Spring is here! As we are well into 2019, we continue to be committed to high-quality cultural exchange experiences for your business and our participants. This past year, we saw a measurable jump in participant satisfaction rates – up eight percentage points from the previous year. I want to thank you for your role in this. We could not do any of this without you, and we truly believe we work with the very best host employers!
As we jump head first into 2019, we will continue to strive for this high level of excellence. CIEE is continuing to support participants who may not otherwise be able to participate on our program though Access Scholarships. Also, we remain active and involved in the health of the program through various advocacy efforts.
With it being a new year, we have some resolutions and exciting initiatives on the horizon as well:
As always, thank you for your continued commitment to cultural exchange. We could not do it without you!
Yumer Mestan is like most students interested in the Work & Travel USA program. On paper, his resume looks similar to other participants: he enjoys drawing, reading books, and is eager to experience living and working in the United States. But there is one difference: Yumer is deaf. Yumer applied for the program having strong written and reading English language abilities. However, having never been in an English-speaking environment, his learning curve was reading lips in English, a unique challenge that most participants do not face. Despite this, Yumer was determined to make this program experience a reality. Thanks to Atlantic Management Holiday Inn Express in Bethany Beach, Delaware, he was able to! Through his Work & Travel USA job placement, Yumer got to experience the American way of life: from his first Pride Parade in D.C., to seeing the Washington Monument, to a job opportunity that allowed him to feel proud and independent. Below, we hear from his host employer on why their participation in the program means opening their doors to students from different backgrounds and cultures…and disabilities.
Atlantic Management Holiday Inn Express Bethany Beach:
Why Work & Travel USA?
We get to bring students from different backgrounds, makes us more culturally aware, I believe it’s something that our guests accept and enjoy. We get to learn about other countries and they get to learn about the United States before they go onto their other careers.
Can we explore the positives for hiring a participant with a disability such as Yumer?
With Yumer’s situation, he was here earlier than other students, so I got to know him better and he was very open and gave me a lot of background information about how he has been disowned by his family because of being deaf and his sexuality. We gave him the weekend off and he got to go to DC to experience Pride weekend. He told me that was the happiest he has ever been in his whole life. He brought back pictures and he brought me back a bracelet. He has pictures in front of the Washington Monument and he told me that was the moment that he finally found his sense of self. I was so happy for him and he literally smiled for two days straight and told me he had never been able to experience somewhere where everyone was like him and no one judged him because of his disability. He said that he also might have never been able to experience that at home and it took coming to the United States to have that life changing opportunity. It’s not the normal there and it is the normal and accepted here.
Where there any challenges you have faced?
Yes, with employees and guests. There was one situation with a guest that was trying to get his attention in the hallway and didn’t even realize he was deaf. She complained to me and I explained to her why he did not respond. The guest did feel bad about it because she was being very rude but understood. I had to tweak his employment then because he was in housekeeping. I thought maybe he would be better in laundry. He still had a lot of interaction because our laundry department is centralized, and everyone comes in and out through the department. That was a good fit for him and he still gets to go upstairs and do his thing but has less pressure of rude guests.
What does it feel like to have Yumer on your team?
I am proud of it and I feel he is a good fit for us. He comes every day with a positive attitude and a huge smile on his face, works very hard and that is what I need on my team. He is a team player and there is no negative to having Yumer as part of my team.
Any general statement that you want to say about the program?
I am a true advocate of the program. We do have some negativity from guest utilizing the students, but I don’t pay attention to the guests. These guest regardless…some people you just can’t make happy. I explain to them that unfortunately sometimes there are language barriers, but they are not trying to ignore you or being rude, but they can come down and ask us to get done whatever they need. We communicate with the students daily, so we will get done what the guest needs.
