The J1 visa programme for Irish citizens to work and travel in the US is managed by US based sponsors and their agents in Ireland under authority of the US Department of State’s Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs. All figures related to the J1 programme are maintained by US authorities.
My Department, through the Americas Unit in Dublin and through our Embassy in Washington, D.C., liaises closely with the US authorities on matters of visas and immigration.
Figures shared by the US Authorities only show data from the most recently available full years, 2016, 2017 and 2018. These figures show that for the most popular category, the J1 “Summer Work and Travel” scheme, the numbers of Irish citizens availing were 4,347 in 2016, 4,190 on 2017 and 3,522 in 2018. For the next most popular category “Camp Counsellor” scheme, the figures were 1,384 in 2016, 1,683 in 2017 and 1,667 in 2018. As the J1 season is currently underway, figures for 2019 are not available.
Officials in my Department have met recently with the two J1 sponsors in Ireland, SAYIT and USIT. Officials specifically discussed the J1 programme and the decline in the number of Irish citizens availing of the programme in recent years. Our Ambassador in Washington and his colleagues regularly meet with the US-based sponsors.
We are actively looking at ways of working with US authorities, the J1 sponsors in the US and their agents in Ireland to improve the uptake of J1 places. My officials also worked closely with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) this year to develop a J1 guide for Irish students. This guide offers practical advice for undertaking a J1 and staying safe when abroad, and it is available on the USI website. A key issue for all involved in the programme is how to ensure the welfare of participants and to remind them of the need to scrupulously respect the rules and regulations set out by the US authorities.