Intrax - Scam? - Emergencies - Helpful Hints

First Intrax is not a scam, it is a reputable organization based in California USA which, with itís partners in other countries and the USA, arranges cultural exchange experiences for students of different countries. This web page is not affiliated with Intrax but is provided in an attempt to answer questions Intrax Work Program participants in the USA may have that are not covered in the very extensive Intrax on-line literature and the Intrax Work Travel Patricipant Handbook.

NOTE: As of June 2010, the 2008 Intrax Work Travel Participant Handbook (a 70 page pdf file) may be accessed from the following Intrax web page
http://www.experienceintrax.com/participants/iwt-downloads
and the emergency procedures section starts on page 32. If the Intrax procedures are followed by Intrax personnel, partner personnel and the Work Program participants, the problems described below should never happen, but sometimes they do when there is miscommunication.

I am not a lawyer and WILL NOT be responsible for any loss or problems associated with actions taken based on the information on this page. This page is for informational purposes only and is as valid as I can make it. However, I hope this information is helpful to Intrax Work Program participants faced with the situations described below which I have personally seen happen. If you are interested in what actually happened read the "What Happened" section below.

Problem 1 - You arrive at your work (or call your work when arriving in the USA) and because of some misunderstandings you are told your job is no longer available.

First you should try to contact your Intrax contact. If it is a weekend or at night and Intrax personnel are not available you can try to call the Intrax Emergency number but will probably be told your situation is not considered an emergency (see the emergency section of the Participant Handbook mentioned above). So what should you do? First don't panic. You should proceed as if you still had the job. You should register with Intrax on their internet pages within your first 3 days in the USA as you normally would have done. This lets Intrax know you are in the country. Then you should contact Intrax as soon as possible during their normal working hours. As long as you have registered with them you are considered participating in the work program as far as your J1 Visa status is concerned even though you do not have the job you thought you had. Since Intrax is a large organization they will try to unravel the misunderstandings and possibly try to find you a new job in the same or a nearby area if the original job is truly not available. The situation should basically be the same as if you lost your job "because of no fault of your own" as described in their Participant Handbook.

Alternatively, if you want to stay in your original area (perhaps because you have arranged living quarters and you will lose money if you have to move out of the area), you should call Intrax first and tell them you would like to stay in the same location and that you would like to look for a job on your own. Intrax may agree and give you a time limit to find a job. When you find one, contact Intrax. They will check your new employer and may or may not approve the job change. If they do approve the change, fill out the paperwork as if you were changing jobs (see Participant Handbook). If you do not find a job in the prescribed time, or they do not approve the alternate employer you find, and you do not take an Intrax approved job, you will be dropped from the program and must leave the country.

Problem 2 - You arrive at your job location and are told that through misunderstandings your housing is not available.

If you are an Individual participant it is up to you to find alternate housing. If you are a Premium participant Intrax will help you find new housing, however you must wait until normal business hours to contact Intrax. Thus, if you arrive on a weekend and have no housing you should find someplace to stay (perhaps a local hotel or motel) and stay there until you can contact Intrax. Note: hotel and motel rooms in the USA cost from $50 to $130/day depending on the location, and hotels in big cities can cost even more so you should have adequate funds to do that.

Problem 3 - You miss a connection while travelling to start your job and thus will arrive late.

As stated in the Participant Handbook, contact your employer and explain that you will be late and why. Let them know when you will be arriving if you know. Also let Intrax know by calling during business hours. Also try to make contact with the person providing your housing to let them know.

If you are travelling by public transportation (bus, train or plane) contact the company (bus, train, or plane) to determine the next bus, train, or plane you can catch. It is not a good idea to just ask people on the street how to get to a location because they may not know how to go or they may misunderstand you and send you in the wrong direction. Try to ask police or information clerks at bus or train stations or airports. Note also that traveling at night in a strange country is not a good idea since businesses are not open, their are fewer busses and trains, and more possibilities of being directed in the wrong direction. If it is late in the day you would probably be better off going to a local motel or hotel and start traveling again early the next morning.

As long as you check in with Intrax within three days of entering the country you will be in the program even if it takes you extra time to reach your destination. However, you must keep Intrax informed of your progress and make every effort to reach your destination as soon as possible after your job start date.

Problem 4 - You were planning on meeting someone and have them drive you to your destination, but because of a misunderstanding, or some transportation problem (like a delayed flight), or a communication problem (like your cell phone does not work in the USA) you miss meeting them.

In this case you must have a backup plan on how to get to the job location by yourself as stated in the Participant Handbook. You should have maps, and transportation time tables and a plan of what transportation you will take. You should be able to get this information from web pages. If for some reason you don't have this information, buy a map and go to a local bus station or train station to obtain schedules. Then plan your route. Note: in the USA much travel is done by driving and if you have to take public transportation the travel could take much longer. For example, to go from New York City to a resort community on the southern New Jersey shore may take only 2 1/2 hours by car but it can take up to 7 hours by public transportation (train and bus) depending on your starting location, your starting time and the route you decide to take. Much of this delay will be just waiting at train and bus terminals for the next bus or train. Delays are worse on weekends and holidays and at night.

