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Highlights

Exchange programs, which bring over 280,000 foreign visitors to the United States annually, are widely recognized as an effective way to expose citizens of other countries to the American people and culture. Past GAO and the Department of State (State) Office of Inspector General reviews have reported that some exchange visitors have participated in unauthorized activities and cited problems in the management and oversight of the programs. Strong management oversight is needed to ensure that the programs operate as intended and are not abused. This report examines how State manages the Summer Work Travel and the Trainee programs to ensure that only authorized activities are carried out under the programs and identifies potential risks of the programs and the data available to assess these risks.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of State To enhance the overall management and monitoring of the Summer Work Travel and the Trainee programs, the Secretary of State should fully implement a compliance unit to better monitor exchange program activities and address deficiencies.
Closed - Implemented
In October 2005, GAO recommended (State Department: Stronger Action Needed to Improve Oversight and Assess Risks of the Summer Work Travel and Trainee Categories of the Exchange Visitor Program, GAO-06-106, 10/14/05) that State update and amend the regulations governing the Trainee category of the Exchange Visitor program. State acknowledged weaknesses in its oversight and administration of the program. On April 7, 2006, State published revised rules and regulations in the Federal Registry. The proposed regulations point to the abuses in the trainee program that GAO reported as partial rationale for the regulatory changes. GAO also reported potential abuse of agricultural training programs and recommended that State obtain data on labor market abuses to assess risks associated with the program. To address GAO's concerns, according to a policy statement effective January 24, 2006, State consulted with the Department of Labor and the Department of Agriculture to develop ways to better monitor agricultural programs. State also suspended the designation of new agricultural training programs and the expansion of existing programs pending resolution of the issue.
Department of State To enhance the overall management and monitoring of the Summer Work Travel and the Trainee programs, the Secretary of State should update and amend the regulations where necessary.
Closed - Implemented
In October 2005, GAO recommended (State Department: Stronger Action Needed to Improve Oversight and Assess Risks of the Summer Work Travel and Trainee Categories of the Exchange Visitor Program, GAO-06-106, 10/14/05) that State update and amend the regulations governing the Trainee category of the Exchange Visitor program. State acknowledged weaknesses in its oversight and administration of the program. On April 7, 2006, State published revised rules and regulations in the Federal Registry. The proposed regulations point to the abuses in the trainee program that GAO reported as partial rationale for the regulatory changes. GAO also reported potential abuse of agricultural training programs and recommended that State obtain data on labor market abuses to assess risks associated with the program. To address GAO's concerns, according to a policy statement effective January 24, 2006, State consulted with the Department of Labor and the Department of Agriculture to develop ways to better monitor agricultural programs. State also suspended the designation of new agricultural training programs and the expansion of existing programs pending resolution of the issue.
Department of State To enhance the overall management and monitoring of the Summer Work Travel and the Trainee programs, the Secretary of State should develop strategies to obtain data, such as information on overstays and program abuses, to assess the risks associated with the program, and use the results of its assessment to focus its management and monitoring efforts.
Closed - Implemented
In October 2005, GAO recommended (State Department: Stronger Action Needed to Improve Oversight and Assess Risks of the Summer Work Travel and Trainee Categories of the Exchange Visitor Program, GAO-06-106, 10/14/05) that State update and amend the regulations governing the Trainee category of the Exchange Visitor program. State acknowledged weaknesses in its oversight and administration of the program. On April 7, 2006, State published revised rules and regulations in the Federal Registry. The proposed regulations point to the abuses in the trainee program that GAO reported as partial rationale for the regulatory changes. GAO also reported potential abuse of agricultural training programs and recommended that State obtain data on labor market abuses to assess risks associated with the program. To address GAO's concerns, according to a policy statement effective January 24, 2006, State consulted with the Department of Labor and the Department of Agriculture to develop ways to better monitor agricultural programs. State also suspended the designation of new agricultural training programs and the expansion of existing programs pending resolution of the issue.

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