History and Overview of the International Visitor and Voluntary Visitor Programs
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State fosters mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through international educational, professional and cultural exchanges. The Bureau promotes personal, professional, and institutional ties between private citizens and organizations in the United States and abroad, and presents U.S. history, society, art and culture in all of its diversity to overseas audiences.
The Office of International Visitors manages and funds the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and its sub-program, the Voluntary Visitor Program. Launched in 1940, the IVLP seeks to build mutual understanding between the United States and other nations through carefully designed professional visits to the U.S. for current and emerging foreign leaders. Each year over 4,500 IVLP participants from all over the world are selected by U.S. embassies to travel to the U.S. to meet and confer with their professional counterparts. Through these encounters, they gain a greater understanding of the cultural and political influences in U.S. society and enjoy a firsthand experience of the U.S., its people and its culture. Visitors represent government, politics, the media, education, non-governmental organizations, the arts, public health, international security, business and trade, and other fields. Over 225 current and former heads of government and state and many other distinguished world leaders in the public and private sectors have participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program.
The academic exchange program between Austria and the United States is managed on behalf of both governments by the Austrian-American Educational Commission. In addition to administering the competitive national selection process for Fulbright grants, the commission also provides fair, objective counseling on American educational opportunities to Austrian students, whether or not they are scholarship recipients.