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State Department proposes changes to increase oversight and interaction
The U.S. Department of State has issued a proposed rule amending the labor requirements for foreign students working in the U.S. on cultural exchange visas.
The regulations modify various aspects of the department's Summer Work Travel program, which has been under review since 2010.
The program is one of the most popular cultural exchange opportunities for foreign college and university students to use to visit and work in the United States during breaks from school, according to the State Department. Approximately 1 million foreign students have taken part in the program over the past 10 years.
But the program has also been criticized as a source of cheap labor leading to exploitative working conditions. The most publicized example of this occurred at a Palmyra, Pa., Hershey Co. packing plant in 2011 when hundreds of foreign student participants went on strike, claiming harsh working conditions, illegally low pay and a lack of cultural activities. The Government Accountability Office in 2015 concluded that the program needed more oversight to ensure that participants experience the cultural activities promised and are protected from labor violations.
The State Department's proposal will affect an estimated 26,000 employers—currently working with 41 designated program sponsors and 1,900 foreign and domestic third parties—hosting approximately 90,000 exchange visitors annually.
[SHRM members-only toolkit: Obtaining U.S. Employment Visas]
The proposed changes include:
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