Every summer, around 3,000 people usually participate in the J1 visa summer program that empowers third-tier students to work in the US legitimately for up to four months.
The J-1 visa summer work travel program grants international students an opportunity to live and work in the United States during their summer vacation from college or university. It gives students a work-life experience and a chance to be exposed to the people and way of life in the United States.
The summer J1 trip is perpetually considered as a right of passage for many undergraduates. However, the Covid 19 outbreak has changed everything. Amid Covid 19 restrictions, many Irish students and undergrads can again miss the opportunity to live and work in the United States this year.
Every summer, more than 3,000 students usually participate in the J1 summer program, allowing third-level students to work in the US legally for up to four months.
Many students further undertake the J1 graduate visa program that allows them to work in the US for a year up to 12 months after their graduation.
In March 2020, the issuance of J1 visas was halted, following an official order from former US President Donald Trump.
The J1 visa ban has finally expired after ten months of suspension of the US post-study work visa.
There have been no further updates from current President Joe Biden about whether any additional steps will be implemented.
Huge backlog in embassies
The O’Brien & Associates firm has received numerous calls from international students hoping to travel to the US amid Covid 19 restrictions.
O’Brien & Associates is a US business immigration law firm with offices in New York City and Kilkenny, Ireland.
Deirdre O’Brien, the founder of O’Brien & Associates, believes that Ireland students will have no opportunity to live and work in the United States this year.
The reason is Covid 19 travel restrictions and enormous backlogs in embassies that have been closed during level five restrictions.
Visa aspirants are obligated to attend an embassy appointment at a US outpost where their application must be approved.
Though the Dublin embassy has been closed for months, many staff went home to the US, indicating almost no appointments could be arranged and causing huge backlogs of people needing to have their passports stamped.
The embassy is fully closed during level five, and that implies that now, there can not be even an emergency appointment.
This backlog could also pose an issue for 2020 graduates expecting to travel on the year-long J1 program.
Ms O’Brien has also questioned whether such graduates would be prioritized for embassy appointments when several other visa categories would take precedences, such as investor visas or those for internal company transfers.
She also added that “You never know, President Biden might come out and extend the period for those people; that would be great.”
The travel ban may end for Irish students
The travel ban restraining people from Ireland flying to the United States looks set to be lifted by mid-May.
In Sept 2020, The travel ban barring Irish citizens from touring the US for non-essential reasons such as holidays was declared by former US President Trump.
These restrictions were imposed on the same date as the US tried to limit the outbreak of Covid-19.
Former President Trump restricts travel from the 26 European countries which are members of the Schengen border-free travel area.
However, President Joe Biden seems to lift the travel ban on all EU countries, including Ireland, the UK, and Brazil, from May.
It has emerged that there could be light at the end of the runway for Irish students hoping to travel to the United States if President Biden lifts the ban on international visits in mid-May.
However, this will depend on several factors, particularly the vaccine rollout in Europe.