IJniteci States General Accounting Office GAO Report to Congressional Committees I+twuary lW0 U.S. INFORMATION AGENCY Inappropriate Uses of Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas National Security and International Affairs Division B-234667 February 16,199O The Honorable Joseph R. Biden Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy Chairman, Subcommittee on Immigration and Refugee Affairs Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate The Honorable Jack Brooks Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives The Honorable Bruce A. Morrison Chairman, Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and International Law Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives This report addresses the activities of visitors entering the United States under the J visa to participate in educational and cultural exchange programs, We made our review in response to the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 1989 (P.L. 100-461, sec. 656). We are sending copies of this report to other cognizant congressional committees, the Director of the US. Information Agency, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and other interested parties. This report was prepared under the direction of Joseph E. Kelley, Director of Security and International Relations Issues, who may be reached on (202) 2754128 if you or your staff have further questions, Other major contributors are listed in appendix I. Frank C. Conahan Assistant Comptroller General Executive Summary As a result of controversy over whether aliens in the United States on Purpose J visas were performing activities consistent with legislative intent, Public Law loo-461 required GAO to examine the J-visa program admin- istered by the U.S. Information Agency (USIA). Specifically, GAO was to determine whether participant activities under the J-visa program are consistent with congressional intent of the J-visa legislation. GAO responded to that requirement and also assessed USIA’Smanagement of the J-visa program. I The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 was enacted Background to promote foreign policy objectives of mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries through educational and cultural activities. To enable nonimmigrant aliens to enter the United States to participate in educational and cultural activities, the act established the J visa. USIA designates organizations as sponsors for participants from other countries, It classifies participants into seven categories: student, teacher, professor, research scholar or specialist, professional trainee, trainee, and international visitor. According to USIA data, about 111,000 participants entered the United States under the J-visa program in 1987-the last year with the most complete data. This was a 71 per- cent increase over 1983-the first year in the data base that GAO examined. Based on GAO'S analysis of the 1961 act and its legislative history, to be Results in Brief eligible for J visas participants and their activities must fit the catego- ries described in the act. A participant must be “a bona fide student, scholar, trainee, teacher, professor, research assistant, specialist, or leader in a specialized knowledge or skill, or other person of similar description.” A participant must come to the United States for the pur- pose of “teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, con- ducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, or receiving training.” Most J-visa activities appear to conform to the intent of the 1961 act. However, GAO believes that certain activities and programs in the trainee and the international visitor categories, including the summer student/travel work, international camp counselor, and au pair (child care) programs, are inconsistent with legislative intent. GAO identified instances of participants working as waiters, cooks, child care providers, Page2 GAO/NSIAD-9O-61EducationalaudCulturalExchaugeVieae . ExecutiveS u m m a r y a m u s e m e n ta n d leisure park workers, a n d s u m m e r c a m p counselors. A u thorizing J visas for participants a n d activities th a t a r e n o t clearly for e d u c a tio n a l a n d cultural p u r p o s e s a s specified in th e act dilutes th e integrity o f th e J visa a n d o b s c u r e s th e distinction b e t w e e n th e J visa a n d o th e r visas g r a n te d for work purposes. U S I A ’S m a n a g e m e n toversight o f th e J-visa p r o g r a m h a s n o t b e e n a d e - q u a te to e n s u r e integrity o f th e p r o g r a m . T h e J-visa regulations d o n o t e n s u r e th a t participant activities c o n fo r m to th e intent o f th e act. U S IA lacks a d e q u a te information o n participant activities, d o e s n o t e n force r e q u i r e m e n ts th a t p r o g r a m s p o n s o r s p r o v i d e periodic information o n participant activities, h a s n o systematic process to m o n i tor s p o n s o r s ’ a n d participants’ activities, a n d d o e s n o t a d e q u a tely coordinate th e pro- g r a m internally or with o th e r a g e n c i e sh a v i n g visa responsibilities. P riiw ipal Findings S o r q eJ-V isa A ctivities A r e P a r ticipants’ activities in th e trainee category e n c o m p a s s e da g r e a t N o t :C o n siste n tW ith diversity o f work situations. P a r ticipants a r e a l l o w e d to work, b u t their e m p l o y m e n t m u s t b e consistent with their status a s d e fin e d in th e legis- L e g isla tive In te n t lation In G A O ’S view, s o m e training consisted primarily o f e m p l o y m e n t in c o m m e r c i a l e n terprises with n o cultural or e d u c a tio n a l e m p h a s i s p l a c e d o n th e participants’ activities, This training involved participants in s u c h capacities a s waiters, cooks, h o tel workers, a n d a u to m o b i l e b o d y repairers. For e x a m p l e , in th e h o tel a r e a , o n e participant w h o w a s a h o tel receptionist in his h o m e c o u n try w o r k e d a s a receptionist, cashier, a n d h o u s e k e e p e r ;a n o th e r participant w h o w a s a h o tel c h e f in his h o m e c o u n try w o r k e d a s a h o tel store r o o m m a n a g e r . T w o participants work- i n g in a u to m o b i l e b o d y repair a n d p a i n tin g w e r e performing th e s a m e type o f work th a t th e y h a d p e r f o r m e d for 4 or 5 years in their h o m e c o u n tries. P a r ticipants’ activities in th e international visitor category also e n c o m - p a s s e d a g r e a t diversity o f work situations. This category, w h i c h w a s established b y U S I A regulations, h a s b e e n u s e d for participants a n d activities th a t d o n o t fall into th e categories m e n tio n e d in th e J-visa stat- u te . T h e s u m m e r student travel/work, international c a m p counselor, a n d a u pair p r o g r a m s a r e o f this n a ture, P a r ticipants in th e s e p r o g r a m s h a v e w o r k e d a t fast fo o d restaurants, s u m m e r resorts, a m u s e m e n t parks, a n d s u m m e r c a m p s ; d o n o t h a v e special skills; or h a v e p r o v i d e d P a g e3 G A O / N S I A D 9 0 4 3Educational 1 a u d Cultural E x c h a n g eVisas . F Executive Summary full-time child care. Public Law loo-461 required the continuation of au pair programs for fiscal years 1989 and 1990. The same section of Pub- lic Law loo-461 required GAO'S assessment of J-visa activities, including the au pair program. In GAO'S view, such programs do not include par- ticipants or activities of the type specified in the J-visa statute. GAO was unable to determine the number of participants engaged in questionable activities because USIA’Sinformation system is not ade- quate to make that determination, but it appears that several thousand participants are involved. prehensive enough to ensure that participants and their activities are Inbdequate consistent with the intent and purpose of the 1961 act. The regulations do not state how the policy objectives of the 1961 act can be achieved, and they provide little guidance as to what constitutes legitimate educa- tional and cultural exchanges. Many J-visa activities are not discussed in the regulations. For three types of programs that are discussed-the practical trainee, summer student travel/work, and international camp counselor-the regulations do not require participants’ status and their activities to be the same or similar to the categories described in the act. Furthermore, USIAreported in 1987 that its regulations do not ensure compliance with the act. As of December 1989, USIA had not revised its regulations. USIA has devoted more attention to the J-visa program during the past Problems in Managing year