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5 posts categorized "Work & Travel"

Facts and Resources: Potential Elimination of J-1 Exchange Visitor Programs

The Trump administration is seeking to end the U.S. Department of State’s J-1 Exchange Visitor programs. These privately funded cultural exchange programs are an important U.S. foreign policy tool that helps to build greater understanding of the American people and culture around the world. They are not pathways for immigration or labor programs.

At CIEE we believe that by building mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and people of other nations, we are all stronger, safer, and more prosperous.

SUMMER WORK TRAVEL PROGRAM REVIEW
According to a new report focused on the J-1 Summer Work Travel (SWT) program:

  • Three-fourths (76.1%) of SWT participants reported a positive change in their views of the U.S., American culture, and the American people after having participated in the program.

  • Nearly all (90.9%) of participants agreed they had a better understanding of American culture following the program.

In addition to harming U.S. public diplomacy efforts, eliminating J-1 programs would cause significant harm to the American economy. According to the same report:

  • SWT exchange visitor participants contributed an estimated $509 million to the U.S. economy in 2016. 

  • Half (50.8%) of surveyed employers stated that the absence of SWT participants would have a big negative impact on their revenues.

  • Roughly half (44.8%) of employers said it was likely or very likely they would have to reduce hours of operation and one-quarter (27.6%) reported it was likely or very likely they would not be able to stay open during the season without the SWT program.

Read the full report. Then, take action!

HELP SAVE THE J-1 EXCHANGE VISITOR PROGRAM

  • Call your representatives in Washington, D.C., and urge them to contact the White House to stop the elimination of these programs. Find phone numbers for your Members of Congress and use these talking points to make these incredibly important calls. Please encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to do the same.

  • Ask your CEO or senior leaders at your workplace to call their personal contacts at the White House, Department of State, and Congress, or the general contacts below:

            White House, Office of Public Liaison: (202) 456-6493
            Department of State, Office of Secretary Tillerson: (202) 647-7234

  • Join Americans for Cultural Exchange – a broad coalition in support of international exchange programs – and urge your representatives to take action.

NEWS HEADLINES

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CIEE STATEMENT ON REVIEW AND POTENTIAL ELIMINATION OF J-1 PROGRAMS

At a time when even our closest allies view the U.S. in an overwhelmingly negative light, it is deeply troubling that an entire category of public diplomacy programs is facing elimination.

According to news reports, the Trump administration is currently working to end the U.S. Department of State’s J-1 Exchange Visitor Programs – including Summer Work Travel, Camp Counselor, Intern/Trainee, and Au Pair programs – which bring university students and others from abroad to the U.S. to study, work, and travel. While in America, these young people have the opportunity to improve their English skills, learn about American ways of life, share their culture with host communities, and supplement the American workforce during peak business seasons.

These privately funded cultural exchange programs are a key tool of U.S. foreign policy that serve to build greater understanding of the American people, culture, and values around the world. They are not pathways for immigration or labor programs, and the notion that they undermine the interests of U.S. workers is woefully misguided.

Simply stated, eliminating J-1 programs would cause significant harm to our nation’s public diplomacy efforts as well as to the American economy. In Maine alone, where CIEE is headquartered and employs more than 200 people to facilitate these programs, local communities host 4,000 J-1 Exchange Visitors annually, mostly staffing our seasonal tourist businesses and our summer camps. Many of these businesses would be devastated by the loss of these programs, and just as was the case this year with the drop in H2B workers, they would not be able to fill those jobs with local Mainers. Summer camps in Maine would likely see revenues drop by 20%, and many hotels and restaurants would reduce working hours significantly.

The Trump administration’s intent to bypass the democratic process in eliminating the J-1 program is disturbing. Any changes to programs whose fundamental goals are to improve U.S. diplomacy and support the American economy deserve a thoughtful process involving all branches of government. Additionally, the voice of the American people must be considered when changes to policy – especially of this magnitude – are on the table.

As a non-profit organization that for 70 years has been committed to nurturing peace through international exchange, we at CIEE believe that building mutual understanding between Americans and people of other nations makes us all stronger, safer, and more prosperous.

