Effective January 1, 2012, the Department of State (DOS) will place limitations on the Exchange Visitor Program (J-1), specifically the size of the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program. It will also place a moratorium on the designation of new Summer Work Travel sponsor organizations, effective immediately. Since 1963, the Summer Work Travel program has served as a cultural and diplomatic exchange, enabling foreign post-secondary students to come to the U.S. for travel and work for a maximum period of four months.
After an extensive review of the Summer Work Travel program in spring 2010, DOS made major changes to the program, including the creation of a pilot program in the 2011 season that placed stricter requirements on certain participating countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova and Romania. Additionally, the following regulations were implemented:
(a) Strengthening sponsor oversight requirements with respect to both program participants for whom sponsors are responsible and the third parties that sponsors rely upon to assist them in administering their programs (i.e., U.S. employers and foreign agents);
(b) requiring that participants from non-Visa Waiver Program countries be pre-placed in a job before the Form DS-2019 is issued;
(c) requiring sponsors to fully vet employers and all SWT job offers; and,
(d) requiring sponsors to contact current program participants on a monthly basis to monitor their welfare and whereabouts.
However, DOS is continuing to receive a high volume of complaints with regard to the Summer Work Travel Program and has cited to the following problem areas: reports of improper work placements, fraudulent job offers, job cancellations upon participant arrival in the United States, inappropriate work hours, and problems regarding housing and transportation. As a result, DOS has decided to place a cap on the current participating levels and moratorium on new sponsor applications. In the meantime, current participating sponsors can continue to operate under their present designations, but will not be able to increase the number of program participants beyond their actual total 2011 participant program size until further notice.