Introducing…The Compliance Advisory Group!

Introducing…The Compliance Advisory Group!

AFS-USA established the National Council, Advisory Groups, and Committees to create a space where AFS volunteers and staff can work together to address organizational needs and/or challenges from a national perspective. These national volunteer groups are forums where AFS staff and volunteers representing different areas of expertise, knowledge, skills, and talents can review different areas of the organization and develop recommendations for how we can improve the processes, tools, and/or resources needed to effectively deliver and support our AFS programs, volunteers, communities, and participants. The article below introduces one of the groups!

The Compliance Advisory Group (CAG) of the National Council works to make staying in compliance with the regulations defined by the Department of State easier for teams and volunteers across the country. But WHY, you ask? WHY do we need to stay in compliance with all the rules about reporting contacts and making sure that placements meet all the requirements (so many requirements!) and so forth and so on? So glad you asked! Above all else, the overarching goal of the State Department and AFS is to facilitate intercultural exchange in an environment that fosters the safety, well-being, and appropriate adjustment of each participant.

Each of the rules established by the State Department, in consultation with its program partners like AFS, represents a “best practice” element that has been identified and refined through time and experience with thousands of exchange students over the past 75 years. If we fail to keep our commitment as volunteer representatives of AFS, the State Department can choose to withdraw their authorization support for us to continue as a hosting organization for J-1 visa students (in the most extreme case) or withdraw their support from us as one of the organizations that hosts Sponsored Programs students.

Therefore, AFS and all its staff and volunteers are required to comply with all the regulations regarding reporting and managing placements, support issues, and other matters concerning our participants’ experiences as hosted students in our care. We do it first and foremost because we care about them, and we do it to ensure that AFS continues to operate as effectively as possible.

Key initiatives the CAG is exploring during 2023 include the following five goals:

  1. Work with the 10 least compliant teams to better understand their struggles and help them improve their compliance statistics and their support of students.
  2. Encourage more teams to enlist a Compliance Coordinator by clarifying the responsibilities of the role in MyAFS
  3. Increase diversity on the CAG.
  4. Provide guidance to volunteers on how to manage placements involving non-binary students or host family members, while remaining in compliance with DoS regulations and AFS standards.
  5. Identify placements where it will be difficult to find volunteers to support the student because of lack of nearby volunteers. Improve in-home visit compliance and participant support by helping teams bridge these gaps.

The Compliance Advisory Group seeks input from volunteers and teams, particularly those who have experienced difficulties in achieving high success rates with their compliance scores, and works to develop strategies to make it easier for volunteers to stay in compliance. To learn more about the CAG itself, a lively group of people who have a lot of fun together, please see They are especially interested in inviting volunteers who see the struggle and barriers to complying with the regulations and reporting to join them as members of the committee, reasoning that people who understand the struggle better understand why it happens. A good sense of humor and the ability to think outside the box are welcome qualities as well!

One of the most exciting announcements to look forward to from the CAG is that they are adding a compliance dashboard element to the landing page of the monthly contacts widget! The new dashboard will provide your Team’s contacts and visits statistics in close to real time. It’s hoped that being able to see the team statistics at a glance will help remind liaisons and other volunteers of the urgency of timely reporting and encourage people to just get it done.

For an absolute treasure trove of tips on how to make compliance work better for your own team, please visit