[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 185 (Friday, September 23, 2011)]
[Notices]
[Pages 59182-59183]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-24551]


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DEPARTMENT OF STATE

[Public Notice: 7609]


Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; Exchange Visitor 
Program; Summer Work Travel Program Sponsor On-Site Reviews

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: Pursuant to the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act 
of 1961 (the ``Act''), the Department of State (Department) is 
authorized to facilitate and direct educational and cultural exchange 
activities in order to develop and promote mutual understanding between 
the people of the United States and the people of other countries by 
means of educational and cultural exchanges. These exchanges, conducted 
by Department-designated sponsors assist the Department in furthering 
the foreign policy objectives of the United States. By this Notice, and 
in order to enhance its continued oversight and monitoring of 
designated sponsors, the Department announces its intent to conduct on-
site reviews of sponsors in the Summer Work Travel Program to evaluate 
regulatory compliance with Program regulations set forth at 22 CFR Part 
62.
    The Summer Work Travel Program provides foreign college and 
university students the opportunity to work and travel in the United 
States during their extended academic break (i.e., summer vacation) for 
a period not to exceed four months. On April 26, 2011, the Department 
published in the Federal Register, an Interim Final Rule governing the 
Summer Work Travel category of the Exchange Visitor Program. In that 
rulemaking, the Department explained its three-step approach to 
addressing a number of concerns regarding sponsor

[[Page 59183]]

administration of this program. Step one occurred in January 2011 when 
the Department adopted a pilot program to enhance protections for 
foreign nationals from Belarus, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Russia, and 
the Ukraine (``Pilot Program''). Step two was the Interim Final Rule, 
which incorporated many of the concepts of the Pilot Program into the 
overall Summer Work Travel program regulations. Now, as step three, the 
Department intends to conduct on-site reviews of the largest Summer 
Work Travel program sponsors to monitor sponsor performance, ``to 
assess category-wide regulatory compliance and to consult with sponsors 
about implementation of the Interim Final Rule.'' The Department's 
close monitoring of Summer Work Travel sponsors during the summer of 
2011 has resulted in a modification to its plans for on-site reviews. 
Specifically, the Department evaluated all Summer Work Travel sponsors' 
compliance with program regulations regarding the maintenance of 
current and accurate records in the Student and Exchange Visitor 
Information System (SEVIS) for the period September 1, 2009 through 
August 30, 2010. It also reviewed Summer Work Travel-related complaints 
for the 2011 summer season and monitored the media for additional 
reports of program problems. As a result of these efforts, the 
Department has determined that it will not visit sponsors based solely 
on their size, but instead will conduct compliance reviews of those 
designated sponsors whose compliance with the relevant Exchange Visitor 
Program regulations deserve closer examination by the Department.
    Currently there are 51 designated exchange sponsor entities in the 
Summer Work Travel category. Of those, the Department has identified 14 
sponsors that will be part of in the upcoming compliance review. 
Although the Department may later decide to evaluate additional 
sponsors, at this time, it intends to visit these 14 sponsors (which 
together sponsor approximately 65% of all Summer Work Travel 
participants) sometime between October and December 2011. On average, 
it is expected that each on-site review will take two full business 
days and will be preceded ten work days' in advance by written notice 
and a request for certain specified documents.
    As noted above, these on-site reviews will focus on evaluating the 
overall program administration and the effectiveness of the 
modifications to sponsors' program administration resulting from 
implementation of the Interim Final Rule and the Pilot Program. A 
primary goal of these reviews is to assess whether the sponsors have 
been able ``to comply and remain in continual compliance with all 
provisions of Part 62'' (22 CFR 62.3(b)(1)). To this end, the reviews 
will focus on sponsor compliance with the Pilot Program guidelines and 
participant monitoring requirements, maintenance of accurate SEVIS 
records, and sponsors' relationships with third parties they have 
engaged to assist in carrying out the core programmatic functions 
inherent in the administration of exchange visitor programs, as set 
forth in the regulations in Part 62 (i.e., screening, selection, 
orientation, placement, monitoring, and the promotion of mutual 
understanding). Other areas of interest may include sponsors' roles in 
assisting participants in finding suitable housing; decision-making 
processes (including the numbers of participants accepted); self-
imposed compliance mechanisms; procedures for handling student 
participant problems (including finding new jobs for those whose pre-
arranged placements were unsatisfactory); and policies for refunding 
deposits or payments to student participants.
    Finally, the Department intends to use these reviews as an 
opportunity for sponsors to provide feedback on the Pilot Program and 
the Interim Final Rule in general, and more specifically, sponsors' 
experience with the relevant new regulatory provisions during the 
summer season of 2011. Feedback will be used to assist in issuing the 
Final Rule. Best practices will be collected from the on-site reviews 
and shared with the wider sponsor community. Sponsors who are not 
included in these reviews and wish to comment should address their 
comments and concerns to the Department at JVisas@State.gov.
    The Department believes these compliance reviews are one of many 
critical steps that can help ensure the Summer Work Travel program 
meets the underlying goals of the Act while also allowing participants 
to enjoy safe and successful exchange program experiences conducted 
within the parameters of the Exchange Visitor Program regulations.

    Dated: September 16, 2011.
Rick A. Ruth,
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange, Acting, Bureau 
of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Department of State.
[FR Doc. 2011-24551 Filed 9-22-11; 8:45 am]
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