August 26, 2009

What is SEVIS and why do I pay for it?

Acronyms can be both time-saving and incredibly frustrating to all of us. So to prevent you from hitting your head against a wall the next time you see the acronym SEVIS, I thought I would offer a brief explanation.

SEVIS, The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is an Internet-based system that allows J-1 sponsors to transmit information regarding our participants to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DoS). Each one of the J-1 participants under our sponsorship has been entered into SEVIS, which allows us to generate the DS-2019. SEVIS also helps us to track and monitor our participants by containing status information on our participants like if he/she has received the J-1 visa, and entry/exit data. The J-1 sponsor will also update the system with information like changes of address and program extensions or cancelations.

The SEVIS I-901 Fee was implemented to support SEVIS maintenance as well as the staff required to operate it. The SEVIS Fee Receipt is required for the J-1 interview to verify that you have paid. Unlike other sponsors, Global Current pays the fee ($180 for intern and trainee programs) on the participant's behalf, and sends the receipt to the participant. This way we hope to decrease the amount of paperwork that he/she has to do before the consular appointment. The SEVIS fee is included in our sponsorship fee.

For more information on SEVIS, visit the Department of State website.

August 18, 2009

J-1 English Requirement

We know that it can be tricky to objectively measure English language proficiency. It is possible that your J-1 candidate has been watching Hollywood movies in English all her life and speaks clearly with a spot-on American accent; yet has never taken an official English course. How do you prove that your candidate is proficient in English and able to function daily in his or her J-1 program?

We once accepted English language tests and limited them to the most well-known and trusted (TOEFL and TOEIC etc.), but we found that we were still constantly trying to keep up with new testing formats and scoring. Frankly, it was an administrative burden and did not clearly answer the question, does this candidate have the English language ability to complete the J-1 program successfully?

So, we did away with the English tests and instead encourage J-1 candidates to produce letters from English professors that prove their English proficiency from a professional's perspective. We also accept English language evaluations from host companies that have had first-hand contact with their J-1 candidates through phone and email. The host company knows what skill level is needed to complete their program successfully and is thus a great judge.

And if your candidate happens to be from somewhere like Australia, the UK, or South Africa and is a native speaker, then congratulations, you can forget about proving English language proficiency ;)

August 11, 2009

Know When 212 (e) Has Been Applied

When Eduardo came to the United States from Peru, you expected him to complete an 18 month management training program at your company and then return to your Peru branch for a management position. Now Eduardo is nearing the end of his program and the position in Peru has been filled. Also, he is currently being trained on a project that has been extended due to incredible success. Eduardo is very talented and you would prefer to keep him on in the U.S. You now need to know if he is subject to rule 212 (e) which would require him to return home.

You can see whether or not your J-1 participant is subject to rule 212(e) on the DS-2019. At the bottom of the front page of the DS-2019, the consulate will have marked box number 2 next to "Subject to the two-year residence requirement based on:" if the participant is subject to the rule. This information will also be stamped on his/her J-1 visa.

If you found that the participant is subject to the rule and have come to the conclusion with your immigration counsel that the rule was applied erroneously, we cannot provide much assistance to you. As a J-1 sponsor, we expect that your J-1 participant will leave the United States following the completion of the program and in doing so, fulfill the purpose of the J-1 visa(cultural and educational exchange). The best we can do is provide a letter confirming that your participant has completed the program or is currently active.

Click here for more information on the two-year residence requirement, rule 212(e), and see my blog post on repeating the J-1 program for specific information regarding the J-1 trainee and intern programs.

August 07, 2009

What Makes A Good J-1 Program?

At times it can be pretty obvious when something should be a J-1 Intern or Trainee program, and at other times it is completely ambiguous.

An internship program is usually easier to spot. For example, when you have a program that would qualify as an internship (no matter who is selected) and you happen to fill the role with a foreign national, then you would likely opt to pursue the J-1 visa. Just like a typical internship, it should have specific skill development objectives as well as a structured plan to meet those objectives through on-the-job training. The program usually falls in the summer when the candidate has a break from university.

A J-1 trainee program can be somewhat harder to pinpoint. Some of the strongest training programs are the rotational programs run by many multinationals. The candidates are still in the early stages of their career with the company and have a very specific training plan that was created to give them a well-rounded skill set and understanding of the company while preparing them for a permanent position outside the U.S. Another example of a strong J-1 trainee program, is when a domestic company is planning a global expansion and would like to train a national of that country to lead the expansion abroad. The individual is brought to the U.S. for about 18 months of management training and then sent back abroad with all the tools to start up another branch.

There are more examples, but in all strong trainee programs the common theme is that there is no question that the program is temporary and that it has very specific objectives and on-the-job-training that aims to develop an individual's skill set. When I can read the training plan and see both of these things, I am usually relieved because it is an A+ application and a perfect fit for the program.

A red flag for a program that is not appropriate for the J-1 is when a company is very small and has no apparent reason to train a foreign national i.e. has no global partners, branches outside the U.S., or global initiatives. We will question if the company has enough employees to offer training (is there a manager that has the capacity to effectively train someone?) which will lead us to wonder if this is actually productive employment rather than J-1 training.

These are just a few examples but there are many other types of programs that fall in the grey area and may be perfectly good J-1 trainee or intern programs. The best way to review a program is to pass it along to a J-1 sponsor that will be able to provide specific feedback.