Yumer returned home, after a busy travel period (he told us he enjoyed New York City)! He now has great stories to tell about inclusion and opportunity for all in America. People with disabilities face hurdles in Bulgaria but, according to Yumer, “…In the United States, people accept me for who I am and do not look down on me. …I had the opportunity to do this by myself, I feel proud and independent. The advice I would give would be for people to not be afraid, it is an experience that you have to try.” Be on the lookout for more of Yumer’s story on CIEE’s Exchanges blog.
It’s participants like Yumer that remind us how access to this program is so vital towards our mission of inclusion, diversity and access to exchange to achieve public diplomacy. This is one of the reasons why CIEE is proud to continue our CIEE Access Scholarships. Generous donations from employers and individuals like you make this program possible. Please consider donating so that Access Scholars – high achieving international students from all over the world – have the opportunity to gain skills, competencies, and the experience necessary to contribute positively to our global community.
If you have a story to tell, we want to hear it. Different perspectives are so important – a participant, a supervisor, a guest or a community member. We know the impact of this program has a ripple effect and we cannot capture a full story without hearing from our host employers. Please share your stories with us! You can reply directly to the email or contact your International Recruitment Consultant. We look forward to hearing from you.
By Lauren Kelly, Manager, Participant Experience and Sandi Taylor, International Recruitment Consultant
The New Congress
In the final week of December, Congress was sworn into office, which included 111 new senators and representatives. Democrats now have the majority in the House, and elected Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker. Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate by three seats.
With Democrats in control of the House, the makeup of committees has shifted, with Democrats taking chairmanships in all committees.
The CIEE Government Relations team has been reaching out to new Members of Congress who may or may not already be familiar with the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program and the impact of SWT in their states/districts. We continue to focus on building program champions, especially in states and districts where we have large numbers of participants, and members with important committee assignments. With mixed party affiliation between the House, the Senate and the White House, we believe there may be some energy to address immigration policy, which could impact exchange programs, but any major legislation will face an uphill climb.
Spring is appropriations requests season, so in the last several weeks we have been reaching out to Members asking for their support in retaining the Exchange Visitor Program provision in the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill. The provision, the result of our strong collective advocacy efforts in the fall of 2017, acts as a legal safeguard for valuable exchange programs including Summer Work Travel. We helped organize sign-ons for a business support of the provision, and the final letters gathered more than 200 supporters! Thanks to all who signed on. You can see the final letters here: House, Senate.
Maryland SB 526 and HB 1493
In the spring of 2018 a bill was put forward in the Maryland State Legislature that, if passed, would effectively eliminate SWT and other J-1 exchange programs with a work component in the state. Our coalition, consisting of the Alliance for International Exchange, program sponsors, Maryland host employers and host families, Chambers of Commerce and local leaders worked together to advocate against the bill, and it never advanced beyond committees in both chambers.
Anticipating the bill’s reintroduction in the 2019 session, CIEE engaged Cornerstone Government Relations, a consulting company with a strong presence in Annapolis. We laid groundwork following the November election, notifying bill sponsors and committee chairs of the exchange community’s concerns. In January Phil and Erica traveled to Annapolis to meet with the bill sponsors, and learned definitively that they do not intend to advance the legislation in 2019, in large part due to efforts by CIEE and others. They plan to revisit the issue in the 2020 session, so we will continue to monitor and engage as necessary.
Alliance for International Exchange Annual Meeting
2018 marked the 25th year of the Alliance for International Exchange, the public policy and advocacy organization that represents CIEE and other sponsors of the Exchange Visitor Program. More than a dozen CIEE staff attended, representing SWT, High School, Intern and Trainee, and Camp Counselor.
A highlight of the conference was the keynote address by Assistant Secretary Marie Royce, who oversees the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the Department of State (ECA). In her speech she outlined the Administration’s National Security Goals and ECA’s bureau strategy to address those goals. These included advancing foreign policy objectives through flexible, responsive exchange programs, increasing Americans’ global competitiveness, and achieving greater efficiency. There is also a strong focus on increasing access to exchange programs for underrepresented groups and individuals, and enhanced alumni engagement. We were encouraged to learn more about ECA’s priorities: we feel that CIEE’s goals are closely aligned with them and will work together with ECA to advance them in the years to come.
