Americans expect Irish students to seek J1 visas
The US administration has moved to play down fears over new rules requiring students to have jobs pre-arranged before travelling to America on J1 visas next summer.
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said yesterday he was concerned at the new rules, fearing they might reduce the number of Irish students using the programme, which is 50 years in existence next year.
More than 150,000 Irish students have travelled to the States since 1966, and the US embassy here believes all 7,000 available places will be taken up next year.
It is understood the Americans are surprised at the Irish response, believing the new system works better for everyone.
The US embassy in Dublin said the decision to introduce "pre-placement" to the scheme was not taken by its government but by the independent agencies that run the scheme.
"These independent US sponsoring agencies serve as authorities that vet and sponsor J1 participants worldwide and provide them with the documentation necessary to obtain a J1 visa from the US State Department," said an embassy spokesperson. She stressed that the changes were being introduced globally to exchange programmes, and not only for Irish students.
"The pre-placement requirement is designed to ensure greater safety and security of participants, greater compliance and a more rewarding cultural experience in the United States."
But Mr Flanagan said he learned of the new rules "with some concern" and said he had written to US Secretary of State John Kerry in recent days and raised the matter directly with ambassador Kevin O'Malley.