II. J-1 WORKERS IN THE U.S. – DATA

Both the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security maintain data about J-1 workers. Close to 300,000 new J-1 visas are issued each year. Some J-1 programs span more than one year, while some have a much shorter duration of just several months. The amount of individuals in “active J-1 status” at any one time fluctuates between approximately 160,000 and 220,000 depending on the time of year. The subcategory with the most participants is summer work travel, followed by high school and university students, and scholars.  J-1 workers come to the U.S. from all over the world, with most coming from European nations.  China is the largest sending country for J-1 workers, followed by Germany, United Kingdom, Brazil, and France.  Even though the U.S. government possesses detailed information on  individuals who work with a J-1 visa, including their age, gender, country of origin and the subcategory, this information is not publicly available. 

 
A. The Number of J-1 Workers in the U.S.
1. U.S. Department of Labor
The U.S. Department of Labor does not have any role in the administration of the J-1 visa program.  As such, USDOL neither collects nor maintains data regarding the number of J-1 workers present in the U.S.
 
2. U.S. Department of State
The Department of State publishes select J-1 data on their interactive J-1 visa website, including the number of sponsors and workers per subcategory, and the destination states for each subcategory.30 Statistics for J-1 visas are also found on a multi-year spreadsheet for all nonimmigrant visas issued by nationality, which is published on the general DOS website.31 The numbers for 2012 listed in each of these sources, however, do not match up. The interactive website indicates that 297,959 J-1 visas, were issued, whereas the NIV detail table shows a total of 313,431 J-1 visas.  The reason for this discrepancy is not apparent. 
 
3. U.S. Department of Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) annually publishes the number of admissions of individuals with J-1 visas rather than the number of individuals.32 Each time a nonimmigrant worker enters the United States, DHS’s Customs and Border Patrol counts the entry as an admission. The numbers represent admissions, not individuals.  That is, one single individual may be counted many times over in this total count because each admission is counted. Many J-1 workers return to their home countries for holidays or vacations during the year.
 
  Click to enlarge.
 
a) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the branch of DHS that oversees the Student and Exhchange Visitor Program (SEVIS), the computer system which tracks the whereabouts and employment of all J-1 participants.  ICE publishes SEVIS quarterly reports showing the number of individuals in active J-1 status.  During the quarter ending in March 2013, there were 180,047 active J-1 participants in the United States.  The numbers fluctuate throughout the year for example, there are fewer J-1 workers here in winter and more in the summer.
 
B. J-1 Worker Demographics
The State Department issues the most J-1 visas to workers from Europe and Asia.  In 2012, European nations account for 170,817 and Asian countries 91,940.33 The entire rest of the world received just 61,488 J-1 visas.  China is the single largest sending country for J-1 workers, with 32,400 visas issued, followed by Germany, United Kingdom, Brazil, and France. The Department of Homeland Security also publishes the nationality of every person admitted along with their visa classification. As a result of the way this data is collected and reported, however, the DHS numbers may obscure the picture of which countries send the most J-1 workers to the U.S.  To illustrate this point, take Canada - with 31,118 admissions for J-1 workers in 2011.34 That number may simply reflect that Canadian J-1 workers leave and re-enter the U.S. many times during one year. Indeed, if the individual lives near the border, it is possible that they are entering almost daily. So while the flow of J-1 workers from Canada is high, the number of individuals from Canada is unknown.  J-1 workers come from many other countries as well.  Nonimmigrant admission numbers track the largest source-countries: China, Canada, Germany, France, Mexico, United Kingdom.  DHS does not break down the nonimmigrant admissions for J-1 workers by subcategory.  
 

