The Collective Public Policy Voice of the Exchange Community

Dear Editor:

Legrain’s article, “Foreign students hired for summer jobs … ” (July 30) unfortunately disparages the U.S.’ Summer Work Travel (SWT) exchange program without an opportunity for supporters of the program to comment.

The article’s focus is a poorly sourced opinion piece that is replete with conjecture and woefully lacking in empirical evidence for its argument. A rigorous 2017 study of SWT, however, paints a different and much more accurate picture: 91 percent of alumni reported being satisfied with the program; 74 percent said they had a higher overall regard for the U.S. after participating; and 98 percent said they would recommended the program to a friend.

Protection of participants is critical to SWT sponsor organizations and the State Department. All host employers and job placements are thoroughly vetted, participants must be paid the exact same wage as American co-workers, and all participants can change job placements at any time. Moreover, U.S. sponsor organizations are in monthly contact with every participant, meeting in person with many through site visits.

But here again, Legrain’s article is misleading. It references that 67 people called into an anti-trafficking hotline over three years. Exchange sponsors strive for a zero incident culture, and that number comes close as it represents .006 percent of the nearly 1 million people who were in the U.S. as an exchange visitor during that time. That statistic actually confirms how well the State Department regulations are protecting participants.

The Summer Work Travel program has thrived because it is well regulated and provides meaningful cultural exchange experiences.


Ilir Zherka
Executive Director
Alliance for International Exchange