The Department of Foreign Affairs has received no information that would suggest Irish J-1 visas are under threat, despite weekend reports that the US administration is considering “major reductions” in the number of summer work exchange visitors.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said he did not intend to respond directly to a report quoting ‘unnamed sources’ in the Wall Street Journal that suggested the program, which is hugely popular with Irish students, could be in the firing line.
He said: “It is important not to draw any conclusions. The program has been hugely successful and we have had absolutely no indication of any change.
“Thousands of Irish people, including myself, have hugely benefited from the special relationship we have with the US and I would like to see that continue into the future.”
The report suggested that the administration, which has taken a hardline stance on both legal and illegal immigration since President Trump was inaugurated, was “considering major reductions in cultural exchange programs, including those for au pairs and summer workers”, but not educational exchanges.
According to the US State Department, the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program “provides opportunities for around 300,000 foreign visitors from 200 countries and territories per year to experience US society and culture and engage with Americans”.
Tourist favourites such as Cape Cod, the Jersey Shore and California have provided jobs for thousands of Irish students every summer, as well as major cities such as New York and Chicago.
President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), Michael Kerrigan said far from the numbers being curtailed, the USI wanted to see them increased.
“The J-1 Visa program has played an extremely positive role in building relations between the US and Ireland since it was started over 50 years ago.
“The J-1 acts as a right of passage for a lot of students, and helps students learn valuable skills, build their careers, and to experience working abroad during their time at college,” he said.
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