J1 visa fee reduced to $100 after lobbying battle
PRESSURE from Irish-Americans has led to the lifting of some restrictions threatening the future of the J1 visa, which allows thousands of Irish students to work in the US each summer.
Efforts continue to secure more last-minute changes as the US immigration-reform bill heads towards final passage in the Senate within days.
One of the main restrictions would have imposed a new $500 (€384) fee to be paid by the student's employer or another sponsor in the US. But, in a victory for Irish lobbying efforts, this fee has now been reduced to $100 (€77).
It has still not been resolved how this fee would be paid or who would pay it as it apparently can't be paid by the student.
If this is not changed or clarified in the bill it could pose enormous difficulties for Irish students because an employer might not be willing to pay even the reduced fee and, in any case, most Irish students don't have work before they go to the US, nor are they required to under the J1 programme.
"As the bill stands right now, I think that the student cannot pay. But that is still being negotiated," said former Congressman Bruce Morrison, an expert on immigration law.
"Other restrictions remain in the bill, but there could be further changes before passage," he added.