oversight

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)

               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.&




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