The American sponsor bodies which manage many Irish participants in the J1 programme have announced plans to introduce a requirement for applicants from visa waiver programme countries like Ireland to secure employment as part of their summer 2016 J1 applications before they arrive in the US.
CIEE and Interexchange, the bodies which manage Irish applications, will be changing the rule so that Irish students will now be subject to the same work rules that students from non-visa waiver programme countries face.
This means that for many students, the option of gaining employment when in the country is now off the table, as evidence of secured employment must be provided upon application.
Speaking on radio this morning USI president Kevin Donoghue said that the effects of the new rule could be significant, and that the USI is working on a structure to help students secure employment before traveling.
According to the department of foreign affairs, “jobs pre-placement has been a requirement of the US state department…for those coming from non [visa waiver programme] countries for some years.”
Minister for foreign affairs Charlie Flanagan commented on the development, saying that “for almost 50 years, the J1 experience has been a rite of passage for many young Irish students and has played an important and positive role in strengthening the Ireland-US relationship. It was with some concern that I learned of the proposal to require applicants to arrange employment in advance of travel in order to obtain their J1 visas.”
The minister further outlined his fears that this with impact negatively on the amount of Irish students participating in the programme. Approximately 150,000 students from Ireland have taken part in the programme according to latest US government figures.
“I am concerned that meeting the requirements of the new rules may prove challenging for many students and this may in turn impact on the numbers of students participating in the programme”, he said.
“I raised the matter with very senior members of the US Administration during my visit to the US last month and I have in recent days also written to secretary of state Kerry outlining my concerns. I have also been in contact with the US Ambassador in Dublin, Kevin O’Malley, on the matter and appreciate his helpful engagement on the issue.”
The US embassy in Ireland today issued a statement which said that the new rule was designed to ensure “greater safety and security of participants, greater compliance, and a more rewarding cultural experience”.