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Utah gets exemption to President Trump’s order suspending work visas that would have hurt Mandarin immersion programs.

July 23, 2020

On June 22, 2020, President Trump issued a sweeping order that temporarily suspended new work visas and barred tens of thousands of foreign workers from employment in the United States.

The order blocked visas for skilled workers entering the United States under H-1B visas. It will be in place at least until the end of the year.

This type of visa has long been used to hired Mandarin teachers from China to work in Mandarin immersion programs in the United States for two- and three-year stints.

It is an especially large issue in Utah, which uses language teachers from overseas to fill many positions in its extensive, state-wide language immersion program.

Whether the exemption will affect Mandarin teachers outside of Utah whose work visas are suspended isn’t clear.

Utah Superintendent of Education Thanks State’s Congressional Delegation for Help in Getting Dual Immersion Teachers

Press release from the Utah State Board of Education

SALT LAKE CITY – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson thanked Utah’s representatives in the Congress, led by John R. Curtis, with assistance from Rob Bishop, Ben McAdams,
and Chris Stewart and Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, for their help exempting foreign teachers who will teach in Utah dual language immersion (DLI) schools this fall from President Trump’s June 22 proclamation suspending entry of aliens into the United States. The members of the House delegation wrote as a group to the President seeking a national security exemption on the suspension to allow
Utah’s DLI program to continue. Both Utah senators’ offices also pressed for an exemption, which has now been approved.
“We are grateful for the bipartisan help from our Representatives in the House and Senate. These international teachers are necessary to keep Utah’s DLI program, which is one of the leading programs in the nation, running at full capacity this school year,” said Superintendent Sydnee

“I am thrilled that our concerns were heard and that Dual Language Immersion teachers will be allowed to receive visas this year,” Rep. Curtis said. “This is good policy for our students and all Utahns, and I am proud to have been a strong advocate for this program. International DLI teachers
bring valuable diverse experiences and cultures to the classroom and I am glad to see that they will qualify for a national interest exemption from visa restrictions. I will continue to work with the State, the Administration, and my colleagues to ensure these teachers can continue the important work they do in Utah.”
“I’m pleased that the State Department has granted these waivers, which will allow Utah’s school districts to obtain cultural exchange visas so their teachers can continue their work during the next school year,” Senator Romney said. “I’m proud to advocate for Utah’s students and will continue
working to advocate for our school districts to have access to the resources they need.”
Utah schools employ 290 teachers who conduct classroom instruction in French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish for roughly 60,000 public school students. Fifty-six of those teachers come to Utah from abroad and require J-1 or H-1B visas to work in Utah. In April,
President Trump signed a proclamation that suspended entry into the United States “aliens who present a risk to the U.S. labor market following the Coronavirus outbreak.”
Sen. Romney’s office confirmed that U.S. embassies abroad are once again able to issue those visas under a national security exemption to teachers who plan to work in Utah this school year.

More on the order and how it might affect immersion programs

How the order might affect education.

A story about how it’s affecting programs in Utah is here:

School language programs ‘scrambling’ after President Trump suspends teacher work visas

Exemption would have devastated Utah schools

Work to get teacher exempted: Utah delegation urges exemption

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