 
 
1. Age and Gender of J-1 Workers per Subcategory is known but not made public
The State Department and Department of Homeland Security collect information on the number of J-1 workers that are present in the U.S. at any given time, their program subcategory, nationality and other biographical information.  All of this information is listed on Form DS- 2019 and contained in the SEVIS computer database which is managed by DHS. Sponsors must input into SEVIS biographical information for all exchange visitor workers as well as where they are employed and the J visa subcategory.36 Every J-1 worker’s subcategory classification, nationality, age and gender is known to the U.S. government. Therefore, it is possible to break down the data and show, for example, the average age of interns and where they are employed, or what countries send the most SWT participants. Neither DHS nor State have chosen to make this information public. In its Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, published annually, DHS offers supplemental data tables that offer the gender and age range of selected categories.37 However, the categories are not specific to certain visas. J-1 visas are grouped together with J-2, and the entire F and M nonimmigrant visas as well.38 Therefore, that information is not useful to determine the age of gender breakdown of any of the J-1 visa categories.
 
C. J-1 Employer Demographics
Neither the Department of State nor the Department of Homeland Security publish the names of companies where J-1 workers are employed.  These agencies do possess this information, however, because sponsors must report each J-1 visa holder’s “site of activity” both the DS-2019 and SEVIS.39 The primary and any secondary locations where the J-1 workers will spend the duration of their exchange programs must be listed in full, and updated throughout their stay. While the Department of State data on their website is broken down by the U.S. state where participants are destined to work, the website has no information about the actual places of employment.
 
D. J-1 Job Characteristics
The Summer Work Travel subcategory is the largest single J-1 program, at 91,763 participants in 2012.40 Students comprise the second largest group of J-1 visa holders: high school and university students combined totaled 71,142 participants. Scholars are the third largest combined category with professor, research and short term scholars amounting to 53,987 visas issued. Interns and trainees total 32,494 participants. 
 

  • 30. The State Department’s website j1visa.state.gov publishes data for each subcategory by U.S. state of destination The numbers of visas granted per category are searchable per state via an interactive map. The data is available in list form if the search is done by category. However, while the category totals per state are listed, the total per category is not. These numbers here were calculated by hand in March 2013 based on 2012 data available on the website at that time.
  • 31. State Department, FY 1997-2012 NIV Detail Table, available at http://travel.state.gov/visa/statistics/nivstats/nivstats_4582.html.
  • 32. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Nonimmigrant Admissions (I-94 Only) by Selected Category of Admission and Region and Country of Citizenship: Fiscal Year 2011, available at http://www.dhs.gov/yearbook-immigration-statistics-2011-2.
  • 33. Department of State, FY 1997-2012 NIV Detail Table, available at http://travel.state.gov/visa/statistics/nivstats/nivstats_4582.html.
  • 34. Canadian nonimmigrant workers are not required to obtain a J-1 visa prior to presenting at the border for entry. Rather, Canadians set to come as J-1 workers present at the border with the DS-2019. Therefore, Canadian J-1s are not counted in the State Department data, but are included in the DHS admissions count.
  • 36. See Department of Homeland Security, User Manual for Exchange Visitor Program Sponsor Users (RO/ARO) of SEVIS Version 6.1:Volume II Form DS-2019, p. 35 (Dec. 7, 2012) (field 13, “Exchange Visitor Category” presents drop down menu offering fifteen J visa participant subcategory options, detailed in Appendix 3).
  • 37. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Nonimmigrant Admissions (I-94 Only) by Selected Category of Admission, Age and Gender: Fiscal Year 2011, available at http://www.dhs.gov/yearbook-immigration-statistics-2011-2.
  • 38. Id.
  • 39. See Department of Homeland Security, User Manual for Exchange Visitor Program Sponsor Users (RO/ARO) of SEVIS Version 6.1:Volume II Form DS-2019, p. 39-43 (Dec. 7, 2012).
  • 40. These totals were calculated by hand based on the subcategory per-state data listed on j1visa.state.gov. The Department of State's NIV detail table does not break down J-1 visa numbers by subcategory.

© 2012 | Global Workers Justice Alliance | 789 Washington Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11238 | info@globalworkers.org | (646)351-1160