Late-breaking news on shortage of Forms DS-2019 for J-1 interns and trainees

by Mintz Levin - Immigration Law
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[author: Douglas Hauer]

In the past hours, the State Department’s Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs (“ECA”) has granted additional Forms DS-2019 to a few J-1 sponsors wishing to expand their programs for trainees and interns. This is welcome news. Until now, these sponsors had been in limbo without sufficient DS-2019s to meet the demand by potential J-1 exchange visitors. For those of us monitoring these developments closely, it is clear that public discussion on the issue in the past days is having a positive impact.

Today, ECA stated informally that there will be no “J-1 cap” on intern and trainee visas. This is also a wonderful development. But the State Department should now put this policy into writing, resolving any questions about the agency making sub-regulatory moves to place numerical limitations on J-1 trainees and interns next year. Private sector exchange sponsors, host employers, interns and trainees should have predictability about the ongoing and continuous availability of J-1 visas. No informal caps should be imposed without open public discussion with all stakeholders in the J-1 process, including a notice and comment period that is part of a normative rulemaking process.

Keeping the flow of J-1 interns and trainees into the United States is an important part of the Exchange Visitor Program. This program should be a priority of the State Department. It is a resounding success, resulting in young professionals experiencing and taking American values and ideals back to their home countries.

Despite today’s positive developments, many J-1 program sponsors continue to face shortages of Forms DS-2019. I have received several e-mails in the past week from potential host employers who have been told that the sponsors they have approached have no remaining Forms DS-2019 for interns and trainees. ECA should work with sponsors now to remedy this.

The opportunity to participate in cultural exchange should not be reduced to a system where J-1 visas are rationed. This is counter to the core value of cultural exchange. While we welcome today’s developments, more work needs to be done to make the J-1 process more transparent and predictable.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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