Tips for International Partners Visiting their U.S. Partner
Bringing representatives from your international partner organization to the U.S. is just as important as visiting your partner’s country. While there may be disparities in the resources available in the U.S. versus your international partner’s community, it is important to your relationship for your partner organization’s staff to understand how your program works and to meet your staff. Here are some tips for successfully hosting your international partner:
- Carefully plan the trip and activities in conjunction with your partner organization. Agree on the timing and length of the trip and the number of international staff involved so your staff and organization are not overwhelmed. Create an itinerary for the visit that is responsive to the number and background of visiting staff. The visit should enhance their specific area of expertise and the organization’s needs, and include opportunities to visit other organizations in your community for additional technical assistance, training, etc.
- Obtain the appropriate travel visas. Ensure the visiting staff apply for any needed visas at least three months before the trip. Visas are acquired at the U.S. Embassy in the international partner’s country, and usually require both an application and an interview. (Interview appointments are usually made through the U.S. Embassy’s website, although this varies.)
- Provide any needed documentation or paperwork for the visit. As the organization inviting your international partner’s staff to visit, you may have to write an official letter of invitation directed to the U.S. Embassy in your partner’s country. The letter should describe the reason for the invited visit and its benefits to both your and your partner. Specifically note the name and title of all invited staff, and the proposed visit dates. Include a statement accepting all responsibility for all of your partner’s financial obligations while in the U.S. It is important to specify that the guests’ financial expenses will be covered; this assures the U.S. government that financial hardship will not be used as a reason for guests not to return to their home country. (Download a Sample Letter of Invitation for an international partner.)
- Book airfare early for the best rates. It’s often least expensive to purchase airline tickets six months or more in advance. It may be easier for the U.S. partner to book international airfare for the visiting staff, since some organizations may lack access to Internet search engines and/or credit cards.
- Decide where staff of your partner organization will stay. It is often best to have them stay in private homes, which allows them to personally experience U.S. culture and forge stronger relationships with U.S. staff. If one family cannot act as a host for the entire visit, consider dividing the home stay between two or three families. If that is not feasible, make a reservation at a comfortable hotel for the visiting staff.
- Use the visit to promote your partnership in the community. The visit is an ideal time to hold a fundraiser for the partnership and your partner program. The presence of your international partner’s staff at the fundraiser will enhance the experience for everyone involved. Invite the media, take photos and share your experiences with your community (as appropriate). Outlets like your Facebook page, newsletter, and website provide avenues to share the activities during the visit, and engage others to further your partnership activities.
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