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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman July 15, 2020

Trump proclamation amid COVID-19 suspends some visas

As part of President Donald Trump's immigration promises, he said he would get rid of a visa program for young people and replace it with a resume bank for American inner-city youth.

The J-1 visa program allows young people from other countries to come to the United States for educational and cultural exchanges. The program allows foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to teach, study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills or receive on-the-job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years. 

The J-1 category was created by Congress, but the executive agencies have a great deal of authority over how they are administered, said Jessica M. Vaughan at the Center for Immigration Studies, which has called for stricter controls on the J-1 program.

We previously found that Trump's promise had stalled without action. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he took a step toward his promise, although it is potentially a temporary step with few immediate practical applications. 

On June 22, Trump issued a proclamation suspending multiple visa categories for foreign workers including a J visa for anyone "participating in an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program" or any foreigner accompanying that worker. The proclamation states that it shall expire on Dec. 31; however, it may be continued.

Trump's proclamation suspended some but not all of the 15 subcategories which are part of the J-1 visa program, said Enrique Gonzalez, a Miami lawyer and expert on immigration compliance for companies and institutions.

But practically speaking, other factors already likely reduced such visas. Amid COVID-19 related travel bans, people can't travel to the U.S. from some countries, and many employers cancelled offers for interns or other workers this year. Many people have not received visas because American embassies have been closed to the public. 

"This proclamation right now does not have much effect, but it will have effect once embassies start opening up," Gonzalez said. "It sounds great politically, but most people aren't coming in anyway."

A State Department spokesperson told us that due to precautions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, routine visa processing at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide remains suspended.

State Department statistics show the decline in J visas for various countries. For example, in May 2019 there were 931 J visas issued to Australians while in May 2020 there were only four. 

Trump has taken a step toward his promise to eliminate the J-1 visa by suspending many subcategories of the visas, but a temporary suspension amid a pandemic is not the equivalent of getting rid of the visas forever. 

Finally, we can't find any signs that he created a resume bank for American inner city youth to replace J-1 visas. We rate this Promise Broken.

Our Sources

Miami Herald, Trump's visa restrictions will have impact on South Florida's multinationals, tech firms, June 22, 2020

AP, H-1B: Trump administration extends visa ban to non-immigrants, June 23, 2020

Center for Immigration Studies, Hire America 20 Presidential Actions Needed to Reduce Work Visas and Permits, May 15, 2020

Telephone interview, Enrique Gonzalez, partner at Fragomen law firm in Miami, July 10, 2020

Email interview, Jessica M. Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, July 10, 2020

State Department, Statement to PolitiFact, July 10, 2020

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde October 9, 2017

President Donald Trump stalls on promise to eliminate J-1 visa program

President Donald Trump, in an outline of his immigration plan during the presidential campaign, said he would get rid of a visa program that brings in foreign youth and replace it with a résumé bank for American inner-city youth.

So far, the J-1 visa jobs program remains in effect. The White House did not respond to our queries on whether a résumé bank had been set up to replace the visa program, or if American businesses had access to such résumé bank.

The J-1 visa program, or exchange visitor program, allows young people from other countries to come to the United States for educational and cultural exchanges. There are 15 different categories under the program and 13 include private programs, according to the State Department.

Young people who come to the United States are able to improve their English language abilities, sharpen skills and learn more about the United States and its people. They can study, engage in research, teach and receive on-the-job training for weeks or several years, the State Department said.

About 300,000 people come to the United States per year under the J-1 visa program, and 86 percent of them are 30 years old or younger.

The State Department said there has been no change in procedures for handling applications for J-1 visas. J-1 visas continue to be issued under approved guidelines and at the same levels from past few years, the State Department said.

We'll continue to monitor this proposal. But without any steps so far, we rate this promise Stalled.

Our Sources

Internet Archive, Donald J. Trump campaign website, immigration plan, snapshot from May 11, 2016

Email interview, State Department press office, Oct. 6, 2017

State Department, J-1 visa program common questions, facts and figures, accessed Oct. 6, 2017

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