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From our partners at the Exchange Visitor Program

Ensuring Safety and Security of Exchange Participants on J-1 Visas

November 7, 2018

Many different visa categories permit nonimmigrants to travel to the United States. Nonimmigrant international students usually enter the United States using one of three visa types: F-1, J-1, or M-1. Each visa category is defined by its purpose for travel to the United States. In this blog series, the Exchange Visitor Program will help you better understand the J-1 visa.

Every year the U.S. Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program brings more than 300,000 international citizens to the United States to study, teach, conduct research, share specialized skills, and receive on-the-job training. During these exchanges, participants strengthen their English language skills, connect with Americans and learn more about the United States.

The safety and security of exchange visitors is a top priority through all phases of the program, including pre-departure and arrival orientations, monitoring and oversight, 24/7 hotlines and health benefits programs. We want every exchange participant to feel comfortable reaching out to us, to know that their concerns will be taken seriously, to report incidents without fear of retaliation and to receive the best qualified assistance as quickly as possible.

To ensure we have the mechanisms in place to address health, safety and welfare concerns, the State Department created the Office of Private Sector Exchange Administration (OPA) in 2013.

OPA oversees the resolution of complaints and incidents for those on J-1 visas: 

  • A complaint could include issues associated with unsatisfactory housing, being underpaid, or not being allowed to work the minimum number of weekly hours that the sponsor has promised. When the State Department fields a complaint, we refer it to sponsor organizations.
  • An incident could include death or serious injury, sexual abuse, arrest of an exchange visitor, or the involvement of an exchange visitor as a victim or perpetrator of a serious crime.

OPA works closely with sponsors, who are designated by the State Department to administer an exchange visitor program in one or more of the 15 categories, during the resolution process for both complaints and incidents.

Watch the Safety and Security on Your Exchange Visitor Program video to see how OPA staff reviews and processes complaints they have received. In addition, watch the Exchange Visitor Program Incident Reporting video to learn more about OPA and how you can identify and report incidents. 

OPA is always available to provide active, skilled, and compassionate responses when emergencies arise. Together, the State Department and sponsors strive to strengthen and improve safety and security measures to ensure the best experience possible for exchange participants and their American communities.

To learn more, visit the Exchange Visitor Program website.

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