If you’ve wondered about what is going on with camp counselor J-1 sponsors and end dates, I will try to encapsulate the complex issue in a few bullet points.
Key: DoS = Department of State ECA = DoS Educational & Cultural Affairs OPA = DoS Office of Program Administration Alliance = Alliance for International and Educational Cultural Exchange ACA= American Camp Association
- In a personal visit to DoS in October 22nd 2013, and at an Alliance meeting on October 25th, OPA principals gave strong voice to the fact that “summer” is defined as the “traditional” camp season and that end dates for J-1 counselors must coincide with the end of the last published session (i.e. post-camp is not compliant).
- On November 25th OPA staff asked multiple sponsors, including Camp America, for clarification on what activities participants were engaged in into the month of October. We responded by enumerating conventional school group, retreat, special needs respite, family camp activity after calling each of the employer camps.
- On December 23rd, Camp America and nine other sponsors received a strongly worded Letter of Concern intimating that we may not have the proper controls in place to be compliant with the intent of the regulations defining the “summer” period.
- On January 17th, 2014 ACA and Alliance representatives met with ECA principals in Washington on behalf of sponsors. While there was much debate there was a vague sense that September 21st, by virtue of being the end of summer, may be an acceptable final end date.
- On February 7th, sponsors met with Deputy Assistant Secretary Robin Lerner at the ACA National Conference in Orlando. Ms. Lerner was clear in that we should continue our current practices as there is no intention to disrupt the 2014 program. After a one-hour session she asked us to submit specific information on post camp activity.
- On February 27th, ECA Office of Private Sector Exchanges asked for information on post-camp activity, preferably in the form of a cooperative “white paper”.
- Today, March 28th, after collecting input from eight member sponsors including Camp America, the Alliance sent a white paper explaining in detail the customary practice of utilizing J-1 counselors to remain at camp for additional sessions into the months of September and October and the associated controls and regulatory adherence that sponsors will maintain.
I would ask all camp professionals to whom this issue is of importance to take special care in safeguarding regulatory intent in that all post camp duties be consistent with camp counselor activity.