At Rian Immigrant Center we have always been very proud of our Learning Exchange Programs. These have created so many life changing opportunities for thousands of young Irish students and graduates. Our programs have confronted and overcome many challenges through the years, but the year 2020, with the Coronavirus Pandemic, has proved to be particularly tough.
In mid-March this year the Rian Immigrant Center had 450 Irish Exchange Visitors (EV) on our J-1 visa programs all over the United States. About 90 percent of the individuals were graduates and 10 percent were students, all of whom were from Irish Universities. The arrival of Covid saw many US non-immigrant visas being temporarily suspended, then, subsequently, until the end of the year).
The pandemic sent shock waves through the program with many EVs choosing to return home to Ireland. It also meant that many students/graduates going through the visa application process could not proceed with their applications. And with the suspension being extended until the end of the year this would ultimately end the dreams of many of those applicants, as their eligibility windows passed and they missed out.
Perhaps not wanting to walk away from the opportunity they had dreamed off for years, some EVs who were in the US in March chose to remain, with most continuing to work in their internships on a work-from-home basis. Some EVs even chose to remain in the US while still searching for an internship. Was that a risk, was it bravery, or was it just a sign of a strong desire not to give up on their US dream? Possibly a little bit of each.
But with the support of Rian J-1 staff, many of this group were able to find internship placements in the most difficult of circumstances. Rian continues to support nearly 150 EVs still in the US on their visa programs.
In addition to that continuing support, we now look to 2021. Rebuilding our program will not be easy, as many challenges remain. Even if the visa suspension lifts on Jan. 1, the pandemic’s many sideshows will still impact things such as: changing employer hiring needs, travel issues, and even changing insurance requirements for applicants. Despite these issues, Rian J1 continues to receive many enquiries from Irish students and graduates expressing interest in coming to the US in 2021. It is with this knowledge, and with the continued support of the Irish Government, that we aim to rebuild our program in 2021 to continue to provide life changing career development opportunities for young Irish students and graduates.
It is the experience gained on these US–based internships that helps lay a great foundation for their careers at home, and to make a positive impact on Ireland’s economy.
Any employers who may be interested in hiring an outstanding Irish student or graduate on their 2021 visa program should reach out to Jude Clarke firstname.lastname@example.org.