The J-1 Exchange Visitor Programs (“J-1”) are intended to allow foreign nationals to come to the United States temporarily to benefit from experiences with American people and culture, which they can then share with their colleagues upon returning to their home countries. The Trump administration is reportedly reviewing this popular cultural exchange program run by the U.S. Department of State, with the intention of making major reductions in the J-1 visa program. Following President Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order, issued April 18, 2017, the administration has been reviewing U.S. immigration laws and policy with a view towards protecting American workers from foreign competition. The administration is reportedly leading an interagency review of the J-1 visa program focusing on five program categories, including interns, trainees, the summer work travel program, the au pair program, and programs designed for camp counselors. The other categories that do not involve “work” are reportedly not affected.
The programs under review provide internships for new graduates from abroad and more experienced trainees planning to gain practical experience by working temporarily for a U.S. organization. J-1 programs also provide childcare services for American host families and seasonal labor for the hospitality industry and vacation destinations such as ski resorts, campgrounds, amusement parks, and resorts.
While no action on the part of employers is yet necessary, employers using the J-1 Exchange Program may nevertheless want to consider other visa options for J-1 employees and other immigration programs and contingency plans in case the J-1 program becomes unavailable.