Department of State news
Educational and cultural exchange programs are funded at $589.9 million in the FY15 omnibus appropriations bill released last night and expected to be voted on by both Chambers of Congress this week. This funding amount is $12 million more than the President’s FY15 request of $577.9 million and $21.2 million more than the FY14 enacted level of $568.6 million. The FY15 omnibus also contains increases over the FY14 level for every specified program, including:
Student exchanges are key in advancing the United States’ positive relationship with China, Secretary of State John Kerry stressed in a speech on U.S.-China relations on Tuesday:
“One of the best ways for us to improve our connection is by expanding the student exchanges.”
(Update 10/8/14: An additional significant change not included in our original analysis has been added below [see bullet #7, and further comment on that bullet in the section titled “Significant changes to sponsor representations and disclosures: section 62.9(d)(3)”].)
Revisions to Subpart A, the general provisions of the regulations governing the Department of State Exchange Visitor Program, were released in today’s Federal Register. The rule is interim final and goes into effect January 5, 2015 (except revised insurance amounts, which become applicable on May 15, 2015). The Department is accepting comments on the rule for 60 days, until December 5, 2014.
The Government of Russia has decided to cancel Russian participation in the 2015-16 Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) high school program, according to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Russian high school students currently in the U.S. on the 2014-15 FLEX program can continue their stay and finish their program.
The U.S. State Department has announced the appointment of the new special representative to Muslim communities, the Washington Post reports. Shaarik Zafar’s appointment was formally announced this week.
The State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has posted information and FAQs regarding the ongoing efforts to fully restore its global database for issuing travel documents and visas. This database crashed last week, causing an “extensive backlog” for U.S. passports and visas worldwide.
The President, First Lady, and Secretary of State this week highlighted a Presidential Summit to celebrate the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and the program’s 500 Washington fellows. President Obama announced that, with the blessing of the Nelson Mandela family, the fellowship component of the initiative has been renamed the “Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.”
The Department of State’s global database for issuing travel documents and visas has experienced technical problems, causing an “extensive backlog” of applications for U.S. passports and visas worldwide and major delays for potentially millions of people, the Associated Press reports.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Private Sector Exchange Robin Lerner and staff of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) are traveling across the U.S. this July and August to visit international exchange participants, particularly of the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program, at their placement sites.