Over the past several months, we have been actively working with members of the international exchange community to engage with Congress and the Trump administration in support of J-1 programs. CIEE will continue to work relentlessly to protect cross-cultural exchange and support our participants in the U.S. – and we need your help.

Here’s how you can make a difference and save these valuable J-1 programs:

  • Call your representatives in Washington, D.C., and urge them to contact the White House to stop the elimination of these programs. Find phone numbers for your Members of Congress and use these talking points to make these incredibly important calls. Please encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to do the same.

  • Ask your CEO or senior leaders at your workplace to call their personal contacts at the White House, Department of State, and Congress, or the general contacts below:

    White House, Office of Public Liaison: (202) 456-6493
    Department of State, Office of Secretary Tillerson: (202) 647-7234

  • Join Americans for Cultural Exchange – a broad coalition in support of international exchange programs – and urge your representatives to take action.

Together, we can save these critical public diplomacy tools from a profoundly irresponsible approach to America’s foreign policy. Thank you for your support.

CIEE STATEMENT ON STATUS OF J-1 VISA PROGRAMS

As the United States prepares for a change in administration, we know that CIEE’s Exchange Visitors and their hosts in the U.S. may have questions about the future of J-1 visa programs. This statement serves to address those questions and frame expectations for the future.

First, all stakeholders should know that absolutely no changes have been made to J-1 visa programs. Any current or prospective J-1 Exchange Visitors should know that they continue to be welcomed in and to the United States. Current participants should expect to complete their exchange program according to a previously planned schedule and prospective participants should expect to pursue a future program according to standard timelines. 

Second, international exchange has a long history of deep bipartisan support in Congress – from both the Democratic and Republican parties. Outside of the U.S. government, international exchange has countless stakeholders around the world – from employers, to schools, to host families and host communities, to sending countries and governments. 

Third, CIEE has great confidence in the democratic process that would shape and deliver any policy changes that could come with a new administration. Policy changes require vigorous and thorough analysis and debate, and typically involve both the executive and legislative branches in a lengthy process. Additionally, the voice and will of the people – everyday Americans – are considered when governmental policy and programmatic change is developed or reviewed. As the largest U.S. State Department-designated sponsor of J-1 visas, CIEE has excellent working relationships with career civil service, professional, and political staff across the Executive Branch and Congress. You can be sure that we will have a seat at the table should any change to J-1 programs be considered.

Fourth, J-1 visa programs are tools for the advancement of U.S. national security and cultural exchange, not pathways for immigration or labor programs. J-1 visa programs are administered by the U.S. Department of State – a cabinet-level national security and foreign affairs agency of the federal government – and not the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Labor. By building mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and people of other nations, we are all stronger, safer, and more prosperous.

Fifth, and importantly, there is a great and longstanding tradition of tolerance across America. This is a country that celebrates diversity, freedom, multiculturalism, and plurality. CIEE has a long history of bringing together people from different backgrounds to support harmonious relations between all people from all nations.

International exchange is an enduring American institution and CIEE is committed to protecting and advancing its long and strong legacy. We look forward sharing the American experience with many future participants on our programs in the years to come. 

The Power of Diplomacy and Engagement in Focus at CIEE Civic Leadership Summit

In an effort to increase public diplomacy between the United States and countries around the world, CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange gathered 64 international college and university students from 31 countries in Washington D.C. to learn how to become changemakers during its third annual Civic Leadership Summit, August 3-6.

2015 CIEE Civic Leadership Summit Participants
2015 Civic Leadership Summit Fellows in front of the White House during a tour of Washington D.C.

Held each year at American University’s School of International Service, the Civic Leadership Summit brings together passionate, young leaders from around the world for a dynamic exchange on leadership, social entrepreneurship, and cultural understanding. Summit fellows are all part of the U.S. Department of State Exchange Visitor Program, which provides international students with the opportunity to live and work in the United States during their summer vacations. CIEE is the largest sponsor of the program in the country, bringing nearly 20,000 international students to the United States annually.

Over three days, Summit fellows engaged with experts in the field and shared their unique perspectives on civic leadership, while exploring the nation’s capital. CIEE’s goal is to help these students gain a better understanding of themselves and the United States that they can take back to their home countries.