or so and has worked to correct problems in the program, but the the J-Visa Program following areas still require management attention: Persist l USIA does not have reliable data on the nature and extent of J-visa activ- ities because its management system is not up-to-date, is unreliable, and contains erroneous information. USIA has not adequately monitored the J-visa program and complied with its regulations to (1) cancel unused and underused programs, (2) obtain annual reports to monitor sponsor activities, (3) ensure that programs are reciprocal to the extent required (that is, programs send Americans to other countries as well as bring aliens to the United States), and (4) ensure that extensions of participants’ stay in the Page 4 GAO/NSIAD-sOBl Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas . Executivesumnuuy United States comply with policy and program objectives. It has no sys- tematic procedure for monitoring sponsors’ and participants’ activi- ties-some of which have been ongoing since the 1960s. . USIA has not adequately coordinated the J-visa program within the agency and with other agencies, such as the Department of Labor and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which have responsibilities related to visas, to ensure compliance with U.S. foreign policy objectives and labor and immigration laws. Because GAO believes that several kinds of participants and activities are not consistent with the intent of the 1961 act, the Congress may want to review such participants and activities and determine whether they should be included under other visas or explicitly provided for under the J-visa or other legislation. GAO recommends that the Director, USIA, Recommendations to the Director, USIA . revise the J-visa regulations to make them consistent with the authoriz- ing legislation and more comprehensive regarding policy and program objectives and criteria as to what constitutes a bona fide program under the act. . take several specific actions related to improving the management infor- mation system, complying with regulations, monitoring program activi- ties, and ensuring that program activities promote policy and program objectives. (See ch. 3 for detailed recommendations.) Agency Comments cials, who expressed no disagreement with GAO’S analyses and positions. They expressed their intent to address the concerns in the report. For example, USIAofficials said they plan to establish three task forces to address regulatory, information management, and other management concerns. Page 6 GAO/NSIAD-9061 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas C&dents Letter Expcutive Summary Ch pter 1 8 Int 1oduction Background Type and Number of Participants 8 9 I Type of Sponsors 11 Objectives, Scope, and Methodology 12 Ch/apter 2 14 Most J-Visa Activities Legislative Intent of J-Visa Program Some J-Visa Activities Are Inconsistent With Legislative 14 15 Appear to Be Intent Consistent W ith Some J-Visa Activities May Be More Appropriately Done 20 Under Other Nonimmigrant Visas Legislative Intent, but J-Visa Regulations Do Not Ensure Compliance With 21 SoqneDo Not Legislative Intent Conclusions 22 Matters for Consideration by the Congress 23 Recommendations to the Director, USIA 23 Agency Comments 23 Chbpter 3 24 Prbblems Persist in Computerized Management Information System Is Not Reliable or Current 25 USIA’s Management of Annual Reports Not Fully Used to Monitor Sponsor 26 the J-Visa Program Activity Extensions of Participants’ Stay in the United States Not 28 Monitored The J-Visa Program Should Be Better Coordinated 28 Recent Agency Actions 29 Conclusions and Recommendations 30 Agency Comments 31 Appendix Appendix I: Major Contributors to This Report 32 Page 6 GAO/NSW9561 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Contents Taples Table 1.1: Categories of Participants 9 Table 1.2: Participants (By Category), 1983-88 11 Table 1.3: Participants (By Sponsor), 1983-88 12 Abbreviations GAO General Accounting Office INS Immigration and Naturalization Service USIA U.S. Information Agency Page 7 GAO/NSIAD-9081 Educational end Cultural Exchange Visas Chapter 1 Introduction Controversy over the legitimacy of certain activities of foreign nationals in the United States on J visas (for example, child care by au pairs’ ) sparked congressional interest in the J-visa educational and cultural exchange program. Public Law 100-461, October 1, 1988,z requires GAO to determine whether exchange visitors coming to the United States on J-l visas3 are performing activities consistent with congressional intent of the J-visa legislation. The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 19614 was Badkground intended to promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges. To serve its purposes, the act established the J visa by add- ing section lOl(a)( 16)(J) to the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. llOl(a)(l5)(J)). It defined a J-visa user as “an alien having a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of aban- doning who is a bona fide student, scholar, trainee, teacher, professor, research assistant, specialist, or leader in a field of specialized knowledge or skill, or other person of similar description, who is coming temporarily to the United States as a participant in a program designated by the Director of the United States Informa- tion Agency, for-thepurpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observ- ing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, or receiving training.” (underscoring added) The U.S. Information Agency (USIA) is responsible for managing the J-visa (Exchange-Visitor) program. USIA designates organizations as J-visa program sponsors6 Any reputable U.S. agency or organization or recognized international agency or organization having U.S. membership and offices can be a sponsor. ‘Au pairs are live-in nannies who provide child care. 2Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 1989,102 Stat. 2268-37. 3J-1 visas are issued to program participants, and J-2 visas are issued to participants’ family mem- bers. In this report, we refer to J-l visas only as J visas. 4Public Law 87-266,76 Stat. 627 (1961). 6A February 27, 1986, memorandum from USIA’s Office of General Counsel to the Director, IJSIA, states that designation involves a determination by USIA that a proposed program specifically fits within guidelines of the J-visa regulations. Page 8 GAO/NSIAD9O-61Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas chapter 1 Jntroduction USIAprovides program sponsors with authorizing forms for J visas6 The sponsor, through various means such as visits or through affiliated organizations overseas, selects individual program participants, fills out the USIA forms, and provides them to selected individuals. An individual presents the form to a consular officer at an overseas post and obtains a J visa. At the U.S. port of entry, the Immigration and Naturalization Ser- vice (INS) dates the form and sends a copy to USIAfor its use as a source document in its automated data system. The data system supports the program office in operating the J-visa program and is the only consoli- dated source of detail information on J-visa participants entering the United States. The J-visa regulations define seven categories of J-visa holders. These Type and Number of categories are important because they indicate a participant’s general Participants activity and the maximum length of time the participant is to stay in the United States. See table 1.1 for the categories and the purposes for requesting a J visa. Table 1.1: Categories of Participants Category of participant Reason for J-visa request Student To pursue formal courses, research, or teaching that will lead to a recognized degree or certificate in an established school or institution of learning. Students are permitted to stay in the United States as long as they pursue substantial scholastic programs leading to recognized degrees or certificates. After receiving a degree or certificate, they may remain in the United States up to 18 additional months for practical training. Trainee To obtain on-the-job training with firms, institutions, and/or agencies in specialized fields of knowledge or skill for periods not to exceed 18 months. Teacher To teach in established primary or secondary schools or schools offering specialized instruction for up to 3 years. Professor To teach or conduct advanced research in an established institution of higher learning for up to 3 years, Research scholar or To undertake or participate in research or in demonstrating specialist specialized knowledge or skills for up to 3 years. International visitor To travel, observe, consult, research, train, share, or demonstrate specialized knowledge or skill, or participate in organized people-to- people programs for up to 1 year. Professional trainee To pursue clinical training in the medical and allied fields for up to 7 years. 