Irish J1 students flocking to America looking for work
Students snap up visas as economy in Ireland still in the doldrums
“We want to save money and see all the sites of New York,” says Graham.
If their summer experience goes well, the two final year students are considering applying for the yearlong J-1 visa now available to Irish college graduates.
“I would love to stay there,” Treacy admits. “I don’t think my mother would be happy if I said I was coming for a year.”
Last December, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered an “extensive and thorough review” of the J-1 summer work travel visa in response to reports that many students from nations around the world were being exploited.
"We have already instituted one set of reforms and are working toward additional ones that take additional measures to protect participants and prioritize the original cultural intent of the program," a State Department spokesman said at the time.
In response, the State Department launched a new website designated for the J-1 program which details the different variations of the J visas on offer.
According to the website, in 2010 there were 132,342 visas issued.
Numbers for the coming summer J-1 program are expected to remain high. In the Aisling Irish Community Center in Yonkers, board chair Agnes Delaney says they have already received hundreds of J-1 related phone calls.
Established in 1996, the center provides invaluable assistance to Irish immigrants who arrive in the U.S, and the arrival of students in summer makes it their busiest season. The organization provides support and information for many students who arrive here, as for many their J-1 trip is their first time leaving home for an extended period.
“When they arrive at the center, we complete a comprehensive sheet with all their pertinent information including the names of their friends, local phone numbers and a family contact number in Ireland,” Delaney told the Irish Voice.
“We have an Internet cafe with Skype so that they can keep in contact with family and friends.”
The center provides students with folders packed with information. They also have bulletin boards with accommodation and job postings.
“We encourage them to check in with us regularly so that we can be of assistance to them,” says Delaney.
According to Simon Gillespie, games development officer for the New York GAA, he has noticed an increase in the number of J-1 summer students getting in touch this summer compared to 2011.
“My first email for this summer was last September,” Gillespie told the Irish Voice. “They are really planning ahead.
“We have been inundated with emails from students looking for clubs to play with and to come out for the summer and work. The emails started coming in December and January.”
The GAA is like a safety net for J-1 students, according to Gillespie, who says that June and July are the peak months for their involvement.
“It gives them a sense of community,” he says. “If they stay involved with the GAA they will be looked after.”
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