In a letter to the administration signed by over 800 businesses and organisations, the AIE said the move will “very likely lead to an increase in layoffs among program sponsors and their host partners in the US, which will have a negative ripple effect throughout [the] economy”.

“The presidential proclamation will cost, not save, American jobs”

“In addition, host families may be unable to return to work without necessary child care,” it added.

“In effect, the presidential proclamation will cost, not save, American jobs.”

In Trump’s proclamation restricting the visas until the end of this year, he cited unemployment and the impact that non-immigrant workers would have on the availability of jobs for US citizens, adding that “temporary workers are often accompanied by their spouses and children, many of whom also compete against American workers”.

However, organisations involved in cultural exchange programs such as au pairing and summer camps question why they have been included in this considering their participants are usually university-educated youth staying in the US short-term without dependants.

“A vast majority of Exchange Visitor Program participants cite cultural exchange as the primary factor for taking part in the program,” noted AIE.

“75%of cultural exchange participants, on average, developed a more positive opinion of the US after their program experience.”

The immediate impact of the ruling may be limited – with embassies and visa centres still shut and travel restrictions in place participants couldn’t have done their programs anyway – but stakeholders told The PIE News they worry that the country’s reputation among young people overseas will needlessly suffer.

Deniz Akar, managing director of Turkey-based Global Visions, had 1,000 students signed up to take part in work and travel programs in the US in 2020.

So far, only 100 have gone – those who had visas before the Covid-19 outbreak – and most are choosing to wait until next year.

“If [the ban] was because of Covid-19 students could understand, but to ban cultural exchange programs because of jobs doesn’t make sense. They aren’t taking jobs from US people,” Akar told The PIE.

“A big concern among students and agents is that it’s going to be extended. For the US these programs are very important for cultural exchange. If they extend it they are going to lose their reputation around the world with young people.”

“A big concern among students and agents is that it’s going to be extended”

Akar further said that studying in countries like Canada and Ireland, where studying comes with work rights, are becoming popular options for students.

For businesses based in the US that rely on international staff however, the decree has further compounded difficulties created by Covid-19. Au Pair in America , which is now unable to hire overseas au pairs, has started an online campaign to “save J1 visas”.

“We remain hopeful that if the order is modified or when the order expires, embassies around the world will have fully reopened and other travel restrictions will have lifted and program operations can resume quickly,” Au Pair in America said in a statement.

Language schools and bilingual education programs may also be hit with staff shortages. Local media in Utah, where public schools run around 200 dual language immersion programs, noted that each year the state hires 60-70 native-speaking teachers from countries like China, Brazil, Germany and Peru to staff these programs on J1 visas.

“This doesn’t directly affect us since most students will enter on F1 visas but the noise around the potential suspension of OPT is unsettling especially when viewed against a wider global policy context,” noted Tim O’Brien, SVP new partner development and INTO University Partnerships.

“Canada and the UK both confirmed post-study work privileges for students who begin their programs online, and there was an announcement from the UK government on three year post-study work visas for STEM PhD students.”

Whether OPT will be impacted in future legislation is unclear, although the AIE told The PIE that they had “heard reports that the administration may curtail Optional Practical Training through the regulatory process”.

As of July 6, the US has ruled that wholly-online study from September will not be permissible for international students, in new SEVP guidance that has caused shock and consternation in the sector.

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