Concern that US may be turning its back on
youth diplomacy efforts

A statement from WYSE Travel Confederation on the US Immigration Reform Bill.

Amsterdam, 24 May 2013

WYSE Travel Confederation is a global not-for-profit membership organisation committed to promoting and developing opportunities for the youth, student and educational travel industry; representing a global market worth over $182bn and resulting in over 200 million travelers annually. We note with concern the proposed Legislative Reform Bill on immigration (U.S. Senate Immigration Bill draft (S.744)) currently being considered by the United States’ Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC), and due to be voted upon within the coming weeks. If the bill is passed in its present state, it stands to devastate the United States’ largest exchange program, and a vital component of US public diplomacy.

Action is urgently required to stop changes to the present legislation that could cause significant damage to the member organisations of WYSE Travel Confederation and the wider youth travel industry, significantly reducing programmes that currently attract hundreds of thousands of young people to the United States every year to participate in educational and cultural programmes that have a work element, including summer work, internships, traineeships and au pair schemes among others.

The proposed changes to the law would place severe restrictions on the operations of legitimate agents for young adults from around the world looking to participate in educational programs, gain valuable work experience and learn first-hand about American culture and society.

The special session on the J-1 visa program has become a popular fixture for over ten years at the World Youth & Student Travel Conference (WYSTC). Organised by WYSE Travel Confederation and its Sector Association WYSE Work Abroad, the session routinely brings together key players in the sector to discuss changes in regulation and business practice in constructive dialogue with the US State Department. With concerted effort from across the industry, the J-1 program may be left unchanged, however, we encourage all parties interested in the J-1 visa program to attend WYSTC 2013 (17-20 September, Sydney, Australia) to discuss how to move forward on US exchange programmes and ensure they continue to benefit young people from around the world long into the future.

For more information about the Immigration Reform Bill and the severe damage it could do to our industry, please read these letter from our members CIEE and Alliance for International and Cultural Exchange.

What can you do to help before a final vote happens in the U.S. Congress?

If you are from an organisation outside the United States that sends program participants to the US:

The most powerful international voice on this issue is your country’s Ambassador to the U.S.  Ask your country’s Ambassador to contact the Department of State and ask them to urgently act to preserve these important programs. You may also wish to contact Secretary of State John Kerry, listed below.

If you are based in the United States:

Letters should be written to the following people, urging them to remove the language in the bill related to Exchange Visitors and preserve the future of the Exchange Visitor Program:

Secretary of State John Kerry, contact, main switchboard +1 202-647-4000

Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, contact, DC office (202) 224-4242, VT 1-800-642-3193.

Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, contact, DC office 202.224.4744, NJ 856.757.5353.

Senator Bob Corker, contact. DC office: 202-224-3344. TN office: 423-756-2757

Senator Ben Cardin, contact. DC office: (202) 224-4524. MD office: Tel: (410) 962-4436

Representative Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (responds only to residents of District 39)


About the J-1 visa programme

Created by the U.S. Department of State to foster international understanding, the J-1 visa program provides opportunities for highly educated foreign employees and students to visit the United States for on-the-job training and cultural education. It has been a successful component of American public diplomacy for more than 50 years.

All J-1 visa program participants are temporarily in the United States and must demonstrate an intention to return abroad at the end of their exchange program. Their experience in the United States is solely for the purpose of exposing them to American techniques, methodologies and expertise and to better gain an understanding of American culture and society. You can find more information about the programme here.

WYSE Travel Confederation is a global not-for-profit membership organisation committed to promoting and developing opportunities for youth and student educational travel. WYSE Travel Confederation through its Sector Associations endeavours to provide services and support for all aspects of youth and student travel. Every year the Confederation’s leading event WYSTC brings together the world’s most powerful network of young and student travel professionals, connecting key industry representatives with decision makers and governmental officials. WYSE Travel Confederation is based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.