J-1 Visa Update

Dear Colleagues,

Please find below a recent update on the J-1 Visa situation from Michael McCarry, the Executive Director of the Alliance for International Education and Cultural Exchange. On behalf of the WYSE Travel Confederation and it’s membership, I would like to thank the Alliance, Michael and our other industry partners for speaking out against the proposed reforms.

Sincerely,
David Chapman
Director General – WYSE Travel Confederation.


mmccarry

Dear WYSE Work Abroad colleagues,

I know that many of you are following political developments in Washington on the immigration reform bill.  With the Senate having passed its version of the bill on June 27, we thought it would be useful to provide an update for our international colleagues.

As I’m sure most are aware, the original version of the Senate bill would have been devastating to the Exchange Visitor Program.  The original version addressed J-1 programs within its anti-trafficking provisions, defined sponsors as ‘foreign labor recruiters’ and participants as ‘workers’, and imposed a $500 fee on all SWT students – payable by the sponsor – to fund border security enhancements.

The final version that passed the Senate on Thursday included significant improvements:

  • It removes exchange programs from the anti-trafficking title.
  • It eliminates the definition of exchange visitors as ‘workers’, and U.S. sponsors as ‘foreign labor recruiters’.
  • It allows sponsors to collect program fees.
  • It reduces the SWT fee to $100 and removes restrictions in the original amendment.
  • It specifies the exemption of high school exchanges from these provisions.

The final Senate bill also directs the State Department to use its regulatory process to extend compliance audits to SWT, camp counselor, teacher, and intern/trainee, and to strengthen fee transparency to participants, program improvements that the Alliance has supported.  And it requires that State submit an annual report on the EVP to Congress.

The bill also requires State to undertake a rulemaking on limiting program fees within two years of enactment, and contains additional provisions of potential concern, especially around enforcement and legal liability.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has begun to address immigration reform through the Judiciary Committee.  How the House will ultimately proceed is a much-debated Washington topic, but there is general consensus that its approach will be much narrower than the Senate’s and will focus primarily on border security.

Nothing will become law until a House bill is passed, the two chambers reconcile the differences in their bills, and the President signs the legislation.  This issue is still a long way from the finish line.

The Alliance and its members are now assessing our best strategy in the House, and will keep international colleagues informed as the process continues.

All the best,

Michael McCarry


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