J1 Visas – New Regulations – Summer Work Travel

The Work & Travel Program is part of the J-1 visa category of the U.S. government’s Exchange Visitor program.

If you are a university student from outside the United States and are not a U.S. citizen, you may experience life in the U.S. as a temporary employee and tourist by participating in a Work & Travel Program during your four-month college vacation period.

How? Your first step is to obtain a J-1 visa, which is the U.S. government’s exchange visitor visa program designed to promote cross-cultural exchange between the US and other countries. To qualify for this J-1 visa, you must be a full-time university student or be within six months of graduation.

The Summer Work Travel (SWT) program has provided thousands of international college and university students an opportunity to visit the United States and experience the American people and culture firsthand.

In 2010, approximately 120,000 college and university students participated in the Summer Work Travel program.

Given the expanding size of this program, the Department of State has perceived the need to enhance safeguards for participants. The implementation of these safeguards should provide stronger protections and make this a more viable program. New regulations were announced this week.

The new safeguards include:
* ­ A pilot program for six countries (Belarus, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine) aimed at thwarting the potential for abuse of summer work travel participants who come from those countries; and new program-wide regulations designed to strengthen and clarify current program oversight and administration requirements.

* ­ A special e-mail address and a toll-free telephone number, available 24 hours a day/7 days a week, to enable students to have ready, direct contact with the Department about program complaints or issues; and,
* ­ Department of State welcome letters and program brochures provided to each program participant to better inform them about what to expect in the Summer Work Travel program.

* ­ An aggressive and proactive system to monitor sponsors better, including on-going data analysis, complaint tracking, and on-site visits to sponsors to fully assess their compliance and the effectiveness of the new regulations.

* ­ Closer scrutiny to visa applications of potential SWT program participants from the pilot program countries. Consular officers refuse visas to those applicants who don’t demonstrate that they are eligible for visas, including compliance with the pilot program’s conditions.