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Changes Proposed To The Exchange Visitor Programme for Teachers

Did you know that teachers from the UK and around the world may be able to work in US schools? The Exchange Visitor Programme for Teachers is a US visa classification set aside precisely for members of the teaching profession. Recently, the US Department of State announced proposed changes to the programme. This article will explore what requirements one must meet in order to teach in the USA and how it may change.

Who can teach in the USA?

Presently, primary or secondary teachers who have fulfilled all the requirements to qualify as a teacher in their home countries can apply for the Exchange Visitor Programme for Teachers. Individuals must have at least three years' experience in teaching or three years' related work experience. In addition, they must meet the criteria established for teachers in the particular US state where they will be teaching and the US job must be full-time. Other requirements apply, such as possessing 'good moral character'.

The Exchange Visitor Programme is administered through designated sponsor organisations. Sponsors supervise the application process, screen and select qualified teachers for the programme, put applicants in contact with host schools, and monitor the teachers during their time in the USA. Once the initial requirements are met, the teacher applies for a visa at the US Embassy or Consulate. The visa is granted for three years to successful applicants.

What changes are being proposed?

The Department of State notes concerns that the Exchange Visitor Programme for Teachers has been used for purposes other than its professed aim of encouraging cultural exchanges and strengthening international education programmes.

The proposed changes seek to:

  • Add a cultural component requirement. Specifically, designated sponsors will have to ensure that the teacher engages, at least once annually, in a "cultural activity" whereby the teacher shares information about his or her own culture with the larger community. Examples given by the State Department of how this new requirement could be fulfilled include giving presentations at schools and museums for pupils and the larger community. Additionally, teachers will be encouraged to foster a cultural exchange programme between pupils in US schools and pupils in the teacher's home country in order to develop students' global awareness and stimulate an international educational environment. The teacher will have to report annually to his or her designated sponsor regarding how this particular requirement was met.
  • Reduce the required experience abroad from three years to only two years. However, the experience will only count if it is experience obtained post-qualification as a teacher. This is a change from current requirements that the experience be obtained as a teacher or related work.
  • Require that the teacher minimally have a Bachelor's degree in Education or the particular field which he or she teaches.
  • Specify how a teacher's English proficiency skills are to be tested.
  • Clarify that teachers are to be paid directly by the US school where they work, unless payment is arranged through the teacher's foreign government or school.
  • Place limits on repeat participation in the Exchange Visitor Programme for Teachers. Teachers who complete three years teaching in the USA under this visa would have to reside outside the USA for two years before being eligible to re-apply.

The Department of State is accepting comments until 1 July 2013 regarding the proposed rules and the criteria for the Exchange Visitor Programme for Teachers should be clarified thereafter.

The American Immigration Law Office is a US immigration law firm in London, UK. The firm's US immigration lawyer in London assists individuals who wish to work and live in the USA and UK businesses that want to expand into the US market. Contact the office for a consultation today!