J-1 Visa Holder Remembers Her U.S. Summer: ‘Constant Parties’

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

May 26, 2016

New guidelines in the controversial J-1 visa, the summer work and travel scam that undermines unemployed American teens’ job searches, have set off a frenzy in Ireland.

Before being issued a visa, applicants must now have a confirmed, approved job waiting for them in the U.S. According to a story on Irish News, many unsuspecting prospective J-1 travelers who cannot meet the revised requirements will have to forfeit money already spent on air travel and living accommodations.

While unemployed American teens sit on sidelines, J-1 visa holders work, party.

While no one takes pleasure in uninformed young adults losing money, tighter J-1 requirements are a small step in the right direction for struggling, job-seeking American teens. A related Irish News story unveiled how many of the Irish viewed their trip to the U.S. – a great big party that may or may not include work. U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley noted that under the previous rules, groups of as many as 30 young Irish could go to a destination without a job. One would-be visitor called having to line up a job before she left Ireland “scary.” And one who came to America remembered her J-1 experience as a stream of “constant parties” while she traveled from Los Angeles to San Diego to Las Vegas.

The jobs the 150,000 Irish J-1 holders took over the years included stints at Planet Hollywood and Mrs. Field’s Cookies, and work as an electrical store retail clerk, a secretary, a lifeguard and a bartender. Any curtailment in summer jobs given to overseas youths, a phenomenon social media accelerated, will help American citizen kids that the J-1 visa has crowded out of the labor market.

While the short-term consequences of summer unemployment are grim – no income to put toward a college education or to help out at home – the long-term fall out could be more ominous. After years of research, Andrew Sum, retired Northeastern University Professor of Economics and Director of its Center for Labor Market Studies, found that the more teens work, the more likely they are to work as adults in the years ahead.

The jobs American kids didn’t get at Planet Hollywood or Mrs. Field’s would have introduced them to the responsibilities that come with working for a living. Instead, those basic skills went to foreign nationals who earned enough money to party on through their U.S. summers.

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