History of the International Visitor
- In 1940, Nelson Rockefeller was named the Coordinator of Commercial and
for the American Republics. He initiated the exchange of persons program with Latin America,
inviting 130 Latin American journalists to the United States.
- In February, 1942, a network of fourteen private shortwave transmitters began broadcasting
the newly created Voice of America.
- Four months later in June, the Office of War Information (OWI) was established
consolidate scattered agencies of domestic and foreign information. In 1946, OWI was
terminated by President Truman, and a small remnant was placed within the State
Department. The wartime total of 11,000 personnel shrank to 3,000 including the Voice of
- Within the State Department, the Office of International Information and Cultural Affairs
(OIC) in 1946 had a network of 76 branches the world over. Wireless files carried daily news
and feature stories from Washington. Sixty-seven information centers and libraries stocked
books, displayed exhibits and showed films. The Voice of America broadcast to the world for a
total of 36 hours in 24 languages.
- In 1947, the OIC was renamed the Office of International Information and Educational
- In 1948, Representative Karl E. Mundt and Senator H. Alexander Smith
marshalled a bill
through Congress. Public Law 402, 80th Congress, commonly called the
established a statutory information agency for the first time in a period of peace with a mission to
"promote a better understanding of the United States in other countries, and to increase
understanding" between Americans and foreigners.
- In 1948, the Smith-Mundt Act gave full recognition to the importance of
cultural exchanges sponsored by the government. In recognition of the need to build up a corps
of well-informed intellectuals and opinion leaders in the political and social infrastructure, the
Program was started.
- By 1952 the visitor program was consolidated into the exchange
of persons program of the State Department.
- In 1953 President Eisenhower submitted Reorganization Plan Number 8
to Congress which established the United States Information Agency (USIA) to
consolidate information functions
administered by the State Department and other agencies. The Voice of America was joined to
USIA but the educational and cultural exchanges remained with the State Department.
- In 1959 the exchange function was separated from the Bureau of Public Affairs and was
assigned to a newly created Bureau of Educational and Cultural Relations (CU).
- Passage of the Fulbright-Hays Act in 1961 reaffirmed the objective of increasing
mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other nations.
- Reorganization in 1978 renamed USIA as the United States
International Communication Agency (USICA) with responsibility
for the public diplomacy of the U.S. It combined the information
mission with the educational and cultural exchanges through
absorbing the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Relations from
the State Department. In August 1982, the Reagan Administration
changed the name back to the United States Information Agency.
- By the end of 1997, 100,000 International Visitors had travelled under the program. One
hundred and seventy-seven of them had achieved positions of Chief of State or Head of
International Visitor Program