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Best practices for Foreign Partners who help to promote mutual understanding through the Bridge USA Programs

The purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program is to provide foreign nationals with opportunities to participate in educational and cultural programs in the United States and return home to share their experiences (22 CFR 62.1(b).

Foreign partners are instrumental in the achievements of BridgeUSA program participants. Exceptional partners collaborate with sponsors to clarify program rules and regulations while establishing attainable expectations. Here are some recommendations for both parties engaged in this endeavor:

Best practices for overseas partners

  • Review bank statements during the application process to ensure the family is financially stable.
  • Include a segment in orientation sessions explaining the purpose of the programme which includes returning home to share their experiences, as well as completing their studies or starting their career.
  • Create a declaration or agreement that clearly outlines that the purpose of the programme is to return home. Require signatures from both participants and parents.
  • Require participants to submit a 2- way return flight ticket once a visa is approved.
  • Avoid the use of monetary bonds or guarantee letters that propose civil penalties, lawsuits or monetary compensation for overstays. These practices are STRONGLY discouraged as this can be interpreted as a form of debt bondage or indentured servitude.
  • Actively communicate overstay messages through social media.
  • Conduct Welcome Home sessions and include certificate of completion, evaluation form, social activities, letters of recommendation and prizes.
  • Build relationships with local embassy staff and communicate with them periodically about your efforts to improve return rates.
  • For SWT (Summer Work and Travel), collect university dates including the start date of the next semester.
  • For SWT (Summer Work and Travel), partner closely with universities and submit a list of approved students to them.  Remind them that students are not allowed to miss class for the start of the new semester.

Best practices for overseas sponsors

  • Include messaging to foreign partners about exchange visitors’ expectation to return home at the end of their program.
  • Provide guidance to foreign partners to recruit participants with strong ties to the home country, again reiterating the need to return to the home country.
  • Ensure messaging to host employers that the program is not extendable nor transferable and that all participants must return to their home country at the conclusion of their program.
  • Collect Date of Departure data directly from SEVIS when available. While this method is not the most user friendly, SEVIS does display Date of Departure information when a participant exits through at US Border Port (air departure is usually well tracked).
  • Request return rate data from foreign partners typically around 2 months after the official program end date.
  • Follow up with all participants that do not respond to final monitoring (we have found that those participants are generally the ones that overstay).  Report them to the respective partner for additional assistance/support.
  • For SWT (Summer Work and Travel), include messaging to participants pre-departure and during the program regarding expectations that participants depart before classes resume (or within the 30-day grace period after the program end date listed on their DS-2019 form).
  • Continue our work to reduce overstays, and work to deepen our cooperation with ECA, CA, and overseas posts.

By adhering to these suggestions, you can contribute to the participants’ safe return to their home countries upon completion of their programme.