J-1 VISAS FOR CULTURAL EXCHANGE
The solution to your seasonal staffing needs?
By Penny Reyes Bonhagen
Under the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, the U.S. Department of State’s Summer Work/Travel program provides “foreign postsecondary students an opportunity to become directly involved in the daily life of the people of the United States through travel and temporary work for a period of up to four months during their summer vacation” (Frequently Asked Questions, Exchange Visitor Program Summer Work/Travel Program, United States Depart¬ment of State, pg. 8, April 6, 2005). Foreign students participating in the program are authorized to work anywhere in the United States. Typically, most students work in nonskilled service positions at businesses such as resorts, hotels, restaurants, and amusement parks.
Hiring a foreign student through the Summer Work/Travel program has some distinct advantages.
All the immigration-related matters are coordinated by organizations designated by the U.S. Department of State (sponsors) to administer exchange-visitor programs.
The immigration process and the costs associated with hiring foreign students intimidate many businesses. More often than not, it is the foreign student who initiates the process with a sponsor. It is also the student who pays the sponsors the fee to obtain the required documents to procure a J-1 visa for entry to the U.S.
CANDIDATES PROFICIENT IN ENGLISH
All prospective exchange visitor participants must possess sufficient proficiency in the English language to participate in their programs. (22 CFR §62.10(a)(2))
All prospective exchange-visitor participants must be “bona fide postsecondary students actively pursuing degrees or full-time courses of study at accredited educational institutions, or as that status is defined by the foreign national’s home country educational system.” (22 CFR §62.32(b)(2))
Given this educational requirement, all program exchange participants will have completed a secondary-school education or its equivalent. Employers can be assured that candidates will have a certain level of education.
CANDIDATES SELECTED AND QUALIFIED BY YOUR BUSINESS
No prearranged employment before the foreign student enters the United States is required.
Employers can make a hiring decision after the foreign student has arrived in the United States. Businesses will have the benefit of interviewing the candidate before extending an offer of employment. This will assure that the employment relationship will meet the needs of both the employer and the employee.
A foreign student could contribute wonderful cultural influences to a business. Likewise, the opportunity that an employer gives a foreign student to gain an insight into American business and culture is an experience of a lifetime.
Think beyond the traditional sources of seasonal employees. Participating in the Summer Work/Travel program may be just the thing a business needs to turn its next busy season into a financially and culturally rewarding experience.