If you have encountered problems other than these, and they are not already covered in the Intrax Work Program Participant Handbook please email me a description and I will consider adding them to this page. If you feel there is a better solution, or a different solution to these problems please email me at . If you encounter one of these problems you can also email me at the above address.

Finally, remember this information is for information only and each participant must decide themselves how they will proceed in the situations in which they find themselves. I am not responsible for problems you encounter based on this information.


What Happened

The events that caused me to create this page happened to an Intrax Work Program participant from Turkey. She had arranged to work for the summer in New Jersey through Academix, a Turkish group which has partnered with Intrax. She arrived at JFK airport on June 12, 2010, a Saturday, on a flight from Turkey and planned to meet another Work Program participant at a street corner in Manhatten late in the day and then travel together to their work location. The first problem occurred when she did not meet the other person after standing on the street corner at the agreed upon time. She tried to make phone contact but the other person never answered (for reasons we still don't know). After waiting awhile she decided to try to get to New Jersey by herself but really didn't have a good idea of where she was going or how to get there. She asked my wife who was passing by, and since my wife was going to New Jersey, she offered to lead her there. Once at the train station in Newark, New Jersey(a major communication hub) they asked how to get to her final destination which turned out to be Avalon, New Jersey, a town at the very southern tip of the state. After asking at the train ticket counter, and the bus ticket counter they were told there was no way to get there until the next morning. (We found out later that the way to go was back to New York city where she could have gotten a bus to Atalantic City, New Jersey and then a bus from there to Cape May, and then a taxi to Avalon. But going that way she would have arrived very late at night or early the next morning.) Thus my wife suggested she come home with her, which she did.

When they arrived it was 9:00pm (about 4am Turkish time) and we decided we should drive her to Avalon which was a 2 1/2 hour drive getting her there close to 12:00pm. Befor we drove all that way, however, we decided to call her work location, which was a hotel, to find out if someone would be there when she arrived. She had understood that the hotel would know about her housing arrangements which she thought she had arranged for. When we called the hotel, the hotel manager said he did not have a job for her. He said three other Russian Work Program participants from Intrax had arrived the Thursday before and he told them he had no work and had called his Intrax contact to say Intrax should not send any more people (it seems there must have been a misunderstanding between the owner of the hotel who contacted Intrax for workers and the Manager who had filled all the positions at the hotel). He also said there were no accomodations for her and that the hotel was full that night. At this point we called her Intrax contact and, since that person was not there, we left a message on the answering machine saying there was no job and no accomodations and asked what we should do and to please return the call. Since I had never heard of Intrax before that day, I was beginning to suspect Intrax was a scam. After searching on the computer I decided Intrax was reputable and I found the Intrax emergency number. Feeling we needed some guidance, and knowing that the next day was Sunday, I decided to call the emergency number. Needless to say the answering service operator who answered did not feel we had an emergency. While all this was going on our visitor was phoning back to Turkey where her mother and father were worrying. So the situation around midnight (7:00am Turkey time) was: There was no job, there were no accomodations, she felt that if she didn't have a job in three days (Monday) she would have to go back to Turkey. Later we found this was not true but at the time the events were overwhelming. Thus after midnight we decided to sleep on it.

The next morning she announced that her father had arranged for a flight back to Turkey that afternoon. We left for the airport about noon since the airport was also a 2 1/2 hour drive (lots of traffic congestion in New York City). Upon our return from the airport about 5:30pm we found that the Intrax contact had left a message on the answering machine at 12:41 saying he thought he had an alternate job for our visitor in New York State at Lake George and that she should call. However since he didn't call before noon when we were already on the way to the airport, our visitor was already on the flight back to Turkey. We also found out later that the Intrax contact had sent our visitor an email on Saturday, while she was flying, saying that there was a problem with her accomodations and that she should call him. It did not say that there was no job. However, for some reason she did not get those emails while travelling. Later we found out that the Work Program participant who our visitor was supposed to meet in New York City did get an email from the Intrax contact and did take an alternate job at Lake George, New York. This was probably because she arrived in New York City before Saturday and thus had access to her email.

In subsequent communications with Intrax they have said to me: 1)the emergency call should have been put through since so many things had gone wrong; 2) our visitor should get a refund from Academix the Turkish agency. Academix however has said it was our visitor's fault and thus they will not give her a refund. I have also emailed Intrax asking them to change their procedures so this will not happen again. I suggested the best solution would be to have an Intrax employee avalable 24 hrs a day to handle emergency calls and not outsource to an answering service. In our case, a 2 minute call with an Intrax employee would have changed everything. The next best thing would be to have the answering service operator suggest callers go to the on-line Intrax Participant Handbook web page and provide the on-line location of that document. That would help someone like me, who was not aware of the Intrax procedures or of the Handbook. I spent about an hour that Saturday night looking through Intrax documentation on the internet but did not locate that handbook until days later.

Current status. As of July 22, 2010 our visitor has not receieved any of her money back ($1,400.USD to Academix and about $1,700 USD in airfare). Intrax, while saying they are going to change their procedures, has not told me of any changes they have actually made.

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(07/22/10)

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