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New rules set for US Summer Work Travel programme

The five-decade-old US Summer Work Travel programme brings more than 100,000 foreign university students to America each year to work for up to three months and then travel for a month.

Responding to a wave of complaints from foreign students regarding job placements, work conditions and participant accommodations, and following a comprehensive review begun in mid-2010, the State Department has issued a new Interim Final Rule (IFR) significantly revising the types of jobs the students can do.

To strengthen the short-term US Summer Work Travel exchange programme, the State Department is implementing safeguards, including increasing the protections for American workers, expanding the list of ineligible positions, enhancing oversight and vetting of sponsors and third parties, and defining appropriate cultural activities for international participants.

Under new rules effective as of 11 May 2012, international students will no longer be allowed to work in warehouse or packing jobs, on night shifts or in jobs the Labor Department has designated “hazardous to youth.” In addition, the students must not be placed in jobs involving gambling, traveling fairs, massage or tattooing.

After 1 November 2012, students will not be allowed to work in most factory jobs, including manufacturing and food processing. They will be barred from mining, oil exploration and most construction jobs.

The State Department also established new requirements for sponsors to inform students about specific cultural activities that will be available, and to review all jobs offered to students to make sure they are appropriate. Job placements “must provide opportunities for participants to interact regularly with US citizens and experience US culture during the work portion of their programs,” the rules specify. Most students under the programme have worked in resort jobs, in hotels or restaurants as waiters, desk clerks, lifeguards or maintenance staff members, or in national parks.

The department also tightened requirements on sponsors to confirm annually with employers that no American workers were displaced by students. Employers will not be allowed to hire foreign students if they have laid off workers in the previous four months.

The programme, which uses the J-1 visa, is designed to give students a chance to experience the United States. The students’ trips are arranged by American sponsoring agencies that find jobs and housing for them.

The new rules are the most extensive changes the State Department has made to its largest cultural exchange programme since the summer of 2011 when several steps were taken to amend the regulations to further protect the health, safety and welfare of the participants, and to reinforce the cultural exchange aspects of the programme.

Source: US State Department, NY Times

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