The Summer Work Travel Program: A Means to Fill Next Summer's Staffing Requirements

By Michael Wildes Partner , Wildes & Weinberg | November 07, 2010

With this summer's tourist season come and gone, it is time for all hoteliers to review the efficiency of their operations and determine if their staffing needs were properly met to ensure that the tourists of today will be satisfied customers of tomorrow.

If this summer's staff did not quite meet the grade, there is no reason to fret. Across the oceans, countless bright, motivated students are looking for an opportunity to spend their summer in the United States. At the same time, scores of proprietors are looking for temporary staff to assist with the daily operations throughout the busy vacation season. Fortunately for both parties, there is a program offered by the U.S. Department of State designed for the express purpose of bringing these two groups together, which may be the answer to human resource personnel summer hiring worries: The Summer Work Travel Program.

There are many advantages to hiring student workers under this plan. First, the students have already shown impressive initiative and the desire to work in the United States by simply enrolling in the program which will allow them to pursue their dream of traveling abroad! Second, they are content-and indeed required-to return home at the end of the busy season. Third, they have demonstrated the requisite English language skills which are needed in order to qualify. And most important, their visas and related immigration processes are predominately handled by an intermediary known as the sponsor agency, at little or no expense to the hotel hiring them.

How does this all work?

The U.S. Department of State endows the sponsor agency with the right to issue to eligible students, a Form DS 2019, Certificate of Eligibility for an Exchange Visitor (J-1 status). J-1 visa status is granted on a temporary, fixed-term basis, and provides a firsthand opportunity for young people abroad to have a summer experience in the United States. Beyond Summer Work Travel students, other common J-1 visa holders include au pairs, camp counselors, visiting scholars at American universities, interns, and trainees. Unlike foreign nationals arriving on visitors' visas, many J-1 holders are authorized to work in the United States, although their work authorization is only valid until the expiration of their temporary visa status. Summer Work Travel candidates may not seek to remain in their program for longer than four months.

A foreign national student interested in the Summer Work Travel program may find work in one of two ways: the student may look for a summer job on his/her own and find a sponsor agency willing to process the visa, or he may register with a sponsor agency directly and allow the sponsor to match him/her with a potential employer. In either scenario, there is little to no expense to the employer. The student is responsible for paying all fees related to the visa as well as any service charges to the sponsor agency. In turn, the sponsor agency is the party responsible for the student's immigration compliance. The employer-or "host company"-bears no responsibility for the international student beyond what is standard for all employees, irrespective of immigration status.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

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