The J-1 nonimmigrant visa is billed as an educational and cultural exchange visitor program, but is routinely used as a temporary work visa.
J-1 AT A GLANCE
Promote international understanding
Department of State (DOS)
The J-1 umbrella includes 14 distinct categories.
College & University Students
High School Students
Professors & Research
Short Term Scholars
*Numbers represent visas issued in 2018 (Source: https://j1visa.state.gov/basics/facts-and-figures/)
J-1 IN CHARTS
Despite being used as a work visa, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) plays no role in regulating the J-1 program other than to enforce the standard federal wage and hour laws that apply to the general workforce.
Geographic isolation, employment in private homes or in low-wage industries, and lax worker protections and oversight all contribute to J-1 worker vulnerability to exploitation. At least six of the 14 J-1 categories present situations that merit close scrutiny: summer work travel, camp counselors, trainees, and interns, au pairs, and teachers. U.S. Department of State (DOS) data shows that these six categories make up just over half of all total J-1 visas issued.
DOCUMENTED CASES OF ABUSE
Read more case stories in our publication:
REASONS WHY AN EMPLOYER MAY CHOOSE TO HIRE J-1 EXCHANGE VISITORS
No pre-approval needed from USCIS or USDOL
No labor market certification test required
Flexibility to hire short-term employees
No limit on the number of visas that can be issued
J-1 program regulations do not require payment of recruitment fees
No federal employment taxes
No requirement to provide housing (except au pairs)
History of lax government oversight of employment conditions
J-1 program regulations do not require reimbursement of travel costs
The J-1 exchange visitor program was not designed to import foreign labor and should be redesigned to accommodate this reality.
Make information about the J-1 program publicly available and easily accessible to stakeholders and the public.
Regulate the recruitment of J-1 workers to protect against fraud, discrimination, and human trafficking and eliminate the practice of charging J-1 participants for placement.
Guarantee that J-1 workers have robust labor and employment protections, including access to justice across borders, and that the program does not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers.
Migration That Works, co-authored by Justice in Motion
Migration That Works
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The Case for Transparency: Using Data to Combat Human Trafficking Under Temporary Foreign Work Visas
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