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10/04/2017

OTA Continues to Protect Ohio Jobs and Businesses Faced with J-1 Threats

US Senate Committee Calls for Rulemaking Procedures

On Oct. 3, Ohio Travel Association participated in a conference call with IAAPA, US Travel, US Chamber and organizations nationwide who are working to keep the J-1 Summer Work Travel and Camp Counselor programs from being eliminated or drastically altered. Calls are held weekly and organized by the Council for International Educational Exchange.

As reported earlier, the White House has lumped review of these important programs into its Buy American Hire American Executive Order.

Goals of this advocacy effort are to prevent J-1s from being part of the Buy America Hire Americans discussion and subsequent policies. The second goal is to get those on the Hill directly engaged with White House staff, which is where these decisions are currently being made.

Some of the changes to the programs that are of concern include the following:

  • complete program elimination,
  • more stringent requirements for businesses to certify actions taken to hire American workers instead of these workers,
  • caps on the number of J-1 workers who can be employed by a business, and/or
  • moratoriums on existing workers within the system.

Proposed new rules could be issued as an Executive Order as early as late-October.

It is important that any changes to these programs go through due process in compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act with opportunities for economic impact reviews and stakeholder input. This is the message that is being given to the White House.

During the call, it was reported that some businesses have individually contacted the State Department (which oversees these programs) looking for expansions or changing categories of workers (Summer Work Travel to Au Pair, etc.). Right now, all of these requests are being deferred to a later time.

There is currently a resolution in the US House in support of the program with approximately 20 co-sponsors. OTA has reached out to organizers to get more details so Ohio co-sponsors can be secured as well.

U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del) secured the inclusion of an amendment to protect the program from modifications in the Fiscal Year 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that passed the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously on Sept. This amendment (provided below) helps protect the program in the near future, but it is not law. It mandates a formal rulemaking process before changes are made that would include committee notification, review of program goals and economic impact of any changes.

“EXCHANGE VISITOR PROGRAM.—None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to modify the Exchange Visitor Program administered by the Department of State to implement the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, as amended (Public Law 87-256, 22 U.S.C. 2451, et seq.), except through a formal rulemaking process pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act and notwithstanding the exceptions to such rulemaking process in such Act: Provided, That funds made available for such purpose shall only be made available after consultation with, and subject to the regular notification procedures of, the Committees on Appropriations, regarding how any proposed modification would affect the public diplomacy goals of, and the estimated economic impact on, the United States."