The Alliance for International Exchange recently released a report on the impact of the J-1 Summer Work Travel programme
Agents and sponsors express concern over rumoured J-1 cuts in USA

Sponsors and agents recruiting international students for the J-1 exchange scheme in the USA have expressed concerns over reports that the Trump administration is planning to make cuts to the programme.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, the U.S. government is planning "major reductions" for five of the employment-based streams of the visa programme, including the summer work and travel, au pair, camp counsellor and internship strands. Non-employment schemes such as high schools are not thought to be under threat.


Summer work and travel is comfortably the largest element of J-1, with around 100,000 international students per year participating in the scheme that allows them to work during the holiday season.


The reports suggest the planned cuts are part of the broader campaign to protect the interests of domestic workers under the Buy American, Hire American (BAHA) Executive Order issued in April.


The Alliance for International Exchange, a US-based association dedicated to promoting the growth and impact of exchange programmes, said the idea that the J-1 visa undermined BAHA was "misguided and uninformed", and that the scheme worked to supplement and expand the local labour force during peak seasons.


The association said that the J1 visa programme was established in 1961 with the "goal of fostering positive relationships across the globe".


"It is unclear why, at a time of economic and diplomatic uncertainty, a small group of advisors in the White House are conspiring to eliminate programmes that have long-term benefits to both our position in the world and our economy at home," said Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of the Alliance.


"We urge the Trump administration to reject this dangerous approach to our foreign policy. We also call on exchange supporters in Congress to add their strong voices to the fight to save these critical public diplomacy tools from people who would put our nation's national security at risk and harm many countries."


The Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (Felca), a global organisation of national associations of study travel agencies, discussed the threats to the J-1 scheme at its annual AGM in London, UK, last week, and has drafted a letter for affiliated agencies recruiting students for J-1 to use in lobbying local embassies and ambassadors.


Alberto Sarno, Director of Germany-based Sprachcaffe, which sends students on J-1 placements, told StudyTravel Magazine that only the USA would lose out from any cuts, as students would simply choose to go elsewhere.


Christine La Monica-Lunn, President and CEO of InterExchange, a certified sponsor of the J-1 scheme, said, "These valuable cultural exchange programmes, which InterExchange has proudly administered for nearly 50 years, bring university students and young professionals from abroad to the USA to study, work, live with American families, act as camp counsellors and travel our great country. While in America, these young people have the opportunity to improve their English skills, learn about American ways of life, share their culture with host communities, supplement the American workforce during peak business seasons, and provide valuable child care for American working families."


She added, "Eliminating J-1 exchange programmes is not just bad foreign policy; it is bad for America and for Americans. This action would cause significant harm to our nation's public diplomacy efforts, as well as to the American economy."


CIEE, another J-1 sponsor, has emailed partner agencies asking them to contact ambassadors and encourage their current clients to share their J-1 stories on social media, using the hashtag #saveJ1.


Earlier, this month a bipartisan group of 17 U.S. Senators signed a letter to Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, to express support for the summer work travel scheme and its impact on diplomacy and the local economy.


So far the White House has declined to comment on the Wall Street Journal claims. 



By Matthew Knott

News Editor