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.

Sanction Action Process

The Department may impose sanctions against a sponsor if the Department makes at least one of the following findings:

  1. The sponsor has violated the Exchange Visitor Program (Program) regulations;
  2. The sponsor has evidenced a pattern of failure to comply with the Program regulations;
  3. The sponsor has committed an act of omission or commission, which has or could have the effect of endangering the health, safety, or welfare of an exchange visitor; or
  4. The sponsor has 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.

22 C.F.R. § 62.50.  The Department, in its discretion, may impose sanctions, depending on the nature and seriousness of the violation. The Office of Exchange Coordination and Compliance (the Office) follows the process outlined below and as described in the Program regulations at 22 C.F.R. Pt. 62.

Lesser Sanctions

Lesser sanctions include a letter of reprimand, probation, a requirement that the sponsor submit a Corrective Action Plan (CAP), or a reduction in the authorized number of exchange visitors in the sponsor's program.

The Office may notify the sponsor in writing of its intent to impose sanctions (the Notice) and provide the factual basis of the intended sanction. The Notice explains how a sponsor may file a statement in response to the described sanction that may include the submission of additional documentary material.

The sponsor should carefully review the Notice and the factual basis provided. Within ten business days of service of the Notice, the sponsor may submit to the Office a written statement that opposes the sanction(s) or requests a modification of the sanction(s).  The Office carefully reviews and considers the statement and any supporting documentation.  The Department then notifies the sponsor of its final decision to modify, withdraw, or confirm the sanction(s).

Other Sanctions

The Department may also impose other sanctions, such as suspension of the designation(s) of the sponsor’s program, revocation of program designation(s), denial of application(s) for redesignation, or direction to a sponsor to suspend or revoke the appointment of a Responsible Officer or Alternate Responsible Officer.  The Department may provide written notice of its intent to impose such sanctions.  The notice will provide the grounds for the sanction(s) and the procedures for submitting a statement in opposition to the sanctions.   Upon consideration of the sponsor’s statement, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary modifies, withdraws, or confirms the proposed greater sanction in a written decision.  The decision specifies how the sponsor may ask for a panel review of the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary’s decision.

Panel Review

After receiving the sponsor’s request for a panel review, the Department designates three senior officials to serve on the panel and notifies the sponsor of the panel composition.  The sponsor may submit a statement to the panel outlining the reasons for requesting a modification or reversal of the decision of the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary.  The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary then submits a statement in response.  Once the review of the panel is completed, the panel issues a written decision to affirm, modify, or reverse the sanction.

Sponsor Obligations

If suspension, revocation of designation, or denial of redesignation are imposed by the panel, the sponsor must end all advertising, recruitment, and promotion related to its program.  The sponsor must not issue Forms DS-2019 or facilitate entry of an exchange visitor into the United States. Suspension, revocation of designation, or denial of redesignation will not diminish or restrict the sponsor’s legal or financial responsibilities to exchange visitors in the United States who have already begun their program. If the Department revokes a sponsor’s program designation, such sponsor may not apply for a new designation for five years following the effective date of the revocation. Further instructions are provided by the Office if the decision to remove a sponsor is withdrawn or modified.