Above: the US Embassy in Dublin.
With Donald Trump’s unexpected victory, Keri Heath finds out whether fears for the future of the popular Irish visa programme are justified.
THE election of Donald Trump earlier this month as the next President of the United States of America has prompted many questions about the future of immigration into the country. For students from Ireland, as well as 200 other countries this poses a potential roadblock. Currently, many different students from around the world may obtain a J-1 Visa to study, teach or work in the US.
About 300,000 visitors arrive to the US on a J-1 each year, and almost 30% of those students are from Western Europe.
The J-1 is designed for individuals who wish to either work or study in the US, sponsored through accredited educational or non-profit organizations. However, this isn’t the only visa that allows students to enter the US. An F-1 visa is designed for students who are completing their studies in the US and maintains a full-time course load. The M-1, another classification, is a visa strictly for vocational studies, which doesn’t allow holders to work during their stay in the US.
Samuel Brazys, of the UCD School of Politics and International Relations, said that he doesn’t anticipate many changes coming to the J-1, especially not within the next year. “My guess is that there will be other things he looks at first,” Brazys said. “I don’t think that… J-1 students are at the height of the anti-immigrant rhetoric in the US.”
“There is a concern with people overstaying visas like the J-1, there could certainly be changes that make that more difficult.”
At the same time, he noted that he would not be surprised by increased focus placed on enforcing rules pertaining to the end of a student’s J-1 period. “There is a concern with people overstaying visas like the J-1, so my guess is that there could certainly be changes that come in that make that more difficult and some of that might be increased registration; a more involved process,”
Brazys said. “Some of that has come under scrutiny, even during the Obama administration, so it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility I think to envision an additional tightening there.”
In March, the Chicago Tribune reported that Trump sent an email to the Associated Press stating that he would abolish the J-1 visa program if he was elected president. However, the proposal is no longer mentioned on Trump’s website.
John Murphy, Media Relations Specialist at the US Embassy in Dublin, said that it is still too early to tell what, if any, effect, the Trump administration will have on the J-1 visa. He notes that there will be no predictions until after Trump is inaugurated.
“The U.S. State Department will be engaging and working with the President elect and the transition team in the coming weeks to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, as the State Department has done with each new President for well over 200 years,” Murphy said. “Currently, we are still working for President Obama and his administration.”
“If I was going to the US to work for a long term thing, I think I would be put off by Trump.”
Róisín Long attends UCD and plans to study on a J-1 next semester in Colorado. She said that she doesn’t foresee any problems associated with her J-1 or with her experience as a foreigner in the US, despite the fact that Trump will take office during her stay in the country. “I don’t think I’m particularly nervous about [studying in the US], as I’m just going for a semester to Colorado where they voted for Clinton,” Long said. “But if I was going to the US to work for a long term thing, I think I would be put off by Trump and his politics.”
Brazys also pointed out that international students who study in America provide economic benefit to universities and communities. He noted that while rules on visa overstay may be re-examined, international students are an important component of many American universities.
“International students are a big business for American universities so…there would be certainly a powerful lobby of constituents…who certainly want to keep US institutions as attractive for students as possible. I don’t think students necessarily have been the area of concern,” Brazys concluded.