U.S. Information Agency:

Inappropriate Uses of Educational and Cultural Exchange Visas

NSIAD-90-61: Published: Feb 16, 1990. Publicly Released: Feb 16, 1990.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the activities of international visitors participating in educational and cultural exchange programs in the United States under J visas.

GAO found that: (1) although participants' activities were generally consistent with the intent of the J-visa program in encouraging cultural and educational exchange, some activities involved employment with no educational or cultural emphasis; (2) U.S. Information Agency (USIA) regulations for J-visa participation did not provide clear guidance on what constituted educational and cultural exchange activities or on how policy objectives could be achieved; (3) although USIA reported in 1987 that its regulations were inadequate, it still had not revised them by December 1989; (4) USIA did not have reliable information on J-visa program activities because its data management system was erroneous and outdated; (5) USIA lacked procedures to monitor sponsors' and participants' activities and did not comply with its own regulations to cancel unnecessary programs, obtain annual reports from sponsors, or ensure that visa extensions were justified; and (6) USIA was not effectively coordinating J-visa activities among its personnel or with other agencies.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The House Judiciary Committee cleared a provision (H.R. 4300) transferring au pair programs to Labor, but it did not pass Congress. The Eisenhower legislation continues au pairs at USIA. The Immigration Act of 1990 established a new Q visa for employees of cultural exchanges.

    Matter: A number of J-visa activities in the practical trainee and international visitor categories, including summer student travel/work, camp counselor, and au pair activities, some of which have been ongoing for years, do not conform to the original legislative intent concerning educational and cultural exchanges. Congress may wish to review the status of those 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.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USIA has revised the regulations as recommended. The Office of Management and Budget is expected to clear final regulations in 1993.

    Recommendation: The Director, USIA, should revise the J-visa regulations to make them consistent with the authorizing legislation and more comprehensive regarding policy and program objectives and criteria as to what constitutes a bona fide program under the act.

    Agency Affected: United States Information Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USIA is conducting management systems and systems analysis surveys to identify the areas that require support. The agency has refined its computer system but is considering designing an enhanced system. In addition, all inactive programs have been cancelled.

    Recommendation: The Director, USIA, should 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.

    Agency Affected: United States Information Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency has validated all programs and cancelled 484 programs that were inactive or had less than five participants.

    Recommendation: The Director, USIA, should 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.

    Agency Affected: United States Information Agency

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Pending revision of the regulations, USIA has placed a moratorium on designating new programs and expanding existing programs for au pairs, camp counselors, summer student travel, and training.

    Recommendation: The Director, USIA, should ensure that participants' status and their activities are consistent with the statute.

    Agency Affected: United States Information Agency

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency established a new $300,000 data system which is expected to provide accurate and timely information.

    Recommendation: The Director, USIA, should correct the erroneous participant categories in the data system and provide funding for timely input of participant information from the visa authorization form.

    Agency Affected: United States Information Agency

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Organizations requesting IAP-66 forms must have a current annual report on file. The file is reviewed by a program officer before the program assistant forwards the forms. The regulatory task force will review the reporting requirements for each category. The revised regulations include explicit reporting requirements.

    Recommendation: The Director, USIA, should establish the form and content of annual reports, ensure that sponsors submit annual reports, and use the reports to monitor program activities.

    Agency Affected: United States Information Agency

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: At the present time, INS regulations provide for extension decisions to be made at INS. USIA is working with INS to achieve cooperation in this area. The revised regulations require program sponsors to obtain USIA approval of program extensions beyond specified lengths.

    Recommendation: The Director, USIA, should monitor sponsors' extensions of participants' stay in the United States beyond specified program lengths and work with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to ensure that extensions are granted only in exceptional circumstances or for completion of highly specialized training and are equitably and uniformly administered.

    Agency Affected: United States Information Agency

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A formal coordinating requirement was not established. However, sponsor applications for programs that appear to be labor intensive are now coordinated with the Department of Labor.

    Recommendation: The Director, USIA, should establish a requirement that new types of program designations be coordinated with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Department of Labor, and other involved agencies.

    Agency Affected: United States Information Agency

 

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