Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs & Trade Niall Collins TD has revealed that the number of students participating in the J1 Visa Programme has declined in recent years.

The figures released to Deputy Collins reveal that the number of students heading to the US on the J1 Visa has declined from 4,347 in 2016 to 4,190 in 2017 to 3,522 in 2018. The stats for 2019 are not yet available.

Deputy Collins said, “A number of changes were made to the J1 Visa Programme in recent years including the stipulation that all students must have an approved seasonal job before they can take part on the programme. This has more than likely contributed to the decline in the number of students participating in the programme.

“Prior to this stipulation being introduced the number of participants was significantly higher with approximately 8,000 students participating in the programme in 2015.

“The J1 has been a rite of passage for many Irish students for 50 years with 150,000 Irish third level students having experienced the US through the programme over that time. It is an intrinsic part of US-Irish relations and it is imperative that efforts are made to ensure that we do not lose this vital connection.

The Tánaiste has informed me that officials from his Department are, in conjunction with US authorities, working to improve the uptake of the programme and I hope that their efforts will result in more students taking part in the programme. Our relationship with the United States is too important to let slide”, Deputy Collins concluded.