6Form IAF’-66, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange-Visitor (J-l) Status. Page B GAO/NSIADBOQ1Educational and Cukural Jhchange Visaa Chapter 1 Introduction In addition, the regulations establish the maximum length of stay for certain specific participants: I . graduate nurses, 2 years; I . medical technologists, medical record librarians, medical record techni- cians, radiologic technicians, nurse anesthetists, and other participants in similar categories, length of the approved training program plus a maximum of 18 months for practical training not to exceed a total of 3 years; ~ . alien employees of USIA, 10 years plus additional periods determined in individual cases; and . research assistants sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, 5 years. According to the regulations, exceptions to the specified lengths of stay in the United States will be permitted only in unusual circumstances. The J-visa program has been operating since the early 1960s with the passage of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. Table 1.2 shows the number of participants, by category, entering the United States for 1983438, the period covered by USIA’Sdata base that we analyzed. Although USIA’Sdata base is incomplete and contains some erroneous data, it does indicate that as a general trend, the number of J-visa participants entering the United States increased each year. Sev- enty-one percent more participants entered the United States in 1987 than in 1983. Data for 1988 was incomplete, but indications are that the percentage increase for 1988 should be greater. Page 10 GAO/NSIAD-!30-61Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Chapter 1 Introduction Tabl~1.2:Particlpank (By Category),1983-88 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988(partial) 26,568 30,109 36,373 37,707 40,318 29,230 ?tit$F-- 5,551 1,133 6,165 1,205 6,729 1,386 7,767 1,525 9,352 1,683 7,375 1,119 Profebsor 3,155 3,551 4,118 8,951 a 20,788a 15,Oa.Y Resebrch scholar/ specialist 13,287 14,415 17,946 24,841a 30,429* 32,913a Interfjational visitor 12,938 17,281 21,666 15,424” 6,626” 2,876a Professional trainee 1,912 1,840 2,004 1 ,756a 1,447a 996a Unspecified 9 42 196 187 8 7 Total 64,553 74,608 90,418 98,158 110,651 89,601 Perctnt yearly increase 16 21 9 13 aBeginning with the category “professor” in 1986, the number of participants is not correct by category because of a flaw in USIA’s data system. An indeterminable amount of the next category is included in each category. For example, some research scholars are included with professors and some interna- tional visitors are included with research scholars. This data error must be considered in interpreting information in this table. / Source: Prepared by GAO from USIA data base. cational institutions, hospitals and related institutions, nonprofit organi- zations, and businesses-provides further insight on the range and diversity of J-visa participants’ activities. Participants have come to the United States under about 1,500 programs since 1983. Table 1.3 shows the number of participants for each type of sponsor for 1983-88. J Page 11 GAO/NSIAD-9081 Educational and Cultural Exchauge Visas Chapter 1 introduction Table 3: Participants (By Sponsor), 1983-88 1988 1987 SDons 0 r 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 (partial) (percent) Qoverhmental -. -.-..-... Us;A--.,. 5,270 5,519 6,851 6,819 6,885 5,006 6 AIDa 5,085 5,029 7,071 8,013 9,092 5,867 8 State 1 9 7 25 11 77 33 b .--..----I.. lnternaltional-.- .organizations ..._ __-_-.--------.--- 765 812 816 736 708 419 1 Other .--.. 0 overnment -.. ..^....~ 1,847 2,047 2,303 2,204 2,421 1,623 2 Subto al 12,978 13,414 17,086 17,783 19,183 12,948 17 Nong ---- vernmental -..... ..-. .._...-_-.-._-- ..-. Educa.._.. ..-_- 1t.ional - ~..-. --~- 22,684 25,039 31,284 31,427 34,223 21,863 31 Hosoital .._..... . 1 .-_ _~~- 93 81 81 70 60 43 b ._” - ---._--- 24,827 31,257 36,512 41,856 48,665 44,633 44c _..._ -___._.- . -.-__~__-- 3,973 4,817 5,475 7,022 8,520 10,114 8 51,577 61,194 73,352 80,375 91,468 76,653 83 Total 84,553 74,608 90,418 98,158 110,651 89,601 100 aAgency for international Development. bLess than l/2 percent. CAbout 48 percent of nonprofit organization participants in 1987 were in the student category. This was equivalent to about 21 percent of all entrants into the United States in that year. Source: Prepared by GAO from USIA data base. As shown in table 1.3, the government programs (17 percent), educa- tional programs (31 percent), and students entering the United States under a nonprofit sponsor program (21 percent) represent the majority of participants. We examined whether participants receiving J visas for current pro- Objectives, Scope, and grams of educational and cultural exchange are performing activities Methodology consistent with legislative intent as directed by Public Law 100-46 1. We did not, however, make judgments as to the value of any program. In addition, we examined USLA’S management of the program. We interviewed officials at USIA, INS, the Departments of State and Labor, and the Agency for International Development. We met with sev- eral former officials of the J-visa program and a former INS General Counsel familiar with the program. We also met with William Fulbright, former senator and one of the initial sponsors of exchange-visitor legis- lation, to obtain his perspectives. Page 12 GAO/NSIAD-9061 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Chapter 1 Introduction At USIA we reviewed sponsors’ program files, J-visa regulations, and additional information provided by program officials. We obtained and analyzed USIA’S master data file as of April 1989 on participants enter- ing the United States since 1983. We researched the authorizing legislation and legislative history and consulted with other agencies regarding their interpretation of legisla- tive intent, After our initial survey of the program and consultations with congres- sional staff, we narrowed the scope of our work to sponsors in two cate- gories: nonprofit organizations and businesses. In these two categories of sponsors, we concentrated on the trainee and the international visitor categories of participants and the au pair program. We chose them because (1) participant activities are not clearly defined; (2) USIA offi- cials, consular officers, and others have questioned the cultural and edu- cational value of some of the participant activities in these areas; and (3) nonprofit and business sponsors bring in the largest number of train- ees and international visitors. We did not focus on programs sponsored by government agencies, edu- cational institutions, hospitals and related institutions, and the high school student programs of nonprofit organizations. USIA and others interviewed during the survey did not question the overall educational or cultural aspects or intent of these sponsors’ programs. Furthermore, we did not pursue the participant categories of student, teacher, profes- sor, research scholar/specialist, or professional trainee because their nature appeared to conform to the statute. We interviewed 23 sponsors with a total of 33 J-visa programs. We interviewed sponsors having programs with a wide spectrum of activi- ties and a large number of participants. These 33 programs had about 26,000 (or 78 percent) of nonstudent participants sponsored by non- profit and business entities in 1987. We met a total of 90 participants in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Wash- ington, DC., Virginia, Florida, Texas, and California. We did our work between December 1988 and December 1989 in accord- ance with generally accepted government auditing standards. We dis- cussed the contents of this report with responsible agency officials and considered their views in preparing the report. Page 13 GAO/NSIALl-9081 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Most J-Visa Activities Appear to Be Consistent with Legislative Intent, but Some Do Not The majority of J-visa activities appear to comply with the J-visa stat- ute and the legislative intent that educational and cultural exchanges are for students, scholars, teachers, trainees, and persons with highly specialized skills. University and high school exchange programs, along with some government programs, make up the bulk of these activities. In the period since 1961, however, the J-visa program has expanded to include activities that do not meet the qualifying language of the J-visa statute. These