Viewing cable 05VILNIUS1272

05VILNIUS12722005-12-05 06:15:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
REF: Vilnius 1226 
¶1.  Summary.  Lithuania's Summer Work and Travel Program 
(SWT), one of the largest programs per capita in the world, 
sends 2,000 university students to more than 30 states each 
year.  Concentrated primarily in service-oriented positions 
in tourist areas along the East Coast and Great Lakes, 
Lithuanians participate in the program to improve language 
skills, learn about American culture, and earn money for 
their university studies.  The 97 percent return rate in 
2005 reflects strong Post oversight, including regular 
meetings with organizers.  Alumni respondents to a post- 
generated survey tell us they return to Lithuania more 
confident, self-sufficient, and appreciative of the 
cultural diversity and natural beauty of the United States. 
Respondents affirm that the program fosters very pro- 
American attitudes among Lithuania's future leaders.  End 
Lithuania's Work and Travel Program 
¶2.  More than 7,200 Lithuanian university students 
participated in the SWT between 2003-2005.  Students from 
Lithuania's most prestigious 14 institutions of higher 
learning participate in the program.  Utilizing the 
databases of the program's ten Lithuania-based organizers 
as well as recommendations from alumni, participants flock 
to service-oriented positions in traditional tourist areas 
along the East Coast, Great Lakes, and Alaska.  Though most 
participants receive hourly remuneration above minimum 
wage, wages for workers range from $2.00-$3.00 per hour 
plus gratuities for wait staff and hostesses to $10.00- 
$12.00 for those working in more physically demanding jobs 
such as construction, moving, and housekeeping. 
Strong Post Oversight 
¶3.  Post maintains strong control and active oversight over 
the program by assigning a Vice Consul and senior LES to 
directly manage SWT.  Consular officers regularly meet with 
the ten local recruiting agencies, as well as with American 
host organizations.  Post conducts a general meeting 
involving all local agencies early in the recruitment cycle 
to clearly identify program requirements and detail the 
processing of SWT applicants to ensure they do not 
interfere with normal NIV traffic.  Local agencies have 
impressively demonstrated that they do a better job of 
reporting overstays than traditional Post-generated 
validation studies.  Post, however, continues to regularly 
spot-check the veracity of these numbers.  Post conducts a 
comprehensive review of the program and its constituent 
recruitment and source organizations at the end of each 
program year.  Agencies whose return rates fall below 85 
percent risk being removed or suspended from the program. 
Universities who likewise represent a cluster of non- 
returnees are dropped from the program.  Post has removed 
one agency and two universities, and suspended a second 
agency for two years for poor performance since 2002. 
Aggregate statistics for the years 2003-2005 indicate that 
92 percent of the more than 7,200 participants returned on 
time following their program.  Return rates for the 2005 
program were 96.5 percent.  Most overstays change their 
status to that of a student (F1) or temporary worker (H2B). 
One student who traveled to Maine as part of the 2003 
program told us that his employer "invited" him to remain 
in the U.S. after the program to manage a gas station. 
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Promoting the Program, Study, and Visa Waiver Roadmap 
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¶4.  Post actively promotes SWT as part of its broader Visa 
Waiver Roadmap outreach campaign to Lithuania's public 
(reftel A).  A common claim and criticism in Lithuania of 
America's immigration law is that young adults are denied 
nonimmigrant visas at rates disproportionate to the general 
public.  Regular speaking engagements by both Consular and 
Public Diplomacy officers highlighting SWT and the myriad 
of opportunities for students to travel legally to the U.S. 
helps mollify these erroneous complaints.  During a 
roundtable discussion at Lithuania's parliament regarding 
America's visa policy, for example, the Consul noted that 
thousands of students each year receive visas for SWT. 
(More than 12,000 Lithuanian students participated in SWT 
between 2000-2005.).  The Vice Consul manager of the 
program recently spoke about study opportunities in 
America, the visa process, and SWT to more than 100 
students at the Embassy's American Center. 
