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#SaveJ1: Raise Your Voice for the Value of International Exchange

By Dr. Eric Eliason | Published: July 6, 2020

Once again, the U. S. Department of State J-1 exchange visa program is in peril. On June 22, the White House issued a proclamation that suspended certain non-immigrant visas, effective until December 31, 2020. The J-1 visa camp counselor category was included, along with the intern, trainee, teacher, au pair, and summer work travel programs. In the fall of 2017, the White House threatened to eliminate or reduce these same categories, but no action was ultimately taken.

A Korean counselor helps a villager try on a traditional Korean dress.
International staff members come to the Villages to 
share their languages and cultures with villagers from 
all across America. 

The J-1 exchange visa was enacted into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 through the Fulbright-Hays Act to foster mutual understanding between Americans and people around the world through educational and cultural exchange opportunities. Concordia Language Villages has been an authorized J-1 exchange visitor sponsor since the 1970s. Annually, we invite 125 to 150 individuals from more than 30 countries to join our Village staff teams throughout the year, and particularly during the summer months. Although we will not have many international staff with us this summer due to our residential sessions being cancelled to abide by COVID-19 health protocols, we certainly want them to join us in the summer of 2021.

Concordia Language Villages is a member of the Alliance for International Exchange, the collective policy voice of the exchange community. The Alliance has been actively engaged in advocacy efforts to save the J-1 exchange visa in all affected categories. Reference the Alliance fact sheet to more fully understand the issue and the key talking points as to the value of exchange programs.

Here’s what you can do to help #SaveJ1:

  1. Concordia Language Villages joined almost 900 other organizations this week in signing on to an Alliance letter to President Trump opposing the inclusion of J-1 visa program in the recent proclamation. We requested that the Administration use the 30-day review required by the proclamation to enable these programs to continue. Please share this letter with your congressional contacts and urge them to reinforce our request with the Administration.
  2. Over the next 30 days, we are working with the Alliance on the #SaveJ1 campaign. A key strategy is to spread word via personal stories on the importance of cultural exchange. Please share your thoughts and experiences on how international staff shape a Language Village session and the valuable talents and skills that they lend to our programming. Send your comments to this link for posting on our social channels. And please share the #SaveJ1 posts in your social networks.

We must #SaveJ1 so that college students and young professionals around the world are given an opportunity to be exchange visitors in America to share their cultural perspectives and learn about ours. This is the essence of grassroots diplomacy. International exchange matters and needs your support.

About the Author

Dr. Eric Eliason has worked with Concordia Language Villages since becoming Vice President for Academic Affairs at Concordia College in 2013.  He is currently serving as interim Executive Director.

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