Irish politician and Member of European Parliament, Sean Kelly, has urged a leading US Congressman to protect the J1 summer visa from burdensome new proposals that have cast doubts on the future of the programme, which is used by up to 8,000 Irish students annually.
Kelly, a member of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with the United States, said, “I understand that proposals under the new immigration reform bill going through the US senate stipulate that J1 visa applicants would have to secure prospective employers or sponsors before arriving in the States.
“It also provisions for a new €500 visa fee and it is likely that the potential employer would have to pay this additional cost. The proposed fee would serve only as a deterrent to hiring Irish students,” Mr Kelly explained.
The Ireland South MEP voiced his opposition to the proposals in talks with US Congressmen during a meeting of the EU-US delegation of lawmakers in Dublin at the weekend (May 31st – June 1st).
“I spoke, in particular, to Congressman Bill Keating from Boston. We agreed on the importance of the J1 visa programme, which has become a much-loved tradition for thousands of Irish students who are given the opportunity to work and live in the States for a temporary time.
“I pointed out that the J1 is a very transparent and positive way to give students the chance to experience America on a legal visa, while working to pay their way,” Mr Kelly continued.
“Being a Bostonian, Congressman Keating is well aware of the strong historical Irish-US links and the J1 visa programme.
“I stressed that while the proposals fall under the immigration reform bill to address the problem of illegal immigration, they do not ‘fit the bill’ for reform so to speak – as the J1 is already an established, successful legal visa.
“I asked Congressman Keating to press the issue further on his return to the States, while the bill is still being debated and can be amended. I would hope that Congressmen would lobby to protect the J1 visa. It would be unfair, in my view, to penalise young people using the legal J1 visa system, due to a wider reform of the immigration system.”
Policymakers belonging to the EU-US delegation also addressed the ongoing trade talks between the two trading blocs.