A third of 8,000 Irish J-1 students head for California

University of California Berkeley offers visiting J-1 students summer accommodation

Over 8,000 Irish students go to the US each summer on J-1 visas, predominantly after their first year in college year or in advance of their final year exams.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, 35 per cent of J-1 students - or over 2,800 annually - travel to California, with San Francisco a particular draw for summer jobs in shops, bars and restaurants.

To qualify for a J-1, you must be a full-time academic studying for a degree or higher qualification, and be able to show you intend to return to Ireland at the end of the four-month visa programme.

Student campus accommodation is often sought out by J-1 students as it tends to be cheaper, while also providing amenities and a social network.

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University of California Berkeley, located 20kms across the bay from San Francisco, is one of a number of colleges which offer visiting student accommodation through a subletting service.

The university also has strong academic links with Ireland. It is named after the Co Kilkenny-born philosopher and former Church of Ireland Bishop of Cloyne George Berkeley.

A Celtic studies centre has operated there since 1911, and it usually attracts a small number of Irish postgraduate and scholarship students each year as part of a very international mix on campus.

Broadcaster and history Myles Dungan and Irish-language poet Louis de Paor are among a number of Fulbright Scholars to have studied in Berkeley in recent years.

Speaking about the importance of the J-1 programme earlier this year, US Ambassador Kevin O’Malley said more than 150,000 Irish people had participated in the scheme over the past 50 years and the net result was a group of influential members of Irish society who all had a strong connection to America.

“The J-1 visa program is the ‘secret sauce’ in the strong US-Irish relationship. As the US Ambassador, I am often told that the Irish ‘get’ Americans.

“I am convinced that this massive J-1 program is an underappreciated factor, for example, in the massive US-Irish business relationship which is so positive and successful,” said Mr O’Malley.

“Ireland, despite its size, sends more students to the United States each year on J-1’s than any other country in the world. 8,000 students participated last year alone. An exchange on that scale just has to have an impact.”

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column