The target release date for the SWT Final Rule (new regulations governing the program) was moved to December 2018, (previously targeted for February 2018, then pushed to June 2018), but has not yet been issued. Given this timing, the new regulation is not likely not to impact summer 2019 programs. We will let you know as we learn more.
By Erica Carley Harris, Manager, Government & Public Affairs
Meet CIEE’s International Recruitment Coordinator team! Our team of 6 coordinators and 1 manager is part of the Employer Relations team and works in conjunction with the International Recruitment Consultants to provide high quality service to our Host Employers. In addition to taking the lead on your student in-country issues throughout the season, behind the scenes this team owns many operational tasks which include:
With interviewing and hiring being such a large part of this team’s responsibilities, here are a few impressive stats from last year’s summer 2018 hiring season:
For this upcoming summer season, the team has been busy again with virtual interviews. They have interviewed 800+ participants virtually and this number grows every day. They also have a busy upcoming travel schedule with 60 upcoming days on the road taking them throughout Europe, Asia, and South America to recruit and hire students for your business.
Without this team, your jobs would not be marketed to participants, participants would not be hired, and student in-country issues would not be resolved!
By Sarah Flynn, International Recruitment Coordinator
This summer, CIEE is sponsoring nearly 20,000 Work & Travel USA exchange visitors from all over the world. Thank you to our employers for hosting them! As a host employer, you do more than just provide a job; you also facilitate a meaningful cultural exchange experience as cultural ambassadors. This results in memories and friendships that span the globe and last a lifetime. CIEE is proud of our gold-star employers like you!
Next up, the contents of our latest newsletter: While we continue to focus on advocacy, we feel that running strong and consistent programs is imperative to the success and health of CIEE Work & Travel USA. In this newsletter, you will also find information on implementing safety awareness and precautions in your community and workplace. In addition, we provide tools you and your management team can use to facilitate cultural integration amongst your exchange visitors, domestic employees, and guests.
We hope this information will prove useful in welcoming your exchange visitors. If you have any questions now or throughout the summer, please don’t hesitate to contact CIEE. We are always here to help. The CIEE Work & Travel USA program could not be successful without you and the incredible opportunities you offer to these students. Thank you again for your commitment to cultural exchange!
Cara Mills, Director, Employer Relations
Each summer, we welcome thousands of exchange visitors to our country. While there is a lot of focus on the work and cultural exchange components, it is equally important that these exchange visitors are provided with a safe opportunity to live and thrive during their time in the United States. But the effort to ensure the safety of our participants takes a village. Learn how one community and one employer are making it happen:
Cape Cod community
The biggest safety issues on Cape Cod during the summer months are bike and pedestrian safety, as well as safe housing. The entire community comes together to support students in the summer.
Housing and a strong volunteer network
Bike and pedestrian safety
Bike safety is a priority! To view the transportation safety video created in partnership between CIEE, other sponsors, and the U.S. Department of State, please click here. We encourage you to show this video to your exchange visitors.
Morey’s Pier’s, a host employer
Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, New Jersey, begins setting safety expectations before exchange visitors arrive by including travel and safety reminders in their series of welcome emails called Ezines. When students arrive, they receive a handbook that includes further information: tips on bike safety and ocean safety, as well as general tips on staying safe. These tips, in addition to on-the-job safety advice, are also included in a comprehensive training program that every student must complete before starting their job.
As needed, Morey’s Piers provides additional safety reminders, bulletins, and training throughout the season to make sure every student has the tools to stay safe on the job and in the community. “At Morey’s Piers, safety is our culture: the safety of our visiting guests; the safety of our employees while working; and the general health, safety and well-being of the staff while we host them for the summer season. Safety first, always,” says Denise Beckson, Director of Operations/HR at Morey’s Piers, Beachfront Waterparks & Resorts.
