Each year, some 100,000 college students come to the US on J-1 visas, eager to get a taste of American life while working a seasonal job. But an AP investigation has found the reality is a lot less rosy than it seems. Some students are forced to work in strip clubs; others make less than $1 an hour. Apartments are so crowded that some sleep in shifts because there aren't enough beds. And while government auditors have pointed fingers at problems in the program for 20 years, the State Department is only now working on new rules.
In interviews with 70 students in 10 states, the AP found that many foreign students turn to third-party recruiters, who make millions off the program, to help them find employment, only to get handed a menial job and filthy apartment. They're threatened with deportation if they complain, or try to quit. "This is not what I thought when I paid all this money to come here," said one such student, who came to the US from Romania hoping to save up for dental school. She wound up begging for work on the Myrtle Beach boardwalk and sharing a three-bedroom house with 30 other students.