Senate Appropriations Committee Passes Amendment Aimed at Protecting the J1 Exchange Visitor Program

On September 7, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment designed to protect the J1 Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) from potential cuts under President Trump’s Buy American, Hire American executive order.

The J1 program, established in 1961, provides visas for interns, trainees, camp counselors, au pairs, and summer work travel participants to come to the United States to live and work for a short time. It is not only an economic boon and an essential resource for tourism industries, but is an important diplomatic tool that connects students and young adults from around the world with Americans and American culture. Potential cuts to the program could devastate seasonal businesses and weaken relations with foreign nations.

Senator Chris Coons, Ranking Member Patrick Leahy, and Senator Lisa Murkowski co-sponsored an amendment to ensure changes made to the J1 EVP would be public and done with the full notice and comment requirements of the normal federal regulatory process. The amendment reads:

“EXCHANGE VISITOR PROGRAM.—None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to modify the Exchange Visitor Program administered by the Department of State to implement the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, as amended (Public Law 87-256, 22 U.S.C. 2451, et seq.), except through a formal rulemaking process pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act and notwithstanding the exceptions to such rulemaking process in such Act: Provided, That funds made available for such purpose shall only be made available after consultation with, and subject to the regular notification procedures of, the Committees on Appropriations, regarding how any proposed modification would affect the public diplomacy goals of, and the estimated economic impact on, the United States.”

Additionally, the Committee approved $634 million for Educational and Cultural Exchanges, an amount equal to the last fiscal year’s. With the Appropriations Committee having approved the amendment and funding for the ECA, it will move on to the Senate floor, followed by the House. 

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