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The State Department last week announced major changes to the J-1 Summer Work and Travel Program, which include new rules that would protect American workers. 

The new rules prohibit companies from the J-1 program that have had layoffs in the past 120 days or whose workers are on strike. The State Department will close a loophole which allowed companies to hire a series of foreign students year round for one permanent job that could have gone to an American worker. The State department wants to ensure that the jobs are truly seasonal or temporary and will not displace American workers.

"The number of participants should be lower and tied to the unemployment rate in the U.S.," suggested Daniel Costa, an immigration policy lawyer for the Economic Policy Institute. 

In a previous round of changes, the State Department said it had temporarily stopped accepting any new sponsors and limited the number of future participants to about 109,000 students annually. The program peaked with about 153,000 participants in 2008. 

The J-1 Summer Work and Travel Program, created under the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, allows foreign college students to spend up to four months living and working in the United States. The program is aimed at allowing students of modest means to work in seasonal or temporary jobs as a way of offsetting the costs of their travel to the U.S. More than 1 million students have participated in a variety of jobs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

Read the full story at Associated Press.

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Updated: Mon, May 7th 2012 @ 6:48pm EDT