Subcategories of the J-1 cultural exchange program are reportedly being targeted by the Trump administration’s immigration clampdown
The happiest place on Earth may be about to get less worldly.
The inflow of foreign au pairs and student-workers to staff households and theme parks like Disneyland each summer could slow to a trickle thanks to new immigration revisions the Trump administration is said to be considering. Citing unidentified sources, the Wall Street Journal reports that the White House may significantly reduce visas issued for cultural exchange visitors, specifically targeting categories that allow mostly young guest workers to enter the country for a limited time.
Visas for au pairs and so-called “summer work travelers” are issued under the J-1 visa category, which also includes some academic scholars, physicians, teachers and others. Most of the subcategories aren’t being touched, but those seen by the Trump administration to threaten American employment are under scrutiny. According to the Journal, the State Department has been ordered to rewrite regulations governing such temporary workers, though it isn’t immediately clear if that’s a starting point for debate or meant for implementation. Moneyish’s sister publication adds that young parents who employ au pairs may also be required to try and hire United States citizens and permanent residents before turning to foreign labor.
President Donald Trump was elected last year based on a campaign in which he emphasized economic nationalism. The visa reforms can be achieved via executive order and are an easy way to fulfill the “America First” policies POTUS promised his base. They also suggest the lingering influence of Steve Bannon, the recently departed White House chief strategist who has railed against globalists, immigration and free trade.
The State Department issues about 300,000 J-1 visas annually. Around 10,000 of those go to au pairs, most of whom work in blue states like New York, New Jersey and California, government statistics show. Advocates for the program say they provide a source of labor for jobs most Americans don’t want to do, while exposing a generation of foreigners to Americans and their culture. Opponents argue such guest workers depress American wages and that the programs are rife with abuse.
That said, Department of Homeland Security statistics show that the overstay rate for J visa holders is relatively low when compared to that of F and M visitors, which are for most university students and vocational trainees respectively. Per the DHS, about 3.8% of J visa holders overstayed at least partially. That compares to 6.19% and 11.6% for F and M visitors respectively.
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