01. Myth – the exchange visitor program is a foreign worker or guest worker program
FACT: The Exchange Visitor Program is a Department of State international cultural exchange program.
It was created by Senator J. William Fulbright with the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 in order to engage and influence future leaders around the world. It is the U.S.’ largest exchange and public diplomacy program. International students, young professionals, au pairs, and camp counselors engage in work as both a cultural experience and so they can afford to visit the United States. They don’t come to the U.S. simply to work.
02. Myth – exchange programs take away american jobs
FACT: Exchange programs help create and sustain American jobs.
A 2017 analysis of the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program shows that the majority of SWT students are placed in areas with already high American employment rates. SWT students do not displace American workers, but rather supplement this American workforce, helping host businesses meet seasonal workforce needs, especially during the shoulder seasons (before Memorial Day and after Labor Day)
03. Myth – SWT participants are paid less than American workers and undercut American wages
FACT: SWT students are paid the higher of federal, state, and local minimum wage, and the exact same wage as their similarly situated American coworkers.
This is enforced by Department of State regulation.
04. Myth – exchange students and young professionals work in the U.S. for long periods of time
FACT: Exchange Visitor Programs are non-immigrant programs. Participants must return home following the completion of their programs.
SWT and Camp Counselor participants remain in the U.S. for a maximum of 4 months. Their job placements must be seasonal and may not be full-time, year-round. They cannot extend their stay on their J-1 visa.
Au Pair programs typically last one year, with some au pairs and host families extending the program for another year.
Interns can remain on their program for up to one year, and Trainees up to 18 months. They cannot extend their stay on their J-1 visa.
05. Myth – exchange visitors are tied to their host employers and cannot change jobs.
FACT: Exchange participants are not tied to their host employers.
If participants want to change job placements, they can do so without obstacle, with the assistance of their sponsors. Their sponsors act as their advocates throughout their time in the U.S.
06. Myth – SWT students pay exorbitant fees, upwards of $6,000, to participate in the program.
FACT: The average worldwide fee for SWT program participation is $1,533, according to a 2016 State Department report.
This program fee covers the program application process, vetting and approval of host employer and job placement, orientation, assistance with local housing and transportation, sponsor support throughout the length of the program, organization of cultural activities, and accident and sickness insurance.
07. Myth – American host businesses save money by hosting SWT participants and camp counselors.
Fact: On average, host businesses and camps do not save money by hiring SWT participants and camp counselors.
Hosts absorb extra costs related to the students, including organizing cultural activities, assisting with housing and transportation, and providing orientation and training. Since non-immigrant, non-citizens who are temporarily in the U.S.—like Summer Work Travel and Camp Counselor students— can’t collect Social Security or Medicare benefits, U.S. tax law exempts them from making Social Security and Medicare contributions. But all exchange participants still pay federal, state, and local taxes.
08. Myth – The U.S. Government spends millions of dollars on the Exchange Visitor program.
FACT: The U.S. Government spends $0 on the Exchange Visitor Program.
No taxpayer dollars are used to fund program participation -- the international participants pay their own way. They cover all of costs associated with the program, funding their own program fees, room and board, and travel while in the United States.