MORE ACTION NEEDED: Stop the U.S. Congress from Ending Exchange Programs

29 May 2013

Dear IAPA Member,

The U.S. Congress is currently considering new legislation that would dramatically change the U.S. immigration system.
If passed in its current form, this would change the regulatory requirements and governmental oversight of the U.S. Department of State’s Au Pair Program and other J-1 Visa exchange programs, in ways that would greatly reduce participation.

Despite efforts and letters sent from supporters, the current immigration bill has progressed to the next stage, without changing the language that has potential to damage, if not end, these valuable cultural exchange programs.
We are asking all IAPA Members to act now and request that this legislation be modified to protect the Au Pair Program before the law is passed.

More specifically, we are asking for your support in making sure that the U.S. Congress removes the term “exchange visitors” from the larger definition of “worker” in the legislation and make sure that U.S. Department of State exchange visitors are exempted from the proposed legislation’s language. We also ask that you share this important call to action with your entire network of colleagues to create a wave of support and outreach.

Unless these changes are made, international exchange visitors on the Au Pair program and their U.S. host families are likely to suffer from severe cost increases and changes in oversight that will significantly decrease participation in these programs.

Sections of the bill that are of the greatest concern include:
• A section that defines exchange visitors as “workers,” not as the cultural exchange participants they are.
• Reclassification of program sponsors and international recruiting agents as “foreign labor contractors” subjecting our organizations to onerous Department of Homeland Security registration processes and requiring the posting of a monetary bond.
• Prohibiting the collection of any fees from participants.

We urge you to immediately contact the U.S. Ambassador in your country, your Ambassador in the U.S,. Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education, and top university officials in your country to oppose the inclusion of exchange visitors under the definition of “workers” and the reclassification of sponsors and international recruiting agents as “foreign labor contractors” in the Senate Immigration Bill draft (S.744).

It is crucial that we generate the highest possible number of letters now and over the next several weeks to ensure that any immigration bill strengthens important international exchanges programs, and clearly differentiates their interests from immigration and labor-related issues.

The sample letter available here includes text that you might use in regard to the Au Pair program.

Be sure to include examples of the positive experiences our participants from your country enjoy during their programs in the U.S. Also highlight successful alumni who have participated in the programs and who now occupy leadership roles in your country.

Your support is highly appreciated.
With the warmest regards,

The IAPA Board