WYSE Work Abroad, a sector association of WYSE Travel Confederation, is forming an advocacy group specifically for Russia, in response to recent news that the US State Department is looking into changing the J-1 visa application process and possibly exclude Russian agents.
Steven Caron, Owner of Sindbad Travel International (STI), will lead the group by bringing key member organisations in that region together to form a unified front for the trustworthy and reliable agents in the region, as this has caused a general tendency to stigmatize Russian agents.
WYSE Travel Confederation and its sector associations support their members on key issues in the youth travel industry around the world through targeted government lobbying.
The group was formed in response to news of exploitation and complaints discovered recently in an Associated Press investigation.
John Woods, Deputy Assistant Director of National Security for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, told the AP there were at least two federal investigations under way into human trafficking related to J-1 visas.
“We are deeply concerned by any allegations involving the poor treatment of participants as this potentially undermines our goal of promoting mutual understanding and goodwill between the people of the United States and the people of other countries,” the State Department said.
Such news proves that it is increasingly important for students and young people to fully investigate the company they are going to use when securing an overseas experience. All members of WYSE Travel Confederation are put through a strict quality control process, therefore, checking the list of members would be a good place to start searching for the right company as it ensures that you’ll be dealing with a trusted, reliable business.
The J-1 Summer Work and Travel program, which allows college students to visit the U.S. for up to four months, is one of the State Department’s most popular visas. Participation has boomed from about 20,000 in 1996 to a peak of more than 150,000 in 2008. In the summer of 2010, about 30,000 J-1 visas were issued to Russians, said embassy spokesman David Siefkin.
The process by which Russian students get summer work visas to the United States will be improved and tightened in an effort to eliminate criminal abuse, U.S. Ambassador John Beyrle said Tuesday.
“We are working very, very hard to put in place a system of procedures that will make it impossible for anyone to take advantage of students,” Beyrle told The Moscow Times.
The program allows more than 100,000 college students from around the world to experience America, while employers — especially in the hospitality and recreation sectors — get a chance to hire inexpensive help for the peak summer season. Students usually make minimum wage and have to supply their own health insurance, while employers don’t have to pay pension or unemployment taxes.
Brokers, who frequently are from the students’ home countries, recruit for employers and organise housing for the students. Some of these middlemen abuse the young people via exorbitant salary deductions, providing substandard housing, and in some cases even forcing them to work in strip clubs, according to the recent Associated Press investigation. Government regulations ban students from taking jobs that “might bring the Department of State into notoriety or disrepute,” the report said. The State Department only started to keep a database of complaints this year.
The new process, which Beyrle said should be functional in time for the 2011 summer cycle of J-1 applicants, “will make sure everyone is matched up with a job and that each job is backed up by a reputable employer,” though as a result the total number of visas issued may go down.
Beyrle thinks that the program brings more than just financial benefits to both sides. “It also exposes Americans to Russians in an very informal kind of diplomacy, which I think is very good,” he said.
Working, volunteering and traveling abroad brings tremendous benefits to young people. A recent survey, The Impact of Early Travel Experiences, jointly endorsed by the Student Youth & Travel Association (SYTA) – a WYSE Travel Confederation member – and Explorica, a company creating educational tours that connect students to new cultures, languages and people through educational travel, revealed the positive impact that early travel experiences have on personal and professional accomplishments and travel trends during adulthood. For example, those who travel abroad before the age of 18 achieve academic and professional success. Read more on the survey findings here.
Source: The Moscow Times