Washington, DC: The Alliance for International Exchange’s Executive Director, Ilir Zherka, issued the following statement today regarding an Alliance letter to Secretary Blinken from over 500 businesses. The letter urges the Department of State to take additional steps to process exchange visas to alleviate the economic strife affecting the international exchange community. The below may be quoted in whole or in part.
Today, the Alliance sent a letter to Secretary Blinken from over 500 signees who represent the sponsors, businesses, and industries that recruit, host, and support international exchange visitors every year.
We recognize the Secretary’s very strong support of these programs and applaud recent steps taken by the Administration to enable them. Unfortunately, those steps are not enough. Most of these signees and others in the exchange community are facing an extraordinary economic crisis and for some program sponsors, the threat is existential.
The Alliance and the signees are urging the Department to take additional steps to process exchange visas, including waiving interviews for J-1 applicants, targeting resources at embassies where demand is high, and lifting travel restrictions in favor of proof of a negative COVID test or vaccination. Doing so will fulfill President’s Biden promise to follow the science when fighting to end the pandemic. It would also help protect embassy personnel while supporting the American employers that administer and rely on the exchange programs.
The Alliance for International Exchange is an association dedicated to promoting the growth and impact of exchange programs and the effectiveness of its members. Since 1993, it serves as the collective public policy voice for organizations comprising the international educational and cultural exchange community in the United States.