Every year, hundreds of thousands of workers come to the United States on J-1 visas to participate in temporary work and study programs. While J-1 programs are intended to encourage cultural exchange and learning, people report cases of abuse, labor exploitation and human trafficking. Like other J-1 programs, the Summer Work Travel program offers few protections to participants. We’ve received complaints on excessive fees, lack of work, and other violations to program rules. Participants have told us that they come in search of a dream to find new opportunities but go back to their countries disappointed and indebted.
In January 2017, the United States State Department published a new rule under the J-1 Summer Work Travel program; while it has some positive and incremental changes, they fall short of the reforms this program needs to protect workers. Now, YOU have the opportunity to help strengthen the rights of J-1 workers.
Raise your voice! The U.S. government will accept public comments on the new rule until Monday, February 27th, 2017. Below, you can find out how to demand increased labor protections under the J-1 Summer Work Travel program.
Step 1: Visit the U.S. Federal Government’s Regulations website.
Step 2: Copy the text of the Model Comment below and paste into the box labeled “Comment.” If you are not a migrant worker, please edit the first line of this letter accordingly. We suggest: “As a migrant worker advocate…”; “As a person concerned with migrant workers’ rights…”; or a phrase that best describes you. Feel free to add to or edit the comment!
Step 3: Fill in your First Name and Last Name.
Step 4: Click “Continue.”
Step 5: Review your comment. When you are satisfied, click “Submit Comment.”
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Office of Private Sector Exchange
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
U.S. Department of State
SA-5, Floor 5
2200 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20522-0505
RE: Comments on RIN 1400-AD14, Proposed Rule, “Exchange Visitor Program – Summer Work Travel,” 82 Fed. Reg. 4120 (Jan. 12, 2017), [Public Notice 9522]
Dear Ms. Lowry,
As a migrant worker, I am writing to comment on the Proposed Rule in the J-1 Summer Work Travel (SWT) Program. The Proposed Rule does not go far enough to fix this deeply flawed program, which leaves workers vulnerable to abuses, often after having paid high program related fees. The Proposed Rule falls short of accomplishing the overhaul the SWT program so desperately needs to curb abuses. The program should be reformed to:
· Regulate Recruiters. Regulate the recruitment of J-1 workers to protect against fraud, excessive fees, and human trafficking. Prohibit designated J-1 sponsors from charging fees to workers, and ban fees charged to workers by third party recruiters with whom sponsors engage, both in the U.S. and abroad. Create a public recruiter registry identifying all actors in the chain of recruitment.
· Protect Workers’ Rights. Guarantee that J-1 workers have robust labor and employment protections. Pay J-1 workers a wage comparable with the average wage for the occupation filled according to local wage standards.
· Facilitate Access to Justice. Provide a path to justice for J-1 workers by protecting them from retaliation, facilitating their ability to hold employers liable, and providing them with legal recourse when sponsors, employers, and recruiters violate their rights.
· Create Transparency. Make information about the J-1 program publicly available and easily accessible to ensure that the program can be effectively monitored and that the regulating agencies can be held accountable by stakeholders and the public.
· Create Accountability. Eliminate the sponsor-based enforcement and monitoring structure, and hold employers directly liable for compliance with the program rules.
Thank you for the steps you have taken to improve the J-1 SWT Program. I hope you will broaden your efforts to protect migrant workers, both in their recruitment and in the workplace.