“CIEE is committed to fostering mutual understanding and peaceful relations between people of the United States and other nations, and the Civic Leadership Summit is an important part of this effort,” said CIEE President and Chief Executive Officer James P. Pellow. “This year, we have fellows from Russia, Ukraine, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Venezuela, and many other countries, learning from one another and exploring ways to make their communities, countries, and regions better places. We’re proud to play a role in building these important relationships among the people of different nations.”

That certainly was the case for Ghadeer Abu-rass, a student from Jordan who worked this summer as a hostess near the Grand Canyon. “I have met people from all over the world, I have been introduced to cultures I never thought I would meet – especially at the Grand Canyon,” she said. “We’ve shared our stories and learned so much from each other. I was even invited to a Navajo rain dance ceremony. I will never forget it."

Civic Leadership Summit Fellows with Robin Lerner
Civic Leadership Summit Fellows Aly Metwaly, Mahmoud Sadek, Ghader Aburass, and Manuel Cedeno with Robin Lerner, deputy assistant secretary for private sector exchange at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

A highlight of the Summit was a daylong workshop, the Be a Changemaker Challenge, led by Ashoka’s Youth Venture, an organization that inspires and supports teams of young people to launch and lead their own community-benefiting initiatives, clubs, organizations, and businesses. During the Challenge, fellows identified their passions to create change for social issues, and then worked in groups to develop plans for launching their own social ventures in their home countries.

“My Ashoka training got me thinking about things I never thought about,” said Umar Asghar, a student from Pakistan who spent the summer working as a cashier at a Cape Cod supermarket. “Not just thinking about how things can be different. But to understand how to create change and make it happen.”

Other Summit highlights included:

  • A screening of “Girl Rising,” a film created as part of a global action campaign designed to educate and empower girls. The film takes audiences on a journey around the globe to spotlight the stories of unforgettable girls who, despite being born into unforgiving circumstances, follow their dreams, raise their voices, and lead remarkable lives.

  • A session with Street Law, Inc., an international initiative that creates engaging classroom and community programs that teach people about law, democracy, and human rights worldwide.

  • Discussions facilitated by The World Justice Project, an independent, multidisciplinary organization that engages citizens and leaders to advance the rule of law, reducing corruption, combating poverty and disease, and protecting people from injustice.

Civic Leadership Summit fellows are selected based on essays or videos that describe their achievements as a global citizen and what they hope to gain from living and working in the United States. CIEE provides each selected fellow with a fellowship grant to cover the cost of attending the Summit, including travel, accommodations, meals, and activities.

CIEE Alumni, Interns, and Trainees Gather in New York and Oakland

Current and past CIEE participants made connections from coast to coast this summer, with two special events held in New York City and Oakland, Calif.

More than 80 participants, alumni, and staff from 18 countries gathered on June 28 in Central Park for a picnic lunch and fun with Frisbee, horseshoes, and touch football. The casual outdoor setting made it easy for guests to unwind and compare experiences. Participants from all areas of CIEE enjoyed the chance to share their experiences from studying, working, and teaching abroad, and exchanged perspectives with young people from all over the world who are gaining valuable professional experience in the United States. 

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Just before the picnic, nearly 40 CIEE Internship USA and Professional Career Training USA participants met to learn more about the Big Apple – their current home away from home – with a guided tour of the Museum of the City of New York. The visit reflects CIEE’s commitment to helping J-1 participants explore and engage in American culture.

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On the west coast, nearly 70 alumni, intern, trainee and summer work travel participants, and special guests representing 13 countries gathered July 10 at the Oakland Museum of California for an evening of culture and cocktails. There were many opportunities to mix and mingle as guests explored the exhibits “Super Awesome: Art and Giant Robot” and “Vinyl: The Sound and Culture of Records.”

Like other CIEE alumni events, these gatherings helped CIEE participants forge new friendships and build professional networks in the spirit of understanding and growth through ongoing global exchange.

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“The best part of these events is the new connections that are made,” says Dan Olds, CIEE’s director of alumni relations. “It’s wonderful to see a New York native who has studied in France exchange thoughts with a young French student about her time in Paris and pass along the name of a colleague, for example. These links help our participants keep international exchange alive long after they travel abroad.”

See photos from New York and Oakland.

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