State Department comments on new SWT regulations at Daily Press Briefings June 20, 21

Twice this week, the Department of State commented on the new regulations for the Summer Work and Travel Program during its Daily Press Briefings.

At the Department of State's Daily Press Briefing on Monday, June 20, Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was asked whether she was confident that the new regulations for the J-1 Summer Work and Travel program recently proposed by the Department of State will be successful in protecting foreign students from exploitation and prevent abuses.

She said:

"I know that the goal of the improvement and the refinements that we made this year were designed to address those issues and other issues, including the timeliness of visas."

And further:

"That’s my understanding, the protections stronger for students, but the visa issuance more timely and protection for the security and safety of the United States, to ensure that we know who’s coming and who’s going."

A taken question for the Daily Press Briefing on June 21, again focused on the new regulations for the J-1 visa Summer Work and Travel Program:

Q: Please provide details on the specific aspects of the new regulations for J-1 visas. What is the intention of these new regulations? Are we confident that these new regulations will protect recipients from abuse?

A: 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. We are confident that implementation of these safeguards should provide stronger protections and make this a more viable program.

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.
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