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12-month J1 visas will still be around for another three years at least

There had been questions over whether the agreement would be terminated.

GOOD NEWS FOR travellers – the 12-month J1 visa has been extended by another three years.

There had been questions about the future of the 12-month Irish Work and Travel (IWT) Program visa – not the four-month visa most commonly used by students – after comments by Donald Trump in 2015.

While the four-month visa is most commonly used by students to travel and work in the USA during the summer, the 12-month visa allows Irish citizens aged between 18 and 35 to work in the US, and the reverse for US citizens.

Irish Ambassador to the US Anne Anderson and Evan Ryan, assistant secretary of the bureau of educational and cultural affairs at the US State Department, signed the memorandum of understanding yesterday. This extended the 12-month J1 visa for another three years under a bilateral arrangement.

The IWT was first piloted in September 2008, and thanks to the signing it has now become a regular private sector program.

Donald Trump had committed to “terminate” the J1 visa jobs programme in his immigration reform policies published back in 2015.

Minister Simon Harris – then the Junior Finance Minister – said of Trump’s comments in August of that year:

Mr Trump clearly doesn’t understand the programme or it’s purpose. It’s up to candidates to put forward their ideas and their policies and for the US people to pick their next president. I am sure many Irish -American voters will reflect on this policy proposal by Mr Trump and it’s potential adverse impact on Irish citizens.

Now that Donald Trump is the US President-elect, concern over the future of the J1 four-month visa in particular (as it is not a bilateral arrangement) are set to remain.

While previously those using the four-month IWT visa were able to travel to the US and job search once they arrived, this was changed this year. Now, students have to have secured a job before they can travel to the US on the visa.

To be eligible to apply for the IWT you must be:

  • Be a citizen of Ireland.
  • Be a bona fide post-secondary college/university student (enrolled and participating) or a recent graduate. A recent graduate is defined as an Irish citizen who has graduated from a post-secondary college/university in their home country not more than 12 months prior to the start of their internship beyond graduation. The applicant must provide evidence from his/her post-secondary institution of student status or graduation.
  • Vocational students pursuing studies at a tertiary level accredited academic institution are not eligible for participation unless such vocational study is part of a structured program leading to a degree or other credential recognized as equivalent to Level VI of the Irish Higher Education System.
  • Provide proof of sufficient financial resources, prior to the issuance of a Form DS-2019, to support themselves throughout their exchange visitor program and for their return home.

Assistant Secretary Ryan said that the Ireland Work and Travel program “is an important manifestation of this valued relationship”.

It has greatly facilitated travel for US and Irish student interns, thereby broadening their cultural exposure and providing for their participation in an entrepreneurial environment, which serves to enrich their long-term careers.

Read: US embassy working to help J1 students affected by visa issue>

Read: Fears over ‘an abrupt end to the J1 system’ are getting real>

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