The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program was created to enhance diplomacy and foster cultural exchange, but it has strayed far from its mission. Summer Work Travel—the largest J-1 program category, and the focus of this report—has seeming- ly transformed from a program designed to foster interna- tional goodwill into a source of cheap and exploitable labor. As a result, hundreds of thousands of workers arrive in the United States on J-1 visas each year without adequate pro- tections, and countless U.S. workers who struggle to find jobs in the same industries and communities are disadvantaged.
This report presents a first-ever data-informed picture of employment realities in the J-1 Summer Work Travel (SWT) program, based on analysis of data painstakingly compiled through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) re- quests and other sources.1 In 2015, nearly 95,000 J-1 SWT workers came to the United States2 from 141 countries. Their average age was 21, and 55 percent of them were women. Despite the size of the program, the public has never had access to information about SWT employers and industries.
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