The United States has temporarily suspended the widely popular J1 Visa programme in an added effort to tackle the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The U.S. Department of State has said: “In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, [the U.S.] will pause programs for 60 days and review this decision every 30 days thereafter.” It is not yet clear what will happen with applicants currently in the process of obtaining a J1 Visa.
On March 12th, the US Department of State issued a statement saying: “The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) will temporarily pause all ECA-funded programs that involve travel to and from countries with heightened U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)” alert levels. The J1 Visa programme is included in the list of affected programmes.
The J1 visa programme allows third-level students to work in the U.S. for up to four months during the summer months.
In a statement to theJournal.ie, travel agency USIT, who oversee a large amount of J1 Visa applications in Ireland, have said that it would give guidance to applicants in due course: “We will be in a position to do this once we receive further instruction on how to progress from our US sponsors and we expect to have another update to share with you next week.”
3,392 students participated on the J1 summer programme in 2019, which is down by almost 60% since 2013 when over 8,000 students headed stateside. The number of students working as camp counsellors has tripled since 2011.
On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, tapping into $50 billion in federal resources. The President has also banned travel to and from all 26 member states of the European Schengen agreement. Ireland and the UK had not been included in the initial travel ban, though on Saturday, March 14th, Vice President Mike Pence announced that Ireland and the UK would be included in this list of restricted travel zones, effective from Monday, March 16th.
The J1 Visa programme is one of many U.S visa programmes affected by the temporary suspension. The chief medical officer for England has said on Thursday that he expects the UK would reach the peak of its coronavirus outbreak in 10 to 14 weeks’ time. With projections predicting a peak in Ireland after the 60-day visa suspension period, questions arise on whether the popular student programme will be reinstated in time for summer 2020.
Conor Capplis – Editor