State Department Revises J-1 Summer Work Travel Program in Attempt to Protect Participants

The State Department has announced some much-awaited changes to the Summer Work Travel Program, made after a review process stemming from revelations that some international students had been exploited during their participation.

“In recent years, the work component of the Summer Work Travel Program has too often overshadowed the core cultural component,” said the State Department’s announcement of the new rules.  “In addition, there have been complaints regarding job placements, work conditions, and participant accommodations.”

The new rules are intended to reemphasize the cultural component of the program, and require job placements to “provide opportunities for participants to interact regularly with U.S. citizens and experience U.S. culture.”

The revised rules also prevent students from being placed in jobs that:

– are primarily overnight shifts
– involve body piercing, tattooing or massage
– involve gambling or are with traveling fairs
– are in warehouses or distribution centers
– are considered hazardous to youth

As of November 1, most factory jobs will be off-limits as well.

Problems with the Summer Work Travel Program came to light in a 2010 Associated Press investigation, which found that some participants were forced to work in strip clubs, and in 2011 when students at a Hershey plant walked out to protest their working conditions.

[Full announcement of the new rules (PDF)]

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