Cultural Exchange Programs Worry About Trump’s Reported Visa Review

Cultural exchange programs in Greater Boston are concerned about the future of a visa program that brings thousands of international workers and interns to the area every year.

President Trump’s administration is reportedly looking to reduce or eliminate certain categories of the J-1 visa, including international internships.

The Boston-based Irish International Immigrant Center is a J-1 visa sponsor. According to the group, it matches around 500 young Irish people a year with internships in Massachusetts and across the country.

Ronnie Millar, executive director of the center, says many of the interns end up in business and engineering roles.

“These are internships, and the employers have to sign a training program that specifically states that this is not taking away a job from an American citizen,” he said.

Interns are required to return to Ireland after 12 months, according to Millar.

“This is not a job, it’s an internship, and it’s a cultural exchange program, so I don’t really sort of buy that notion that this is taking away jobs from Americans,” he said.

In an April executive order, Trump announced plans to review immigration rules in what the administration says is an effort to protect U.S. workers and “their economic interests.”

Massachusetts Congressman Bill Keating is criticizing the president’s reported plan to reduce or eliminate J-1 visas for student workers. Keating, a Democrat, says 7,000 visa-holders come to the state each year to work seasonal jobs, which he says are vital to the Cape and Islands’ economy.

“These are largely small businesses. The ones that survive season to season. Some of them close during the off season but they’re also vital in attracting people to Cape Cod and the Islands,” he said.

The scope of the administration’s review is unclear, but according to recent reporting in the Wall Street Journal, some of the focus is said to be on seasonal workers, trainees, interns and au pairs arriving in the U.S. on a J-1 visa.


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