On July 16, 2020, the U.S. Department of State issued an update on its website clarifying exceptions available to the suspension of visa programs imposed by Presidential Proclamations 10014 and 10052. The restrictions placed on H-1B and certain J-1 visa programs have put language and immersion programs in a difficult position as they struggle to fill unexpectedly vacant language educator positions just weeks before the beginning of the academic school year.
The brief list below includes the exceptions most relevant to language educators:
An exchange program conducted pursuant to an MOU, Statement of Intent, or other valid agreement or arrangement between a foreign government and any federal, state, or local government entity in the United States that is designed to promote U.S. national interests if the agreement or arrangement with the foreign government was in effect prior to the effective date of the Presidential Proclamation.
Specialized Teachers in Accredited Educational Institutions with a program number beginning with "G-5" on Form DS-2019: An exchange visitor participating in an exchange program in which he or she will teach full-time, including a substantial portion that is in person, in a publicly or privately operated primary or secondary accredited educational institution where the applicant demonstrates ability to make a specialized contribution to the education of students in the United States. A “specialized teacher” applicant must demonstrate native or near-native foreign language proficiency and the ability to teach his/her assigned subject(s) in that language.
Individual states are now pushing to exempt their language programs. On July 22nd, 2020, Utah was granted an exemption for their dual-language immersion programs after America's Languages Caucus members Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT-04) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT- 01), along with Rep. John R. Curtis (R-UT-03) and Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT-02 ), wrote a letter emphasizing that schools are unable to fill dual-language immersion teaching positions due to the severe shortage of qualified language teachers in the U.S.
Last week, JNCL-NCLIS received nearly 500 responses to their data collection and survey of impact, and has continued to work closely with World Language State Supervisors, the Department of Education, and the Administration to secure a federal exemption for language educators. Language advocates can continue to take action by sending a letter to their Members of Congress.