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10 posts categorized "2. Industry News"


U.S. Department of State Summer Site Visits

The U.S. Department of State is again planning to visit participants, host employers, and accommodations throughout the summer with the goal of monitoring the safety and success of the Summer Work Travel program. Department staff may also reach out to you over the phone to ask questions about your students or request further information about student jobs.

This monitoring is a good thing as it allows the U.S. Department of State to see the positive impact the program has in your community. It also provides host employers the opportunity to further champion exchange visitor programs. For these reasons, we kindly ask that you accommodate site visits or requests for further information as best as possible. Please also let us know how the site visits go.

Thank you for your continued support of Work & Travel USA and your partnership with CIEE.


Americans for Cultural Exchange

As the Americans for Cultural Exchange (A4CE) coalition continues to grow – we have more than 900 members across 47 states and Washington, D.C. – our advocacy proves more effective than ever in protecting J-1 exchange programs from harmful proposals and regulations.

To celebrate our upcoming one-year anniversary, we have set the goal of doubling our membership by the end of the year! Help us reach this goal by joining our coalition. Visit our website to learn how.

Recent coalition highlights:

  • We facilitated more than 150 sign-ons for letters to House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees.
  • The A4CE coalition is currently a finalist for the PIEoneer of the Year award. This award honors innovation and achievement in the field of international education.

We hope you will join Americans for Cultural Exchange as we continue to make a difference.


Exchange Visitor Program Directive in FY 2019 Appropriations Bill

The FY 2018 omnibus appropriations bill, which funds the federal government through September, includes a key directive that protects exchange programs. CIEE, the A4CE coalition, and the exchange community have been working to ensure this same directive is included in the FY 2019 bill. In mid-June, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved their respective 2019 State and Foreign Operations Bill, with the Exchange Visitor Program directive included in both bills. This good news means the directive is well on its way to being signed into law for FY 2019.


Exchange Week in the District

CIEE staff and employers participated in the Alliance for International Exchange’s first Exchange Week in the District, an initiative to meet with members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate during an in-district working week in May. We had positive meetings with district staff members in Maryland, Delaware, and North Carolina, and look forward to expanding our reach next year.

  31925093_1779215632101780_2835725025875591168_oFrom left to right: Sherry Bell, Meridian; Alexandra Kennedy, TKO Hospitality; Kate Rohrer, Kent/Sussex County Director for Sen. Coons; Erica Carley Harris, CIEE.


2019 Taxes

Based on our read of the new tax law, Summer Work Travel exchange visitors are required to pay taxes but will likely receive much lower (perhaps zero) tax refunds from 2018 and on. They are still obligated to file their taxes. CIEE is working on participant messaging and further guidance for host employers, but we wanted you to be aware of this coming change.



The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became enforceable on May 25, 2018. This regulation standardizes data protection laws and processing across the European Union. CIEE is committed to GDPR and will continue to move toward compliance across all our business units, including SWT. We will keep you informed of any internal policy changes that affect business processes in regards to host employers.

Sarah Goodman, Manager, Compliance & Policy

Erica Carley Harris, Manager, Government & Public Affairs

Industry News: Updates on Advocacy, the Alliance Meeting, and the Importance of Moving Forward

In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration was considering significant cuts to or elimination of five J-1 exchange programs, including Summer Work Travel. Since then, the broader international exchange community has come together to defend and support the threatened programs. This effort has driven more than 100,000 letters to the administration and to elected officials, hundreds of media stories, and an internationally-trending #SaveJ1 hashtag. The outpouring of support for the J-1 programs has not gone unnoticed by members of Congress and others. While we continue our advocacy efforts, we are optimistic about the future of J-1 exchanges.

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Legislative Action

As you know, J-1 exchanges enjoy broad bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and in state and local governments across the country. In the last two months, your calls and emails to your members of Congress have led to two significant legislative actions.

Senator Coons (D-DE) and Senator Murkowski (R-AK) cosponsored an amendment to the Senate Foreign Operations Bill that requires the administration to consult with Congress prior to making any significant changes to the J-1 programs. The legislation also asks for an analysis of the impact on public diplomacy and the economy. The amendment is included in the Senate Appropriations bill, which should be finalized before the end of the year.

In the House of Representatives, Rep. LoBiondo (R-NJ) and Rep. Keating (D-MA) cosponsored House Resolution 529 in support of J-1 Exchange Visitor programs. The resolution currently has 40 cosponsors, with additional members continuing to sign on.

Both of these actions send a strong message to the administration that J-1 programs are vital to the U.S. economy and public diplomacy efforts, and should not be reduced or eliminated.