As you find yourself engaging with exchange visitors this summer, ask yourself: What can I do to make their time in America safer and more enjoyable? If you need ideas or support, please contact CIEE. We are glad to help you, your community, and your exchange visitors.
By Louisa Creighton-Smith, International Recruitment Consultant, and
Lindsay Marsh, International Recruitment Consultant
INDUSTRY UPDATES: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE SUMMER VISITS, ADVOCACY PROGRESS, OTHER REMINDERS AND UPDATES
U.S. Department of State Summer Site Visits
The U.S. Department of State is again planning to visit participants, host employers, and accommodations throughout the summer with the goal of monitoring the safety and success of the Summer Work Travel program. Department staff may also reach out to you over the phone to ask questions about your students or request further information about student jobs.
This monitoring is a good thing as it allows the U.S. Department of State to see the positive impact the program has in your community. It also provides host employers the opportunity to further champion exchange visitor programs. For these reasons, we kindly ask that you accommodate site visits or requests for further information as best as possible. Please also let us know how the site visits go.
Thank you for your continued support of Work & Travel USA and your partnership with CIEE.
Americans for Cultural Exchange
As the Americans for Cultural Exchange (A4CE) coalition continues to grow – we have more than 900 members across 47 states and Washington, D.C. – our advocacy proves more effective than ever in protecting J-1 exchange programs from harmful proposals and regulations.
To celebrate our upcoming one-year anniversary, we have set the goal of doubling our membership by the end of the year! Help us reach this goal by joining our coalition. Visit our website to learn how.
Recent coalition highlights:
Exchange Visitor Program Directive in FY 2019 Appropriations Bill
The FY 2018 omnibus appropriations bill, which funds the federal government through September, includes a key directive that protects exchange programs. CIEE, the A4CE coalition, and the exchange community have been working to ensure this same directive is included in the FY 2019 bill. In mid-June, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved their respective 2019 State and Foreign Operations Bill, with the Exchange Visitor Program directive included in both bills. This good news means the directive is well on its way to being signed into law for FY 2019.
Exchange Week in the District
CIEE staff and employers participated in the Alliance for International Exchange’s first Exchange Week in the District, an initiative to meet with members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate during an in-district working week in May. We had positive meetings with district staff members in Maryland, Delaware, and North Carolina, and look forward to expanding our reach next year.
Based on our read of the new tax law, Summer Work Travel exchange visitors are required to pay taxes but will likely receive much lower (perhaps zero) tax refunds from 2018 and on. They are still obligated to file their taxes. CIEE is working on participant messaging and further guidance for host employers, but we wanted you to be aware of this coming change.
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became enforceable on May 25, 2018. This regulation standardizes data protection laws and processing across the European Union. CIEE is committed to GDPR and will continue to move toward compliance across all our business units, including SWT. We will keep you informed of any internal policy changes that affect business processes in regards to host employers.
By Sarah Goodman, Manager, Compliance & Policy, and
Erica Carley Harris, Manager, Government & Public Affairs
One of the many benefits of Work and Travel USA is that it brings the world to your community, giving you, your guests, your domestic staff, and your exchange visitors the chance to exchange cultures. The resources below will help you make the most of this opportunity.
Before your exchange visitors arrive:
Throughout the summer:
To keep exchange visitors and domestic staff engaged throughout the summer, post the calendar you received from CIEE and add important community events such as:
Facilitate cultural exchange by encouraging your students to share their culture and customs. A few examples to get you started:
Continue to train your supervisors:
We hope the steps above will contribute to another successful summer season. Remember to send your stories and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re especially interested in hearing from employers who’ve developed their own icebreakers or welcome events. Share your successes with the rest of us!
For additional resources, please visit Knowledge Base In-Country Support or review previous Toolkit articles.
By Andrei Bazaiac, International Recruitment Consultant
Our winter CIEE Work & Travel USA students are arriving and our summer participants just experienced a summer they’ll always remember and cherish! The reminders of their cultural exchange experiences are still appearing daily on our social media accounts – such as Instagram where pictures are flagged with the hashtag #CIEEWorkTravelers – as they share their summer with CIEE and the world.
