U.S. senator calls for visa changes to let Filipino teachers stay
A U.S. senator is calling for the federal government to change some visa requirements so that teachers from the Philippines can stay for a longer time in Nevada schools.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (Dem-NV) in a Feb. 14 letter asked U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ur Jaddou, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to waive a two-year foreign residence requirement under the J-1 non-immigrant visa for Nevada’s cultural exchange educators.
More than 60 special education teachers from the Philippines will have to leave Nevada in June after they complete the visa program, Cortez Masto wrote in the letter her office released to the Review-Journal.
Clark County School District, the largest district in the state, has increasingly relied on international teachers in recent years to fill vacancies. Due to a lack of substitute teachers, some schools have combined two or more classes in auditoriums or libraries.
The Filipino teachers’ imminent departure will “significantly strain” the school system, Masto added.
J-1 visas allow teachers from other counties to work in the United States for three years, with a one- or two-year extension allowed based on need.
“While teachers are able to re-apply for the visa, they are required to reside outside of the U.S. for two years following their initial program’s completion,” Cortez Masto wrote. Many of Nevada’s teachers from the Philippines “now face unprecedented hardships in returning to their home countries,” she added.
“As CCSD faces critical teacher shortages, waiving the requirement and allowing J-1 visa educators to continue to fill these teaching positions will keep schools open and enhance student learning during the ongoing public health crisis,” according to Masto’s letter.
In Nevada, there were more than 40 J-1 special education teachers from the Philippines last year, 57 in 2019, 105 in 2018 and 84 in 2017, according to Cortez Masto’s letter.
The Clark County School District has approximately 345 teachers from the Philippines through the visa program this school year, the district told the Review-Journal.
The school district praised teachers on J-1 visas as “passionate and effective educators” who have filled critical roles and served some of the most vulnerable students.
Teachers are hired in “high needs areas” — special education, elementary education, math and science, according to the district’s website.