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We Can’t Afford to Weaken J-1 Cultural Exchange Programs

Courtesy of the Alliance for International Exchange & the Medium

As Congress debates another round of coronavirus relief legislation, American businesses and families continue to struggle while the coronavirus pandemic maintains its tireless chokehold on the economy. The Administration has an opportunity to support American businesses and vital public diplomacy goals. To do so, the Administration should provide meaningful exceptions to the June 22 proclamation for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program.

On June 22, the White House issued a proclamation suspending some nonimmigrant visas, including six cultural exchange programs. This effectively ended the ability for many American families and businesses to have international visitors to the U.S. serve their unique employment needs. The proclamation reflects a faulty argument by some that exchange participants displace American workers. The data proves otherwise. The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program — a decades old program created by the U.S. State Department to promote cultural awareness and cooperation — does not displace American workers; it allows businesses to fill jobs that would otherwise remain open because there are not enough Americans available, even in times of high unemployment, like now. The Administration recently provided some exceptions to the proclamation. Because they are so narrowly drawn, the exceptions thus far are mostly inoperable.

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