The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has advised designated sponsors within the intern and trainee categories that, beginning in March, representatives from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) will conduct site visits at various trainee and intern site locations across the United States. In fact, site visits have already been held at locations in New York City and Minneapolis and, by all accounts, ECA is in full site visit mode and is making the rounds in earnest. These visits are part of the DOS’s continuing regulatory review of the trainee and intern categories.
ECA representatives will visit the host organization training sites and interview participants in connection with their ongoing exchange programs (as outlined in the approved DS-7002 form) and the cultural activities associated with their programs. J-1 host companies may not be notified prior to the site visits. We anticipate that ECA representatives could request J-1-related documentation pertaining to individual participants following visits to training sites.
The DOS announcement was made prior to the release of a recent report that is extremely critical of work-related J visa programs. Given the increasing public scrutiny as to whether exchange visitors are receiving appropriate training and cultural exchange, we recommend that J-1 host companies take this opportunity to review their programs and to contact us with any questions about the responsibilities of an exchange visitor host organization.
To prepare for potential site visits, we encourage your organization to:
Notify J-1 participants: You should notify the active J-1 participants that representatives from the DOS may visit their training locations to interview them about their ongoing training program and the cultural activities that they are undertaking during their time in the United States. Participants should also notify the J-1 sponsor along with the appropriate contacts at your organization if they are interviewed as part of these site visits.
Review the approved Training/Internship Placement Plan (DS-7002): J-1 participants and their host organization supervisors should review this document and be prepared to discuss how their programs are progressing according to the approved training plan.
Be prepared to discuss cultural activities and participant engagement with Americans: During interviews, there are two areas about which DOS representatives are likely to question each participant: 1) the cultural activities they are undertaking during their programs; and 2) their ability to have regular interaction with American colleagues (and with Americans in their communities). Participants and host organization representatives should be prepared to discuss both of these areas during the visit.
Note: This article was published in the February/March 2014 issue of the Immigration eAuthority.