Date: June 28, 2013

J-1 Visa Summer Work Travel Program Update

The United States Senate approved comprehensive immigration reform legislation this week by a vote of 68 to 32.The original bill had several provisions that would have devastated the J-1 Visa, Summer Work Travel program. Among other things, the original bill would have imposed a $500 fee on each student but prohibited passing that fee on to the student and would have prevented the imposition of sponsor program fees on the students. This would have meant sponsors would work at a loss or employers would have to pay program costs. Additionally, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced an amendment that would have prevented large employers from utilizing the program.

IAAPA worked closely with a group of businesses and sponsors to ensure the final bill contained much more favorable provisions. The Sanders amendment was not taken up on the Senate floor. The $500 fee was reduced to $100 in the final bill, and the prohibition on the exchange student paying the fee was removed. Headway was made on the amendment that focused on management of the program, but this provision remains far from ideal.

The outlook for this bill is uncertain. One group of House members, including the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, supports moving small, targeted immigration bills and will continue to do this into July. Another group in the House is working on a comprehensive immigration bill it hopes to introduce soon. It is unclear at this point how the House leadership will move forward on immigration reform. We understand that in mid-July House leadership will meet with the party and determine the best course forward. IAAPA has, and will continue, to work on the House side to ensure the Summer Work Travel program is in the most favorable position possible in the event an immigration bill passes the House and the House and Senate engage in conference negotiations.

We understand a large part of why we were successful in saving the J-1 Visa Summer Work Travel program was the tremendous amount of grassroots effort by you, IAAPA members, to reach out to various Senators. We thank you for your part in that work. We will continue to keep you informed as the debate moves forward and will be in contact for additional grassroots support at the appropriate time.