activities involve practical trainees, international visitors, and au pairs, although the Congress recently indicated that the cur- rently structured au pair program should continue, at least temporarily, to be a J-visa program. There are other visas, such as the H, L, and M visas, that may be appropriate to use for certain training, international visitor, or au pair activities. USIA regulations are not sufficiently comprehensive to ensure compli- ance with the purpose and intent of the act. Furthermore, the regula- tions authorize some exchange activities which are not consistent with the act. USIA reported in its 1987 Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act report that its regulations needed revisions, but as of December 1989 it had not made any changes.l The 1961 act was intended to promote U.S. foreign policy objectives of Legislative Intent of friendly, sympathetic, and peaceful relations between the United States J-Visa Program and other countries by increasing mutual understanding through educa- tional and cultural exchanges. This purpose was similar to that of a predecessor act, the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948. The 1961 act described educational exchanges as (1) “studies, research, instruction, and other educational activities” by American citizens in foreign countries and by foreign citizens in American schools and insti- tutions of learning and (2) “visits and interchanges between the United States and other countries of students, trainees, teachers, instructors and professors.” It described cultural exchanges as (1) “visits and interchanges between the United States and other countries of leaders, experts in fields of specialized knowledge or skill, and other influential or distinguished persons” and (2) participation in (a) tours abroad and in the United States in nonprofit activities by creative and performing ‘The Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act of 1982 (31 USC. 3612) requires federal agencies to evaluate their internal control systems and report annually to the President and the Congress on their plans to correct identified weaknesses. Page 14 GAO/NSIAIWO81 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas chapter 2 Most J-Viea Activities Appear tr, Be Consistent With Legislative Intent, but Sume Do Not artists and athletes representing any field of the arts, sports, or any other form of cultural attainment and (b) international artistic, dra- matic, musical, sports, and other cultural festivals, competitions, meet- ings, and like exhibitions and assemblies. The act created the J visa consistent with these purposes. I The conference report on the 1961 act indicated that J-visa participants ~ would be able to work, but only when the employment was not inconsis- tent with the program in which they were participating. To be consistent with the intent of the 1961 act, J-visa participants must meet two requirements: (1) Their status must be the same or similar to the categories described in the statute. (2) They must enter the United States to engage in activi- ties consistent with those described in the statute. That is, participants must be bona fide students, scholars, trainees, teachers, professors, research assistants, specialists, leaders in a special- ized knowledge or skill, or other persons of similar description, They must be engaged in teaching; instructing or lecturing; or studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, or receiving training. Some J-Visa Activities Are Inconsistent W ith Legislative Intent Practical Trainees Practical on-the-job trainees under the J visa engage in a wide array of activities. For example, participants work in the areas of automobile body repair, aviation, banking and finance, computers, horse breeding, hotel and restaurant operations, horticulture, laboratory research, and retail. In our view, some practical training activities are not consistent with the eligible categories of participants and activities defined in the act. Determinations regarding the appropriateness of training activities, however, are highly judgmental because the act is not explicit regarding Page 16 GAO/NSIAD-SO-61Educational and Cultural ExchangeVisas chapter 2 Mont J-MM Activities Appear to Be fystx?nt With Leglelative Intent, but Some its intent, implementing regulations are loosely written, and activities engaged in are very diverse. The terms “trainee” and “receiving training” are not expressly defined in the act or its legislative history. While the terms “trainee” and “receiving training” seem to be considerably broader than the other cat- egories set forth in the statute and for that reason are more difficult to define, in our view participants and activities involved in these catego- ries must be comparable to the other categories cited in the act. We noted several instances of training which, in our view, did not have the same status as the categories mentioned in the statute and which would not generally be considered to have the same educational and cul- tural value. Training appeared to consist primarily of manual labor in commercial enterprises with no cultural or educational emphasis placed on the participants’ program activities. In the horticulture area, three participants were engaged in work which included planting, pruning, spraying, cutting, arranging, and shipping various plants and flowers. Two were recent high school graduates, and one was a cook in his home country. Two participants working in automobile body repair and painting were performing the same type of work they had performed for 4 or 5 years in their home countries. In the hotel area, one participant who was a hotel receptionist in his home country was working in various different positions, such as recep- tionist, cashier, and housekeeper. Another participant who was a hotel chef in his home country was working as a hotel store room manager. In the restaurant area, one participant who had worked as a waiter, receptionist, and night manager in his home country was working as a waiter. Another participant who was a chef in his home country was working as a chef in a U.S. restaurant. USIA officials have expressed the view that some practical training pro- grams have not been consistent with the intent of the J-visa legislation. For example, a USIA legal analysis suggested that the terms “trainee” and “training” should be construed more narrowly than they have been in the past. The analysis indicated that the 1961 act refers to exchanges of an educational and cultural nature between students, trainees, teach- ers, instructors, professors, and leaders and that the term “trainee” refers to academic trainees rather than business or vocational trainees. Page 10 GAO/NSIAD9061 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Chapter 2 Most J-Viaa Actlvlties Appear to Be Consistent With Legislative Intent, but Some Do Not IrwjlequateTraining Regulations USIA’S J-visa regulations are not comprehensive enough to ensure com- pliance with the intent of the act. USIAreported this as a major internal control weakness in its 1987 and 1988 Financial Integrity Act reports. The following quote is from its 1987 report. “Current regulations governing the administration of the Agency’s Exchange-Visitor Program are not sufficiently comprehensive to ensure compliance with the intent and purpose of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act (MECEA) of 1961 . . . . For example, the regulations covering training programs lack sufficient def- inition to prevent work programs, under the guise of training, from being conducted under the program.” Under the practical trainee program, as described in USIA’S regulations, participants receive on-the-job practical training for up to 18 months to enhance their skills through active participation in day-to-day opera- tions at a work site. The regulations specify that sponsors are to ensure that (1) the training is suitable and appropriate for an individual’s field of endeavor and level of career development and (2) participants have sufficient knowledge of English to function in the English-speaking environment. A USIA official pointed out that although it is not clear how the training regulations serve the purposes of the 1961 act, it appears that the regu- lations were issued to serve the needs of employers. Sponsors are free to determine what constitutes training and to establish training programs after participants arrive in the United States. A participant is not pro- hibited from filling a normal work position. USIA officials expressed con- cern that the practical training regulations may give the appearance of circumventing immigration regulations. International Visitors The