On June 20, 2011, a Department of State spokesperson answered a question about an interim final rule, effective July 15, 2011, that amends regulations on the J-1 Summer Work Travel (SWT) program. The spokesperson noted that given the size of the program, with approximately 120,000 college and university student participants in 2010, the Department has decided to “enhance safeguards,” including:

  • 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 per day and 7 days per week, to enable students to have ready, direct contact with the Department about program complaints or issues
  • 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 ongoing data analysis, complaint tracking, and on-site visits to sponsors to fully assess their compliance with, and the effectiveness of, the new regulations
  • Closer scrutiny of visa applications of potential SWT program participants from the pilot program countries. Consular officers refuse visas to those applicants who do not demonstrate that they are eligible for visas, including compliance with the pilot program’s conditions

The transcript is available here. The interim final rule is available here.