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Washington revises rules for class of temporary employment visas

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Many immigrants come to the United States seeking better employment opportunities. The process for finding employment often involves obtaining a work visa. There are myriad types of employment-based visas, each tied to a type of job or an immigrant's qualifications. Many visas are of the H-1 kind, but another popular temporary visa is the J-1 visa. It allows approximately 100,000 college students from foreign countries to spend four months working in the United States while absorbing our country's customs and culture.

The program began over five decades ago in 1961 under the Fulbright-Hays Act. But instead of allowing foreign students to work in temporary jobs to help pay for living expenses and travel around the country, the government has discovered that many immigrants were being abused under the temporary visa program.

According to the U.S. State Department, a number of immigrants have been placed into low-paying jobs in poor living conditions. Some reported having little cash remaining after their rent was taken from their pay. Worse, some J-1 visa holders were forced against their will into working at night clubs.

Because the primary goal of the program was to expose immigrants to American culture, the State Department announced new regulations designed to protect foreign students from abuses. One prevents J-1 visa holders from obtaining employment in labor-intensive sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and construction. In addition, they will not be able to work at jobs that require an overnight shift.

Sponsoring companies, the entities that help foreign students obtain visas and find employment, will be subject to more scrutiny. They will have to demonstrate that the primary purpose of the program--cultural exposure--is being fulfilled for students they sponsor.

Source: Associated Press, "US revamps student work-visa program after abuses," May 4, 2012.

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