Media Highlights

Since the original Wall Street Journal article, more than 400 domestic and international news articles have been published, the vast majority with a positive view toward exchanges. All of the articles, which you can filter by date and state, are posted online at Americans for Cultural Exchange.

Highlights include:

  • “The U.S. makes ambassadors of visitors,” Wall Street Journal, September 27
  • “As Trump plan threatens ski resort tourism, industry mobilizes to protect visa worker program,” The Denver Post, September 22
  • “Foreign worker shortages extend into shoulder season,” Boston Globe, September 26
  • “Families, camps and businesses rally to protect J-1 visa program,” Washington Post, September 10
  • “Maine businesses worry Trump might cut program for foreign college student,” Portland Press Herald, September 1

On social media, the hashtag #SaveJ1 took off, generating thousands of posts from all around the world. J1 sponsors also worked together to produce a #SaveJ1 video. The video and social media highlights are available on the Americans for Cultural Exchange website.

Moving Forward

In mid-November, J-1 sponsors came together for the Alliance Annual Meeting, which included presentations and panels from U.S. Department of State leadership. This meeting is a platform for the international exchange community to engage in programmatic and policy discussions with representatives from key government agencies. The overall tone of the meeting was positive, and U.S. Department of State representatives emphasized that we are continuing with business as usual for all programs.

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For host employers, the best thing you can do is continue to offer participants a great experience. The excellence of our programs and employers are our best defense. For those interested in becoming more involved in advocacy efforts, we encourage you to join Americans for Cultural Exchange. The website includes talking points, a primer for visiting elected officials, and other useful advocacy resources. If you are interested in learning more, please contact CIEE.

Industry Updates

Proposed New Summer Work Travel Rule
On January 12, the U.S. Department of State released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM is a set of proposed revisions to the existing regulations that would update the rules that govern the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program. The SWT community has been expecting new regulations. The last update to the regulations came five years ago, and since then, the State Department has been more directly involved with the program through employer site visits, participant interviews, and community meetings. The proposed regulations have been written with the intent of strengthening the program while keeping it true to its mission. At its core, this program is about the public diplomacy and the people-to-people exchange that happens on an everyday level between your international staff and their American counterparts.

A comment period was open until February 27. Once comments have been reviewed, a Final Rule will be published. Our understanding is that this summer will not be impacted, and if the rules do go into effect, the first participants to be affected would be those arriving in December 2017. We have carefully reviewed the proposed rules and have made recommendations to the U.S. Department of State and our industry group, the Alliance for International Exchange. You can view the NPRM here. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about the proposed regulations and the potential impact on your business.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson was confirmed as Secretary of State on February 1. The U.S. Department of State oversees the Summer Work Travel program. 
2017_0202_tillerson_welcome_850_1State Dept Image / Feb 2, 2017

Reminder: The U.S. Department of State May Be Calling You!
Part of the U.S. Department of State’s oversight of the Summer Work Travel program involves reaching out to you, our employers. As your summer season approaches, representatives from the U.S. Department of State may call to confirm your hires. The State Department has retained a call center, Kentucky Consular Center (KCC), to assist with gathering student data. If you are contacted by KCC, it is important that you respond quickly. Please check your junk mail folder as KCC may have tried to contact you via email. KCC likely will request a list of all students you have hired and their respective start dates. They might also ask for the rate of pay for each student – please provide accordingly. We appreciate your input and collaboration, and should you have any comments or questions, please contact CIEE.

- Jenn Conway, International Recruitment Consultant

Annual Alliance Membership Meeting

As mentioned in the September newsletter, the Alliance for International Exchange is an association of nongovernmental organizations, including J-1 visa sponsors, who advocate for international exchange. The annual Alliance Membership Meeting allows J-1 visa sponsors an opportunity to catch up on news in the world of exchanges, discuss best practices, and attend discussion panels with the U.S. Department of State. 

A session on new politics focused on the U.S. election, and the possible impact on exchanges. The takeaway message was that regardless of who is elected or which party is in control of Congress, we will have newly elected officials who will need to be educated on the role of the Exchange Visitor Program. More than ever, it is important for us to keep the conversation going and advocate for the Summer Work Travel program and the J-1 visa. We will continue to engage you in our efforts to demonstrate the power of international exchanges, and advocate for these programs as a bipartisan issue.

At the meeting, an official from the U.S. Department of State explained the process for changing program regulations, and the current status of the expected new regulations. Currently, the regulations are sitting with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval. The timeframe for this process is unpredictable but the State Department expects them to be approved shortly. Once approved, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) will be posted for public comment. They encourage the public (sponsors, employers, and community members) to submit comments. CIEE will keep you informed of any news with SWT regulations.