international visitor category has been used to some extent as a catchall for participants and activities not clearly within the categories mentioned in the J-visa statute. The summer student travel/work, inter- national camp counselor, and au pair2 programs are of this nature. These programs, as well as others in the international visitor category, do not require a participant’s status and activity to be the same or similar to that described in the act. 21n January 1989 USIA changed the category of au pairs from international visitor to student, but it did not require au pairs to meet USIA requirements for students. Page 17 GAO/NSIAD-9061 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Chapter 2 No& J-Visa Activities Appear to Be Consistent With Legislative Intent, but Some Do Not International visitors are not mentioned in the statute as an authorized category of persons to receive J visas. USIA regulations, however, iden- tify “international visitor” as a category of participants coming to the United States for “travel, observation, consultation, research, training, sharing, or demonstrating spe- cialized knowledge or skill, or participating in organized people-to-people programs.” Any determination about the propriety of an international visitor designation must begin with the J-visa statute. If the participant’s status is the same or similar to the categories described in the statute and if the statute authorizes the activity in which the international visitor is par- ticipating, then issuing a J visa to a participant as an “international visi- tor” would be proper. Conversely, if these conditions are not met, then prospective participants could not properly be issued a J visa either as an international visitor or under any other category set forth in the regulations. Summer Student Travel/Work Summer student travel/work programs, which provide foreign univer- prO&lITl sity students with employment opportunities in the United States during their summer vacations, do not require participants to engage in activi- ties cited in the legislation. Some sponsors told us that the participants work at fast food restaurants, summer resorts, amusement parks, or other places where they can find work. Participants may be placed in jobs before they arrive or find work after they arrive. These are not jobs requiring special skills or distinguished merit and ability. One of the pro- gram sponsors we interviewed brings about 8,000 to 11,000 summer stu- dents a year to the United States. International Camp Counselor Similar to the summer student program, the international camp coun- PrOgWTl selor program does not meet the requirements for valid J-visa activities. The program, as currently structured, is designed to give participants the opportunity to work at an American camp and to impart appropriate skills to American youth. Aside from this general statement of program purpose, USIA does not ensure that participants and their activities are consistent with the categories specified in the legislation. The only requirements are that a camp counselor be fluent in English and 18 years of age. Two sponsors we interviewed each brought in over 3,500 camp counselors in 1987. Au Pair Program* Early in 1986, USIA designated two pilot au pair programs for a period of 2 years. Au pair programs bring to the United States nonimmigrant Page 18 GAO/NSIAD9OSl Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Chapter 2 Most J-VLsaActivities Appear to Be Consistent With Legislative Intent, but Some Do Not aliens between the ages of 18 and 26 to provide child care for host fami- lies. The participants, or au pairs, live with American families as guest members for 12 months. They work up to 4Ei hours a week. As of Decem- ber 1989, USIAhad designated six more au pair programs modeled after the two pilot programs. These programs are each authorized to bring up to 2,840 participants a year into the United States. During the 2-year pilot program, an interagency review panel, including representatives of the Departments of State and Labor, INS, and USIA, determined that full-time child care work programs did not meet the educational and cultural requirements of the statute and should not be continued on that basis. USIA concluded that 46 hours of child care a week constituted full-time domestic employment and was not authorized by the act or by USIAregu- lations. It determined that the 1961 act and its legislative history sug- gest that exchanges under the act are primarily to be educational or cultural. USIA maintained that household domestic work was not intended. In December 1987, USIAinformed the au pair program sponsors that the program could not be continued permanently on a 45-hour-a-week basis but that programs involving 30 hours a week of child care with a signifi- cant educational component would be allowed. The suggested reduction to 30 hours was not well received by the au pair sponsors. That number of hours would not provide working parents with required child care. A Department of Labor official informed us that the current au pair pro- gram violates the spirit of the J-visa statute. The official pointed out that a 48hour week constitutes full-time employment, and, as such, makes au pairs temporary foreign workers. These workers would nor- mally have to receive certification from the Department of Labor that enough qualified U.S. workers were not available and that the wages and working conditions attached to job offers would not adversely affect similarly employed U.S. workers. As a result of interest generated over the au pair program, the Congress enacted legislation requiring the continuation for fiscal years 1989 and 1990 of au pair programs, as previously authorized by USIA.This legisla- tion was in the same section of Public Law loo-461 that required GAO’S assessment of J-visa activities, including the au pair program. We have independently assessed the compatibility of current au pair programs with the 1961 law for purposes of determining whether they should be Page 19 GAO/NSIAD-9081 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Chapter 2 Most J-Visa Activities Appear to Be Consistent With Legislative Intent, but Some Do Not continued after fiscal year 1990 under current law. We believe that the currently structured au pair programs are not compatible with the origi- nal intent of the 1961 act. We hold this view because current au pair programs are essentially child care work programs that do not correlate with the qualifying categories mentioned in the J-visa statute. As cur- rently structured, au pair programs would normally be subject to Department of Labor administrative review and certification. While it is not clear how some J-visa activities fulfill the intent of the Some J-Visa Activities 1961 act, other visas, such as the H, L, and M, may be more appropri- May E3eMore ately used for some of the activities, These visas have certain safe- Appropriately Done guards to protect U.S. interests, however, and the requirements relating to them are more stringent than those governing the J visa: Unber Other Nonimmigrant Visas Under the H-2A, visa individuals may come temporarily to the United States to perform agricultural labor or services if unemployed persons capable of performing such services cannot be found. A labor certifica- tion is required. Under the H-3, visa industrial trainees may come temporarily to the United States if their employment will not displace a U.S. worker. The L visa is designed especially for intracompany transfers. An alien who has worked for one year with a firm may enter the United States in order to continue his services to the employer in the capacity of mana- ger, executive, or any position that requires specialized knowledge or skill. The U.S. employer must petition INS for the admission of the alien. The M visa allows an alien to pursue a full course of study at an estab- lished vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution in the United States. The course of study must be approved for an individual by the Attorney General, after consultation with the Secretary of Educa- tion. Although the vocational student may not normally work in the United States, INS may authorize the student to accept employment for practical training after completion of the student’s course of study. Because the regulations governing the exchange visitor program are not as stringent as those governing other visas-for example, labor certifi- cations and INS petitions are not required-employers may prefer to use the J visa. Several sponsors who use other visas as well as the J visa stated that they prefer the J visa because it is easier to administer. The Department of Labor estimated a 43-percent