We also had a period of uncertainty about the future of the J-1 Summer Work Travel program (and other J-1 cultural exchange programs). CIEE thanks you, our employers, for your support in advocating for the importance of this program, which is essential to businesses, communities, and lives across this country. The stories you shared, along with your calls and emails to elected officials, have sent a strong message. This program is invaluable to your business and communities and is a highly impactful public diplomacy tool. The outpouring of support for J-1 programs has not gone unnoticed, and while we cannot predict what the future holds, we are optimistic. With this in mind, CIEE and the J-1 community are moving forward. While we continue our advocacy efforts, we also remain focused on providing the best programs and experiences for all our stakeholders – our employers, our International Representatives, the communities we live in, and, most importantly, our students. On November 16, we invited you to join us on a conference call to provide an update on advocacy and the landscape of the program. For those who attended, thank you for joining. If you missed this and would like additional information, please email me and I’d be happy to share the content.
In this edition of Exchanges, you’ll read more about how CIEE is moving forward! You will learn about the industry’s advocacy efforts and how CIEE is educating, training, and preparing our network of International Representatives to recruit the best students and set expectations that will lead to successful programs. We also share how CIEE is engaging our alumni to tell their stories about program impact. Finally, we have information to prepare our winter employers to welcome our participants who are about to embark on their cultural exchange journey.
Thank you for taking the time to read the important updates below, and for your commitment to and focus on the future health of CIEE Work & Travel USA. You are valuable partners and help contribute to impactful cultural exchange programs. We could not do this without you!
Cara Mills, Director, Employer Relations
In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration was considering significant cuts to or elimination of five J-1 exchange programs, including Summer Work Travel. Since then, the broader international exchange community has come together to defend and support the threatened programs. This effort has driven more than 100,000 letters to the administration and to elected officials, hundreds of media stories, and an internationally-trending #SaveJ1 hashtag. The outpouring of support for the J-1 programs has not gone unnoticed by members of Congress and others. While we continue our advocacy efforts, we are optimistic about the future of J-1 exchanges.
As you know, J-1 exchanges enjoy broad bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and in state and local governments across the country. In the last two months, your calls and emails to your members of Congress have led to two significant legislative actions.
Senator Coons (D-DE) and Senator Murkowski (R-AK) cosponsored an amendment to the Senate Foreign Operations Bill that requires the administration to consult with Congress prior to making any significant changes to the J-1 programs. The legislation also asks for an analysis of the impact on public diplomacy and the economy. The amendment is included in the Senate Appropriations bill, which should be finalized before the end of the year.
In the House of Representatives, Rep. LoBiondo (R-NJ) and Rep. Keating (D-MA) cosponsored House Resolution 529 in support of J-1 Exchange Visitor programs. The resolution currently has 40 cosponsors, with additional members continuing to sign on.
Both of these actions send a strong message to the administration that J-1 programs are vital to the U.S. economy and public diplomacy efforts, and should not be reduced or eliminated.
Since the original Wall Street Journal article, more than 400 domestic and international news articles have been published, the vast majority with a positive view toward exchanges. All of the articles, which you can filter by date and state, are posted online at Americans for Cultural Exchange.
In mid-November, J-1 sponsors came together for the Alliance Annual Meeting, which included presentations and panels from U.S. Department of State leadership. This meeting is a platform for the international exchange community to engage in programmatic and policy discussions with representatives from key government agencies. The overall tone of the meeting was positive, and U.S. Department of State representatives emphasized that we are continuing with business as usual for all programs.
For host employers, the best thing you can do is continue to offer participants a great experience. The excellence of our programs and employers are our best defense. For those interested in becoming more involved in advocacy efforts, we encourage you to join Americans for Cultural Exchange. The website includes talking points, a primer for visiting elected officials, and other useful advocacy resources. If you are interested in learning more, please contact CIEE.