Overall, the feedback from the State Department regarding the Summer Work Travel program was very positive! They were happy to note from their site visits this summer that they continue to see increased engagement from host employers, particularly around housing arrangements.

-Mary Anne Higgins, CIEE Compliance & Policy Manager

U.S. Department of State, Educational Cultural Affairs Update (ECA) – New Deputy Assistant, Secretary Keri Lowry

A new Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Private Sector Exchange has been announced to fill the seat that Robin Lerner vacated this spring. Keri Lowry joined the ECA on July 25, 2016, and comes to the State Department from her most recent position as Regional Director for Asia, Europe, and the Middle East/North Africa at the U.S. Peace Corps. Please find a couple of her previous roles below:

  • Senior Policy Advisor at USAID (November 2013 – June 2014)
    Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance
  • Director for Democracy, Development, and Humanitarian Affairs (February 2011 – November 2013)
    National Security Council, The White House

In Keri’s role as DAS, she oversees the Exchange Visitor Program that brings 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States to study, build skills, and teach each year. As you may imagine, Work & Travel USA students comprise a large number of these visitors! We look forward to getting to know Keri in the coming months.


-Jessica Kissell, Director, Employer Relations

Timely compliance with DHS more important than ever

Dhs-seal-250Although not common, students sometimes will enter or re-enter the U.S without their DS-2019 form. Without this form upon entry, students are issued an I-515A form, which grants them a 30-day temporary entry. They are required to submit documentation to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As of April, DHS will now terminate visas of students who fail to meet the 30-day deadline for submitting this important paperwork.

If you learn of a student who was issued an I-515A form, please instruct the student to call CIEE immediately at 1-888-268-6245. We will explain next steps and help them remain in good standing.

Should you or your students have questions or concerns on this change, please contact us. We are here to help!

– Jessica Kissell, Director, Employer Relations

New Leadership at the Alliance for International Exchange

WAT - Industry News - Ilir ZherkaAs mentioned in our September newsletter, the Alliance for International Exchange is an association of nongovernmental organizations, including J-1 visa sponsors, that advocates for international exchange. After 21 years of service to the industry, Michael McCarry, executive director for the Alliance for International Exchange, is retired at the end of 2015. Michael’s leadership has significantly contributed to our successes on the Hill, advocating for Summer Work Travel during times of change. His contributions to international exchanges have been invaluable and he will be greatly missed.

During the annual Alliance Membership Meeting in October, the Board of Directors appointed Ilir Zherka as the new Executive Director. According to the Alliance for International Exchange, “Zherka has 18 years of non-profit membership experience at the National Conference on Citizenship, DC Vote, and the National Albanian-American Council. With strong relationships on Capitol Hill, he has developed a solid track record in advocacy and is experienced at fundraising and media relations.” We welcome Ilir Zherka as the new executive director, effective January 1, 2016, and look forward to working closely with him.

The annual Alliance Membership Meeting allows J-1 visa sponsors to catch up on news in the world of exchanges, discuss best practices, and attend discussion panels with the Department of State. In her presentation to the sponsors, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Private Sector Exchange Robin Lerner reflected on the increasing quality of the exchange programs. She and her staff have increasingly spent time on the road visiting participants and gathering feedback. You can follow their visits through their Route J-1 blog. Lerner called 2016 the “Year of the Host.” The Department recognizes the important role that employers play in the quality of exchange visitors’ experiences.

– Mary Anne Higgins, CIEE Compliance & Policy Manager

Recruitment Best Practices Shared in Berlin

CIEE Work & Travel USA students are recruited through an international network of representatives with whom CIEE contracts. They play a critical role as they assist students through the entire application process, and their strong ties to universities and embassies are vital to the success of the program. At the beginning of October, the CIEE Overseas Representative Forum brought these organizations together in Berlin to discuss and promote best practices and exchange in meaningful program dialogue. Seventy people representing more than 30 companies attended.


The theme of this year’s meeting was intercultural learning with the goal to explore the role that international exchange plays in public diplomacy and personal transformation. In addition to intercultural learning, other topics of discussion included: best practices to help prepare students for their program, communication to reinforce and promote cultural exchange while the students are in the U.S., the importance of following up with students to collect their feedback once they’ve returned home, focus on alumni engagement, and student experience while in the U.S.

Berlin_F27_GlobalInstitute_NightCIEE Global Institute, Berlin

The three day conference commenced with a welcome reception at the new CIEE Global Institute located in the vibrant Kreuzberg district of Berlin.

