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Changes to J-1 Visa Requirements

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan, TD. (Photo: Paul Sherwood)

By Adam Farley, Deputy Editor
December / January 2016

The two sponsoring bodies that administer the vast majority of Irish participants in the J-1 Summer visa program have announced a plan to introduce a new requirement for applicants to secure a job prior to arriving in the U.S. beginning in the 2016 application cycle.

The change affects applicants from countries in the Visa Waiver Program, which includes Ireland, as well as France, the U.K., the Czech Republic, and others, who are currently exempt from the U.S. State Department’s requirement of employment prior to arrival and allows for visa-free travel for up to 90 days.

Michael Doorley, managing director of the Shandon Travel Group which oversees the Irish J-1 agency SAYIT, told our partner publication the Irish Voice that the new changes “should make it easier” for Irish students to secure jobs in the U.S., but Irish officials have expressed concern over the change’s implications.

“For almost 50 years, the J-1 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,” Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan said in a statement.

“I raised the matter with very senior members of the U.S. Administration during my visit to the U.S. last month and I have also written to Secretary of State Kerry outlining my concerns. I have also been in contact with the U.S. Ambassador in Dublin, Kevin O’Malley, on the matter and appreciate his helpful engagement on the issue,” he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also raised the J-1 visa change during remarks in the Dail last month.

“I am not keen on a situation where there could be an abrupt ending to the J-1 system as we know it, through the dramatic introduction of a requirement for pre-employment,” he said.

The sponsors, CIEE (who work with travel agent USIT), and Interexchange (who work with the travel agency SAYIT), say the new job requirement is keeping in line with the State

Department requirements from other, non-visa waiver countries. Up to 8,000 Irish students take advantage of the program each year. ♦

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