Compliance Reviews and Sanction Actions

Compliance Reviews

Purpose and Role: The Office of Exchange Coordination and Compliance (Compliance) promotes and protects the integrity of the Exchange Visitor Program (J-1 Visa) by administering ECA’s nationwide designated sponsor compliance and on-site review programs. Compliance officers in Washington, DC, routinely conduct regulatory compliance examinations of designated sponsors in the program categories included in 22 CFR Part 62, Subpart B. Compliance promotes and protects the integrity of the Exchange Visitor Program by:
  1. Reviewing designated sponsor adherence to all applicable regulations in 22 CFR Part 62 and investigating serious complaints about the operations of designated sponsors received from the general public and/or Exchange Visitor Program exchange visitors or identified through monitoring of designated sponsor activities. When Compliance has made findings about a designated sponsor comprising a reason for sanction under 22 CFR 62.50(a), Compliance recommends sanctions to be imposed on that designated sponsor in accordance with 22 CFR 62.50.
  2. Monitoring and enforcing all aspects of designated sponsor compliance with the requirements of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). (See the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System Website.)
  3. Working closely with the Department of Homeland Security to perfect and deploy SEVIS and its successor systems and ensure its use by designated sponsors.
  4. Maintaining all required liaison with other Department of State bureaus and U.S. Government agencies regarding sanctions and issues that fall under their respective responsibilities. 

Compliance On-Site Review (OSR) Process

On-site reviews (OSRs) are led by Compliance Officers from the Office of Exchange Coordination and Compliance (Compliance) and may include staff from two other offices of the Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Directorate for Private Sector Exchange (ECA/EC): the Office of Designation and the Office of Private Sector Exchange Administration.  All documentation submitted to ECA/EC by designated sponsors is maintained in electronic digital format and is subject to thorough, systematic review to confirm that a designated sponsor has complied with applicable Exchange Visitor Program regulations and program policy guidance.

Designated sponsors may be selected for OSRs for any number of reasons, including for a routine program evaluation, follow-up on a serious exchange visitor complaint or a series of complaints, or in connection with a review of a particular Exchange Visitor Program category. OSRs may be conducted on an announced or unannounced basis. OSRs always include a visit by Compliance Officers to designated sponsor headquarters and may include interviews with exchange visitors at their sites of program activity, or residential sites, and interviews with hosting organizations or other third parties directly involved with the designated sponsor’s program administration or the exchange visitor’s exchange experience.

In some instances, Compliance may determine that an Electronic Sponsor Review (ESR) is appropriate to confirm a designated sponsor’s compliance with regulations and guidance. An ESR follows the same format as the OSR but is conducted virtually and requires the sponsor to submit the requested documentation electronically.

Sanctions

Reasons for Sanctions:

In accordance with 22 CFR §62.50, the Department of State may impose sanctions against a Department-designated sponsor if the sponsor:
  1. Violated one or more of the applicable regulations (i.e., 22 CFR Part 62);
  2. Evidenced a pattern of failure to comply with applicable regulations;
  3. Committed an act of omission or commission, which had or could have had the effect of endangering the health, safety or welfare of an exchange visitor (i.e., a participant in the exchange program); or
  4. Otherwise conducted its program in such a way as to
  • Undermine the foreign policy objectives of the United States,
  • Compromise the national security interests of the United States, or
  • Bring the Department or the Exchange Visitor Program into notoriety or disrepute.

Types of Sanctions:

The Department may impose “lesser sanctions” (namely, a written reprimand, probation, a corrective action plan, or a program reduction of up to 15%) depending on the nature and seriousness of the violations.  (22 CFR §62.50(b))  In other cases, when “greater sanctions” are warranted, the Department may suspend or revoke a sponsor’s designation.  (22 CFR §§62.50(c) and (d))  The Department may also decide to deny a sponsor’s application for redesignation under certain circumstances.  (22 CFR §62.50(e))  Finally, the Department may require the removal of the Responsible Officer and/or the Alternate Responsible Officer.  (22 CFR §62.50(f))