The Trump Administration is evaluating potential reductions to U.S. cultural exchange programs that allow young people from across the world the opportunity to work temporarily in the US. The potential cuts would impact five programs that are part of the J-1 visa exchange visitor program.
The review of these cultural exchange programs is part of the President Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order issued in April. This order seeks to protect American workers by prioritizing their abilities in the U.S. labor market while directing the appropriate government agencies to review current U.S. immigration policies and procedures. The impacted J-1 programs include the Summer Work Travel Program, the au pair program, as well as programs geared towards camp counselors and interns. Other J-1 visa programs are not under scrutiny such as those focused on educational exchange for college students.
This summer, bipartisan members of both the House and the Senate wrote to President Trump explaining the importance of the summer work travel program for both students and the small businesses that utilize these workers. Small businesses such as amusement parks, resorts, and restaurants across the country rely on the Summer Work Travel Program participants to adequately staff their seasonal job openings. Without the Summer Work Travel Program, these businesses would not have the necessary labor force to satisfy their consumer demand during the busy summer months. These businesses may be forced to shorten their hours or offer fewer services causing economic ramifications for many seasonal businesses.
While no decisions have been made on the future of these visa programs, some of the options include eliminating the programs or imposing new regulations on companies seeking to employ program participants. Regarding the potential cuts, a White House official stated that “presently, we continue to implement the J-1 visa programs at the same levels we have for the past few years, and we appreciate the support that American businesses have shown for the program and its value to their local communities.”
Cuts to these programs could have economic implications and would eliminate a major facilitator of cross-culture exchange between U.S. citizens and those participating in the programs—the overriding policy goal of the J-1 program. As we’ve seen with recent diplomatic issues between the U.S. and Russia, cuts in the eligibility of foreigners to enter the U.S. on this program could result in reciprocal cuts from other countries in the eligibility of U.S. citizens to participate in their counterpart programs.