On 22 June 2020, the White House issued a Proclamation suspending certain nonimmigrant visas until the end of the year. In conjunction with the current closures of the US consulates and embassies, the suspension will limit, if not eliminate, the issuance of new visas. Among those is the J-1 visa, a gateway for young travellers to visit the US and participate in cultural exchange programmes.
WYSE Travel Confederation, the only global travel trade association of organisations serving young travellers, is strongly opposed to the inclusion of J-1 visas within the Proclamation. For over 60 years, the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program in the United States has allowed young people to experience American culture through participating in seasonal work, au-pair, camp counsellor, intern, trainee programmes, including the popular Summer Work Travel Program. It is an established and respected vehicle for cultural exchange, knowledge sharing and fostering positive experiences between different cultures.
While young people have long relished the opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture, while building valuable career skills and developing new friendships, the positive impact that foreign youth expenditure has on the US economy should also be acknowledged. The New Horizons survey, which is conducted every five years by WYSE Travel Confederation and is the only recurring survey of youth and student travellers aged 18 to 35, has consistently revealed that young people who undertake work experience in the US spend more in a destination than they earn, with job earnings accounting for only 16% of resources used to fund the trip. The additional money working holidaymakers bring with them to the US supports restaurants, retail and other local businesses.
WYSE Travel Confederation believes that suspension of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program represents a significant and unnecessary barrier to international youth mobility. WYSE Travel Confederation will offer support to its member organisations that facilitate cultural exchange experiences for young travellers and find themselves affected by this Proclamation over the coming months.
New Horizons IV, WYSE Travel Confederation, 2017