increase in J-visa admis- sions between 1985 and 1988. Labor said that this growth was probably fueled in part (1) by a desire of aliens and employers to avoid the more Page 20 GAO/NSIAD-90431Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Chapter 2 Most J-Viea Activities Appear to Be Consistent With Legislative Intent, but Some Do Not stringent requirements of work visas-both permanent and tempo- rary-that are dependent upon labor certifications and (2) by the employer sanctions provisions in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. The discussions in the previous sections regarding practical trainees, J-Visa Regulations international visitors, and au pairs show that USIA’Sregulations gov- Do ,Not Ensure erning J-visa programs are not comprehensive enough to ensure compli- Cohpliance With ance with the intent and purpose of the 1961 act. In addition to the inappropriate activities we found, USIA recognized the weakness in its Legislative Intent regulations as a major internal control problem to be resolved. As stated by USIA, “the regulations covering training programs lack sufficient defi- nition to prevent work programs, under the guise of training, from being conducted under the program.” The act authorizes educational and cul- tural exchanges to promote mutual understanding between the peoples of the United States and other countries and specifies the status and activities of participants. The regulations do not ensure that J-visa par- ticipants and activities comply with these requirements. In addition to authorizing or otherwise permitting inappropriate activi- ties, the regulations are broad, vague, or lacking in various respects. For example, they do not contain a statement of policy and program objec- tives or state how the foreign policy objectives of the 1961 act will be achieved. Also, they provide little guidance on what constitutes a legiti- mate J-visa program. Under their definition, a J-visa program is a program of a sponsor that is designed to promote an interchange of (1) persons, knowledge, and skill and (2) developments in the fields of education, arts, and sciences and concerned with one or more of the J-visa categories of participants: stu- dent, trainee, teacher, professor, research scholar, international visitor, professional trainee, or alien employee of the Voice of America. (How- ever, in another place the regulations state that participants are not lim- ited to these categories.) The regulations provide that only sponsors of bona fide educational and cultural exchange programs as described in the 1961 act may be consid- ered for J-visa programs. However, they provide no information as to what constitutes “bona fide” educational and cultural exchanges except for five types of programs: the alien physician program, the practical Page 21 GAO/NSIAD-o-B1 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Chapter 2 Most J-Visa Activities Appear to Be Consistent With Le&ladve Intent, but Some Do Not trainee program, a summer student travel/work program, an interna- tional camp counselor program, and a high school program for teenag- ers. The regulations do not contain similar descriptions for other activities such as university and government-sponsored activities or other kinds of activities under the international visitor category. It appears that at least half of all participants in 1987 were in programs not directly addressed in the regulations. 1 The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 was Ccjnclusions intended to increase mutual understanding through educational and cul- tural exchanges. As a general rule, to meet the educational and cultural intent of the act, exchange visitors’ status must be the same or similar to the categories named in the statute, and their activities must be consis- / tent with activities in the statute. Most J-visa participants and activities (for example, those involving university and high school academic and government programs) appear to meet these qualifying conditions. How- ever, some participants and activities in the practical trainee and inter- national visitor categories, such as summer student travel/work and camp counselor, and the au pair program do not conform to these quali- fying conditions. Some participants do not have the prerequisite status, or they are not engaged in authorized activities, or both, and thus do not qualify for J visas. USIA’s J-visa regulations are too vague and general to ensure that activi- ties comply with legislative intent and, in some instances, authorize activities that do not conform to the statute. For the practical trainee, summer student/travel work, and international camp counselor pro- gram, the regulations do not require the participants to have the status or to perform activities consistent with the act. Some of the activities now being engaged in under the J visa may be more appropriate under other visas, such as the H work visa, the M vocational school visa, or the L intracompany transfer visa. Sponsors prefer to use the J visa, however, because it is easier to administer. The J visa was established specifically for educational and cultural exchange purposes. Permitting participants to engage in activities not clearly within these purposes dilutes the integrity of the J visa. It also obscures the distinction between the J visa and other visas. Page 22 GAO/NSIAD90+31Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas ? . Chapter 2 Most J-Visa Activitiee Appear to Be Ckmsietent With Legislative Intent, but Some Do Not A number of J-visa activities in the practical trainee and international Ma1ters for visitor categories, including summer student travel/work, camp coun- CO1 sideration by the selor, and au pair activities-some of which have been ongoing for Cor gress years -do not conform to the original legislative intent concerning edu- cational and cultural exchanges. The Congress may want to review the status of these kinds of participants and activities to determine whether they should be included under other visas or explicitly provided for under the J-visa or other legislation. Ret mmendations to make them consistent with the authorizing legislation and more compre- the Director, USIA hensive regarding policy and program objectives and criteria as to what constitutes a bona fide program under the act. As part of this revision, we recommend that the Director ensure that participants’ status and their activities are consistent with the statute. officials provided oral comments on a draft of this report. They Aghncy Comments USIA expressed agreement with our analyses and views on the legislative intent of J visas. They indicated their intent to address the issues raised in the report and to establish an interagency task force to address neces- sary regulatory changes. Page 23 GAO/NSIAJMO81 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Chhpter 3 problems Persist in USIA’s Management of the J-Visa Program USIA has devoted more attention to the J-visa program during the past year or so. Nevertheless, persistent major problems and internal control weaknesses affect the integrity of the J-visa program. USIA has not complied with its own regulations or adequately monitored program activities. It cannot effectively use its computerized manage- ment information system to manage the J-visa program because the sys- tem is unreliable and not up-to-date. USIA does not . know the number of valid J-visa programs, . have current or accurate information on the number of participants entering the United States and their category of activity, and . periodically review programs -even though some were designated in the 1960s-to ensure that their activities conform to USIApolicies and objectives. USIA has not canceled inactive programs as provided for by the regula- tions, Additionally, it has not monitored or enforced its regulations to ensure that . programs have a minimum of five participants; . sponsors submit annual reports on their activity as a management tool; . programs are reciprocal, that is, Americans are sent to other countries and nonimmigrant aliens are brought to the United States; and . participants extend their stay in the United States beyond specified lim- its only in unusual circumstances. In addition to these problems and weaknesses, chapter 2 shows that USIA’S regulations do not ensure program compliance with the 1961 act. GAO Standards for Internal Controls in the Federal Government? require a reasonable assurance that internal control systems prevent improper activity. In its Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act reports for 1987 and 1988, USIAacknowledged that the J-visa regulations did not ensure that programs conformed to the statute