Among the uncertainty of the J1 programme, Ruth Murphy sorts through what we know now.
The J1 has been a major part of the entrance to adulthood for many Irish people, with the name becoming synonymous with poorly paid jobs, unfortunate accommodation, and fun adventures with new and old friends.
Before Donald Trump came to power he announced his wishes to scrap the J1 programme. Whether or not this was going to happen was widely debated and the part on his campaign website that said that he wished to replace the J1 programme with “a resume bank for inner city youths” disappeared.
While it is usually foreigners of a different skin colour who offend Trump most it is not a huge surprise that Trump has plans to prevent further immigration. This does not mean however that this is not an important issue. The end of this programme could take away opportunities from so many Irish people and hurt them much more than the programme could possibly hurt Trump himself.
While many vouched that the J1 was here to stay, USIT, one of Ireland’s most popular travel companies for the J1 programme, announced that it would no longer be taking applications for its 2018 graduate visa programme.
The J1 visa covers two separate programmes. One programme is for third-level students to travel to the US on a temporary work visa. This allows students to work for the summer. You must have a job organised before you go. After your work visa expires you may stay in the US for 30 days as a tourist. The other programme is the one seems to be currently in most danger. Someone who has recently completed a level seven or higher qualification may travel to the States for one year to do an internship. Upon arrival you have 90 days to find an internship.
While Irish people may be passionate about the J1 programme and why it should exist we cannot guarantee that Americans share our views and not Trump’s
USIT state on their website that “Whilst the USIT programme is a specific bilateral agreement between Ireland and the US, it falls under the” J” category of visa regulations. These visas are all up for review, leaving considerable doubt around whether the option will be available at all in 2018.”
It is unclear why USIT is not accepting applications for the graduate programme but has made few comments on the summer programme. It may be simply be because the summer is far away and they are waiting on information in the meantime. USIT’s website encourages those pondering the programme to go now, “anyone availing of the current 2017 allocation will be safe (i.e. getting the visa before Dec 31st 2017 allowing you to stay in US for 12 months duration) so we would urge those on the fence thinking of availing of the opportunity to be safe not sorry and avail of this fabulous programme while it exists.” USIT has stated that anybody who has applied for the 2018 programme will be refunded.
In a Facebook live video about the announcements the head of the programme Melanie Young said: “we were of the understanding that this programme was going to run for three years… to bring us up to 2020.”
Speaking on the future of the programme Young stated “we have no idea when a decision will be made.” When asked if American companies were nervous to hire foreign students she said, “it certainly hasn’t affected our stats” and added that “our percentage is up of people actually hiring interns.”
The J1 has faced scrutiny in the past. When the New York Times reported on the Berkeley balcony tragedy it did not fail to mention the reputation of the programme:
“[T]he work-visa program that allowed for the exchanges has in recent years become not just a source of aspiration, but also a source of embarrassment for Ireland, marked by a series of high-profile episodes involving drunken partying and the wrecking of apartments in places like San Francisco and Santa Barbara.”
USIT has stated that anybody who has applied for the 2018 programme will be refunded
This excerpt was criticized for being featured insensitively in an article reporting the injury and deaths of several Irish J1 students. The New York Times did apologise to the Irish people but the full article was not removed from its website. While Irish people may be passionate about the J1 programme and why it should exist we cannot guarantee that Americans share our views and not Trump’s. The view of us as “drunken Irish” who could cause trouble may still linger. Meanwhile, Trump allows some angry Americans to protest the existence of black people. The destruction of this programme makes little sense, like many of Trump’s plans.
Companies such as USIT and SayIt will no doubt suffer major losses if this programme does end and may already be losing money, as they cannot guarantee places on the 2018 graduate programme. USIT is now greatly advertising its other programmes.
Irish students who wished to do the J1 programme are now stuck with few options. You can go for the 2017 programme, not go, or pick another destination. If you do go on the programme you face living in a country run by Donald Trump so either option might be a little disappointing. Trump has proved that he can harm even those who are living this side of the Atlantic. No doubt the friendlier neighbour of the States, Canada, is looking more attractive than ever.