations to the sponsor concerning such coverage will be deemed to be in violation of these regulations and will be subject to termination as an exchange visitor.

Expected Work Related Deductions

This varies by school district and will be provided to the exchange teacher by their host school/school district at the time that the exchange visitor is accepted into the program and prior to the exchange teacher signing their contract. Estimated work-related deductions can include but may not be limited to:

  • Federal withholdings (Federal Tax) — range between 10–25% of gross income (total of all income from whatever source prior to deductions, money left after deductions is referred to as net income), rate dependent upon allowable deductions. Please note that some countries have applicable tax treaties with the United States, while others do not. Exchange teachers may wish to contact a professional tax return preparer to better understand their tax obligations or for guidance on how to prepare and submit their annual U.S. federal and state tax returns Virtual Exchange Toolkit for Teachers . State withholdings (State Tax) — 5.1% of gross income
  • Nonresident alien students, scholars, professors, teachers, trainees, researchers, and other aliens temporarily present in the United States in F-1, J-1, M-1, or Q-1 nonimmigrant status are exempt from Social Security / Medicare Taxes on wages paid to them for services performed within the United States as long as such services are allowed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for these nonimmigrant statuses, and such services are performed to carry out the purposes for which they were admitted into the United States. Taxation of Alien Individuals by Immigration Status
  • Nonresident Alien Teachers, Researchers and Other Professionals under J-1 and Q-1 Visa Status Foreign scholars, professors, teachers, trainees, researchers, physicians, au pairs, summer camp workers, and other non-student aliens temporarily present in the United States in J-1, or Q-1 nonimmigrant status for less than 2 calendar years are generally nonresident aliens under residency rules of IRC section 7701(b). These nonresident teachers, researchers and scholars are exempt from Social Security Tax and Medicare Tax on wages paid to them for services performed within the United States. To qualify for the exemption the services performed must be allowed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for these nonimmigrant statuses, and such services are performed to carry out the purposes for which such visas were issued to them.
  • Exempt Individuals: Teachers and Trainees For purposes of determining if you are a U.S. resident under the substantial presence test, days you are present in the United States as an exempt individual are not counted. If you are an "exempt individual" that does not mean that you are exempt from U.S. tax. One type of "exempt individual" is a teacher or trainee who is temporarily in the United States under a "J" or "Q" visa and substantially complies with the requirements of that visa.
  • What to do if the tax is withheld: If a J-1 alien falls into the category of employees who are exempt from Social Security and Medicare tax, he or she may discuss with his or her employer to stop withholding and refund amounts that were already withheld. Employees that are unable to obtain a refund from their employer may file Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement and Form 8316, Information Regarding Request for Refund of Social Security Tax Erroneously Withheld on Wages Received by a Nonresident Alien on an F, J, or M Type Visa to obtain a refund.
  • Union dues — contact host school for more information; average cost is $650 per academic year
  • Massachusetts Teacher Retirement System (MTRS) Exchange teachers are required to contribute a set percentage of their salary through regular payroll deductions. Their contribution rate is established by the Commonwealth's retirement law and is determined by the date on which they most recently became eligible for membership in a Massachusetts contributory retirement system. MTRS contribution rates can be found at: Members - MTRS. These funds can be reimbursed, less any applicable taxes at the end of the exchange visitor's program. Forms and guidance of how to request a refund from the MTRS can be found at: Withdrawing your funds - MTRS.

Massachusetts Educator License Exemption: Traditional PreK–12 public school visiting teachers on J-1 visas are exempt from having to obtain a Massachusetts educator license or endorsement(s); however, exchange teachers employed by a Charter School are subject to Charter School Regulations and may be required to obtain a MA license, endorsement, and/or pass MTEL tests to be legally employed. Please note that even if an exchange visitor is exempt from obtaining an educator licensure / endorsement by the state, a hiring school district may require an exchange teacher to hold a MA educator license or obtain the SEI or Bilingual Education endorsement. Spouses on a J-2 visa who obtain a work permit and are employed as a public-school teacher, are not exempt from the licensure requirements.

Exchange Visitor Resources

Last Updated: October 5, 2023

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