Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan writes to John Kerry over J1 changes

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has written to US secretary of state John Kerry over changes to the J1 visas system which will prevent students entering the US without a prearranged job.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan writes to John Kerry over J1 changes

He was joined by student representatives in expressing concerns over changes made to the visa system, which now require that the thousands of students who travel to the US each year source work in advance.

Mr Flanagan said 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 strengthen-ing the Ireland-US relationship.

He 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.”

This sentiment was echoed by the Union of Students Ireland (USI), which pointed out that the J1 scheme provides students with a great life experience of both working and living abroad.

Mr Flanagan said the changes “may prove challenging for many students” and could impact on the number of participants.

He said he raised the issue with senior members of the US administration during his visit to the US last month: “My department and our embassy in Washington will closely monitor the impact of these changes and will remain in close contact with the US state department and with the relevant agencies and bodies in the coming months.”

Since it began in 1966 around 150,000 Irish have travelled to the US under the J1 scheme.

USI president Kevin Donoghue said students are “disappointed” by the changes: “I think you will see a reduction on the number of people applying. We would be somewhat concerned that people who want to, get the option to.”

The changes are being brought in by main independent US sponsoring agencies which will roll out a global policy for all J1 participants, including those from Ireland. These agencies serve, vet, and sponsor J1 participants and provide them with the documentation necessary to obtain a J1 visa from the US state department.

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