Students traveling from Ireland to the US on a J-1 visa, which provides for Summer work-related travel, will now be required to find a job in the US before they move there due to new changes recently announced at the US embassy in Ireland.
J-1 students from Ireland will need to provide proof of a pre-arranged job in their visa application. This new policy will come into effect beginning in 2016.
According to Lauren Lovelace, the US embassy’s director of public diplomacy and public affairs, the decision would affect all other visa-waiver countries, including the UK, Germany, France, and the Czech Republic.
Irish officials believe that the number of participants in the program may drop as much as 60-80% from the 7,000 J-1 visas that the US issued this year. They have therefore been lobbying against the changes since they were first proposed, reports Carl O’Brien of the Irish Times. About 150,000 Irish students in total have traveled to the US on J-1 visas in the fifty years since the policy’s birth, and on average they have taken two weeks to land a job once they arrive in America.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said:
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.
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.
According to the embassy, the new requirement will ensure “greater safety and security of participants, greater compliance, and a more rewarding cultural experience,” reports the BBC.
Lovelace stated that the change in policy had nothing to do with current events or the state of diplomacy between Ireland and the US. She notes that the policy changes reflect the standards of almost every other country in the world.
Supporters have also said that the new policy is fairer to students who don’t have the money to travel and then find work, reports Greg Harkin of the Independent.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed worries that the paperwork would limit the number of granted visas, and that many students might instead use holiday visas to work illegally. He said:
I am not keen on a situation where there could be an abrupt ending to the J1 system as we know it, through the dramatic introduction of a requirement for pre-employment.
The decision was made by independent sponsoring agencies in the US who choose and sponsor J-1 students, but it was supported by the US state department. According to the Belfast Telegraph, these agencies include CIEE, which works with the travel agency USIT, and Interexchange, which is partnered with SAYIT. The goal was to improve compliance with visa regulations, among other ends.