Irish students in New York on the year-long J-1 graduate visa available to recent university graduates, or those still completing a course of study, have declared themselves unhappy with the services offered by issuing companies such as USIT and GO4LESS, according to a random survey taken by the Irish Voice last week.
All of the 20 graduate students asked for an opinion stated they were not satisfied with the terms of the program offered to them, citing the expense, limitations and the time span of the visa as major factors in their discontent.
“It’s just hard to believe that you are getting so little for so much,” says Orla McKevitt, living in Manhattan. “I mean, I paid over €2,000 euro to get here and saved €3,000 more. It is hard to get that kind of money, and then you get here you find it almost impossible to get a job that you are happy with.”
Alan Reilly, living in Queens, concurs.
“They tell you that they are going to help you in your search but all they really do is give you a load of generic websites to look up,” he says of USIT and GO4LESS, which processes the visas for the State Department.
“Nothing is specific. They should have people in place to help search for jobs specific to everyone and help people more to get jobs.”
John Brennan, also from Queens, feels that a year is not long enough for people to get set up in the U.S.
“It takes a few months to find your feet, especially if you want to do a bit of traveling,” he says.
“You can turn around and be here three or four months and then you are writing in your cover letter that you only have eight or nine months left and companies will not want to hire you then. I think the visa should be extended to at least two years.”
Mary M, who came over originally on the year-long program but is now undocumented and living in Manhattan, also voiced her dissatisfaction.
“The only good thing about the visa is that it gets you into the country. You get here and you are told that you are not allowed to work in this place and not allowed to work in that place,” she said.
“A lot of the internships that you get offered over here are unpaid, so why shouldn’t you be allowed work in a bar to pay for yourself? All you get is hounded from your sponsor asking for financial security every month. It’s nearly better to be illegal.”