and the management information system was unreliable and failed to control the program. Thus, USIAcannot adequately manage the J-visa program. %andards to be followed by executive agencies in establishing systems of internal control, as required by the Federal Managers’Financial Integrity Act of 1982 (31 USC. 3612(b)). Page 24 GAO/NSLAD9061 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visaa Chapter 3 Problema Persist in USIA’s Management of the JWsa Program USIA'S computerized data system does not provide current and accurate Computerized data on valid J-visa programs or participants entering the United States Management USIA officials are aware that information provided by the system is not Information System Is current or reliable and therefore is of limited use in managing the pro- gram. USIAhas not improved the system, although it identified system Noq Reliable or weaknesses as a major internal control problem in its 1987 Financial Cudrent Integrity Act report. Nudber of Programs The number of valid J-visa programs cannot be determined through the J-visa information system. Based on the sequential numbering of desig- nated programs, it appears that over 6,000 programs have been approved since the J-visa program began. USIA officials have estimated that there are currently 4,000 designated programs. USIA’Smaster data file, which records participant activity from 1983 to the present, con- tains about 2,400 programs. USIA officials could not explain the differ- ence between the number of programs in the data base and their estimate of 4,000 programs. USIA does not routinely monitor programs for inactivity to determine if they should be revoked, although the regulations provide that a pro- gram designation may be revoked when a program has remained inac- tive for 2 or more years. At least 44 percent of the 2,400 programs in the data system have been inactive since 1986. About 900 have had no new participants since 1983. Of the 1,600 programs that have had new par- ticipants, 37 have had no participants since 1984,88 since 1986, 147 since 1986, and 234 since 1987. According to a USIAofficial, some sponsors have recently requested visa authorization forms for programs that have had no new participants for many years. In these instances, USIA informed sponsors that they would have to submit a new sponsor application form. The regulations also provide that the minimum number of participants for a program is five a year, but USIAhas not enforced this provision. Our review of the 470 programs of nonprofit and business sponsors in 1987 showed that 210, or 46 percent, had less than five participants. Number of Paxticipants USIA’S data on the number of participants entering the United States is incomplete, out of date, and in some cases erroneous. Information GAO/NSIAD-9041 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Chapter 3 Problems Persist in USIA’s Management of the J-Visa Program regarding participants is taken from the visa authorization form. INS col- lects copies of the authorization forms from participants as they enter the United States and provides the forms to USIA.USIAenters informa- tion from the forms into its management information data system. Since August 1986, USIAhas had a chronic backlog of visa forms because the computer data entry function was unfunded for one year. Funds for data entry have run short each year since then. When funds for fiscal year 1989 ran out in March, USIA had on hand an estimated 30,000 forms that had not been entered into the system. When the data entry function resumed in July 1989, the number of forms on hand had increased to an estimated 160,000. According to one official, during the last several years, USIAstaff have not reviewed, corrected, and entered into the data base all visa forms rejected by data processing for errors. He attributed this to the accumu- lation of thousands of forms during unfunded periods and the difficulty of reviewing thousands of errors made by sponsors in filling out the forms. The system also contains systemic errors related to recording partici- pant categories, and thus the number of participants in some categories cannot be determined. Since about 1986, participants have been errone- ously recorded in the categories of professor, research scholar/special- ist, international visitor, and professional trainee. For example, two programs with over 9,000 participants in the international visitor cate- gory were shown in USIA’S data base with participants in the research scholar/specialist category. This systemic error exists because USIA failed to revise its data base when it revised the visa authorization form in the mid-1980s, combining the professor and the research scholar/spe- cialist categories into one field. On the revised forms, the international visitor category is placed in the field occupied by the research scholar/ specialist on the original form. Consequently, sponsors checking the international visitor category on the revised form are shown in USIA’S data base as having participants in the research scholar/specialist category. Aside from data obtained from USIA’Scomputerized data system, annual Annual Reports Not reports are the primary means USIAhas for monitoring sponsor and pro- filly Used to Monitor gram activity. USIA does not do independent reviews to ensure that spon- Sponsor Activity sors are carrying out activities consistent with their designations and current foreign policy and program objectives. USIArequires annual Page 26 GAO/NSIAD-9041 Educational end Cultural Exchange Visas Chapter 3 Problems Persist ln USIA’s Management of the J-Visa Program reports from some sponsors but not from others, Where reports are required, USIA has not monitored or ensured their submission. Without annual reports, an adequate data system, and regular visits to observe program activities, USIA has no systematic procedure for monitoring J-visa programs. The regulations require programs to be reciprocal if possible, and annual reports are USIA’S primary source of information on whether sponsors have reciprocal programs. The summer student travel/work program requires a one-for-one reciprocal program. If a sponsor fails to meet this requirement, the regulations provide that USIAcan restrict the number of foreign participants in the following year. USIAhas not enforced the one-for-one reciprocal requirement. The four summer student/travel work programs included in our review had substantially smaller out- bound programs than their inbound programs. According to a USIAofficial, the staff do not have time to keep track of sponsors who fail to submit annual reports. The official intends to implement a computerized system for tracking sponsors’ submissions of required reports. If a sponsor submits an annual report, it is reviewed by a staff member for (1) approved program activities, (2) program growth, and (3) reciprocal program activity. Additional information is requested if warranted. On this basis, only the sponsors who comply with the reporting requirement may be held accountable, while no action would be taken against sponsors who do not comply with the reporting requirement. USIA does not have a standardized format for the annual reports to facil- itate its use of them. Furthermore, the regulations do not state why the reports are required from some sponsors or how they should be used, except to monitor the reciprocal requirement. One sponsor complained about this lack of guidance on the reporting requirement. A USIA official told us that sponsors of nonprofit and business programs, of which there are about 470, are generally required to submit annual reports. A uniform reporting requirement would facilitate obtaining the information needed for management and monitoring purposes. If this management procedure were extended to additional sponsors, a uniform reporting requirement would be even more important. Page 27 GAO/NSLAD90-61Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Y Chapter3 P r o b l e m sPersist In U S IA ’sM a n a g e m e noft the J-VisaP r o g r a m U S IA h a s n o t m o n i to r e d or e n fo r c e d its regulations requiring th a t exten- E jcte n s ionso f sions o f participants’ stay in th e United S ta te s b e y o n d specific lim its P rticip a n ts’S tay in will b e permitted only in e x c e p tio n a l circumstances or if a d d i tio n a l tim e t h e” U n ite d S ta tes N o t is r e q u i r e d to c o m p l e te highly specializedtraining. This r e q u i r e m e n t is to e n s u r e th a t participants r e m a i n in th e United S ta te s only s o l o n g a s is necessary to satisfy their stated p r o g r a m objectives a n d th e objectives o f th e 1 9 6 1 act. E a c h year a large n u m b