The Program:  In Participants' Own Words 
¶5.  To better understand Lithuania's SWT program and its 
impact through the eyes of the participants, Post created 
and distributed a questionnaire to 5,000 alumni from the 
2003-2005 programs.  Through their responses to the 
questionnaire's eight questions, nearly 350 alumni detailed 
their experiences and the impact and utility of the SWT 
program.  Students told us that the primary reasons they 
participated in the program were to improve language 
abilities, satiate a sense of adventure and wonder about 
America, and earn money for their studies.  Most came away 
impressed with the customer-service orientation and 
friendly nature of Americans.  Noting that Lithuania is one 
of the most homogenous nations in the world, several 
highlighted the cultural diversity of America and the 
sensitivity most Americans showed each other. 
"The Best Experience of My Life" 
¶6.  Though Lithuanians generally found Americans lacking in 
knowledge about the rest of the world, they characterized 
Americans as a patriotic, smiling group who enjoyed their 
"super-sized" lifestyle.  Most participants traveled during 
their summer, with Niagara Falls, Boston, and New York City 
the most popular destinations, though some said they 
traveled as far as the Bahamas, Hawaii and Mexico. 
Respondents noted that their best experiences included 
halibut fishing in Alaska, a professional football game in 
Buffalo, NY, seeing the skyscrapers of New York City, 
visiting New Orleans jazz clubs, meeting Bette Midler and 
Luciano Pavarotti in Connecticut, and, from a computer 
science major, having the opportunity to eat lunch on the 
"Google" campus.  Some participants, however, particularly 
those that worked two jobs to maximize their earning 
potential, did not venture beyond their state of residence. 
These students remark that this decision afforded them the 
opportunity to become more economically self-sufficient 
following their return.  Others noted that they spent a 
sizable portion of their income in the U.S. on things like 
computer equipment and corrective laser eye surgery, 
something not available in Lithuania. 
Program Benefits to Participants 
¶7.  The impact of the program is, in the participants' own 
words, profound.  Students noted that their American 
experiences made them more polite, confident, and self- 
sufficient.  Most immediately applied their improved 
language skills to their benefit at school, noting higher 
grades, particularly in fields such as law and 
international relations where course texts are in English. 
Others, noting that the experience reinforced the value of 
a university education, cited improved TOEFL scores and a 
desire to continue their education abroad, including in the 
United States.  One student, majoring in psychology at 
Vytautas Magnus University, utilized her travel window 
following the program to explore U.S. educational 
opportunities.  She later returned to the United States on 
a student visa and will graduate this summer from 
Pennsylvania State University with a degree in 
industrial/organizational psychology, a specialty not 
taught in Lithuania, and will return to Lithuania.  Several 
alumni told us the program helped give them the language 
skills to secure placement in graduate programs in Europe, 
such as Kaiserslautern University of Technology (Germany) 
and Concordia International University (Estonia), and at 
the University of Dortmund (Germany) as an Erasmus scholar, 
as well as employment following graduation in the fields of 
biochemistry and international finance in England.  One 
student said her experience at a special needs camp in 
Illinois will make her a better doctor by sensitizing her 
to the needs of the disabled.  She noted that she hoped to 
apply some of the treatment and mainstreaming techniques 
learned in the United States to Lithuania. 
Long-Term Impact of Program 
¶8.  Respondents universally affirm that the program gave 
them a distinct advantage over other graduates when seeking 
employment.  Respondents note that Lithuanian employers 
greatly value their American experience, particularly their 
exposure to a multinational culture, language skills, and 
familiarity with American corporate culture and management 
styles.  Recent program alumni, for example, have secured 
leadership positions in both governmental and private 
institutions, such as the chief legal specialist for the 
Vilnius city administration, and a consultant in an 
international management-consulting firm.  Many alumni have 
qualified for full-validity tourist visas shortly after 
¶9.  The continued efficacy of the Work and Travel Program 
will remain one of Post's most important objectives. 
Competition from EU-funded programs and work opportunities 
elsewhere in Europe has begun to affect the numbers of 
Lithuanian students participating in SWT.  By continuing to 
work closely with both local and American-based program 
organizers, and promoting the program through public 
speaking events, Post hopes to continue to reduce the 
incidence of visa overstays while increasing program 
participation.  That alumni had overwhelmingly positive 
experiences during their formative years leads us to 
believe that the program is cultivating a pro-American 
attitude among many of Lithuania's future leaders.