The Department of
State (DOS) Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) published a notice
in the Federal Register, describing its plan to conduct comprehensive site
visits of exchange visitor program sponsor organizations designated in the High
School Student category. The site visits, which ECA expects to normally take
about two days, will examine the organization's business practices and other
aspects of its exchange program:
"The Department intends to examine a broad range of sponsor operations. The process will encompass in-depth financial review; examination of program pricing structures; appraisal of organizational operating models; review of hiring criteria and training policies for program employees and agents; evaluation of third party contractor relationships; and standard operating procedures, especially those related to the screening and selection of host families and the repatriation of program participants. Other areas of review will include, but are not limited to, decisionmaking processes (including the numbers of students accepted); selfimposed compliance mechanisms; procedures for handling student problems; standards for the selection of housing with host families; and policies for refunding deposits or payments when applicants cannot participate due to visa denial or sponsor inability to secure a placement. The Department will also examine the relationships between sponsors and third parties, including foreign partners. In the case of foreign partners, the Department will review their role in the overall placement process and the fees they charge for their services. The Department will scrutinize all contractual relationships under which designated sponsors outsource "core" services, i.e., the screening, selection, placement, orientation, and monitoring functions that constitute the core elements of international exchange programming."
ECA states in its notice that it will initially "conduct on-site reviews of all fee charging program sponsors. Excluded from this first round of review are all Rotary programs, schools, school districts, and government programs. Following the first round of on-site reviews, the Department will determine whether to conduct on-site reviews of some or all of the remaining non-fee-charging sponsors, or if a comparable review of these programs can be conducted through some alternative method." Sponsors will be given at least 10 days notice prior to the site visit.