e r o f participants h a v e e x t e n d e d their stay in th e United S ta tes. U S IA ’s d a ta b a s e o n participants s h o w s th a t in 1 9 8 7 a b o u t 4 2 ,6 0 0 exten- sions o f p r o g r a m s w e r e g r a n te d to participants. A b o u t 6 3 p e r c e n t o f th e s e extensions w e r e g r a n te d to participants in e d u c a tio n a l p r o g r a m s . H o w e v e r , a b o u t 6 ,8 0 0 extensions w e r e for participants in p r o g r a m s o f n o n p r o fit a n d b u s i n e s s sponsors. A lth o u g h w e c o u l d n o t d e te r m i n e from th e d a ta b a s e h o w m a n y o f th e s e extensions e x c e e d e dth e lim its speci- fie d in th e regulations, U S IA o fficials informed u s o f th r e e b u s i n e s s s p o n - sors w h o h a d routinely a p p r o v e d p r o g r a m extensions a n d participants’ stay in th e United S ta te s b e y o n d th e tim e specified in th e regulations. S p o n s o r s a p p r o v e p r o g r a m extensions, a n d participants a p p l y directly to INS for extension o f their J visas. U S IA ’SJ-visa regulations specify th a t if a participant r e q u e s ts a n extension th a t e x c e e d sspecified lim its, th e s p o n s o r m u s t strongly s u p p o r t th e r e q u e s t with e v i d e n c e th a t th e r e a r e e x c e p tio n a l circumstances or th a t a d d i tio n a l tim e is r e q u i r e d to c o m - plete highly specializedtraining. U S IA h a s n o t m o n i to r e d or e n fo r c e d this r e q u i r e m e n t, a n d th e r e is n o specific p r o c e d u r e for INS coordination with U S IA b e fo r e visa extensions c a n b e g r a n te d . U S IA c o u l d e n s u r e th a t p r o g r a m extensions a r e in th e interests o f J-visa policy a n d p r o g r a m objectives b y m o n i toring a n d /or participating in th e extension process, M o n i toring c o u l d b e d o n e th r o u g h th e c o m p u terized information system if th e system w e r e properly m a n a g e d .A s a n addi- tio n a l c o n trol procedure, INS c o u l d coordinate with IJSIA b e fo r e g r a n tin g visa extensions b e y o n d specified p r o g r a m l e n g ths. T h e J-V isa P r o g r a m tio n a l a n d Cultural A ffairs a n d with o th e r agencies,s u c h a s INS a n d th e S h o u ldB e B e tte r D e p a r tm e n t o f L a b o r , c o u l d p r o v i d e a d d e d a s s u r a n c eth a t p r o p o s e d C o o rdinateYd J-visa activities a r e consistent with U .S . e d u c a tio n a l a n d cultural e x c h a n g e policy objectives a n d with a p p l i c a b l e immigration a n d labor laws. P a g e2 8 G A O / N S I A D 9 0 - 6Educational 1 a n d Cultural E x c h a n g eVisas c chapter a Problems Persist in USIA’s Management of the J-Visa Program The J-visa program is managed by USIA’SOffice of General Counsel. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, however, has primary responsibility for carrying out the purposes of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act. The Bureau develops, administers, encour- ages, and supports activities intended to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. It also seeks, through its programs, to promote the free exchange of ideas and information between U.S. citizens and people around the world. The J visa was established to aid in carrying out these purposes. The J visa allows full-time work in the United States without requiring a labor certification from the Department of Labor. The Department is responsible for ensuring that aliens do not displace Americans in employment opportunities. In the opinion of a senior Department of Labor official, the Department should know who comes to the United States and receives employment. Coordination with INS and the Department of Labor and with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs prior to the designation of a new type of J-visa program should help to ensure the appropriateness of pro- posed J-visa holders’ activities. For example, the au pair program was not coordinated with Labor and its concerns considered before the pro- gram was initiated. INS was informed of the proposed au pair program , but USIAdid not address INS’ concerns or further coordinate the program before it was approved. From the outset, both agencies expressed their position that 46 hours of child care a week constitutes full-time employ- ment and possesses all the indications of being an employment program . Similarly, a senior official in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs expressed the view to us that J-visa activities should be educa- tional or cultural in a formal sense. In his view, full-time work in an activity not included in the statute, such as 45 hours a week of child care, could not meet that criteria. In the last year or two, USIAhas devoted more attention to the J-visa Recent Agency program . It has consolidated the program designation function and the Actions waiver review function2 under one supervisor. It has also added several new staff members to the program . This staff has progressively worked zUSIA evaluates participants’ requests for waivers of the 2-year home residency requirement under which certain participants must return to their home country for 2 years before they can transfer to another visa status in the United States. Page 29 GAO/NStAD9O81 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Chapter 3 Problems Persist in USIA’s Management of the J-Visa Program to improve management of the program. USIA officials indicated that inadequate staffing had contributed to the program’s problems. USIA staff are aware of inconsistencies in the way the program has been administered, of questionable activities-especially in the practical trainee area-and of the need to revise the regulations. They have taken corrective action in some areas but not in others. ing compliance with federal regulations, improving monitoring of pro- Rekommendations gram activities, and ensuring that designated programs continue to serve legitimate foreign policy interests would enhance the overall administration of the J-visa program. We further believe that better coordination of the J-visa program with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and other responsible agencies would ensure that it serves the foreign policy objectives in the 1961 act. We recommend that the Director, USIA,take the following actions: (1) Determine the number of valid programs, update the computerized management information system, cancel inactive programs, and require programs to comply with the condition to have at least five participants a year. (2) Review and revalidate all designated programs periodically to ensure that their activities are consistent with their designation and that the designation continues to serve policy and program objectives. (3) Correct the erroneous participant categories in the data system and provide funding for timely input of participant information from the visa authorization form. (4) Establish the form and content of annual reports, ensure that spon- sors submit annual reports, and use the reports to monitor program activities. (5) Monitor sponsors’ extensions of participants’ stay in the United States beyond specified program lengths. Work with INS to ensure that extensions are granted only in exceptional circumstances or for comple- tion of highly specialized training and are equitably and uniformly administered. Page 30 GAO/NSIAD90-61 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas Chapter 3 ProblemrrPersist in USIA’s Management of the J-Visa program (6) Establish a requirement that new types of program designations be coordinated with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Department of Labor and other involved agencies. they indicated their intent to improve management of the program. USLA officials said they plan to establish two task forces to address matters discussed in this chapter. One will address needed improvements in the J-visa information management system and the other will address other management problems. Page 91 GAO/NSIAD-9061 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas h*, * Apkndix I Major Contributors to This Report Jess Ford, Assistant Director Nabional Security and Joseph Murray, Assistant Director Inknational Affairs Roy Hutchens, Evaluator-in-Charge Office of the General Jerold Cohen, Assistant General Counsel Cobnsel, Washington, Richard Seldin, Senior Attorney D.& (482579) Page 32 GAO/NSIAD-9081 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas ‘C.-T __------I_----~ -.--I__- t i
U.S. Information Agency: Inappropriate Uses of Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-02-16.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)