– Molly McCarthy, CIEE Account Manager


By Jessica Kissell, Director, Employer Relations

RobinJ_Lerner_150_1Last summer, the U.S. Department of State took a road trip to meet and learn from J-1 exchange visitors. The countrywide trip was led by Robin Lerner, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Private Sector Exchange at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In her role, she oversees the Exchange Visitor Program that brings 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States to study, build skills, and teach each year. As you may imagine, Work & Travel USA students comprise a large number of these visitors!

We encourage you to follow Ms. Lerner’s blog – it’s a great way to hear stories and learn about J-1 exchange visitor and employer experiences from across the country. Who knows, you and your Work & Travel USA students might even be featured!

In addition to Ms. Lerner’s visits, the Department of State (DoS) also will conduct site visits to employers in a continued effort to monitor the Work & Travel USA Program. CIEE has received overwhelmingly positive feedback, both from employers visited and the DoS. These visits are an opportunity for you to showcase your program and the cultural exchange experiences your students are having.

CIEE does not know in advance if or when you’ll be visited, so we recommend educating your staff members about what to do if the DoS stops in. We encourage you to spend a few minutes with DoS representatives to discuss the opportunities you provide, and then allow the representatives to speak with as many students as possible. The DoS is interested in talking with students directly to learn about their work experience and overall program experience, and also will be interested in touring your workplace or any employer-provided housing.

We know your business provides an excellent experience to J-1 exchange visitors. If you have questions or there’s anything CIEE can do to help make potential State Department visits successful, please don’t hesitate to reach out. If you do have a visit, please let us know, so that we can follow up with the DoS. Employers often ask if CIEE receives feedback on visits. Our answer is, “No news is good news,” – CIEE is only alerted if the DoS has concerns.

Industry News - May 2015

The U.S. Summer Work Travel Program –
Strengthening Ties with Other Nations Since 1961
By: Phil Simon, Vice President, Work & Travel USA

For 54 years, CIEE has been a key player in giving students from other countries the opportunity to work in and experience the United States through the hugely successful Work & Travel USA program. Some of the most common questions we field about this mutually beneficial program include the following:

Q. How did the program get started?

A. At the height of the Cold War in 1961, the U.S. government committed to investing in friendly, cultural outreach to countries around the world. The Peace Corps was launched, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was organized to provide nonmilitary foreign aid, and Congress passed the Fulbright-Hays Act. Led by Sen. William J. Fulbright, sponsor of Fulbright Scholars, this legislation created the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Program. The Summer Work Travel program grew out of this initiative. It provides opportunities for students from around the world to come to the United States, work side by side with Americans, and experience our way of life.

Q. What are the goals of the program?

A. This program has three important goals:

  • To promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through educational and cultural exchange
  • To strengthen ties that unite us with other nations
  • To promote international cooperation for educational and cultural advancement; and thus to assist in the development of friendly, sympathetic, and peaceful relations between the United States and other countries of the world

Q. How many students participate each year?

A. Last year, more than 79,000 students came from countries as far reaching as Argentina, Russia, and Thailand. CIEE Work & Travel USA alone sponsored participants from more than 100 different nationalities.

Q. Has the program changed over the years?

A. In recent years, the U.S. Department of State made regulatory changes to bolster two important portions of this program:

  • To further protect the health, safety, and welfare of Summer Work Travel participants
  • To reinforce the cultural exchange aspects of the original legislation 

These changes have enhanced the integrity and effectiveness of Summer Work Travel exchanges – and the variety of places visiting students represent.

For many years, most students participating in the program were from countries in western Europe. But in recent years, we’ve seen a shift to more students signing up from central Europe (Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, in particular) and from Russia, Turkey, and China. We’re also delighted to have more students in recent years coming to the United States from South America and Southeast Asia (notably Thailand and the Philippines), as well as from countries like Egypt and Jordan. 

Q. How does the program impact participant’s lives?

A. The Summer Work Travel program is a life-changing experience. For most participants, this is their first opportunity to travel to the United States, and for many, it’s the first time they leave their home country. The benefits of the exchange continue long after participants return to their home countries. Many employers build long-lasting relationships with participants. Plus, all CIEE participants become part of the CIEE Global Alumni Network, where they can connect with more than 350,000 other CIEE alums, and gain professional experience through webinars, networking events, and mentoring. Most importantly, this program impacts participants’ views of the United States for the rest of their lives. The Summer Work Travel program is as valuable to U.S. public diplomacy today as it was when it was founded.